Cardcaptor Sakura – 37 – The Voice

We begin this episode with the demonstration of a new Daidouji Brand prototype portable karaoke mic, perfect for picnics like the one Sakura and her friends are having. While ostensibly there to view the cherry blossoms, Syaoran is viewing Sakura the human girl, and when she looks back he can’t help but blush and turn away. Every episode it seems there’s a little reminder that his feelings for her are slowly but surely growing.

The star of the karaoke demonstration is the daughter of the woman whose company made the mic, but when Tomoyo is practicing for a chorus recital, a Clow Card overhears her and steals her voice! Suddenly the school’s best singer can’t even talk, and Sakura blames herself for not finding and sealing the card before it could cause trouble.

Tomoyo goes home and ends up taking a sick day, and her mom Sonomi also takes the next day off to spend time with her daughter. Tomoyo puts a brave face on this incident but she’s no doubt frightened of never being able to speak or sing again, and her mom knows the power of simply being there for a hug. Back at school, Sakura is down in the dumps and wondering what to do, and Syaoran is worried about her, and volunteers to help her search for the Voice card.

They go to Tomoyo’s house, but his compass doesn’t turn anything up; once Voice has a voice it likes, it goes into hiding. Hours pass without progress, and Sakura voices her frustration and guilt, seeing as how this is the second time Tomoyo has fallen victim to a Clow Card; the first being when Song copied her voice.

That gives Syaoran an idea: lure Voice out with Song, who still has that copy. Sure enough, Voice can’t resist Song’s Tomoyo-like singing. Syaoran traps it inside with magical talismans, and Sakura returns it into its rightful guise.

Tomoyo’s voice is restored, and Sakura embraces her, tearful with relief. All that’s left is to sit back and listen to Tomoyo’s delicately gorgeous voice at the recital as she knocks her performance out of the park.

While there are many friends in Sakura’s orbit she holds dear, there’s no one more important to her than Tomoyo, who in turn loves Sakua so much even without a voice she was urging her to cheer up. When Sakura is happy, Tomoyo is happy, and vice versa.

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 06 – Adamantine Gratin

Anos invites his new friends Ray and Misa to his house along with the Necron sisters, and his parents couldn’t be happier; the more the merrier. Anos’ mother tells the sisters how there was a possibility her son might die in the womb, but she prayed with all her might to raise him well no matter what happened, and he was born healthy.

We also learn through Ray that half-spirit, half-demon Hybrids like Misa usually don’t live very long lives, which means Misa must be special. Misa, on the other hand, considers Ray special as a Royalist who doesn’t discriminate against Hybrids.

After Anos meets with Melheis Boran of the Seven Elder Demon Emperors (who believes his memories of Anos must have been stolen, but his source remembers him), Anos comes home to find Misha learning how to cook Anos’ favorite mushroom gratin.

Anos thanks her by taking her on an “outing” (read: date) the next day, visiting her favorite shop in town, where intricately detailed miniature “magic models” are sold and made. He indulges her by making one of his own: a model of the entire town that’s so small it serves as a jewel for a ring he makes for her.

Misha is troubled that Anos does and gives so much while she feels she doesn’t give enough in return, but Anos assures her not to worry; he’s no totally omnipotent, between her eyes and creation magic, he believes she will surpass him one day.

They go to a cat cafe, where Ivis shows up in cat form to report the findings of his investigation into Melheis and the tournament. Basically, Anos is unsure of whether to participate since it’s sure to be a trap by Avos Delhevia and the Royalists. As for Ray, Anos learns his mother is in the hospital dying of something called “spirit disease”, which is probably why Ray asked Misa about her spirit blood.

When the tournament arrives, and his teacher’s big brother Krut is presented as the reigning champion, favorite to repeat, and Anos’ opponent in the first match. Anos remains unsure of whether to participate until his absence causes the Rotyalists in the crowd to mock him. This draws the ire of his mother, who won’t sit idly by and listen to them talk shit about her son.

Then Anos’ father, absent for much of the episode, finally returns with a freshly-forged Adamantine magic sword. With both his parents and his fan club on his side, Anos isn’t about to let them down, and curses himself for considering backing out of the tournament, which in hindsight is probably what his enemies would prefer. He enters the arena, promises to defeat Krut in one minute, and vows to break through any and all cowardly traps thrown his way.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 36 – White April

Welcome to April 1999 and to the second season of the iconic Cardcaptor Sakura! We get a new OP and ED, and are quickly and efficiently re-introduced to Sakura by watching her morning routine. She’s still having the dream about Tokyo Tower and a figure she believes to be Mizuki-senpai, but doesn’t know what it all means quite yet.

