Warlords of Sigrdrifa – 01 (First Impressions) – Meet the 909th Valkyrie Wing

For it’s opening sortie we get a double-helping of Senyoku no Sigrdrifa. Strange phenomena called Pillars threaten Earth, but an entity calling himself Odin bestows upon humanity a weapon with which to fight them: Valkyries, battle maidens who pilot vintage aircraft called Hero Wings.

Claudia Bruford, callsign Schwertliete, is the ace of the European Valkyrie wing, but she’s often the sole survivor of her missions, leading to her unofficial title Grim Reaper When Japan’s ace is KIA, she is transferred away from Europe, and believes it’s due to that title.

En route to her new assignment, her transport aircraft is attacked by a ocean-bound Pillar, but before she can sortie three other Valkyries enter the battlefield, identifying themselves as Anonym, Red, and Pink. They’re an extremely animated bunch, whom Claudia likens to a “circus”.

They also seem a bit uncoordinated, so Claudia launches and joins the battle. In addition to showing what an S-Class Valkyrie is made of, and it’s more than enough to keep up with the others, the quartet manage to stall the Pillar until it runs out of energy and breaks up.

Claudia returns to base, which she learns is Tateyama, a rearguard base which is also where her three fellow Valkyries are stationed. She is given a tour by Red, AKA Muguruma Miyako, and also meets Watarai Sonoka (PI=ink) and Komagome Azuzu (Anonym).

Claudia or “Clau-chan” as “Miko” nicknames her, is taken aback by how laid back the base is, even under alert. But she meets the very abled mechanic crew and enjoys curry with Miko and Sono while the unathletic Azu tries to play soccer with the kids. We also learn Azu likes Miko.

Their fun on the ground is cut short by reports of more Pillars in the vicinity, and the four Valkyries sortie with Claudia in charge. A handful of Pillars soon turn into dozens, and upon “fishing” out the Pillar’s core, a giant whale-like leviathan takes flight.

Prior to launching, Azu clears the air about Claudia’s reputation as a omen of death for all who fly with her, but both her fellow valkyries, support pilots, and mechanics consider her good luck, no matter what happened in the past. A huge aerial battle between colorful vintage airplanes and Art Nouveau-style CGI enemies ensues, with the brilliant azure sky providing a glorious backdrop.

When the Pillar’s core is finally exposed, everyone is out of ordinance, so Miko jumps out of her cockpit and slashes the core with a katana, thus destroying the Pillar, something that always triggers the creation of a giant floating tree. Claudia fears she’s the sole survivor once again, but when the fog clears it reveals Azu, Sono and Miko all soft-landed in the tree’s foliage.

The girls return home triumphant, and Claudia is officially welcomed to Tateyama air base by her comrades. While she initially thought she was being swept under a rug, now she finds herself somewhere she feels she truly belongs, and with something like a loving family supporting her.

The 48 minutes of Sigrdrifa is a lot to digest, but goes down easy thanks to a simple linear narrative that’s well-paced. There’s a generous use of Norse mythological names and terms likely in order to add a sense of prestige, though I’m not quite sold on whether they’re necessary; any made-up names would have worked.

What truly drew me in for the near-hour was competent production values, a soaring sense of scale to the battles, the quirkiness of cute girls in old-fashioned planes being the salvation of mankind, and the bright and colorful characters we meet, who each have distinct qualities and possess  solid chemistry and lived-in relationships. Let’s see where this goes.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 69 – Tsukimine Showdown

This is it: with just one episode left in reserve (presumably for an epilogue), the big clash between Team Eriol and Team Sakura has finally come. After revealing himself, Eriol releases the true forms of Spinel and Ruby, and the trio really play up the Big Bad Villain act.

Eriol shrouds the entire city in darkness, which puts everyone to sleep except for Sakura and Syaoran (though even he’s woozy). If Sakura can’t lift the darkness spell by daybreak, everyone will remain asleep…forever.

The show makes a point to underline the stakes by showing almost every secondary character out cold, including Touya, who has no more magical power, after all. Sakura asks Eriol why he’s doing all this, but Eriol will only tell her if she breaks his spell.

Spinny and Ruby aren’t just arrogant, but also exceedingly powerful, and even when Yue arrives to shield Sakura, both he and Kero have a tough time keeping pace with Eriol’s guardians. The aerial battle between Yue and Ruby in particular is a beautiful action set piece.

Once it’s clear Sakura will have to stop playing defense and do something about the darkness spell, she takes out her cards, notes that eight Clow Cards remain to be converted, and then proceeds to convert six at once. Two “refuse” to change, however: Light and Dark.

Since those cards are most closely tied to her guardians, Kero and Yue tell Sakura to absorb the two of them into her staff. She does so, and her staff becomes longer and grander; Syaoran helps her hold it steady, and relies on his Clow Reed blood help convince the cards to change.

Once both Light and Dark are Sakura Cards, Sakura invokes Light, which proceeds to shatter the darkness and restore the regular sky. Everyone wakes up, safe and sound, and Eriol and his guardians stand down, his mission to help Sakura convert all of his cards now complete. Call it tough love on his part: in order for Sakura to summon the power, he had to create a crisis only she could fix.

When Kero and Yue go chasing after Eriol, Spinny and Ruby, Sakura prepares to follow, but Syaoran holds her up so he can tell her something he’s been wanting to tell her practically all season: he likes her. That’s right; the kid finally got the words out!

Alas, all he gets in response before the credits roll is Sakura’s shocked expression. But as she puts it in the preview for the finale, she once had no idea how she felt about Syaoran…but now she does know.