Cardfight’s dress series is easily one of the greatest success stories in all of anime. It went from being a show that was barely treading water and a few more iffy moments away from being a flat out bad show to going all the way to elite now. It’s absolutely in the conversation with How I Became Reincarnated as a Slime and Mob Psycho as the biggest improvements for a TV show. This one continues to excel the series up to new heights to the point where it can now compete with the top Vanguard seasons although the short length does hold it back somewhat.
The show starts off with a new girl named Urara showing up. She is brand new to the game of Vanguard but thought that it looked rather cool and Yu-Yu shows her the ropes. Before anyone has a chance to catch their breath, a mysterious guy named Zinki shows up and announces that he is hosting a big tournament. This will determine who are more powerful. The professional duelists or the ones who duel off the record like Yu-Yu’s group. There is even a name for these duelists, “Counter Fighters” and professional fighters are known as “Front Fighters”. Yu-Yu and the gang are always up for some fun duels so they accept the invitations but is this really a friendly competition or is there something more going on behind the scenes? It’s really hard to know for sure. Specifically the heroes invited from Team Blackout are Yu-Yu, Tohya, Megumi, Zakusa, and Tomari. Other fighters involved are Mirei and Haruka as well as the new girl Urara. Naturally there will be new fighters here as well like Taizo, Michiru, and Raika. Can Yu-Yu take all these guys down for the count?
One of the big draws of this season is that the entire thing is a tournament. There are no breaks, slice of life eps, or things to distract from the duels. Instead you have a whole lot of fighters all doing their best to rise to the top and prove that they have what it takes. A tournament is always a fantastic idea to try and get your show to the next level and this one definitely pulled it off. The rules were also fun as it was not your standard single elimination tournament. Instead you play in a type of round robin that continues until you have enough wins to move on. The only downside is that a ton of fights had to be off screen since this season is only 13 episodes. If you remove the first episode which takes place before the tournament then you only have 12 episodes to get through a massive tournament. Round robin style is way longer than single elimination after all so you can see how this would be a big one.
So it is regrettable that so many battles were off screen. If they had made this show 24 episodes instead then it would have really gotten a nice boost even more than what it already got. The only advantage I can think of to the show being so short is that you know each on screen duel is massive so you really get to see how things go. Unfortunately that also means the victor is obvious almost every time but you still have to try and savor the battle for your character even if it may be the only one that he or she gets in the season.
Naturally the animation is really sharp here. The visuals are really good at all times and it helps to make sure that the anime is operating on a high level at all times. A great duel will be even more fun when the animation is stunning after all. They go all out with a lot of the battles here and everything is very streamlined. The character designs are memorable and everyone has a nice color scheme that stands out from the pack so they’re all unique. The soundtrack is also an area where this season really stands out.
Each character has their own theme that plays when they are about to win the duel. Yu-Yu is stuck with his old theme so it is easily the weakest one but everyone else has themes that really pop out while they are dueling. The one that stands out the most by far has to be Raika’s though. His Youthberk song really throws a lot of intensity into the moment and you really can’t count him out. This song plays early on in the season in his first duel against Yu-Yu and I’ve had to listen to that song many times after that. It was a powerful way to kick things off.
There was also a very solid lyrical song that played during the first episode when Zinki recruited the heroes and it helped to set the stage. At the end of the day what the series was lacking was a very dramatic tone and atmosphere that I had come to expect from earlier seasons. Season two of the dress series had some fantastic duels and a great climax but any time the characters weren’t dueling it was not nearly as hype. This season fixed that right off the bat with such high stakes. Then there was another great song that played to signal the end of the round robin portion of the tournament. We got to see each fighter get eliminated and what an emotional moment that was for them. Definitely stuff we hadn’t really seen before.
Yu-Yu is a solid main character here. He’s still a bit timid for my liking but he has slowly started to be a bit bolder. At the very least if someone is trash talking he will respond. His resolve is questioned once again but this time Yu-Yu doesn’t take it quite as hard as he once did. He is still shaken up though and I hope by next season that things like this won’t phase him anymore. He’s been through a lot so I want to see Yu-Yu embrace that more. You also can’t help but feel like his skills aren’t as good as some of the other fighters here despite winning a lot. In general he’s still got a ways to go but at least has made strides in his development. His current outfit is also many miles better than the original one so it’s great to see him getting the clothes upgrade here.
As always Tohya is the best character here but he doesn’t get a ton to do this time. We know that he was cruising through the tournament but most of his duels are off screen which is a shame. He’s a character who got a massive amount of character development over the past two seasons and has retained all of it. It’s always a pleasure to see him and of course he is still one of the strongest characters in the series. He fights with a lot of passion and ferocity. I look forward to him hopefully having a bigger role next season.
Then there’s Megumi who may have been the main heroine for a while but in this season she is mainly replaced by Urara. It’s pretty tough for her the whole time because it does seem like she has hit a bit of a wall. She’s a very good duelist but has been unable to catch up to Danji and has been left behind by Yu-Yu. I could see her getting some kind of a bigger character development arc out of this down the road though. She’s a fun fighter and I expect to see more from her as well.
