Wonder Egg Priority – 12 (Fin?) – Over Easy

Aragorn: Frodo’s fate is no longer in our hands.
Gimli: Then it has all been in vain. The fellowship has failed.
Aragorn: Not if we hold true to each other.

With Momoe and Rika seemingly completing their quests only to be met by fear and rage, respectively, Rika wants recriminations and revenge for Mannen, while Momoe simply wishes she never got involved with this business. Only Neiru and Ai remain beside each other while the other two seem lost.

Ai’s final egg is…herself. Or rather, as Acca puts it, an Ai from a parallel world who was also bullied for her eye but didn’t have a Koito, so she took her own life. Ai doesn’t judge—hell, she knows how Ai must feel, being herself and all—and doesn’t treat this other Ai any different than the other girls she’s saved from Wonder Killers.

When the Seenos chase the Ais up to the rooftop pool where the other Ai drowned, a horrifically repulsive Wonder Killer rises out of the chloronated water, and of course, it’s Sawaki-sensei, with tentacles of paint that eats away like acid on contact. Calling himself Ai’s “first love”, Sawaki says Ai was simply one more woman who was easy to fool because he’s handsome.

But Ai doesn’t see Sawaki in this monster; only the manifestation of her doubts and suspicions. She asserts the real Sawaki is “much nicer,” but the monster only says he had her completely fooled like all the rest. WEP has ensured that we can’t easily dismiss our own doubts and suspicions about Sawaki, who lest we forget, named a portrait of Ai…[Shudders] “Latent Heat”.

Ai won’t give up the fight, but between defending her doppelganger and the fact the battlefield is a pool, it isn’t long before both Ais plunge into the deep end. Much like the first episode of WEP, as we plunge deeper into dreams within dreams, the same feeling of not quite knowing what’s going on, but definitely wanting to know where the rabbit hole goes.

Our Ai, identified by her triangle hairpin (as opposed to the other Ai’s X) is pulled out of the pool by Koito in a version of the school blanketed by night. She kicks off her soggy shoes and socks and runs with Koito through the school as Sawaki Wonder Killer continues to taunt her.

On the same rooftop where Koito jumped to her death Sawaki is there, in his regular human form, but as the embodiment of the temptation of death. He tells her that her pure love for him betrays an innocence impossible for adults. Adult love is “dirty” and full of self-interest, which is why she should die before she grows up.

But as Ai stands at the edge of the roof holding hands with Koito, she remembers the words of her mom, who said ‘You only live once. Enjoy it.” The Ai who took her life expresses her regret, but our Ai smashes through the barrier between the light and dark rooftops and embraces her double.

The Sawaki Wonder Killer’s final gambit is to tell Ai how her own mother betrayed her by loving the same man she did, and “tried to put her own desires first.” But our Ai recalls to the other Ai how her mom never blamed her once when she stopped going to school, worrying about her where she couldn’t see, so she couldn’t know.

The Sawaki monster is barking up the wrong tree, because our Ai has already given her mom her blessing with the real Sawaki-sensei. When she was at her lowest, her mom supported her without judgment. Now that it’s her turn to support her mom, there’s no choice. Ai summons her multicolor pen mace and blasts the Sawaki monster into oblivion.

As Ai later tells Neiru on another rooftop, she thought she wanted to hear the truth from Koito, but maybe she didn’t need to, and she thinks she’s grateful she never did. Once the Sawaki monster is defeated, Koito is revealed and quickly vanishes, and a third AI created by Frill appears: one named Kirara Rodriguez Matured XVIII Evening Star SS Plum.

No doubt Kirara is there to kill Leon and stoke fear, rage, or something else in Ai, but Ai doesn’t rise to her provocations. As Rika is banished from the Accas’ domain as a cause lost to Frill, the other Ai basically takes a bullet for our Ai, as Kirara takes her blue eye.

Ai wakes up in her house, with both eyes intact, knowing the other Ai protected her. Unlike Momoe and Rika, she got out of her dream before Frill’s creation could cause any serious psychological damage. But before she parted with the other Ai, our Ai resolved to become a warrior of Eros, fighting Thanatos, the temptation of death.

