Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 05 – The Comfort(er) of a Friend

This week made it suddenly occur to me that there are no women among the Demon Castle court and staff (at least not in humanoid form), but that changes when the “female unit” of the Demon King’s army returns to the castle for the first time since the capture of the princess.

The first girl we meet is Harpy, who is a harpy, but an extremely friendly one. Specifically, she wants to make her first human friend and engage in girl talk during a pajama party. She quickly learns that Syalis is primarily concerned with none of those things, and finds her mostly annoying and—worse—detrimental to her sleep!

Indeed, Syalis rejects all of Harpy’s attempts to befriend her until the harpy spreads her wings and the princess gets a good long look and feel at those silky feathers. Without the slightest regard for Harpy’s welfare, she deems the wings too “impractical” to remove (i.e. tear off) and simply uses the soft wings as her new comforter. Harpy is forced to sleep in an awkward position beside her.

The dimensional limits of Syalis’ modest bed soon rear their head when Syalis’ sleep posture results in them sliding off the bed, so the princess begins a quest for a bigger bed. Despite her shabby treatment thus far Harpy is so intent on being friends with the princess she lets slip a castle secret: those gigantic horns that top the tallest tower are really as light and fluffy as a cloud!

With no regard for Harpy’s quads, Syalis attaches a cloth harness to her legs and has her fly her up to the horns. At first it seems Syalis is content to nap on them, but before Harpy knows it she’s carving her new bigger bed directly out of the horns, like memory foam! Due to a big chunk being taken out, one of the two horns flops over impotently—it’s truly a matter of the princess “making her mark” on the castle!

Harpy’s quads are tortured further by the additional mass of the bed, but the result is a much more comfortable sleeping situation for both of them. I’ve heard of royalty using people as welcome mats, but not a combination flying apparatus and comforter! We can only quietly lament poor Harpy’s entirely unbalanced “friendship” with the princess.

The return of the women means the return of the only female member of the Big 10 Council: the beautiful Neo Alraune. When Red Siberian shouts at Syalis to get out when she constantly interrupts their meeting with her vuvuzela (where the heck’d she get that?!), Alraune feels bad for the captive princess, who after all must be terribly lonely.

The Demon King, Siberian, and other council members scoff heartily, then switch on the reconnaissance drone presently following Syalis, to demonstrate what a goddamn terror she’s been. Sure enough, in her quest to build a log bed she is furiously hacking away at Alraune’s big brother (who happens to be a greaser tree—a term I never thought I’d type!).

In the midst of witnessing the systematic destruction and hollowing-out of her kin, Alraune seems ever torn between continuing to sympathize with the princess and acknowledging that her fellow council members might have a point. Even when she makes the excuse that her brother feels no pain, and that the princess is being eco-friendly by using all of the wood, right on cue Syalis discards most of the wood she cut as too rough.

The ordeal compels Alraune to visit Syalis in her cell, to ask if she really is human. After all, who among the human race could cause so much chaos in the domain of demons? Why, Her Royal Highness Aurora Suya Rhys Kaymin, that’s who!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Cardcaptor Sakura – 39 – A Kind Hand

Good Lord, what a unfathomably beautiful, heartrending episode is “Sakura’s Dizzy Fever Day”, which asks the question: “What if the Cardcaptor was out of commission?” Every episode Sakura seems to spring out of bed, kaiju-stomp down the stairs, and burst out the front door in her rollerblades, ready to conquer the day. But she’s still human, which means inevitably the day would come when she wakes up feeling like shit. It happens to us all!

Today is that day, and it’s also a dark, cloudy day; the kind of day almost nobody likes or can feel comfortable enduring. Even though there’s a bright clear sky above the clouds, the fact we lowly humans are trapped below them can feel claustrophobic and depressing. Sakura is literally and figuratively “under the weather.”

Because she’s Sakura, she tries her darndest to power through it, even convincing Touya to let her go to school despite his misgivings and the warmth of her forehead. She’s also worried her dad will skip out on an important archaeological trip, so makes him promise not to tell him she’s under the weather.