As the sakura petals fall Sakura glides to school on her rollerblades, escorted by Yukito, who is now in the twelfth grade with Touya. To celebrate Sakura’s eleventh birthday and start of fifth grade, he gives her a gift, which sends her into “dreamy mode”, a state she also enters upon learning Mizuki-sensei will be their new full-time teacher.

Yukito’s gift is a cute watch with a wing motif that matches many of Sakura’s outfits and accessories. But the Clow Card of the week isn’t time-related, but weather related. Despite being April snow starts to fall, and by the time Sakura has finished a pot of stew for dinner, there’s forty inches on the ground and Touya comes in soaked.

Sakura uses Fly to pick Tomoyo up to investigate, and she’s ready with a new pink snow bunny battle costume as well as her camcorder. They encounter Syaoran and Meiling in Penguin Park, who keep from sinking into the deep snow thanks to Syaoran’s magic; Sakura eventually does the same with Float.

Things take a turn when the Clow Card starts enveloping Sakura and Syaoran in a blizzardy vortex. Syaoran reluctantly rides with Sakura on her Fly staff to lure the storm away from their non-magical friends, but running isn’t enough to stop Snow. After Syaoran’s fire sword has some effect, Sakura realizes she lost her watch in all the hub-bub. She unleashes Fiery, which seems to feed on her anger as it sweeps all of the amassed snow in the town away.

After sealing Snow, Sakura breaks down in tears, but Syaoran tenderly comforts her, saying he’ll help her search for it until it’s found, however long it takes. Such a gentleman! Unfortunately, Mizuki-sensei steals his thunder by producing the watch, having had a “hunch” it was Sakura’s.

Like Shinomoto Akiho in Clear Card nineteen years later, Mizuki Kaho is an enigma who is seemingly perfect in normal life but hiding no small share of secrets when appearing in Sakura’s dreams (if it is indeed Mizuki—it sure looks like her). In the meantime, between Sakura’s reactions to her gift and the winter landscapes, the second season is off to a beautiful and touching start.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 35 – Christmas Inferno

After having the Tokyo Tower dream again—this time while in class—Sakura wakes up with Mizuki-sensei looking right at her, giving further credence to the theory that she’s the shadowy figure. But never mind that; it’s Christmastime! Since Yukito birthday is Christmas, Sakura wants to give him a nice gift. She approaches Meiling, who instinctively assumes Sakura is about to kidnap her in order to steal all of Syaoran’s cards, a scenario we watch in brilliant “MeilingVision”!

Meiling assures Sakura that if the recipient of her gift doesn’t hate or fear her, she has nothing to worry about; it’s more about the feelings behind the gift than the object itself. Buoyed by this advice, Sakura works up the courage to call Yukito fiddles with the cell phone Tomoyo gave her until Kero-chan redials Yukito. She asks if he’d go to the amusement park with her, and he accepts.

Sakura is dressed to the nines and on cloud nine as Yukito is obviously the perfect gentleman as their date commences. Unbeknownst to either of them, Tomoyo is recording their date for posterity, which is a little creepy and stalkery until you remember…hey, it’s Tomoyo. Kero-chan is with her too. Then Sakura spots Syaoran on a (forced) date with Meiling.

From there it becomes a double date, with the two couples going on various rides in various combinations. Meiling correctly deduces that Yukito is the gift recipient for whom Sakura asked her for gift advice. Meiling is glad her advice helped, but also probably relieved Sakura is busy with another guy. Touya makes an appearance as a waiter, as he works absolutely everywhere.

A bizarrely burning wreath was foreshadowing for the Clow Card-of-the-week: Fiery. By the time Syaoran and Sakura both sense the card, it’s already set little fires all over the amusement park. Syaoran uses Time to freeze all the bystanders and Sakura uses Sleep to put them all to sleep, but when she uses Windy alone it only fans the flames. Firey is true to his name, and as an elemental is the equal of Windy: any clash between them will end in a stalemate.

That means Sakura must do something rarely done by Cardcaptors: use two Clow Cards…simultaneously. While Time saps Syaoran, she’s got the magical power to summon both Windy and Waterywho quickly restrain Firey and allow Sakura to seal it. It’s a gorgeous sequence, and maybe Sakura’s most bad-ass moment yet—she doesn’t even break a sweat! In an added bonus, since Kero-chan is related to the sun, gaining Firey restores some of his powers, though he’s still stuck in plushie form for now.

With Firey all sealed up, all that’s left is for Sakura to give Yukito his birthday/Christmas gift, which she presents while they’re on a huge Ferris wheel. She ultimately decided to give him a doll…of himself…that she made by herself. You do you, Sakura! Yukito is happy for the gift, and Kero-chan makes their view a little more magical by using his power to bedazzle the night sky.