It’s a hopeful, if somewhat confusing finish to what was for me, by far, the most visually and thematically ambitious and emotionally immersive series of Winter 2021. Rika and Momoe are in rough shape, but Ai seems to be stronger than ever, and Neiru seems…fine? Even more encouraging is that this is not the end; the story will be concluded in a special that’s scheduled to air June 30. It’s too early yet to declare the fellowship failed.

However it ends, Wonder Egg Priority was a deeply visceral, powerful, unforgettable ride that would have restored my faith in anime had I lost that faith in the first place. I’ll surely be revisiting this series somewhere down the road, and most definitely checking out whatever else director  Wakabayashi Shin and writer/creator Nojima Shinji make in the future.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 25 (Fin) – Another Lovely Day in Academy City

Last week ended with Mikoto firing and Doppelganger seemingly fading into white, but the Railgun missed on purpose. Mikoto wanted to give Doppel a chance to stop fighting, shed all the slime mold, and live a normal life as she is. But ultimately Doppel doesn’t want to go on living.

Her threats were just a smokescreen for her true objective. She never actually gained a soul, which makes her continued existence a torment. By destroying herself she’ll end that torment, and by destroying the dataship and killing Kuriba, she’ll prevent another her from being created.

The dataship crashes and much of Doppel’s body blasted away, but Mikoto doesn’t kill her, and Kuriba survives. The chief doesn’t believe Doppel has no soul and even pulls a gun on Kuriba, resulting in her accidentally getting shot in the gut. The chief flees, but Misaki tracks him down and “rewinds” his memories so he’ll start over from “behind square one”.

Thanks to Shirai arriving at the scene, Kuriba is poised to make a full recovery, while Doppel was allowed to die with dignity. The next day is bright and sunny and Mikoto enjoys a nice coffee al fresco with Kuroko, who can’t help but ask for a kiss in return for her help. Kuroko, in turn, is teased by Misaki, and when Saten and Uiharu show up, they are in awe of the “Queen” and Hokaze Junko.

We cut to a parting scene with the Scavengers, who learn that due to their client’s bankruptcy they won’t be paid for their work. Leader once again proves her title is well-earned by fighting to get her team’s levels increased as consolation for the cash falling through, while it’s ambiguously revealed when Naru strips him down that Seike is a boy, or the “blue” ranger of their group.

More season housekeeping ensues, including the triumphant return of a fully-recovered Kongou Mitsuko (how I’ve missed her) finally getting to (accidentally) meet Mikoto’s “sister”, whom she nicknames “Ii-chan” (after “1”0032). We also see Misaki with Mitori and Dolly, and they agree to take things slow in terms of loosening their dear friend’s training wheels of normal life.

As Kuriba convalesces in hospital, she has a dream with Doppel, who notes that her creator has always been unable to separate her research and objectives from the rest of her life. To that end, she offers Kuriba a list of issues with her present cyborg designs that she should iron out. When she wakes up, Kuriba thought at first it was her guilt causing the dreams, but admits the possibility of a part of Doppel (beyond the organs used to save her) lives on in Kuriba.

Mikoto then departs the hospital with her schoolbag behind shoulder, and back out into the lovely sunny day in Academy City. Kuroko, Saten and Uiharu are waiting up for her, eager to go someplace good to eat. Mikoto doesn’t care where, as long as they’re together.

With that, Railgun T (as in “T”hird…I can’t believe I never realized that before) comes to a pleasant and satisfying end. Well, satisfying in that everything was resolved nicely, but to be honest I’d much rather watch a fourth Railgun than a fourth Index or second Accelerator. I’m among those who watched the first Railgun prior to watching the first Index, and while Index is regarded as the flagship series, Railgun has been and always will be my number one.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 61 – A Hymn of Twisted Metal

Sakura is flying around late at night…has she become a delinquent? No, she was just converting four new Clow Cards while using Mirror as her decoy in case anyone checks on her in her room. Mirror wants to tell her something, but Touya peeks in, and she has to return to her card form.

Kero-chan believes Touya is totally on to them but Sakura doesn’t see it. Why would her big bro teases her about everything—from her stomping to her tardiness to the way she eats—yet not tease her about dressing up in frilly dresses and collecting magical cards?

