Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro – 11 – Art Is Thus To Pursue

The girls try to encourage Senpai by laying into the President and her scolding, scripted manner of speaking, but Naoto doesn’t want them talking shit about her, from whom he’s learned so much about art and still deeply respects.

He’s also dubious about a cosplay art cafe being sufficient to beat the Prez, who helped the Art Club nab sixth place last year—out of over sixty presentations—with a bold, provocative nude self portrait.

Gamo points out what she believes to be a simple fact: when it comes to mass appeal, Senpai and Hayacchi don’t have “the goods” with which to compete with the Prez’s Kardashian-esque proportions. Nagatoro takes it as being dissed—but Gamo still has a point; a lot of horny guys are going to be voting for the better club.

But there’s one horny guy—Naoto—who tells Gamo and the others that he doesn’t think any less of Nagatoro than the President. Both have their charms, and he wants to try to win by depicting Nagatoro as she normally is. Even though he imagines President as a Titan swallowing him whole, he’s still feeling positive.

Nagatoro is determined to ensure he wins, and when her swimsuit isn’t motivating enough, she dons nothing but a white sheet. But in doing so, and with the constant interruptions of the other girls, Naoto becomes increasingly iffy in his drawing, and grows frustrated with the whole venture, deeming any attempt to beat the Prez as futile.

Finally, as the show takes on a de-saturated palette akin to Super Cub, Naoto says this isn’t going to work. He doesn’t want to draw Nagatoro, because if he fails, he’ll drag her down with him. She says she doesn’t care about that, but Naoto insists this is between him and the President. A genuinely angry and hurt Nagatoro storms off in her sheet. The others call Senpai a loser…and in that moment, he absolutely is!

Alone again in his club room (well, half the club room; in an amazingly petty gesture President has cordoned off the other half for third years only!) he gets back to his bread-and-butter: dull still-lifes. President pays him a visit —also wearing only a sheet, as she was taking pictures for her next piece, and tells him it’s dull and no good.

She’s not just being a bitch; she’s right! Naoto’s painting is technically fine, but lacks any kind of passion, other than the desire to be neat and tidy. Prez tells him the most important aspect of a piece isn’t its theme, but love. And when she witnesses Nagatoro peek in and promptly run away after she sees Senpai with her, Prez orders Naoto to pursue her with all due haste.

He does, but when he catches up to her in the hall he blanks on what to say, and the moment is spoiled by two other girls who think he’s stalking Nagatoro. The chase continues until the sun starts to go down, ending at the swimming pool. As he runs after her, he summons all his favorite memories of her, which aren’t of her teasing him, but revealing her genuine self to him.

As she hops from starting block to another away from him, Naoto tells her he wants her to model for him. When she tells him to go back to his precious president, she slips off a block, but before she can go into the pool he grabs her, both demonstrating he does have some strength. When he repeats his desire to draw her the way she usually is, she asks him why, and this time he doesn’t waver: because she’s more attractive to him.

Nagatoro is so shocked by this declaration, and turns so red, she kinda almost has to jump into the pool, taking Senpai with her. They end up walking home soaked, but Naoto’s honesty and the quick plunge into the pool washed away their fight and brought them back together. When he lets slip that he often notices how cute she in ordinary times (as opposed to wearing cosplay) it’s another blushfest for both of them.

Senpai walks right up to the line of confession this week, while Nagatoro leaves no doubt about how she feels when he keeps defending her nemesis. But while she’s scheming something with who I presume to be the StuCo President, the President came off as less of a villain (or Titan) this week.

Instead, she’s issued this challenge to push Naoto out of his comfort zone so he can be the best artist he can be. You can only do that by pursuing your passions—and when it comes to his passions, there’s no beating Nagatoro. Even if he and Nagatoro do lose to her voluptuous magnificence, they’ll lose together, having fought their hardest!

Episode 11 “Senpai” Count: 14 (+3 “Paisens”)—the fewest yet!
Total: 380

Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro – 10 – Taking It Seriously

A day after feeding Senpai “steamy snaps” (of chicken, not her), Nagatoro watches him lollygagging during a marathon, and makes her displeasure with his performance plain. He tries to say he’s good at nothing but drawing and practicing is only for talented people, but Nagatoro knows better on both counts.