With that, Cardcaptor Sakura’s marvelous first season comes to a close. I thought Clear Card was great, but the original is some next-level shit. I can only imagine how bowled over I’d have been had I watched it when it first came out, considering how well the animation holds up in 2020. I’m very much looking forward to continuing this magical cardcapturing journey.

Re: Zero – 30 – Partners in Crime

First of all, it’s classic Natsuki Subaru to compliment Echidna on her school uniform! Second, Re:Zero finally deigns to air its opening credits! After they roll, Echidna didn’t really send Subaru back in time; both her uniform, the classroom, and his parents were illusions created from his memories. After some rather half-hearted attempts to trip him up. Subie doesn’t take the bait; he’s now fully faced and accepted his past and is ready to move forward.

Echidna declares he has passed the trial…but it was only the first of three. Subaru stops her right there: Freeing the Sanctuary is Emilia’s job, not his. Unfortunately, when he comes to back in the ruins, Subie finds an unconscious Emilia enduring a terrible nightmare, and she wakes up in an acute state of panic. If she was facing her past, it’s clear she’s having a much tougher time than Subie.

Ram makes sure Emilia is comfortably resting, while Subaru and the others talk barriers. Otto wonders if those who can pass through it can simply carry those who can’t across while they’re unconscious. That idea is shot down by one Ryuzu Bilma, the elfish girl Subaru briefly spotted in the forest, who turns out to be extremely old (a “loli hag” as Subie artfully puts it).

Anyone of mixed blood who crosses the barrier will have their body and soul separated, leaving the formless soul within and a shell of a body without. In other words, the only way out for them is the lifting of the barrier. Subaru then stays beside Emilia’s bed until she wakes up in the morning, and unconsciously puts her hand on his arm, a gesture she immediately walks back.

Later in the morning Subaru warns Ram that not everyone within the sanctuary wants the barrier to fall, and he must be vigilant against any threats to Emilia from those elements. She also believes Frederica could have some kind of plan in mind she didn’t reveal to Subaru. That night, Emilia attempts the trial again, and while she’s not denied a second chance, it too ends in failure. Afterwards, Roswaal has Subaru meet with him in his room while Ram stands by.

The Margrave finally admits that he allowed everything regarding the Witch’s Cult attack on the village and manor to happen as kind of political gambit, knowing the villagers’ opinion of Emilia would improve if she saved them. Subaru is pissed, mostly because so much of Roswaal’s plan depended on Subaru not being “complete trash” and coming through. But Roswaal had faith in him then, and has faith in him now.

Subaru doesn’t tell Emilia any of this, respecting Roswaal’s wishes (and deferring to political acumen). Like Roswaal with Subaru, Subaru may not have the most concrete evidence that Emilia can and will pass the trials and free the Sanctuary, but he has faith nonetheless. Emilia is grateful for the belief in her and trusts Subaru, but asks him to simply continue believing in her—without “spoiling” her.

To that end, Subaru decides to appeal to Garfiel to free the villagers. Since Garfiel has Emilia working on the barrier, the villagers are no longer necessary, so he agrees. Garfiel will escort Subaru and the villagers back to Arlam. Subaru leaves with Emilia’s blessing and one last tidbit from Roswaal, via Ram: if he runs into trouble with Frederica or anyone else, turn to Beatrice, and tell her “Roswaal said to ask the question”.

En route to Arlam, Garfiel tells Subaru he can tell he went through a trial, and wonders why he can’t simply complete them in Emilia’s place.  Judging from how she acts whenever she fails an attempt, it’s clear to Garfiel what I mentioned earlier: that Emilia is having a hard go with facing her past, probably because a part (or all) of her doesn’t want to.

After a brief stop in the village, Subaru goes on to the manor, which is oddly empty and bathed in blood-red light—never a good sign on this show! As he desperately runs through the halls searching for Rem, we hear an odd squishing sound and he trips and falls…on his own bowels. As he lies in a pool of blood and guts, his assailant reveals herself: Elsa, his very first nemesis in this other world.

Talk about a blast from the past! We last saw her back in 2o16, retreating after being wounded but not killed by an all-out attack from Reinhard. I wrote “the fact she’s still out there with her chilling desire to disembowel everyone else is certainly disquieting, as is the fact that such a huge attack didn’t kill her.” Well, now she’s back, and Subaru is almost certainly primed to Return by Death. I wonder where and when he’ll end up?

Cardcaptor Sakura – 34 – This…Is…HOEEEpardy!

(Title reference located here.) This was a weird episode. For one thing, there was no cardcapturing. There wasn’t even a new Clow Card to capture. I demand my money back! But seriously, the episode involves a quiz tournament involving questions about Tomoeda Town, and participants must pair up.