Sakura also has posters to make for school, and doesn’t want to inconvenience anyone by being absent. She doesn’t want to do anything that will cause trouble, overlooking the fact that the people who love her, from Touya and her dad to Tomoyo, will be far more troubled if her fever worsens.

When Mizuki-sensei feels Sakura’s head, she has Tomoyo escort her to the nurse’s office, where Syaoran and Meiling assure her that they will be fine with the poster work without her, and the only think Sakura needs to worry about is going home, resting, and getting better.

Due to his possessing a certain degree of magical power, Touya can “sense” a message from his former squeeze Kaho, who informs him that Sakura is indeed suffering from a fever. Before carrying Sakura home on his back (what a good big brother!) he asks Kaho why she “came back”; she simply tells him there’s something she has to do.

As Sakura’s head swims with fever, the clouds in the sky become increasingly thick and cyclonic, and Sakura senses a Clow Card, which Kero-chan identifies as Cloud. Despite being in no condition to go outside, let alone fly through the air in her jammies, Sakura answers the call of the Cardcaptor, and Kero can’t keep her from her duty.

Despite her abject disregard for her own health, it’s hard to argue with Sakura here: Syaoran’s delusions aside, only she possesses the power to actually seal Clow Reed’s cards, and if left unchecked, Cloud will cover the entire town and become virtually un-sealable.

While she’s out on her mission, Sakura uses Mirror to create a double of herself to interact with Touya in her stead. But things quickly go pear-shaped as Cloud’s stiff gusts knock Sakura out of the air. Thankfully, she’s saved by a wind cushion summoned by Syaoran, who also sensed the card and came with Meiling in tow.

Both Syaoran and Meiling mostly put aside their rivalry with the Cardcaptor to exhibit concern for her well-being, and scold her for being so reckless. Certainly Syaoran (who is harboring a crush on Sakura) and Meiling don’t want Sakura to get sicker.

Back home, Touya pretty much instantly knows that the Sakura in bed is not the real Sakura, and tells the double as much. He also tells her he has “a vague idea” what Sakura is up to, but asks that the double not tell Sakura that he knows, since she’s (poorly) trying to keep it a secret.

Syaoran manages to use fire to shrink the cloud down to a manageable size, but the feverish Sakura can barely stand as she attempts to seal the card. That’s when, in one of the many extremely poignant moments in this episode, Meiling serves as Sakura’s support, allowing her to seal Cloud. And while it flies into Syaoran’s hand, he gives it to her, acknowledging how much it took for her just to leave her bed.

Sakura returns to her room, and her double tucks her in before reverting to her card state. Touya returns to take her temperature, which has risen due to her overexertion, but then the ghost of their mom Nadeshiko arrives, placing the same “kind hand” Sakura dreamed about at the beginning of the episode.

Sakura and Touya’s dad comes home early, having also sensed something was amiss with Sakura, but Touya tells him about Nadeshiko and that there’s no cause for concern.

The next morning, Sakura is her usual chipper self. When she wonders why her dad is back, he tells her he forgot something. The Kinomotos may be a family with a lot of supernatural stuff going on, but what truly endears me to each and every one of them is their basic decency, humanity, and unconditional love for one another, especially when one of them is in trouble or pain.

Like Touya, Tomoyo, Syaoran, her parents, and everyone else who loves her, I felt so bad for Sakura and worried for her, even though I knew she’d eventually recover. Considering how kind and brave and filled with love Sakura herself is, it was unbearable to watch her suffer even for just one dark, cloudy day.

I didn’t just feel for Sakura. Her dizzy fever day reminded me of similar days of my own when I felt like shit and didn’t want to stay home, but had to. We’ve all had those days. So it filled me with pure unfiltered joy to see her feeling so much better the next morning, after the clouds had parted.

Tales of Zestiria the X – 00 (Prologue)

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This is officially a prequel/prologue of the forthcoming ufotable fantasy epic based upon a game I’ve never played, so most of the faces we see we won’t see again, aside from Princess Alisha, who is part of the main party in the OP that follows the end credits.

