“Are you ready? Itʼs Showdown!!”
The High Card anime begins with a literal bang. Filled with high-stakes thrills and supernatural battles, what makes High Card unique is how the powers are centered around the 52 X-Playing Cards. This allows for an enormous range of different characters and abilities, fitting for a series planned from the get-go as a multimedia franchise.
The story began with producer Hiroki Okamoto and original story development manager Masako Iwata, who created the concept and outline at TMS. Although there were some minor tweaks along the way, the two say that the storyline and basic setting remain unchanged from the initial killer concept.
A big selling point of the anime is how it’s written by Kakegurui manga writer Homura Kawamoto and his brother Hikaru Muno. According to Kawamoto, writing a story with your sibling does bring about a fair amount of arguing, but it was nothing they couldn’t overcome. “The good thing is that we never reached the point of war,” he said with a chuckle. “Although we did come close.”
The brothers came on board to help flesh out the story and come up with the X-Playing Card abilities. Okamoto and Iwata can attest to their resourcefulness. “When we come across any problems, they suggest great alternatives. They are also familiar with the processes and circumstances surrounding anime production, so they are very easy to work with.”
The team spent several months coming up with all the abilities. Because the powers of the Cards can be organized by suit, the team found that some were easier to come up with than others. Always conscious that they were working with the animated medium, Homura Kawamoto and Hikaru Muno wanted powers that would be cool on screen. “We might have created the basic character and setting, but it’s the designers, the animation team, the director, the voice cast, and the people working in sound production who truly bring this series to life,” Muno said.
This was the impetus for creating the Marble Rumble ability, which turns anything the user touches into marbles. It’s a seemingly silly power, but in practice, it’s deadly and gory, like when the user seizes another person’s head and causes blood and marbles to gush from what was once their skull.
“There are many different ‘supernatural battle’-type series, resulting in the inevitable overlapping of powers between them, so we were very keen about creating abilities that are stylish and unique to High Card,” Okamoto and Iwata reflected. “We also made a conscious effort to limit the amount of explanation and focus on the conversations, to make the characters’ lines feel more realistic.”
In other words, every line in High Card packs a punch, so there are a lot of details for attentive viewers to watch out for. Although Kawamoto and Muno were hesitant about explaining the anime’s themes and messages to the audience out of respect for everyone’s individual interpretations, they did highlight one underlying commonality in the story’s characters: Resolve. “Every character has something that they’re prepared to lay down everything for. It’s expressed in the tagline: ‘Are you ready? It’s Showdown!!’”
The action in High Card might be distinct from Kakegurui in that it focuses more on supernatural battles than high-stakes gambling, but at their core, they both derive their thrills from the character interactions and backstories. “I hope that as you watch, you find yourself wondering what makes the characters tick,” Kawamoto said.
Although the staff refrained from picking favorites among the cast, they did remark that some characters were especially fun to write. “Chris is a light-hearted character that likes to crack jokes, so his lines are easy to play around with,” Okamoto and Iwata commented. “It was fun to come up with Leo’s cutting remarks as well since he is such an abrasive character.”
Peering ahead, there’s a lot to look forward to when it comes to the rest of the series. Iwata teased Owen Alldays’ Card as a particularly useful one, for instance, and asked fans to keep their eyes peeled for the reveal. Okamoto and Iwata also said they’ve been weaving in minor details and backstories into the other works in the franchise to enrich the overall experience.
“It’s extra fun and immersive if you engage with the entirety of the High Card project,” they said eagerly.