Cardfight Vanguard: Neon Messiah Review

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It’s time to look at a film that I’ve been waiting to watch for quite a while. I consider Cardfight Vanguard to be one of the greatest shows of all time and it was really at its height back when Aichi and the gang were the main characters. This film was the official wrap up for them before handing the baton over to a new cast. The trailer was really good and looked to include the first ever 2v1 fight in the series. While this movie is incredibly short that isn’t all that uncommon for an anime film. Until recently a lot of them seemed to be about 70 minutes and this one was a double feature as well. Still, it’s definitely a great ride while it lasts.

The film starts off with a mysterious new player challenging Ren. The skilled Cardfighter accepts the challenge but it soundly defeated and his tournament entry pass is stolen. Meanwhile Aichi is pretty psyched to finally get a chance to prove his mettle once more at this exclusive tournament. He is one of the lucky 16 to make the cut and heads to the arena with his friends. Unfortunately 7 combatants do not show up and Kouji declares that he has taken them down. He is allowed entry into the tournament and now all of the heroes should be worried. What is Kouji’s true aim in all of this?

I always like the movie trope of having a new villain show up and suddenly start beating up on the old hype characters. We had Frieza show up in Resurrection F as he took out Mystic Gohan in a single blow, the main villain from the Pyramid of Light who actually defeated Kaiba, and Mewtwo who took down Gary in the first Pokémon film. There’s just something nice about seeing a new villain show up and start taking names. Of course the other way around is also fun though like when a hype character actually manages to hold his own and claim the win but that’s super rare. Considering that by the movie the main cast are usually at their strongest, this cliche really helps make the villain appear to be a legitimate threat.

Neon Messiah does that well with Kouji. Taking out Ren is already impressive and then he also beat Leon. Those two were probably Aichi’s biggest rivals besides Kai and they lasted for quite a while back in Arc 3. Seeing them get absolutely wrecked (Leon losing off screen and Ren losing without getting his theme music) shows just how skilled Kouji is. Kouji is definitely an intense villain here and one that I can get behind. His motivation for destroying Cardfight does come across as really petty and hard to take seriously but considering that he had to master a game that he couldn’t stand it does show his resolve. He was able to become one of the best players in the world at the end. As a villain I would put him up there as one of Cardfight’s best. It’s too bad we couldn’t see him go up against Kai though. That would have definitely been a great fight and I’m still convinced that Kai would have been able to claim victory.

As for Kai, since he had some ties to Kouji from the past he gets a particularly large role in this film. Kai has experience being the main character, main villain, and rival in various seasons of the Cardfight show so one might say that he has the most well rounded resume of the bunch. As such it is no surprise that he can easily hold the plot on his own. I’d say that his portrayal was definitely really good since he doesn’t lose a duel in the whole movie. With his current skill level there are very few who can hope to challenge him.

Aichi also looks pretty good as always. He has certainly come a long way since the days where he was just a timid beginner. Even though he is unable to match up against Kouji, he still had his confidence throughout the duel. You could also make the case that he was a little distracted because Planet Cray was getting beat up for the 100th time in the last few months. Aichi was probably disappointed that the supposed embodiment of Cardfight is so weak. Aichi quickly regrouped in time for round 2. I’d argue that he should have let Kai finish off Kouji, but I suppose this was one duel that he didn’t want to miss.

The supporting characters are fun as always. Kamui probably gets the biggest role from them as his duel is reasonably long and he gives Kouji a good fight. It’s nice to see someone step up with Leon and Misaki couldn’t stay on screen long enough to help. For the record though, they made the right call in standing up to Kouji. If they aren’t strong enough to stop him then it doesn’t matter if they wait or fight now. On the other hand, if they are strong enough to stop him, then the sooner the better since the longer he lives the more chance there is of the monster planet being completely destroyed. The characters here are all confident in their skills and they should be. They’ve tangled with many strong opponents in the past.

I do think that Aichi should finally start using his Psyqualia more though. I know that he basically ditched the ability along with everyone else in season 2 because it was deemed unfair as it’s an auto victory, but shouldn’t that not apply when you’re fighting a villain who will destroy the world? I can respect an honor code, but it would be nice to see the return of Berserk Aichi. That would really be hype.

The animation is definitely really good as you would expect. The show already has a lot of vibrant colors and detail so for a movie this is amped up even more. As there wouldn’t be time to show the actual cardfights here as just 2-3 would be the whole length of the movie, this film opts to give us some visuals as it speeds through the fight in a montage style. The cynical side of me can’t help but notice that it is also a lot easier on the writers as they don’t have to actually think up the specifics of the duel. It would be extremely hard to notice some kind of error in this style and most wouldn’t even bother to try. Of course no matter the reason it is fun to see some real time action. It would soon be the norm in Cardfight G so I guess this was another bridge to that sequel. The film has 2 insert songs which is always cool. Some of the ingame music for the duels were also fairly solid but I can’t say that I really remember any of them. It worked well for the duels which is good enough.

Overall, Neon Messiah was definitely a great film. I would have certainly preferred it to be another 30 minutes longer at the very least but it still tells a complete story and gives us a lot of action so I’m satisfied. The action scenes have a really high budget and the film is always exciting with no dull moments to slow it down. It’s not enough to place it as the best card game movie or anything like that but it’s still a great movie all the same. I’d recommend it to fans of the series for sure or if you are a Yugioh fan as well. If you like action movies then you can potentially enjoy it even without any context as it’s very fast paced and engaging from start to finish.

Overall 8/10

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