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ZENONZARD Episode #0 Anime Review

6 min read
The new AI card game ZENONZARD gets an anime series!
Ⓒ BANDAI ・ STRAIGHT EDGE / PROJECT ZZ

The new AI card game ZENONZARD gets an anime series!

What They Say:
The year 20XX. Humans called <Concord> and ultra-high-performance AI called <Codeman> team up as buddies to compete in the card battle game ZENOZARD. People are going wild with excitement at the world championships, THE ZENON. One day, Sota Azuma, an average high school student, is challenged to a battle by a mysterious woman, Eilietta Lash. She reveals that she’s a Codeman and that her intent is to team up with Sota and participate in THE ZENON. Sota reluctantly agrees. Sota and Eilietta’s first opponent turns out to be the super-famous player Shion Saionji, who attends Sota’s school, and her Codeman, Ash Claude.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Earlier this week, Bandai’s AI CARDDASS brand released its CCG mobile game ZENONZARD. The official website for ZENONZARD boasts that it is a new generation digital card game that integrates AI battles. Color me intrigued! This special episode #0 of ZENONZARD The Animation was released several days before the launch of the mobile game. I can only imagine this was done to get people hyped for the game and give us a taste of what the anime series may offer us next year.

The episode begins with a flashback of a witch-burning from 6/6/1666. An ominous start if I do say so myself. The witch, who refers to herself as the pale witch, curses humanity and tells them that what she leaves behind will change human civilization in the future. As the last remaining embers of her life burn away, she drops a card in her hand and we transition to the present day where a boy named Sota Azuma picks up a ZENONZARD card off the street. He, along with a huge crowd, is watching a ZENONZARD battle on a big screen. The crowd is totally into it and cheers loudly when the Queen, Shion Saionji, wins her 22nd consecutive match.

The next day, Sota is heading to school with his female friend. He can’t stop raving about how awesome the Queen’s victory was yesterday and looks so excited talking about the game. His enthusiasm continues in class and his friend suggests that he should actually play ZENONZARD if he loves it so much. Sota is a bit scatterbrained the rest of the day and is smacked in the face with a basketball during practice, knocking him out. When he awakens several minutes later in the infirmary, a beautiful blue-haired girl is standing over him and her face is only a few inches away from his. This alarms Sota and he decides to get up and run away. I can’t say I was expecting that particular reaction. Running away proves futile though as the girl instantly appears in front of him wherever he goes.

Eventually, Sota runs home and guess who’s waiting for him when he opens the door? Yup, it’s the blue-haired girl. He wants to know why she’s been following him. She walks up to him and hands him the card he found on the street yesterday. It seems like he dropped it somewhere and she wanted to return it to him. She comments that the card is a rare first-edition Alabaster. Sota is impressed by how knowledgeable she is about ZENONZARD. She then abruptly challenges him to a match. Sota is hesitant at first but then reluctantly agrees. The blue-haired girl borrows Sota’s deck and they both have a match. She quickly realizes through his well-polished deck that he must really love the game and is a good player. Sota seems to be in the lead the entire match but when he has the chance to end the game, he hesitates and instead loses on purpose. One must wonder why he threw the game.

The blue-haired girl reveals herself to be Eilietta Lash, a Codeman. Turns out she isn’t a person but rather an AI. She wants to team up with Sota and enter the ZENON tournament together. He’s unsure about all of this but ultimately decides to partner up with her, thus becoming a Concord. The following day at school, Eili has set up their first match which happens to be against the Queen and her Codeman, Ash Claude! One heck of a first match. Everyone activates their Aulosgear and enters the ZENON. They’re all transported into an arena surrounded by dancing fans, DJs playing EDM music, and even a bar! The atmosphere feels as if they’re fighting at a nightclub while a rave is going on. Seems like an odd choice but I admit that the groovy atmosphere kept me hyped, especially the EDM OST that was playing throughout the entire fight. Speaking of the fight, it was beautiful to watch. Granted, I didn’t know what was happening half of the time but it was certainly pretty.

Sota is dominating the early game. However, Shion fights back and shows why they call her the Queen. Sota gains the upper hand and manages to destroy all of the Queen’s FORCES, leaving her wide open to his attacks. Sota is enjoying himself tremendously but when he is about to capitalize on his advantage, he freezes up and recalls how in the past his friends stopped playing ZENONZARD with him because he would always win. Sota ends his turn abruptly and everyone watching is confused and a bit angered by his actions. The Queen is definitely not amused and feels no sympathy as she aggressively attacks him with her minions. Sota is down to 1 Life and if he takes another attack, he will lose. The Queen continues her relentless attack and it seems Sota has basically given up at this point. However, Eili hasn’t given up and blocks all of Shion’s attack, ensuring their survival this turn. Eili still has faith in Sota. Sota started losing on purpose because he hated that his friends weren’t having fun playing ZENONZARD. Sadly, this meant he was no longer having fun playing the game. He decides to move on from the past and decides to have fun again! This turn is his last chance and he is able to summon his trump card, Alabaster! He attacks the Queen with Alabaster and defeats her! Everyone around the world applauds Sota’s victory. Seriously, even people from the International Space Station were watching this match, that’s how popular the card game seems to be in the anime.

In Summary:
I am a big fan of card games and I’ve watched many anime based on card games. The one thing I really dislike about certain card game anime is when they don’t explain the rules of the game. Sure, you’ve got some fans that already play the card game and know what the rules are. But what about those that don’t and were hoping to learn through the show? I was only able to get bits and pieces of how to play the card game in this episode because of a character in the crowd who referred to himself as a ZENONZARD maniac. Other than that, I was just making my own educated guesses. I won’t fault the ZENONZARD anime too much on this though because it was just a special episode to get people excited for the mobile game that hadn’t even come out yet when it aired. I do hope they explain the game better in the anime series next year at least. Other than that, this was a fun episode with stunning visuals. It had good production value for sure, quite possibly the best of any card game anime I’ve seen recently so you can tell that Bandai is probably going all in with this. The episode definitely got me hyped for the game and I can’t wait to try it out one of these days. I’m also sure if I rewatch this episode after playing the game for a little while, I will enjoy it even more. If you’ve got the time, you can watch Episode #0 on the official ZENONZARD Youtube Channel for free!

Grade: B

Streamed By: ZENONZARD’s Official Youtube Channel

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