This prologue chronicles Alisha, and humanity in general, just having a really crummy week. A dark and foreboding mist is growing in the sky, and she rides out to search for her subordinate and friend Clemm, whom she originally sent to determine if the cloud is the cause of any health problems among the people.

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While on her journey, Alisha and her escorts are ambushed by ninja-like warriors who fight her to a draw before one of them reveals themself as, well, let’s say “not human.” The battle not only shows that Alisha can handle herself, but that the combat in the show is going to be very slick and pretty, a la Fate stay/night UBW.

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Before long, swords, spears, armor and horses are of absolutely no avail, as mere moments after locating Clemm (while Professor Drake lurks far below the earth, inspecting “ley lines”, tendrils of smoke and ash emit from the dark mist and start rending the land. All Alisha & Co. can do is run like hell.

In the midst of all this chaos, another non-human being appears, eager to open the Gate of…well, Chaos. There were moments it seemed like this being, dressed for the club, was somehow protecting Alisha, but events don’t bear that out.

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Indeed, once both the female being and the male being who ambushed Alisha before are done, the entire landscape has been consimed with smoke and fire, and Alisha is all alone, with Clemm and the others all swept up in the chaos, never to be seen again.

Alisha limps back to the ill-looking town to find it a smoking ruin, and even the one last child survivor gets swept up just when she arrives, to twist the proverbial knife. Finally, a gigantic flame dragon emerges from the clouds and seems to come at Alisha.

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So there you have it: not a swell couple of days for Princess Alisha, presented as part in parcel of the introduction to a world that seems to be paying humanity back for the pride they’ve developed after forgetting that other beings coexist with them, though they do not see them, and that nature itself has been thrown out of balance.

Surely, the episodes to come will gather the members of a fellowship tasked with saving the world, or something to that effect. For now, the production values are above reproach; an elaborate but far more approachable style than, say, Berserk (at least to me). This prologue has definitely piqued my interest in ufotable’s latest effort.

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Musaigen no Phantom World – 03

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This was another beautifully rendered KyoAni episode bursting with wonderful character details and kickass action that make a rewatch a must to catch what one might’ve missed. But it did hamper itself somewhat with its overarching theme of memory and all the absurd (and boring) technobabble required to push out an episodic plotline.

The club’s next target is a phantom blocking a bridge, but when Mai, Haruhiko and Reina arrive, they find there are two phantoms, and they’ve both been waiting for Mai. She might’ve been able to take one by herself, but against the two she’s overwhelmed and she has to beat a hasty retreat facilitated by Haruhiko’s use of Marchosias to distract the phants.

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Realizing they’ll need more physical skill and strength against the dual warrior princesses, Mai quickly set sup a martial arts training regimen for Reina and Haruhiko. Everyone even deesses up in Chinese-style outfits for no reason other than it looks cool (gym uniforms could certainly have sufficed, right?).

But it doesn’t go so well; Haruhiko is hopeless, and while Reina is good at self-defense (throwing Haru for the third time in three episodes as a result of sudden too-close-for-comfort contact), Mai is loath to allow a young pretty girl get messed up in what could be a brutal fight. No, she’d rather keep trying with the more malleable Haru, whom she cares less about if he gets messed up.

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Then the rather bizarre idea of Haruhiko somehow copying Mai’s procedural memories of martial arts in order to assist her in the fight. Their teacher Himeno-sensei believes it’s possible due to Haruhiko’s ability to access the metaphysical world in order to summon phantoms.

There’s all kinds of talk about a collective consciousness where all human memory exists in the same metaphysical plane, like some kind of human cloud storage. Ok, fine…but then Himeno “makes” Haruhiko and Mai go on a friggin’ date around places where she has strong memories, to try to synch up his memories with hers.