While escorting her to school Touya asks Sakura if he’s gotten a gift for dad yet. He needs a new wallet, but Sakura can’t afford one on her allowance, so Touya and her will pick one out and buy it together. I loved it when Sakura run down a list in her head of people for whom to give gifts…and leaves Syaoran out!

As we know, Touya knows pretty much everything about the magical goings on with Sakura, Yukito, and Tomoeda town in general. He’s pretty much onto Ruby Moon/Nakuru too! It’s just that he’s usually a passive observer and nothing more. I wonder how long he can keep that up when Yukito is growing more and more fatigued.

Sakura has homeroom duties with Syaoran, which I’m sure he sees as yet another glorious opportunity to tell her how he feels, only to be interrupted yet again, this time by Yamazaki’s inane rambling. I daresay this bit has the potential to grow stale, as one can only imagine so many iterations of Syaoran trying and utterly failing to say three simple words.

However, each instance seems to add more dimension. This time, Sakura has Syaoran translate the characters Meiling wrote in her letter, which mean “my dear friend”. Syaoran also tells Sakura that you give people “close to you” Christmas presents in Hong Kong as well, and Sakura tells him she’ll be sure to give him one. Dawww…

Speaking of confessing, Touya has said “I…you…” several times to Yukito without ever getting his intended words out. This week he comes closer than ever, telling the snow rabbit “I know the truth” before Nakuru pops out of the scenery and pounces on him anew.

After listening to Eriol practice a hymn of gratitude on the piano, Sakura prepares to meet her brother, but she and Syaoran sense Clow’s presence. She decides to go with Syaoran, and summons Mirror to go with her brother.

Once Sakura and Syaoran arrive at the location of the presence, they’re confronted by a detached metal railing with a mind of its own, full of sharp, jagged points. It’s one of Eriol’s nastier conjurings, seeing as how the animate twisted metal is a veritable hive of tetanys.

The pair hack at the metal to no avail; it simply reattaches and comes at them again and again. That’s until Sakura summons Mist, which causes the metal to corrode into harmless dust. The aftermath of their battle would appear to be a good time for Syaoran to say what he needs to say, but Sakura, having realized something, has to suddenly go!

As for Mirror!Sakura, she seems happy for the opportunity to hang out with Touya. Even though he immediately notices she’s not really his sister, he’s still kind to her and they have fun shopping and having coffee. Tange Sakura does a lovely job modulating differentiating between Sakura Prime and the quieter, gentler Mirror!Sakura’s voices.

Touya even thanks Mirror for helping Sakura, and offers her a humble gift for Christmas: hair ribbons for her normal form, which he knows has longer hair. Mirror accepts them, bursting with joy and gratitude.

When Sakura suddenly left Syaoran, it was out of a sense of duty to express her gratitude to her cards for helping her whenever she’s in tough spots. She decided to have Eriol teach her the hymn so she could play it (or at least one side of it) and record it for them to listen to.

Mirror, the only card who can communicate verbally with Sakura, warmly accepts the gift, and reveals that what she had wanted to say to her all along was thanks in return for changing them into Sakura Cards and taking care of them. Sakura’s cards love her—and who can blame them??

In the most heartwarming part of the episode, upon returning to card form, Sakura notices green ribbons in Mirror’s hair—the very ribbons Touya gave her. I have no idea how that worked, practically speaking, but it was hella sweet nonetheless!

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 24 – Taking It Up a Notch

Once Doppelganger creates a giant concrete kaiju, my first question was “Why doesn’t Mikoto just do the same thing with metal?” She then smirks and proceeds to do just that, answering another question in the process: “What if Mikoto went pretty much ALL out?” Seeing the Railgun’s sheepish grin at the prospect of having to up her game a couple of notches, and then doing so, ranks right up there among her best and most badass moments.

Misaka Mikoto isn’t someone who isn’t sure about herself or her abilities; on the contrary, it’s almost scary how quickly she can power up to the point her colossal electro-iron-sand puppet is railgunning huge holes in Doppel’s rubble puppet (ruppet?). It’s just too bad the kaiju battle is a feint. Doppel’s true target is the stealth dataship, which she locates thanks in part to all the iron sand Mikoto sends into the atmosphere taking out all of the gas tanks Doppel tries to toss at the populated part of the city.

