First Look: Build Divide: Code Black

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Alternative title: Build Divide: #000000
Children’s Card Game Adaptation by LIDENFILMS
Streaming on Funimation

Premise

By playing and winning games of Build Divide, you can earn key chips. If you collect twenty-one of those, you get a shot at being able to play against the King, where victory means a wish of yours will be granted. It’s an anime adaptation of a trading card game.

Euri’s verdict: I use Pot of Greed to draw three additional cards

I love me some trading card games. I’m a Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon nerd, but I’ve played my fair share of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Weiss Schwarz and Shadowverse. I’ve also suffered through a lockdown where I became increasingly tempted to buy into both the new Digimon card game, as well as the Flesh and Blood TCG. All that said, I’ve never really cared for card-game anime beyond the early localised Yu-Gi-Oh! episodes, and that was never really about the game itself; For me it was all about the hammy acting and nonsense card interactions. It could teach you the basics perhaps, but broke its own rules often enough that you wouldn’t necessarily suss out how to play the game properly without access to the cards.

Build Divide appears to be on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. At first it seems similar to Yu-Gi-Oh!, having hologram-centric card battles and anime-style creatures to summon, but the match itself appears to be an accurate facsimile of how a real game would play out. In theory, if you disregard the hologram stuff and pay attention to the copious card effects that were described, it should make complete sense to people that play the TCG. All of the card draws, discards and triggered abilities are mentioned and, seemingly, accurately described. 

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I couldn’t honestly tell you whether this is something unique to this show, nor could I tell you whether or not they did this specifically for episode one as a taster of how the card game operates. What I can tell you is that my eyes had long glazed over before I reached the end of the episode. Getting into the details of a card game is fine, but there’s a way to do this without it feeling like the cards are being read to me verbatim. It’s completely possible to streamline this and still get across what the mechanics are and what the card triggers are doing. 

With the card game dominating the episode, it meant there was little time for character development. We do see that the protagonist has mysterious origins, but beyond that we only see that he has a ridiculous hoodie and some kind of TCG-vision that allowed him see an optimal play during the game. Sakura, our protagonist’s opponent, didn’t get too much of a spotlight either, but immediately abandoning her aim of fighting the King to push the bland protag forward wasn’t a great look. 

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With the minimalistic story and the hyper-detailed card battle, this is a hard show to recommend to a first-timer. On top of that, I also just… don’t think the card game looks all that fun to play either? The gameplays seems very similar to many other Japanese TCGs, but the most stand-out mechanic they showed us concerns how the players take damage. Specifically, there are a set number of cards in a deck that must have a Burst icon on them, and if you turn one of these over when taking damage (at the start of a game, you set aside ten cards to serve as a life indicator) you take an extra point of damage. Unless I’m misunderstanding something, that means there’s a chance of taking huge damage just by getting unlucky with your card flips, and that doesn’t sound like a ton of fun to me.

Let me know if you’ve given this card game a go and whether this episode was an accurate representation of it, but as for the anime it’s a hard pass from me. I guess there must be some confidence in the card game and the anime tie-in though, as a second season for 2022 is already in the books. 

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One thought on “First Look: Build Divide: Code Black

  1. Really anime try to stay true to the game as close as possible isn’t a good idea. Most card game anime are just advertise for the pretty pictures you will get if you play the game, not the actual game. Imagine a Yu-gi-oh anime that portrait today meta (each game will end in 1 or 2 turns) and everyone fill their board with negation on turn 1. I refer stories where the card games are use as backdrop for the plot rather than the focus (ex: Wizard Soul or Destroy all Human, They can’t regenerate)

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