Sakura’s first choice is Tomoyo, but she can’t film Sakura if she participates in the tournament. Yukito ends up volunteering to be Sakura’s partner, something that immediately makes her day. It should also be noted that Chiharu pairs up with Yamazaki. In addition to being her soul mate, the kid knows a lot about a lot when he’s not bullshitting!

Syaoran, who reluctantly enters the tournament when Meiling insists he join her, is jealous of Sakura’s luck, but there’s an interesting point when he blushes more upon seeing Sakura smile than watching Yukito. Interesting!

We also learn why Yukito didn’t pair up with his soul mate Touya; Sakura’s big bro’s job-of-the-day is working as a assistant on the tournament’s first leg. Yukito helps them pass by realizing ten matchsticks in the shape of a star can also form “a different star” by forming the strokes of the kanji for “star”. Not sure what that has to do with the town, but whatevs!

As Meiling gets stuck on that first question, Sakura and Yukito breeze through the next questions, eventually reaching Mizuki-sensei for the tenth and final challenge: how to get a small ball out of an Erlenmeyer flask without turning it over or breaking it.

Sakura eventually figures it out (fill it with water from the nearby cooler so the ball will rise to the top), as Mizuki shoots some questions at Yukito. Clearly she can sense something about him that has to do with the current full moon, which Sakura notes can be seen during the day when skies are clear.

Mizuki warns her about the full moon, but it would probably have been more hazardous that night if it were a new moon, since the lack of light would make moving around tricky. Even so, Sakura gets momentarily fixated on the moon and ends up stumbling off a cliff.

Sakura has the Tokyo Tower dream before coming to safe and sound; fortunately, Yukito managed to cushion her fall. Unfortunately, he hurts his knee in the process, but he did happen to find the nadeshiko sigil that marks their completion of the tournament. It’s the prize in lieu of a Clow Card.

Just as Touya, Syaoran, and Sakura’s friends are starting to worry, Sakura and Yukito show up, with the latter leaning on the former for support. Everyone’s safe and sound, and all’s well that ends well.

While Sakura got some crucial bonding time with Yukito and you could say she’s progressed a bit in her one-sided courtship, the mysteries of the Tokyo Tower dream, the shadowy figure, and the “Yue” Kero mentioned last week remain unsolved, while the quiz tournament itself was a bit of a dawdle.

Fruits Basket – 43 – Having Nothing in the End

Hiro is talking with Kisa about his yet-to-be-born sibling, whose gender will be a surprise, and with his klutz of a mom when he spots Rin in her school uniform. He’s concerned about her ashen appearance, but she gives him basically the same treatment as everyone else who tries to reach out: Buzz off. Go have your happy life with your nice parents and leave me alone with my misery.

The episode then revisits the time Rin approached Shigure, we learn that she seeks a means of lifting the Zodiac curse, just like Tooru. She’s willing to give him her body for the info, but Shigure—in a rare instance of not being a total piece of filth—rejects her offer. But he also refuses to help in any way, while stating he’ll enjoy the benefits Rin’s and others’ efforts, because, as he says, he is the worst.

Spurned by Shigure, who may or may not have the answers she seeks, she goes through a Souma storage room in hopes of finding something, anything related to the curse and a way to lift it. Exhausted and nauseous, she collapses on the ground, and remembers one of the happiest moments in her life—in bed with Hatsu post-coitus, wishing she could be his heart—followed by one of the worst—her parents telling her they “don’t want her”.

Around dusk, she returns to Shigure’s house, strung-out almost beyond belief, but nobody’s home…until Tooru comes through the door. Even the act of opening a door on her sends Rin into a hysterical fit, repeatedly begging Tooru not to yell at her. Tooru being Tooru, she does the only thing the situation calls for in that moment: giving Rin a warm, gentle hug to try to calm her down.

Shigure may believe he’s the worst, but delving into Rin’s horrific childhood gives new dimension to the title. By all accounts, Rin’s parents tried for years to put on a happy, fun facade as they raised her. It wasn’t until it started to feel like a performance to her, and she asked them why that was, that they snapped.

(This is not at all to blame Rin for breaking the facade; it was doomed no matter what she said or did. But it’s clear she blames herself.)

Verbal and physical abuse followed, until one day Rin collapsed from the injuries that were hidden by her clothes. Kazuma and Haruhatsu are with her in the hospital, and that’s when her parents tell her they no longer want her. Hatsu responds not by turning into Dark Hatsu, but simply by getting extremely pissed off with the parents, and lays into them, getting no response in return.

From then on, Rin lived with Kagura’s family, and the mere fact it was a genuinely happy household caused her intense emotional and physical pain, since she wonders “what she did wrong” to cause her to lose her own home. The only person in whom she found comfort was her white-haired knight Haruhatsu, who eventually confesses his love, and she reciprocates.