She’s not about to let her Senpai get off with such a lousy defeatist attitude, and orders him to show up at the park bright and early, where she meets him in a skintight two-piece track suit and ponytail, ready to run with him and show him he can do it if he tries.

While I’m sure on some level Nagatoro understands her attire turns Senpai on, to the point he tries to overtake her because he’s too embarrassed to watch her running from behind, that’s just the icing on the cake for her. She wants Senpai to see her and thouroughly enjoys his reactions, but she’s just as invested in helping him improve himself and to dispossess him of the notion it’s okay to just give up because something is hard.

Speaking of hard, Naoto is revealed is extremely inflexible during the crucial post-run stretching, so after putting herself into some teasing poses to get him all red, Nagatoro helps him stretch properly, which gives her an excuse to get as close and physical and sweaty with him as she dares. This culminates in the two doing a side-stretch together when Yosshi stops by with her dog…though at this point it should come as no surprise to her with whom Nagatoro is spending her weekend.

The Cultural Festival is approaching, and Naoto needs to start putting out some work worthy of the Art Club exhibition. He wants to have a male model so he doesn’t get embarrassed looking closely at them, but Nagatoro insists on modelling for him, showing him the sketch of her as a catgirl as proof of where his true artistic desires lie.

When he gives her the condition that she has to model in catgirl cosplay, he feels bad about it later, as he assumes she’d never be able to find such a costume, much less wear it for him. I don’t know why he thought this, considering the clothes she’s worn (or not worn) for him so far, but the next day she shows up in the literal costume of his dreams, courtesy of the needlecraft club.

She is playfully beating him with her big paws for not having complimented her enough when Gamo, Yosshi and Sakura come in, wondering if they interrupted something they shouldn’t have. But eventually the whole group is there hanging out and Naoto settles down and starts drawing Nagatoro.

The girls even offer to help Senpai make his exhibit more “hype”, not because they’re keen to use that scenario to torment him (well, not only because), but because they’re all friends now, and friends help each other out. This is in stark contrast to his relationship to the estranged Art Club President, whose stern, purposeful footsteps Naoto hears approaching and has the girls hide in the prep room.

When the unnamed President (voiced by the effortlessly imperious Mizuki Nana) enters, it’s clear from the couch and the snacks that she believes the “unsavory rumors” she’s heard about the club room becoming a gathering place for some “nasty characters”. At no point in this scene or Naoto’s flashback of her does the President treat Naoto as anyone other than an employee, at an emotional remove but also exerting absolute control.

There’s no give-and-take in their exchange, and both Nagatoro and the others feel bad for Senpai getting reamed out due in large part to their entering his world. When the President asserts that the club room is “no place for merrymaking”—as if you can’t do good work and have fun doing it—and threatens to turn a termination form for the art club into the faculty office, Naoto is unable to speak up for himself.

But before President leaves, Nagatoro emerges from the prep room with the others, having heard quite enough. She calls the President selfish for having been AWOL so long and leaving Senpai all alone only to come back out of nowhere to shut it down. The President doesn’t flinch in her assertion that the club shouldn’t exist if its members won’t take it seriously.

Surely Nagatoro also must realize how unserious she looks in her getup, but it doesn’t matter; she’s going to stand up for her Senpai! She draws upon her amassed wealth of knowledge about Senpai to declare that President simply can’t make that assertion. After all, she hasn’t been watching Senpai off by himself drawing like a man possessed. She has, and she knows he takes it seriously—so seriously, in fact, he wrongly believes he isn’t good at anything else!

The President accepts this challenge to her judgment, and decides to settle the fate of the art club with a festival competition. She will run the art club’s exhibit, while Naoto will have to run his own separate exhibit, and whoever gets more votes will be the victor; in his case, the art club will survive. If she wins it gets shut down.

Naoto can’t even fathom taking on the President all by himself…but he doesn’t have to. Nagatoro puts her hand on Senpai’s shoulder, just like the President did after last year’s successful exhibit. The President said “they made a good memory” but otherwise didn’t him much of anything emotionally, and since then has left him completely alone.

