Upon first learning of Vertical Comics’ series Cardfight!! Vanguard, I was intrigued. I’m a big fan of monster manga in general, and I’ve never read any that were card-based besides Yu-Gi-Oh! When the opportunity presented itself, I chose to dive into the deep end of Cardfight; Vol. 11 is the series’ penultimate installment. As I expected, the volume contains plenty of unrealistic hairstyles and monster battles, but is it good?
Akira Itou both writes and illustrates the series, and its his artwork that most impresses me. I knew there would be plenty of plot details I didn’t understand as a result of jumping in towards the series’ end, but I figured I was sure to get cool, perhaps overly detailed monster designs. Thankfully, I was right–I love looking at creatures with way more lines than necessary, and Itou delivers those in spades. Most of the human characters have solid designs as well. In addition, most of the shading throughout is quite pleasing to look at, as are many of the backgrounds. The high fantasy architecture in parts is especially cool.
Plot-wise, I have mixed feelings about this volume. I don’t want to be overly critical just because I didn’t understand a lot of it–it’s not Itou’s fault I skipped the series’ early volumes. With that said, there are certain choices in the writing that seem questionable to me regardless. Though we get some variety of visuals thanks to the monsters’ battles (which take place in a different realm than the standard world where the humans reside), most of the volume takes place in a single generic outdoor setting. It’s hard to feel like there’s much progression when the main characters move less than roughly two hundred feet in the same amount of pages.
Though I could only guess at the meanings of certain terms clearly based within the series’ lore, I still got a bit annoyed by them. Most of the dialogue bubbles across the volume feel largely interchangeable with one another; the diction throughout is so repetitive that it almost feels like it was crafted using a word bank. More damning, however, is the fact that none of the human characters piqued my interest. One brief scene alludes to a protagonist’s interesting past struggles, but other than that the range of emotions conveyed is very limited. My grasp on the series’ lore is limited, and the slivers I understand here don’t make me eager to go back and read previous volumes.
Overall, Cardfight!! Vanguard Vol. 11 isn’t bad. I hoped for monsters with meticulously detailed designs, and Itou delivers plenty of those. Nonetheless, while I didn’t expect to understand everything in this volume, what I did understand didn’t make me want to delve further. I enjoyed the reading experience as mostly mindless fun with some cool creatures, but Cardfight!! Vanguard Vol. 11 doesn’t offer much more than that.