For the only person with whom spending time was not painful to be another Zodiac member only adds further fuel to the all-consuming flame of misfortune that is Rin’s life. Akito finds out, and when Hatori’s eye is brought up, Rin declares that she was the one who seduced Haru.

Akito doesn’t hold back on the verbal or physical wrath, calling Rin wicked and devious (“like all women”) and calling her flowing black hair “repulsive”. Seemingly feeding off Rin’s fear by grabbing her, telling her she has no value other than “filling one of the [Zodiac] slots” before tossing her out the window. This “incident” is witnessed by Hiro, without whom Rin might well have bled out. Instead, she’s still alive—and wishes she wasn’t.

For all of those times I misinterpreted Rin’s standoffish, quick-to-anger nature in the few scenes in which she interacted with others, I can only beg for the character’s forgiveness. She’s had every right to actthe way she has. It’s now crystal clear she broke up with Hatsu in order to save him from Akito’s wrath, as well as her own belief her love for him would be so heavy it would one day crush him.

I can only breathe a sigh of relief that Rin is now in the safest possible place: in Shigure’s house and in Tooru’s care. She may act like every bit the wounded horse upon coming to, and stubbornly reject any and all offer of help from Tooru, but the fact is the two share the same goal, and they’ll need each other if they’re going to make any progress.

So ends the darkest and most devastating episode of Fruits Basket to date, an absolutely unrelenting look at the destructive effects of the Zodiac curse on its members. Few episodes of anime hit me as hard as this one. Rin is at absolute rock bottom, neither wanting nor feeling she is deserving of love, happiness, or anything at all. If anyone can help her, it’s Tooru. As long as Rin is alive, there is still hope. And I hope to hell she gets the redemption she needs and deserves.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 33 – A Thawing of Relations

Winter has arrived, as has the first freeze, and as Sakura’s class will be going on a field trip to the ice skating rink, she tries to get some practice in on her blades, only to fall on her bum. Any soreness is forgotten when she learns Yukito is spending the night at her house to study for exams with Touya. She even has a couple “anyahns” for Yukito, something she’d previously saved for Mizuki-sensei.

That night, however, she doesn’t dream about Yukito. Instead, she has the same dream she’s had several times now, only the details are becoming clearer and easier to recall upon awakening. She distinctly remembers a full moon and someone with long hair. While this figure resembles Mizuki-sensei, Kero mentions the name Yue, I believe for the first time. Could the reddish hue of the dream figure’s hair be a red herring?

Armed with a beautiful bento prepared by Touya and Yukito (such a nice couple), Sakura hits the rink with her class. While she’s not sure on her feet at first, she quickly gets the hang of it (as Tomoyo predicted) thanks to some pointers from Mizuki-sensei. Syaoran also figures it out…just a tiny bit slower than Sakura. Meiling, meanwhile, bundles herself up like a button-cute Matryoshka doll, not used to Japan’s cold winter.

Turns out she doesn’t just have a ridiculously low tolerance for cold; temps throughout the rink and cafe soon drop below zerc degrees C, and soon everyone except Sakura and Syaoran are encased in ice, in one of the more overtly frightening scenes CSS has turned out. As expected, it’s the Freeze Clow Card. If they want to free everyone, Sakura will have to seal it.

Turns out Freeze is a hugely aggressive dick, and even with the heightened agility of Jump, Sakura takes a bit of a beating. Thankfully Syaoran is not only there to catch, shield, and protect her, but doesn’t get bashful about all the close contact. He even hacks away at the ice that starts to gather around her, then shows off his newly-learned skating skills to distract Freeze and allow Sakura to seal it. Since he made the sealing possible, Syaoran earns the card’s loyalty.

After Freeze is sealed everyone thaws out and no one is the wiser. As Sakura hands out hot drinks to everyone, her eyes meet Syaoran’s and she gives him a cheerful smile, and Syaoran can’t help but blush…again. Unfortunately for Meiling, he’s well on his way to having a crush on her. I’m not sure how Syaoran will eventually wrest Sakura’s primary affections from Yukito, we’re not even halfway through the show’s run—so he’s got time!

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 05 – Very Old Friends

In a flashback to two thousand years ago, Anos sends his most trusted subordinate Shin to defeat the Great Water Spirit Lignon, which he does easily. When Anos offers him a reward, Shin asks to be resurrected, even if his resurrected self loses his memories and experiences, he wants to remain by his lord’s side.

Back in the present, Emilia also announces a new transfer student, a prodigy known as the “Master of Magic Sword”, and that the class will start sword training with two Elder Demon Emperors. She also tries to pretend the specter has been “stolen” in order to deprive Team Anos of a perfect score, only for Anos to pull said scepter out of one of the students ordered to hide it.