If President hadn’t done this, Nagatoro would have never had the opening she needed to begin her relationship with Senpai, so it’s not all bad. But she, and her girlfriends who were clearly moved by her passionate defense of her boyfriend Senpai, will surely help him do whatever it takes to beat the President. And even if he can’t, who’s to say they can’t start a new club; one will art and fun are allowed?

Episode 10 “Senpai” Count: 29 (+3 “Paisens”)
Total: 363

Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro – 09 – Rolling With the Punches

There have been plenty of cases of Nagatoro committing an unforced error that nets her a little more closeness with Senpai than she had initially bargained for, but let us not forget that Naoto also commits his fair share of blunders. For instance, he lent her a boxing movie, so now she shadowboxes all over the club room and eventually wants to spar with him.

He has no intention of even pretending to hit back, but when he dodges and loses his balance, he falls into her arms, and his self-own turns into hers. Nagatoro also plays with fire by letting her life with her circle of friends overlap with her Senpai time, such as when a bunch of loud gamers lead the four girls to flee the dining hall and make the club room their hangout space.

When Naoto expresses his surprise such otherwise aggressive girls gave up so easily, they say they’re taking care of it by sending Sakura in to flirt with the gamers and turn them against each other. But by going along with this strategy, Nagatoro is setting herself up for potential heartache in a later segment.

With Senpai and her friends in such consistent close contact, Nagatoro ends up in the unusual position of having to defend his honor…or rather, his depravity. Gamo, who is most definitely messing with Nagatoro because she knows she actually likes Senpai, declares him an “herbovore” with no libido.

Nagatoro strongly disagrees, calling Senpai a “closet perv” and insisting on proving it by finding a dirty book hidden somewhere in the club room. The thing is, she’s right: Naoto does have a pretty dirty (but also artistic) book hidden away; just not in the room where Nagatoro bet she’d find it.

When Naoto sees how frustrated Nagatoro gets, he slinks into the prep room and very transparently tries to hide it while she’s watching him. This leads her to pounce on him with with a mixture of joy and relief, clearly ecstatic she had him pegged correctly. Rather than watch further PDA, Gamo and Yoshi leave the club room.

In the next segment, Nagatoro not so subtly shows off her new earring, which Naoto naturally notices immediately and compliments. These two are now so close that the slightest change in appearance is a big deal. As a couple in everything but name and with their dynamic largely right up against the precipice of “real dating”, it’s the little details that excite them.

But this is, at the end of the day, dilly-dallying on the part of both Nagatoro and Naoto, and they’re punished by Sakura, the most complex, inscrutable, and possibly brightest of Nagatoro’s three girlfriends. As a result of flirting with the gamers, one of them is now stalking her, and she wants to get him to stop…by pretending to date Senpai-kun.

Gamo and Yosshi are all for this, and Naoto is too nice to decline, even knowing how Nagatoro will feel about it. Of course, Nagatoro fucking hates this, and never lets us forget it in her facial expressions throughout the segment. To her credit, she doesn’t seem to place outsize blame on the situation on Senpai. After all, if he wasn’t as stupidly nice as he was, she wouldn’t like him!

That doesn’t make it any easier to watch her smartly cardiagned Senpai being clung to by Sakura in a ridiculously cute outfit on their fake date. That’s especially when Gamo starts tapping against the fourth wall, calling this one of those situations from one of the rom-com anime Paisen watches, and how those dates start out fake but the feelings gradually become real.

Of course, Naoto is just too uncomfortable around Sakura, even when he doesn’t know Nagatoro is watching, for that to happen, while it’s pretty clear from the get-go that Sakura is only using Naoto to flush out the stalker. And yet there’s also clearly part of her using this scenario to try to light a fire under Nagatoro.

Gamo is content to mess with Nagatoro, but Sakura is more like me: growing a little impatient with their schtick and waiting for them to get real with each other. But there’s no guarantee that will ever happen. I’m sure both Naoto and Nagatoro harbor a measure of frustration over their “failure to launch”, as it were.