I’m still not really a big fan of Zakusa though. I get that he can be tough when he wants to be but it’s never really convincing since he is comic relief all the time. If he was serious more often then that would really help big time. As it stands he just isn’t strong enough to pull this off. Then there is Tomari who is a fun character and does her best to help out as well. She is a decent duelist as well and certainly talks tough but feels even more doomed than Megumi most of the time. She would really need a new deck to go much further.
Masanori gets a minor role here as a villain in the shadows but the guy has already overstayed his welcome. It’s no longer possible to take him seriously so I hope Zinki holds onto the master villain role instead of sharing it with Masanori. Zinki is already way more interesting than that guy and he hasn’t really gotten to do much of anything yet. You at least know that he’s powerful and can hold his own in a fight though. That’s the kind of villain you want to have overseeing everything.
Danji surprisingly misses out on the whole thing. The show missed an easy opportunity for a massive upset by having him get taken down by the new villains. I suppose this way he keeps his hype for the next season as one of the strongest duelists though. Mirei and Haruka return but it’s safe to say that the power creep has gone right past them as they don’t look very dominant or imposing in this round. They really just get destroyed in most of the rounds although at least Mirei lasted long enough to make it to the last stage. Honestly she should have been more dominant and crushed Urara if you ask me. Her skills were just so good in the last season. She had bad luck in the seeding with fighting Raika so early on though.
Urara is a fun character even if I think her skills were overhyped. She tries her best and learns quickly so she gets to be on the level of the pros almost immediately but it feels like it should take a little longer to get quite so high up. She’s probably a little too sensitive with her empathic abilities since just seeing others play while being upset can mess her up a bit though. She even gets a bit sensitive while dueling if she is taken out of the zone. I expect her to improve on all of this and ultimately be a tough fighter who can really rise up the ranks of Team Blackout. So as a rookie she has come quite far but is still under some of the more senior members for me.
From the 3 big fighters introduced the first would be Taizo. He seems to be a step below the other two but is still great at what he does. He’s a top ranking pro and he has put everything on the line in order to win this tournament. If he loses then he may have to become rich and take over a company instead while feeling unfulfilled so he can’t let that happen. He takes things a lot less personally than the rest of the duelists and just likes to have a good time so I can really respect him there. It’s nice to see someone who is just embracing the game. Of course Taizo is taking is very seriously and trying to win but he’s not being a jerk about it.
Then you have Raika who in many ways is the biggest character here. He looks up to Michiru who is generally considered to be the strongest player out there but is trying to gain ground quickly. Raika believes that winning is everything and you shouldn’t have fun when you lose. It’s a classic character type that we’ve seen before but he can be a bit whiny at times. In fact I’d say that he whines a whole lot. He works well as a villain but it will take me a while to really get used to the guy as a likable character.
His best episode was easily during the fight against Tohya which is naturally a big highlight of the season in general. Tohya is really the only one who can really understand Raika the whole time and so they actually have a pretty good discussion about their way of battling and winning. Of course Raika isn’t able to hold his end of the conversation quite as well so it’s almost like Tohya is talking to a wall half the time. I can’t deny Raika’s skills though, he is a top duelist and that’s why he does work well as a really imposing villain. He’s also got the best theme in the whole show so he’s a lot of fun to see duel but I’d like him to be a little more confident without the whining.
Finally we have Michiru but he’s actually not as impressive as his reputation. Here’s what it boils down to for me. He’s supposed to be the best and all but he’s more of the quiet type of character. He really likes to analyze the plays and try to console the opponent but he doesn’t have any loud confidence. You always feel like he is doomed to be defeated as the tournament goes on and there’s nothing super interesting about his fighting style. I think what we needed was another duel or two for him to really help and flesh out his character. Especially with it appearing that he will miss most of season 3, he didn’t get to do a whole lot. I think he had potential but is just overwhelming as the big power-house.
There are other fighters in the tournament of course but for the most part they are busy getting absolutely destroyed off screen and don’t really get to do anything. Again, that’s the only rough part about the season being so short. Particularly when you’re going for a tournament plot since usually you need a whole lot more episodes for something like that. Still, I couldn’t walk away from the show feeling anything other than a whole lot of satisfaction. For me the show was elite even with the 13 episodes. It all goes by super quickly after all and the fights were absolutely spectacular.
This tournament was a real shot to the arm for the series and gave it the boost that it needed. If the next season can keep up the momentum then it should be really clear sailing from here on out. It’ll be tough to surpass this season without another tournament of course but at least the way the show ends we are continuing that to an extent. I’m actually not positive on exactly what the rules are going forward since it all seems a bit vague but I’m eager for more duels and in theory the opponents will be even more fierce now.
Overall, Cardfight Will + Dress is a fantastic show and the best yet in this part of the series. I would highly recommend checking this one out even if you aren’t familiar with the series. The whole point of this season is just to get the best of the best so that they can all compete. Is it perhaps a little too soon? Maybe, since we don’t have a massive cast yet, but it’s also a good way to kick things into high gear right away. You’ll be satisfied with how things play out and while some matches you will probably feel could be overturned, each battle just has so much energy. This season is a thrill a minute and that’s the kind of thing you always want to see. I can also say for once that the season is great in all areas as opposed to Tohya having to carry it through the tough times. It’s going to be a long wait until the next season.