Before he does, one white uniform comes to his defense: Misa Iriologue, a demon-spirit hybrid and member of the Unitarians, who work towards a more racially and class-equitable nation, one not dominated by “Royalty” who just happened to be born with pure blood.

Misa and her associates believe Anos is the Demon King of Tyranny. Not only does she want to join Team Anos, but she wants to tell them more of their efforts in hopes Anos will join the cause, as one Elder Demon Emperor already has.

I never thought MDKA would have been able to pull off sociopolitical worldbuilding with an Anos fan club full of bookworms who swoon and faint in his presence and consider the same air he breathes to be a direct kiss…but here we are!

The Unitarians seem like a nice bunch of hardworking girls who just want to make the world a more just and equal place, and while Anos has thankfully never come off as a horndog in want or need of a harem, their mission statement aligns with his own distaste for blood purity trumping merit.

During the sword training, Anos is the first and only student to successfully pull his sword out of the ground, Excalibur-style … until a second student does it with similar ease. He’s the new transfer student and sword prodigy, and my first thought was that he was the reincarnated Shin.

My confidence that this Ray Gransdori is Shin is reinforced when he shocks Emilia by declaring he’d rather have a competent leader giving him orders than lead a team himself. He also pays Anos’ “Misfit” label and white uniforms no mind; it’s clear he shares both Anos and the Unitarians’ belief that parentage isn’t as important as achievement.

Anos initially refuses Ray’s request to join his team because he doesn’t want to make it too easy for him. Both he and Ray have clearly been rearing for a good sword battle lasting more than a couple seconds, and no one else has proven a challenge to either. Anos issues a challenge: Ray will lead Misa and the fan club against Team Anos, which they get to join if they fare well.

With her new ice ring, Misha is able to build a giant ice castle in a matter of moments, while her and Sasha’s newly upgraded sources (due to the time travel stuff last week) mean they are now considerably more powerful, and when they join forces are able to easily bring down the fan club’s golem-like mobile castle.

While the “kids” play with castles and immensely powerful magic spells, Anos and Ray have a good old-fashioned sword duel, only Ray’s sword is dull and Anos’ sword is just a tree branch. The ensuing clash is everything both of them could have hoped for, and you can tell they’re having a ton of fun.

Anos obviously bests Ray, but Ray proved he’s worthy of joining the team. Ray also has a strange feeling that they’ve crossed swords before. Surely Anos could tell from the way Ray fought and the instinctive desire to serve him that he has his right-hand-man back.

Sometimes when a transfer student shows up they’re meant to be a rival or obstacle to the MC, but this was a nice subversion of that formula. It’s also refreshing to have a male character who isn’t Anos—or an asshole. Both he and Misa are welcome additions. On to the Magic Sword Tournament, in which Anos and Ray are clear favorites to make the finals.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 32 – Serious Kero, Comical Li

This episode starts rather than ends with a cardcapture, and the rest of it deals with the lingering effects of the card. Because it’s the Change card, and both Syaoran and Kero-chan were in contact with it when Sakura sealed it, the two end up swapping bodies. As soon as I heard Kero speaking in a normal Japanese accent while Syaoran broke out the full Osaka dialect, I knew we’d be in for a rare treat. Even Sakura can’t quite contain her delight at such a development!

Naturally, neither Kero nor Syaoran find this remotely amusing, as they’re not exactly fond of one another. However, since the effects of Change won’t wear off for 24 hours, they’re stuck in each other’s bodies. Interestingly, Kero!Syaoran heads to his home while Syaoran!Kero stays with Sakura, leading to him blushing over her for the second time. As luck would have it, Yukito stays for dinner, but when Kero leaves the safety of Sakura’s room, he’s almost accosted by a cat!

Meanwhile, Kero does his best to make dinner, but the taste of the soup and the sound of his accent immediately cause Meling to be suspicious. After all, he’s the love of her life, so she’d be the first to notice if he’s not himself—which of course he isn’t! That suspicion only intensifies the next day when he animatedly gives the class video game pointers…despite the fact Syaoran doesn’t play video games!

Like Meiling with Syaoran, there’s no fooling Tomoyo regarding what’s going on, especially when she holds up her camera and Syaoran!Kero strikes a classic Kero pose. Similarly, Kero’s clumsiness in Syaoran’s body is plain for all to see during a soccer match when he runs on all fours. Syaoran doesn’t fare any better in Kero’s body—he can’t fly, and he’s accidentally carried off by Terada-sensei, who bought a plush toy for his niece that’s a dead ringer for Kero.