But that doesn’t change the fact that they still enjoy each other’s company and their daily interactions, some of them thrilling in their accidental (or not-so-accidental) steaminess, but ultimately safe in their mutual ambiguity and deniability. That might just be enough for them, and may continue to remain so indefinitely. I hope it isn’t, but I accept that as a distinct possibility as we head into the home stretch.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode 9 “Senpai” Count: 23 (+11 “Paisens”)
Total: 331

Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro – 08 – Just Messin’ Around

I imagine a big part of Naoto’s appeal for Nagatoro is that she’s stronger than him, but that sure doesn’t stop her from teasing him for it…or rather, from using that weakness as an excuse to mount him. Because the door to the art room is open, their horseplay becomes PDA when two girls walk past and catch them in the act.

While she may have become more accustomed to her close friends being aware of her special bond with her Senpai, relative strangers are a different story. And yet…why was that door open, except to court danger, thus adding spice to their relationship?

The next segment is all about studying, and whether between making art and Nagatoro making time with him will cause Naoto to repeat his grade. If that’s the case, he’ll be in the same class as Nagatoro…and will she then start calling him by his actual name? ‘Course not…in that scenario, he’ll be known as “Ex-Senpai”!

When Naoto bears down with his studying, Nagatoro is almost hurt; would it be so bad if they shared a class together—and spent an extra year together? Naoto envisions having to massage not only Nagatoro, but Gamo and Yosshi as well, so the answer is no, it wouldn’t be that bad at all. Still, the ever=elusive Sakura admits that all of them other than Nagatoro are in danger of repeating their grade if they don’t study themselves.

In the shortest sequence of the episode—it would an omake were it after the credits—Nagatoro listens through the door of the art club as Gamo, Yosshi, and Sakura say a whole bunch of suggestive things to Senpai, and he responds with some very suspicious noises. When she finally bursts in, she learns he helped Sakura carry some wooden stools, got a splinter, and they were going to take it out for him. Nagatoro swoops in and takes care of it instead.

After school while walking home, Nagatoro is still sore about Naoto two-timing him with the others, and devolves into elementary school mode by challenging him to rock-paper-scissors. The first game backfires when his (accidental) paper beats her rock, and she carries both of their bags. But when he lets her win once, and she wins a second time, she decides that she’ll be his payload going forward, hopping on his back.

The two bask in the thrill of their suddenly close contact, but Naoto’s lack of physical conditioning rears its ugly head and she starts to slip off. His hands slide back to her backside, which proves a bit too much stimulation for Nagatoro, who bolts off like a cat out of hell; her heart about to leap out of her chest.

Bcak home, Naoto does his homework, but his eyes are constantly looking at his phone, worried about Nagatoro and waiting for her to message him. Sure enough, she does, and decides to invert her own embarrassment by making it clear to him that she’s currently taking a bath.

In her mirth over his outsize reaction to this, Nagatoro accidentally switches on her video, giving Naoto a look a her as the Good Lord made her. When Naoto points this out, both of them go red as Atomic Fire Balls, but neither are about to say they regret it happened.

And that’s the thing: all of the teasing and play are almost getting in the way of what could be a perfectly normal and lovely boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. Add up all of the things these two have experienced together (and done to and for each other), there’s real, earnest affection between the two. Nagatoro can bray all she likes about how “gross” Senpai is, but it’s just a façade.

The truth of the matter is, this is a dyed-in-the-wool couple. They’re just avoiding acknowledgement of that because it’s new, and scary, and upheaves their safe, comfortable status quo. Will they ever admit this in the remaining episodes, or keep going in circles? The show seems to indicate the latter, but it’s written itself in a corner by creating a couple that’s just too damn cute to not make official.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode 8 “Senpai” Count: 25 (+8 “Ex-Senpais” / 7 “Paisens”)
Total: 297

Cardcaptor Sakura – 42 – A Light in Dark Places

It’s the big day of the performance, and Tomoyo pulls a double all-nighter to make the perfect Prince and Princess costumes for Sakura and Syaoran. I have to admit Tomoyo really outdid herself—Sakura looks outstanding—but for gosh sakes, get some SLEEP, girl! The play commences without a hitch, with the sleep-deprived but resolute Tomoyo providing narration.

Meiling steals the show as the villainous witch, despite the fact she didn’t want to play the villain! The crowd has a great reaction to Syaoran as the princess, but his performance suffers once he spots Yukito in the audience. Sakura, less so, since she mostly relies on her athletic ability in the fight scenes.

