High Card Season 2 Anime Series Review – Review

The first half of High Card had an issue with establishing an identity. My biggest problem with the first handful of episodes was that it felt like the show couldn’t decide what kind of story it wanted to tell. Did it want to be an episodic adventure series where we visit different locations? Did it want to be a character piece where everybody in the cast got individual arcs? Did it want to focus on taking down this one mafia family that keeps causing trouble? Or did it just want to be about two main cast members developing a brotherly bond? Jumbling all these story elements could have been engaging, but it just led to a pretty lopsided series. Unfortunately, that issue does carry over into season two.

High Card is a show that seems to live by the rule of cool. It’s very stylistic and has a fantastic soundtrack that uses various instruments to properly reflect the abundance of different personalities that comprise the show. For the most part, it’s an incredibly well-animated series. Almost every episode has some action set piece, taking advantage of the distinct locations and card abilities for engaging sequences. High Card succeeds as an action show, and while I think some of the card abilities are silly, like permanently bonding people’s hands together, others feel incredibly unique, like the ability to kill someone after talking with them for thirteen days. I would’ve liked to have seen more of what the cards had to offer, but season two decided to focus more on the overall lore of the cards themselves to wrap up its grandiose narrative. That’s not an issue on its face, but the problem is that the lore of High Card isn’t always that interesting at best and downright perplexing at worst.

There are many moments when the show constantly updates its history in real time. I don’t just mean that the characters are getting updated on the history of the society they live in and the cards themselves. Instead, there are moments when the story will say something without establishing a proper timeline. High Card wants to make it a big deal that the cards are now out in the wild and that there is this growing sense of urgency about getting them back in time for a specific event. Then, the show also establishes that the cards have always been out in the open and in the hands of select individuals. We’re following a group called High Card, which is meant to reclaim all of the cards and ensure they don’t fall into the wrong hands, but High Card has also been around for a long time. I wonder if the cards have always just been out in the open.

Plus, how the cards develop their powers is still incredibly vague. Some powers seem tied to specific cards and even have a mind of their own, while others coincidentally end up in the hands of people whose personalities or quirks reflect the card’s ability. The show is very loose with the details, and I wouldn’t care so much if it wasn’t for the fact that it feels like the show wants me to care about those details. I was never into High Card for its lore; I was in it for the characters, but it still leaves me feeling incredibly distracted.

Season two does succeed in bringing some character arcs full circle. Some are obvious, like Finn and Chris solidifying their brotherly bond, while others, like Leo, come into their own more as leaders by the end. The narrative handled those arcs so well that I wish the rest of the main cast got the same level of care, like Wendy. Her character arc resolved too easily. But at least she had something compared to Vijay, who was just there. I just wanted to see more of these characters because the emotional beats with them all interacting were some of the highlights of the entire series.

Their interactions also lean into High Card‘s central theme, family. Family is not always the blood you’re born with; it’s the bonds you make with others. How far will you go to preserve those bonds, and how much will you sacrifice for them? There are moments where it feels like I’m watching a Fast and Furious movie, and the high-octane action wasn’t helping that, but there is sincerity here. The show wears its heart on its sleeve, and despite its problems, I was never bored.

These days, original anime is hard to come by, especially action shows, which demand a lot of attention in their presentation. While I think High Card could’ve gone through a few more rewrites and had a bit more focus early on, I was pleasantly satisfied with where it ended up. The action is fun, the characters are likable, and a good chunk of the powers are pretty interesting. My biggest complaint is that I wish it focused on those elements instead of prioritizing its lore and history. Maybe that’s just a taste thing, but I enjoyed it the most when the show was having fun wrapped up in that sincerity. If you’re looking for a solid action series, I don’t think you can go wrong with High Card, and I would love to see more original animation like this.