The Cardfight Vanguard franchise has really come a long way. It went from being the new kid on the block to being able to stand shoulder to shoulder with pioneers like Yugioh. At this point it can hold its own with any title in the trading card genre. overDress is the start of the newest generation in the franchise. It has a lot to live up to with the original, G, and the reboot era all churning out stellar titles. This one is off to a weak start so far with the weakest season in the franchise but knowing this franchise, you can’t count it out. Both G and the original series had a weaker first season compared to their sequels so this could be a similar path.
The series starts off by introducing us to Yu-Yu (Which sounds like a Yugioh protagonist name) who is rather timid and as a result he is pushed around by his family. They aren’t antagonistic and certainly don’t mean to be pushy but they have a lot of fun dressing him up and he doesn’t do anything more than half heartedly complain about it. One day they dress him up as a girl and he finally has enough of this so he storms off. He meets up with a girl named Megumi who introduces him to the world of Vanguard.
See, the players in this town use an abandoned amusement park to have their games in. It’s like a sanctuary here and it’s led by Danji, who is known as Big Bro by the community. He takes Yu-Yu under his wing and the hero quickly realizes that his life can be a whole lot brighter with this game by his side. Slowly Yu-Yu learns to open up and be more independent as he gains a lot of friends through this. When a challenger named Tohya shows up and threatens these bonds, Yu-Yu will have to fight for his friends.
It’s a fairly quick season at 12 episodes. That may be the standard for a cour but it’s rare to see Cardfight shows with any season less than 20 episodes and usually it’s higher than that. As a result this is more of an introductory view into the series. We get to meet the characters and see what makes them tick. Don’t expect quite as many big battles here, it prioritizes being a slice of life over being a dueling series. You can even go full episodes with no true duels here.
Slice of life isn’t a bad approach and to an extent Cardfight G did this. I think that one still had many more duels but it did use up the first 30-40 episodes just on introducing the characters without introducing big villains. This one does have an antagonist by the very end but it is very low key. There’s a whole episode where Yu-Yu is sick and the characters have to help him out after all.
There are some moments of foreshadowing like Daji hinting that he used to have someone he looked after and a lady who has some kind of ties to his past. Also Yu-Yu may already be developing Psyqualia to an extent near the end of the season. That’s about it though and the series is a lot happier than you would expect from the opening. The opening is surprisingly somber the whole time so don’t let that fool you. This isn’t nearly as sad a show as it would have you think. For the most part it’s usually fun and games here.
Where the show falters is that it isn’t nearly as funny as it thinks it is. The scenes with Megumi getting the wrong idea about Yu-Yu and Danji for a few episodes barely qualifies as a comedic subplot since you won’t be laughing. Everyone loves to mess with Yu-Yu to an extent where even Aichi would have told everyone to knock it off. The characters just don’t click for the most part. The main, main characters are solid but most of the guys at the club feel like throwaways.
I’d also say that this is a show where you need the cardfights because those are the moments that really give the show its spark. Not including them much is like taking the show’s strongest aspect and keeping it on the backburner. Doesn’t feel like the show is playing to its strengths in that way. There’s a reason why the best moments in the show are all regarding the Tohya plot because that feels like peak Cardfight.
So Danji is an unbeaten Cardfighter with 20 victories in a row. (Not a lot so this guy clearly doesn’t duel too many people. We also see him lose at several points so it seems like only “official” duels in the ring count towards this) One day a guy named Tohya shows up to duel him and break that streak. Tohya has personal reasons for wanting to win this fight as it will help determine his future path. Their battles are great.
The first one in particular goes all out with the animation. On the whole the animation doesn’t pop out as much as the previous seasons. It seems to be using more of a faded color palette so it doesn’t strike you as quickly but when the fights come in we get some really streamlined moments. The speedblitzing and high end attacks are great and it will make you want even more Cardfights. It’s also a glimpse of what overDress could be like in the future with how high energy and epic these moments are. The fight animation deserves a lot of credit and unsurprisingly, episode 11’s animation as a whole is really solid.
Tohya even has a true origin story that is suitably tragic. It shows how serious it can be to misread someone’s final wish on their death bed. Tohya is chained by his past and it shows in his fights. He gets a lot of development and is easily the best character in the series. I was also glad that they played his final moments straight with no cop outs or sudden plot twists. He made his decision and went down a dark path, there wasn’t any hesitating or anything like that.
Out of the 12 episodes he really gets 3 full ones to himself and those are not surprisingly the best episodes in the show. He duels with a fiery passion that you just don’t see much in this season. He doesn’t even feel like one of the normal characters. To him Cardfight isn’t just a game and that really goes against the whole worldview of Yu-Yu and the others. If the show ultimately becomes more of a Shonen battle title in the next seasons then we’ll see if he’s proven correct. That said, while I do like this guy, I do think the final scene and decision with Danji is undeserved. If I were the side characters I would certainly be upset as well.
That’s enough about the best character though, lets talk about the others. Yu-Yu is one of those really timid main characters so he’s not really my style. I always prefer characters who are able to defend themselves and really get into the battle. I can already see his character development in place as he talks tough to Tohya near the end of the season. I can see him being a tough character down the road but he just isn’t quite there yet. Give him another season and we’ll see if he has really made it to the next level or if he just won’t be able to make the jump. At the very least he won’t be dressing up anymore..presumably. The season already gave an excuse in the wrestling episode for that to come back so we’ll see.