After defeating the witch and being told by the three faeries (played by Sakura’s three girlfriends) she can wake the princess with a kiss, Sakura gets right down to it. Her lips draw so close to Syaoran’s, neither he nor Touya in the audience can bear it. Syaoran pushes Sakura away, and just then a great inky blackness swallows everything whole…leaving the two of them in a void.

Syaoran soon vanishes too, leaving Sakura all alone. Not knowing what’s going on, she starts to cry, then realizes this could be the DARK Clow Card, in which case she can do something. When her magic doesn’t work she again despairs, but soon realizes that despite being surrounded by darkness, she continues to glow. Sure enough, the LIGHT Clow Card has resided in her heart since the first time she opened Clow’s book.

Because LIGHT and DARK are two sides of the same coin, they are portrayed as either sisters or lovers—I lean toward the latter. LIGHT mentions the name Yue to Sakura before she seals them both for a twofer, leaving Sakura to wonder who Yue is. The show seems to be indicating that Yue is Mizuki Kaho—or that Mizuki is Yue’s vessel. With four episodes remaining in this 11-episode second season, Sakura is sure to find out soon!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 41 – Dress Rehearsal

The Arts Festival is upon us, and Sakura’s class will be performing a play; specifically, Sleeping Beauty. Mizuki-sensei employs amidakuji in order to determine who plays what role. As a result of this method, Sakura ends up getting the role of the Prince, while Syaoran will be the Princess. AS IT SHOULD BE.

Sakura and Syaoran, being hardworking determined youths, take their roles very seriously; Sakura is heartened to find Syaoran practicing his lines in a tree, and even hopes that he’ll regale her with a song from one of his Hong Kong school arts festival plays. They’re both further motivated by the knowledge that Yukito will be in the audience.

Syaoran may still have a crush on Yukito, but there’s nothing saying he can’t have a crush on two people at once. He and Sakura agree to meet at school early to rehearse, and to Sakura’s surprise, Touya is up when she is, and even made her pancakes!

Bringing up when she had the fever (and used Mirror to make a double of herself that didn’t fool her big bro), he urges her not to act recklessly. If he knows about her cardcapturing, does he also know Kaho is somehow involved as well?

Sakura shows up to school early (even though she does pause outside the shrine where Mizuki lives), but Syaoran is even earlier, and they practice their lines, culminating in their first almost-kiss. But just when things are starting to heat up, a circle of sand appears arond them and threatens to swallow them up!

Syaoran grabs hold of Sakura and uses his sword to summon wind to dodge the sand. Then Sakura uses Fly to continue dodging the sand, but it eventually slams into them, and the two are separated. Syaroan suggests Sakura use Watery to make the sand wet, which works much better than she thought, then Syaoran uses Freeze to, uh, freeze the wet sand.

Sakura seals the card, which then hovers between the two, and they both grab it at once, their hands touching. Syaoran draws back, but Sakura gives it to him, both because he came up with the plan to seal it, and as thanks for giving her Cloud when she was sick.

While they may technically be rivals for the Clow Cards, it’s clear these two have come a long way in their friendship, and the Sleeping Beauty play can only bring them closer together. As for Mizuki, she’s not coy about whatever is about to go down happening very soon. I hope it doesn’t end up being as simplistic as her being the Bad Guy—but something more satisfyingly nuanced.

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.

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.

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!

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 07

While watching the first half of this Baha Soul, I felt like the calm before the storm achieved last week didn’t need the supplemental calm we got here. Just get on with the parade and let things unravel.

Don’t get me wrong, Nina is adorable as always, especially post-first-date, it’s ironic to think the fact she dressed Mugaro as a girl means Sofiel can’t tell he’s the kid she’s looking for, despite staring straight at him.

It’s also laudable for Kaisar to warn his king not to attend the parade, because unpleasant doings sure to transpire. But we know Charioce isn’t going to miss a parade celebrating his great day of victory—when Cocytus fell and with it the fear of demons—for fear of demons.

But when the parade finally starts, the tension keeps building until that first concussive blast, followed by several more. It’s a terror bombing the king was almost daring the demons to pull off, and being surrounded and unable to retreat is no sweat off his back.