Things even get a bit Evangelion-esque when Doppel pulls out another party trick: the ability to spontaneously generate enormous masses of matter in a similar manner to slime molds and zombie ant parasites. She uses a gigantic clone of herself to grab hold of the airship and render it visible. At this point the real Kuriba Ryouko pleads with her mechanical double for just “two more months”, whereupon she’ll be able to eradicate her own soul and allow Doppel to take over her body fully.

The thing is, Doppel is no longer interested in Kuriba’s body, or in simply existing as an individual anymore. Kuriba falls off the airship, but the Scavengers chip in to locate and pluck her out of the air; Leader’s thank you to Mikoto for her earlier assistance. She uses her ability to serve as spotter for Mikoto as Doppel attacks her with more slime mold-esque clones.

Bottom line: Doppel wants revenge against humanity, beyond simply destroying her creator. By the way, she’s ready to do that and level the city thanks to rigging twenty huge fuel tanks in strategic locations. Having been taught emotions by the researchers, she can’t help but feel envy and hatred to humans.

Mikoto’s answer to this threat is to fire her Railgun directly at Doppel’s core body, but Leader ominously warns Mikoto—albeit too late—that there’s a problem with her line of fire. Doppel is consumed by the light from the railgun blast…but that’s as far as the episode takes us.

With a preview full of Railgun’s friends and frenemies, I imagine Doppel is either destroyed or otherwise neutralized—but we’ll see what cost is incurred as a result. Until then, this will go down in the annals of all-time best-looking duels, and as always it’s an absolute delight to watch Mikoto do her stuff.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 23 – Koncrete Kaiju

Leader is Leader of Scavenger for a reason: not only is she smart as a whip and good at thinking on her feet, she’s also pragmatic. When the Railgun arrives, she knows there’s no use fighting her or getting on her bad side. Leader has a mission that needs accomplishing, so she tells Mikoto she’s an  undercover member of Judgment tasked with retrieving the doppelganger.

It’s fun to watch Leader navigate a virtual minefield with her subterfuge, not knowing how the Railgun will respond to what she says. Luckily for her, she can relate to Seike as a fellow “civilian” aiding Judgment since she does that for Kuroko and Uiharu all the time. Leader also lucks out when she learns Mikoto is big Gekota fan…but is less enamored of Leader’s praise for fellow Level 5 Shokuhou Misaki.

Leader is ultimately successful in getting Mikoto to help her, and it’s a good thing she does, because the doppelganger is far, far beyond the talents of the members of Scavenger alone. She also gets to watch firsthand just how much of a badass the third-ranked Railgun is against such a foe. The doppel, for her part, wants to “level up” some more before properly fighting her.

Leader has Mikoto lure the doppel to a district of abandoned warehouses. It makes sense to Mikoto because that area will result in the fewest casualties, but she asks Leader to evacuate the district of all Skill Out members. Leader wants the doppel in that district because that’s where Scavenger’s contract says to make the exchange with the lab coats. Yakumaru performs a lovely bit of theater convincing a bunch of punks to be chivalrous for a change, helping her warn others to evacuate.

As Mikoto pokes, prods, and analyzes the doppel while air-boarding on a scrap of metal, Leader makes contact with the researchers, and when they quibble about the details, Leader loses her patience. She and her comrades have almost died five times over trying to capture this subject, and their client’s van isn’t going anywhere (thanks to Seike) until their Joan Hancock is on the bottom line of that contract.

But while Leader and crew escapes with the signed contract, their reputation on the mend, Mikoto’s left holding the doppel bag, her sparking hands having become decidedly fuller as the doppel grows to the size of a kaiju.  It’s also the case that Leader feels kinda bad about deceiving the kind and well-meaning Railgun, but she’s not loyal to Judgment; she’s loyal to the Dark Side, and to her organization.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 22 – A Run of Bad Luck

When Scavenger is hired to recover Kuriba Ryouko’s doppelganger, they’re upbeat confident they can get the job done, despite having suffered a humiliating defeat in the Accelerator spin-off that I ended up skipping. In fact, Naru (the one with pink hair) sees this “small” job as a stepping stone to regaining credibility among the Dark Side organizations.