Danji is one of the most hyped up characters in the series and it is deserved in a combat sense. The guy is undeniably the strongest character in the series right now. It takes a whole lot to bring this guy to his limits and he will win 9 times out of 10. He isn’t always reliable outside of a duel though like arriving late when the flag was going to be burned and the whole outcome was his fault. The team needed him and he bailed. His sudden decision to step away from the game also rubbed me the wrong way.
He seems like a character who is just very carefree but he takes it to the point of just being irresponsible. Perhaps if we have more context to his decision then that will help things out but in the meantime that just hurts him as a character. I like him well enough and he beats most of the side characters but at this point in time I’m not super impressed with him. I want him on my side in a duel but that’s about it.
Megumi is the main heroine here and she can duel which is always a good thing. That’s a must at this point if you want to be a solid character. She has a tendency to lose a lot though because she lets her emotions run wild with her. That’s something she will definitely have to watch out for in the future but I can see her improving there. Her crush on Danji is probably not going to go anywhere at this rate either so she should be careful there. Like Yu-Yu I expect she will be getting a lot more development.
Now we get to the side characters who don’t get quite as much to do. Zakusa used to be a punk so he can revert to that mode at times where he can’t talk but…it’s not really that cool and more cringeworthy. He’s trying really hard to be the tough guy in the room but I can’t take him all that seriously. He did get one really good win in the show but that’s about it. You don’t feel safe with him as the second in command so he needs to train a lot more.
Tomari is a much more charismatic character and does well in announcing the fights. She gives the duels that old school energy and does her best to support Yu-Yu as well. Unfortunately she doesn’t really duel which will limit her potential a whole lot. Next up is Masanori who is Tohya’s right hand man. We don’t know a whole lot about this guy yet. He seems like a comic relief character most of the time but will then suddenly get serious at the drop of a hat. He really is a mystery but I suppose that’s what is supposed to make the character interesting.
Unfortunately I just don’t like the guy. Tohya has concrete goals and visions so you can at least understand why he is doing what he is doing. This guy? Not really, he just seems to like chaos so far and that’s not really enough to make for a solid character. He’s also just not funny even though he tries to be which is game over there.
The soundtrack is a little limited so far but it works well enough during the duels. The serious duels have good soundtracks to accompany them and that’s what counts. The opening is also good as far as the music is concerned even if it can’t match the originals. Then as I mentioned the combat parts of the animation are really solid and the day to day episodes have their moments. They certainly aren’t bad at any rate.
Right now overDress is like a roller coaster. Episode 1 was solid, 2 was rather weak, 3 was good 4 and 5 were weak, 6 was solid, 7 was straight up bad, 8 was weak, 9 was very weak, then 10-12 end the series on a high note with some intense battles and even a serious mini arc. In particular 11 was the pinnacle of the series as we had a great clash of ideals with Yu-Yu and Tohya. Nothing makes a great fight even better by putting that emotional weight behind it as each character fights for their beliefs. I saw that fight 3 times while prepping this review because it was really spectacular.
Season 2 just needs to continue that energy and that will be enough to keep it soaring. It’s not to say you can’t have stand alone episodes or be an episodic series. That can work but a whole episode where the main character is sick? That’s the kind of episode that’s probably not going to fly even in all star titles like Yugioh GX, Digimon Data Squad, or Beyblade. Being sick just isn’t an interesting plot point in the slightest and I’d say not to even have it as a subplot. The wrestling episode just felt pointless but it’s at least got some dueling there.
The series may prefer to be a slice of life show or at least something more grounded than in previous generations. If that is how it wants to be, then the key will be to make the characters better. Straight up that’s the way to do a slice of life. The characters have to be charismatic and/or humorous. As I said before, the show just isn’t very funny at the moment which limits the slice of life appeal. We need some more banter and having Tohya around as a main character could help with that to an extent. Of course I’m hoping we double down on the hype duels since you can have a lot of great banter and intensity with that. It all ends up snowballing into being a great show when you start introducing those factors.
Ultimately it all goes back to this being the origin of a new generation as I mentioned. It may have been a rocky start but many titles have had a rocky start and gotten really good so we just have to see how season 2 goes. Presumably this title won’t be in continuity with the older titles but right now I don’t think there is anything in the show that would contradict the others so who knows, maybe by season 3 or 4 we’ll have a guest star or two. I won’t have my hopes up for it or anything but that would be fun.
Overall, Cardfight overDress feels like a step down from the average experience in the franchise but it isn’t bad. I would like more of an emphasis on dueling in season 2 or at least more of an ongoing plot though. Some episodes here like the wrestling one or Yu-Yu getting sick just weren’t all that fun. The technicals are on point so once the show finds its footing then it should be all set. I’ll certainly be ready to see where season 2 takes this show. Hopefully Tohya continues to get a solid amount of screen time here because there really is a whole lot you can keep doing with him. I also want to learn more about the mysteries surrounding Danji and see where that goes.