It’s a nice touch that in a carefully-planned battle in which she was meant to be the pièce de résistance for the resistance, Nina doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. She’s suddenly scooped up by Azazel, who proceeds, in hilarious fashion, to alternated between staring deeply and intensely into Nina’s eyes and hugging her.

But the blushing never comes. Nina’s heart doesn’t race for Azazel anymore, not necessarily because of anything he did, but because of what her mystery date did: make her once general discomfort with pretty men much more specific. She doesn’t know why she’s not transforming even after almost being kissed by Azazel, but she also seems relieved. I know I would be.

I can’t fault for Nina not cooperating with Azazel – she wants her dragon form under control, not weaponized, and certainly doesn’t want to hurt people. At best, she’s annoyed by the kind, shrugging off missing him in the parade (incidentally, if they’d locked eyes while he passed I wonder if she’d see her date and if her heart would’ve raced accordingly. Alas).

But, Nina not playing ball with Azazel means the demons are dealt another defeat, picked off one by one by Charioce’s forces. Many start to think they were betrayed by Azazel, until he swoops in to fight beside them. But when they asked what the hell happened with the red dragon, he has no answer.

Post-credits, the big tank demon and sultry demon are taken out by a flurry of arrows and the fist of one of those giant golem/mecha guys (that don’t seem like a good idea in a crowded city), respectively. Azazel is also in big trouble, and Nina still isn’t yet caught up on what’s even happening.

Finally, the preview was handled by Gabriel and Sofiel, who haughtily boast of the fact they’re beautiful gods.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 06

This was a calm-before-the-storm episode where not much happened, but what did transpire, and what I learned, was of great significance. It also underscored the fact that the female gaze as represented by Nina is not only present but prevailing in Bahamut.

Case in point, while running an errand for Rita on the eve of the great Anatae festival, Nina comes afoul of the Pimp whose slaves Mugaro released, only this time he’s armed with ridiculously handsome henchmen that make it tough for her to fight back.

It’s an ingenious way to place her in a state of vulnerability and in need of rescuing by the dreamy aloof vagabond. As thanks for his assistance, she asks him to stop by Bacchus’ hot wings stand, and he says he’ll be there.

Nina’s resulting bubbly high from the gruff yes lasts her for much of the episode, as her facial expressions reach new heights of contortion and she wanders through her festival duties in a haze. She’s got the hots for the stranger, and bad…but I wonder how she’d fell if she knew that stranger was none other than King Charioce XVII, walking among his people in disguise.

Meanwhile, Azazel’s imminent plans cast a pall over the big festival—plans that heavily rely on a very large assumption that Nina will side with him and the demons, transform into a red dragon, and help his cause; none of these things are certain, but he’s moving forward regardless.

The night of the festival, Charioce keeps his promise and stops by, and Bacchus asks him to take Nina and show her around. A lovely montage ensues, with an initially just-as-bashful-as-ever Nina gradually becoming more comfortable beside the pretty man as they engage in all manner of festival-related activities.

Those activities culminate in a folk dance, which is as carefully and lovingly animated as the scenes of action, violence, and destruction in previous episodes. Nina’s face is typically a kaleidoscope of emotions, but the dance takes her expressiveness to a new level.

When the time comes to bid farewell, Nina asks the king-in-disguise his name: he gives the name “Chris.” She wants to see and dance with him again, and he hopes they will, a line that echos in Nina’s head and almost turns her into a dragon right there, which is her cue to speed off, Road Runner-style.

While running, she fortuitously collides with Azazel, who has returned to Anatae after his long absence. Azazel has no time to chat, and sternly instructs Nina what to do. Notably, despite the fact he squeezes her cheeks and her eyes meet his, Nina does not blush or react strongly at all to the contact.

This, and her blissful letter to her mom, not only suggest that Nina now only has eyes for “Chris”, but that Charioce may have successfully accomplished what he set out to do: “disarm” Nina and remove her as a potential trump card for Azazel.

Was Charioce only playing Nina, or does a part of him get a thrill from being out in the world without the crown on his head; holding the warm hand of a lovely woman, rather than cold steel, in his own.

We’ll soon see. Azazel Comin’.