Meiling also learns the truth, and joins Sakura and Kero as they track down Terada, who exchanged Syaoran for a different toy. Kero then has to play a claw crane game for the first time in order to pluck Syaoran out of the glass box. He gets fired up and eventually succeeds, and the two put their differences aside long enough to enter an embrace while Sakura re-activates Change in order to switch them back to their rightful bodies.

The episode pulls a clever fast one when Syaoran arrives back at school to find Sakura and Kero have now switched (Sakura’s Osaka ‘lect is great, though I wish Kero had gotten a good HOEEE in)! Then Syaoran realizes he’s swapped with Meiling, only to wake up in his bed; it was just a dream, and Meiling is glad Syaoran is Syaoran—as he was meant to be.

While normally standing out with its gorgeous visuals, the success of this ultra-entertaining outing primarily came down to the performances of Hisakawa Aya (Kero) and Kumai Motoko (Syaoran), doing impressions of each others’ usual performances. They pulled it off without a hitch! Now if we could just get a Sakura-Tomoyo swap (desu wa!)…or Touya-Yukito for that matter!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 31 – Sakurazilla, Queen of the Kaiju

Touya does it almost every morning: Calling Sakura a kaiju for stomping down the steps and being too loud. One day, Sakura vows to grow tall enough to “stomp” her mean big brother. Little does she know that half of that wish will come true in the service of her Cardcaptor duties.

What’s odd is that despite her friend Naoko finding a book that is clearly a Clow Card (though not a Clear Card) at a used bookstore, Sakura senses the presence of a card elsewhere entirely.

When Sakura comes by later that night when there’s no one around, Tomoyo is with her, and dresses her up in a bold blue battle costume and has her camcorder at the ready to record some cardcapturin’. But they’re not alone: Syaoran and Meiling are also on the scene, and determined to get to the card first.

Unfortunately for Syaoran, cats love him, and when Sakura and Tomoyo manage to Fly to safety after a gigantic cat chases the four of them, he ends up the cat’s focus of attention. Kero-chan determines from the big cat that the Big card is on the loose. Sakura confronts Big, who doesn’t really put up a fight when Sakura moves to seal her.

That would be all, except that Naoko unknowingly has a second Clow Card in her possession in the form of a fantasy book that has blank pages at the end which are meant to be filled in by the owner. Naoko obliges, and the things she imagines and writes down take physical form, from flying animals that wouldn’t normally fly to a 10-story purple dragon. Kero identifies it as the Create card at work.

Faced with the prospect of a literal kaiju wreaking havoc on Tomoeda, Sakura has no choice but to use Big…on herself! Growing to immense size ironically makes her even more adorable, especially as she tries to cower in embarrassment. Even with her greater stature, the dragon is still bigger and stronger and unlike Big puts up quite a fight.

Thankfully Sakura (and, incidentally, the city) is saved when Naoko decides to put the quill down, close her book, and go to bed. Just like that, the dragon evaporates, and Sakura seals Create, and returns to normal size. But the next morning, when Touya teases her about being a kaiju once more, she takes comfort in the knowledge that she could grow to the size of a real kaiju and intimidate her brother anytime…if she wanted to!

So ends another high-concept—very high-concept!—episode that plays as the complement to the episode in which she shrunk down. But whether she’s big or small, Cardcaptor Sakura will always get the job done.

Re: Zero – 29 – Take Care, Natsuki Subaru

Having episodes end with Emilia unconscious two weeks in a row was a bummer, but returning to the real world and getting to spend some time with Subaru’s remarkable parents made up for that and then some. Right from the word go, we know we’re in for a ride: Subaru’s dad executes wrestling moves to welcome him to the morning, while his mom (who shares his “scary eyes”) insists he eat a giant mountain of peas, which neither she nor his dad like.

They may have their amusing quirks, but his folks are alive, present, and relatively normal…which makes them among the rarest anime parents out there!

Subaru is a shut-in; he has been since about three months after high school began. His dad manages to coax him out for a walk, and sakura-strewn park in which they have that walk is particularly dreamlike and bright, as bright as his bedroom is dark.

Also bright, to the point of blinding: his parent’s absolute unconditional love and support, no matter how far off “the prescribed path” he’s strayed. Like so many others, Subaru’s problems weren’t caused by a rough or abusive childhood.

When periodic stabs of pain in his head resolve to the spirit of Emilia thanking him for saving her all the time, his memories from the New World flood back in, and with all that amassed experience and wisdom, is able to look at his past objectively and wrestle with it.

Subaru’s dad is a gregarious renaissance man, which put pressure on Subaru to achieve a similar level of greatness in anything and everything he did. But as he grew, he became less than the best, and eventually not that good at those things.

