YuGiOh is an anime most of us know of, probably played a lot, and definitely will remember forever thanks to the abridged version. Card Fight Vanguard on the other hand is an anime very few of us know of, probably never played, and have no reason to remember. Why did this happen, if both of them promote a card game, were made by the same people, have the same character archetypes, and target the same audience?
1) Novelty: YGO was the first major card game promoting series and created a sensation simply by being the first. After the novelty faded (since a dumb idea can only work once) later seasons, as well as any other card game promoting anime such as Vanguard, failed to be sensational.
2) Dark Tones: YGO, and especially its first version which never left Japan, was dark and creepy. It had all sorts of occult overtones to the point many parents thought it was initiating their kids to Satanism. The producers were forced to water down the atmosphere with each new season in order to calm down the adults and to increase the age advisory, until the whole thing became just another tame kiddie show. This still doesn’t take away the fact that a huge part of the charm it had at first were the occult stuff, the demons and the satanic rituals were you sacrifice souls to summon bigger devils. The kids loved it as much as the parents hated it. Vanguard has none of that, it came out at a time when everything was neutered and dull, and thus fails to stand out by making your parents lose their shit.
3) High Stakes: YGO had a plot where defeat leads to creepy stuff. Your body would be shred to pieces, your soul would be trapped in limbo, hell would break loose on Earth, the planet would blow up, evil would rule the universe, and someone would kick a puppy. Vanguard doesn’t have that sort of looming threat, as defeat means nothing more than trying to learn from your mistakes and improving along the way. It’s no different from a sport. Later on, it does move to more dangerous stuff, but by then nobody cared, since the target audience are children who want cool stuff right away.
4) Protagonist: Both shows have a very similar weak geek as a protagonist, but the one in YGO also has a cool dark personality that was taking over his body and unleashes all sorts of awesome powers upon his enemies. In Vanguard, the geek remains a geek, with his dark personality being more like a minor side story, and he keeps it hidden away instead of letting it take over. Again, because of the target audience being children, of course and YGO has a far more interesting protagonist.
5) Variety: The players of YGO hardly use copies of the same monster in a duel, unless they need two or three of the same kind in order to do some cool strategy. In Vanguard, they summon the same monsters again and again, as if there are only a few dozen different cards in each deck. This makes it both boring as well as trashing the illusion of each monster being a special individual. This happens mostly because the first season came out when there weren’t many cards in the game, but the problem is still there.
6) Presentation: The monsters in YGO were appearing in battles through holographic projectors, and later on in the flesh. In Vanguard, you are supposed to IMAGINE them fighting. I am not joking, the show is literally telling you to imagine the battles taking place, and pretend you are in pain when they hit you. Too much make belief for little kids to appreciate in an animated series.
7) Gameplay: YGO had a very convenient Deus Ex Machina called the “Heart of the Cards”. Every time someone was about to lose, he would draw the only possible card that could save him, followed by a cool display of MY CARDS WILL NOW KICK YOUR ASS! But until that was needed by the plot, you were still given the impression that the players had control over what they could do with the cards they were using. They were setting traps which would trigger in a later round, and since they were kept hidden, you were filled with tension and excitement, wondering what their plan is or what the effect would be. In Vanguard you don’t get that feeling. You draw cards and hope you will get a trigger BY COMPLETE CHANCE! The characters are not planning ahead, they cannot use something in a later round; they are begging for a card they can use to turn the tables. Not cool, and feels random.
8 ) Depowering Realism: What eventually ruins Vanguard, is trying to feel more real, and that ends up working against it.
a) It is not about winning as it is about learning from your mistakes. The protagonist is losing many times throughout the show, each time realizing something more about himself. It is hardly as cool as the SUPER AWESOME YAMI YUGI WHO NEVER LOSES but that had also to do with the fact that Yugi could not afford to lose. Defeat in YGO meant the end of the universe. In Vanguard, defeat is means to improve by trying different strategies and new cards next time.
b) It also has capable female players in it. Unlike in YGO where they are used mostly as fan service and are completely useless in card games, over here you get some seriously good gals who know how to kick ass.
c) It is also following the rules of the real game correctly. That is, no mambo-jumbo stuff that does not happen when you play the actual game. Let’s be honest, YGO was barely following the proper rules and was just making up stuff for the sake of coolness.
d) And above all, the show is JUST about playing card games and having fun. Not about saving the world by doing silly things such as playing a children’s card game.
9) Epicness: Despite these positive characteristics, Vanguard fails because that is not what the target audience wants to see. If the protagonist loses half the time, they will think the game sucks. If they see good female players in it, they will think it’s gay; since only big boys play card games. They won’t care much if the rules are presented properly next to the battles being cool. And the battles are not cool because you are not trying to save the world with a bunch of cards.
And even as a game, Vanguard doesn’t feel as epic as YGO, despite having a much bigger emphasis on strategy.
- Replacing monsters is limited to your main creature.
- You don’t have 8000 AWESOME LIFE POINTS, you just have 6 cards of life.
- No matter how powerful your attack is, you normally inflict only 1 card worth of damage.
- There are no on-going effects, just temporal buffs.
- Synergy is way too important, to the point it limits your possible actions.
- Buffs from triggers are impossible to control.
Vanguard is worse in everything, compared to YGO. It is uncool, saturated, tame, expects from you to imagine what is going on instead of feeling it, and above all, it is modern.