The real Ryouko tells Mikoto and Misaki about the dangers of an “untethered soul” of the kind residing within her doppel. It can possess and control any material it pleases and even spread across all of Academy City if left unchecked. She also started the Dream Poker fad as a kind of crowdsourcing for a solution to dealing with the doppel’s soul.

When Ryouko leaves, there’s a bit of tension, as she urges Mikoto not to get involved, but she soon wonders if turning away the Railgun was the right move. In fact, she immediately regrets that when the doppel confronts her, easily chases her down, and promises to erase her existence; clearly the doppel wants to be the only Kuriba Ryouko left standing.

Ryouko is able to use a stun grenade-like device to break Ryouko’s hold and create a smokescreen that allows her to flee. Ryouko would have surely given chase immediately provided she knew which way to go, but she is confronted by Scavenger, who keep her occupied for the rest of the episode.

I’ll give this to the members of Scavenger: they seem an organizaed and competent team under usual circumstances; unfortunately for them there is nothing usual about the doppel. Leader is able to locate the doppel with the Predator skill, while Seike (who is apparently a boy) is able to manipulate friction; between him and the doppel it’s an all-barefoot fight.

Rounding out the group is Yakumaru (an expert in various chemical and explosive agents) and Naru (who can manipulate paper). The four are able to not only stop the doppel in her tracks but restrain her as well. When Leader noticed a second Ryouko flee the area, she sends Seike after her, wrongly assuming the doppel is under control.

The doppel grabs Leader and twists and breaks her wrist. This leads Naru to enter her next-stage “rabbit mecha” form (in which she’d be buck naked but for a few scraps of paper) to separate the two.

The doppel is damaged (which wasn’t part of the job) but unfazed, and uses the power of the soul within her to basically steal Naru’s paper, ripping off an arm of her rabbit mecha and grafting it onto her damaged area.

After their meeting with Real!Ryouko, Misaki shows Mikoto the girl’s memories, and Mikoto learns that she was both researcher and subject in being cut in half as part of her lifelong effort to save her mother, who took a turn for the worse after donating a lung to Ryouko.

With a better understanding of Ryouko’s intentions and motivations, she ends up tracking Ryouko down again, which is fortunate for Ryouko, as Seike tracks her down first and roughs her up a little, just because he can. Enter Mikoto, whom Seike initially doesn’t recognize as the Railgun due to her a sorta-disguise.

It doesn’t take long for him to learn who he’s dealing with, and before sending Ryouko off to safety, Mikoto officially offers to help her with her problem, and Ryouko accepts, thus righting the wrong of their first meeting.

Now armed with part of Naru’s mecha, doppel prepares to crush Yakumaru’s head, but Naru is able to regain control of enough of her paper to stop Ryouko in her tracks, enabling Yakumaru to toss an explodey device that allows Scavenger to flee and regroup, battered but alive.

After making quick work of Seike, Mikoto proceeds to confront Leader, Naru, and Yakumaru. Considering this group already had an ill-fated encounter with the Accelerator, Leader was sure the chances of them coming afoul of another top-ranked esper to be infinitesimal.

Alas, now they have to deal with the Railgun. My advice to them is to surrender peacefully and avoid the same unpleasantness Seike endured. Perhaps they’ll end up joining forces to restrain the doppel…or perhaps the doppel, like Mikoto, is simply out of Scavenger’s league.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 21 – 21 Artificial Grams

For two people who claim not to be anything like friends, Mikoto and Misaki sure are hanging out a lot this season. I guess it’s more a matter of circumstances continuing to bring them together, as they do here when Misaki learns the inventor of Dream Poker is a very interesting person named Kuriba Ryouko.

Initially carved up like a spiral ham and augmented with cybernetics to create two separate bodies, Ryouko was a test subject to gauge the limits of cyborg technology. But when all of her organic parts were back together, the “Ryouko” with the machine parts had  retained a soul. Misaki wants Mikoto to break into the facility where Machine Ryouko resides and verify the experiment.

While Misaki’s talk with Mikoto is very expository, the scene is given room to breath by being bookended by the clever manner in which Misaki gets Mikoto’s attention (brainwashing a random girl) and the fact Mitori and Dolly aren’t far away observing Misaki’s movements. So happy to see Dolly out in the world.