He tried to make up for the lack of talent and ability by acting out, gathering people around him he called friends but who ultimately were only around until he got boring. High school was the rude awakening for which he was not socially or emotionally prepared, and he gradually just stopped going.

Even so, his mom and dad treated him with the same affection and cheer as they always did, despite his desire for them to punish him or even throw him out for being such a pathetic loser. At a couple points during their talks, his dad asks if he likes someone. That’s because as his father he must sense a positive change in Subaru; that he’d figured out to get back on his own two feet.

Without naming names, Subaru admits there is a girl he likes, and a girl who loves him. Rem once told him giving up doesn’t suit him. She and Emilia saved him from his own complex because they didn’t have to pretend he wasn’t the son of the great Natsuki Kenichi—obviously neither of them know his dad. Subaru didn’t know how bad he needed to know it was okay to just be Subaru.

After a little cry and hug with dad, Subaru puts on his school uniform and prepares to return to school, Starting Over from Zero just as he did on Rem’s recommendation…only with school. His mom decides to walk him part of the way there.

She reiterates the things Subaru and his dad talked about, and when Subaru tells her he’ll never let go of people who helped him get over his troubles, and be sure to make himself worthy of them later, she declares he’s definitely “his kid”.

While those two words once caused stabs of pain (and still do one more time), his mom assures him not to worry about being “just as awesome” as his dad. After all, he’s only half his dad, and half his mom, so half as cool constitutes a “filled quota”.

Subaru, knowing he’ll leave both his parents soon and may never see them again, offers tearful apologies for not being able to do anything for them before going off to do his own thing. Again, his mom tells him not to fret; she and his father didn’t have him so he’d do something for him, but so they could do something for him. And they have, just by being there for him, loving him, and never judging him.

Subaru’s dad may have cast a shadow that inadvertently, temporarily stunted his son’s development as an individual. But because his son was half-him, he was eventually able to make it out of that shadow. It’s why when his dad says “do your best” and his mom says “take care”, he can hold his head high, smile, and go to school.

In this case, “going to school”, and specifically opening the door to his homeroom constitutes the completion of the trial, and Echidna is waiting for him (in his school’s uniform!) when he does so, remarking how he made it there faster than she expected.

As we return to his trials in the new world, it was both instructive and at times downright emotionally compelling to see of the old world from which Subaru came. The struggles he faced before arriving in the new world underscore why ending up there and meeting Emilia, Rem and the others was not only the best thing that could have happened to him, but also possibly meant to be.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 30 – The Cardcaptor’s Dilemma

This week CCS switches things up a bit, dropping us in right in the middle of a card-capturing mission. Sakura’s in a gaudy new battle costume, Tomoyo is recording with her camcorder, God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world. The target is Dash, a card that specializes in sprinting. When Sakura uses Windy to restrain it, Dash breaks free, injuring itself and landing in the yard of a girl named Rei. She dresses its wound and the two form an immediate bond.

Tomoyo dresses Sakura in a baseball uniform in order to create an excuse to enter Rei’s yard, but at school they later learn Rei is their senpai, and the ace track runner. It’s clear that Dash has a profound effect on her performance, as she shaves a full second from her personal best. Sakura and Tomoyo pay her a visit with the intention of sealing the Dash card, but when the opportunity arises, Sakura hesitates.

You see, Rei is a nice, good girl, like Sakura, simply trying her best. Sakura doesn’t want to seal Dash until after her track meet. Kero-chan basically tells her that as a Cardcaptor she can’t concern herself with emotional entanglements like this, but the bottom line is Sakura just doesn’t feel right taking Dash from Rei just yet. Unfortunately, before the meet Syaoran catches wind of the card and his compass leads him to Rei’s house.

Sakura tries to intervene, but Syaoran is in full cardcapturing mode, summoning lightning in order to corner Dash once it leaves Rei’s yard. When it appears before Sakura, Kero-chan again makes the argument that any victories Rei achieves with Dash’s magical help won’t be legitimate, and that Sakura won’t be able to cheer for her with all her heart.

So Sakura has no choice but to seal the card, which then flies into Syaoran’s hand. He’s confused as to why Sakura didn’t seal it herself much earlier, but learns the reason when Rei runs into the forest calling out desperately for her pet. Poor Rei!

Syaoran shows he’s not only a clever kid, but a kind one, as he summons Dash at the finish line to provide Rei the motivation she needs to win the track meet. He does not use Dash’s power to give her extra speed; she won through her own efforts.

Rei can celebrate her victory, Sakura was able to cheer for her whole heartedly, and Syoran scores some good guy points…not to mention style points—nice jacket! In fact, the animators were quite busy this week with the sheer volume of different outfits Sakura & Co. ended up wearing.