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Don’t get me wrong; it’s a cute, lovely date, but there isn’t the slightest bit of romantic chemistry between Mai and Haru, giving the proceedings, prettily-rendered they may be (the music is nice too), a somewhat sterile feeling; that these are just motions they’re going through. More interesting is the fact Reina seems pissed whenever Mai and Haru are getting along (and she eats a lot to try to distract herself), but that’s only a bit part of what’s going on.

Eventually, they return to the river and the bridge where they first met the twin warrior princesses, and it dawns on us—well before Mai or even Haruhiko—that the two girls she met at that same spot ten years ago and made instant friends with were actually the princesses. In the rematch, Mai holds her own while Haru goes down instantly. The combat animation, as is to be expected, is top-notch, by the way.

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When Mai gets blasted and Haru rushes to catch her, he twists his ankle, and their two heads bang together, and that’s how he ends up accessing their minds. Excuse me, but WAT? I know this is fantasy, but Mai and Haru having a shared meta-conscious experience wherein Haru is able to perceive her memories as bubbles in a sea? Pretty, and fun, but awfully ridiculous, too.

Less absurd, however, is what he discovers: Mai’s memories of being a quiet, shy little girl are false. In fact, when she met these two girls, she beat the crap out of them, laughing all the way. That led them to train for ten years in order to beat her when she eventually returned to the bridge. The idea that we remember things the way we want—to fit our idea of ourselves, and accurate memories morph into fictions over long stretches of time—is a relatable one.

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Now back to the fantasy silliness. Haru gains Mai’s martial arts skills, but doesn’t have the strength or stamina to keep it up for more than a couple of minutes (this is actually pretty hilarious) Then he uses her five-element power (which was also copied over to him), and the two perform the same finishing move as her favorite movie as a kid, which they watched the re-release of during their date. Yelling, lightning, Itano Circus, victory.

The phantom princesses aren’t defeated for good, but they accept Mai is still stronger than them, for now. They promise they’ll be back when they’re stronger. But the bridge harassment will likely stop so I guess it’s a win for Group E.

What about Minase Koito, you say? Who knows? She wasn’t in this at all. Instead, there was a little girl with a teddy bear voiced by Kuno Misaki stalking and watching the group the whole time, with deep admiration. I’d wager it won’t be long before she formally meets them, and she seems eager to become closer to the group, just as Reina yearns to one day be as close to Mai and Haru as they are to each other.

But more than previous episodes, the characters seemed to be edged out by an overabundance of plot and metaphysical mumbo-jumbo. Lots of sugar and spice, but too little solid nutrition.

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New Final Fantasy VII Anime to be produced by SHAFT, directed by Shinbo; Q4 release to coincide with FFVII PS3 reboot

Many anime fans will remember in 2005 Square Enix teamed up with Madhouse to create the prequel OVA Last Order: Final Fantasy VII. That was a decent effort; a solid 3 if not a bit higher in our rating system. We were left wishing that the FFVII story got a 13 or, even better, 26 episode run. I mean, the story is already there, all it needed was full expression in anime form, with maybe a few embellishments here or there, and obviously upgrades to the visual effects of the epic 1997 PSOne game.

Well, those who wished for an anime will be delighted to hear that Square Enix, SHAFT, and Akiyuki Shinbo will be teaming up to create an all-new, 26-episode run titled simply “Final Fantasy VII”. To be precise, only those who enjoy Shinbo and SHAFT anime will be delighted by this news.

Still, Shinbo insists he will be careful to meld the popular FFVII story with his own unique style, adding more humanity to the characters than the game offered, and carefully selecting the best voice talent for the crucial characters of Cloud, Tifa, Barret, Vincent, Aerith, Sephiroth, etc.

Shinbo has also indicated he will try to add more levity humor to the overall very dark story, drawing from Zetsubou-Sensei for inspiration. The series is due out for the Fall 2011 season, close to the Q4 release of the long-awaited Final Fantasy VII reboot for PS3. RABUJOI will stay on top of this story as further developments are revealed. Until then, get ready for a FFVII renaissance. We hope it’s everything we’ve hoped for! April Fools desu.