Misaki and Mikoto are never not fun to watch bounce off each other and try to deflect their chemistry with the facade of pure practical necessity. That is, Misaki needs a “muscle-head” for the op lest her brainwashing not work on cyborgs. Misaki also makes it a square deal: if Mikoto helps her out here, she’ll use her skills to help get the Sisters something closer to a normal life.

After assuring Kuroko she’s not going out to cheat on her, Mikoto heads into the night to the facility, where she’s just in time to watch MechaRyouko explosively escape, taking out a chunk of the building and all of the lab data in the process.

In the facility, MechaRyouko had just had an epiphany, in which she recognized the mug her mom gave her, but suddenly couldn’t remember anyone or anything prior to arriving in Academy City—or afterwards. Clearly distressed by the fact she thinks she’s the real Kuriba Ryouko, it’s no wonder she sought freedom. And she’s a tough customer, having no problem beating up some thugs before securing a hideout and some cool backless black top that exposes her tattooed back.

Mikoto and Misaki (disguised as the third brainwashed person in the episode) pay the real Ryouko a visit and report her cyborg counterpart’s escape. Ryouko informs them in no uncertain terms that this could spell big, big trouble. Whether that means the cyborg will seek to destroy her and claim the mantle of One and Only Ryouko, to a whole host of other threats.

As the episode ends, we’re quickly introduced to a new underground org that has been tasked with retrieving the cyborg (after they recently failed in a mission involving Accelerator, which is probably more Index III stuff I vaguely remember). This group is called Scavenger, and it looks like next week will focus on their retrieval mission.

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.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 25 – Double Trouble

Sakura is grocery shopping for dinner, but once she’s bought everything she needs, she heads home…only for a second Sakura to appear, wearing a face that’s just…just wrong. It’s a sly smirk, an expression Sakura rarely wears. Kudos to the animators for making such a subtle change, and for the music to capture that strange otherness about her doppelganger.

Of course, Sakura doesn’t know there’s someone who looks just like her about to wreak havoc; she comes home to find Yukito cutting Touya’s hair. This is, by the way, an episode packed with so much Yukitouya shipping fuel you could circumnavigate the earth five times over!

As her doppel trashes retail displays (and her girlfriends, Syaoran and Meiling bear witness), Sakura is having a great day, having Yukito give her a trim, then helping him make dinner. I loved Meiling’s line about the possibility Sakura just suddenly decided to become a “bad girl”—even she doesn’t sound that confident about it!

At school, Sakura’s friends confront her about the girl they saw trashing stuff, but Sakura denies everything and they obviously believe her. Syaoran is ultimately saved by the school bell before he has to offer his two cents, but it’s clear he doubts the girl he saw was Sakura.

Desperate for answers, Sakura comes to Kero-chan, who teaches her how to do fortune telling with the Clow Cards. After arranging them just so and doing the special incantation, she determines the three cards she has that are closest to the card she seeks, and also senses that the card is after Touya.

Sure enough, the fake Sakura lures Touya into a wild goose chase for some unspoken missing item, while the real Sakura races to the area where she senses a Clow Card…only to lose the signal. Not sure where to search and becoming anxious about the possibility of her brother getting hurt, Sakura starts to lose heart. Thankfully, Syaoran arrives, having sensed a card himself.

The Clow Card Sakura ends up getting Touya to fall off a cliff and break his foot, but is surprised when he doesn’t give up, but tells her he’s determined to help her find what she’s looking for, if she would please stop impersonating his little sister! I assume he believes her to be a ghost who can’t ascend to heaven until she’s found that thing.

Thanks to Syaoran’s compass and Fly, he and Sakura find Touya, and Sakura confronts her double. When neither Windy or Watery work, Kero-chan concludes it’s a “special” card, which will only revert to its card state if it’s name is spoken.

Considering the three cards it was closest to are Watery, Shadow, and Illusion, and the fact the double starts mimicking her actions, Sakura deduces that her name is Mirror. Before being sealed, Mirror kisses the passed-out Touya and apologizes for the harm she caused.

Touya needs a cast and is laid up in bed for a while, but Sakura is dedicated to taking care of him, including cooking meals he ends up feeding to Yukito (more ship fuel, that). She apologizes to Touya, but when he asks what for she simply says never mind, just “sorry” all the same.

Mirror may have ended up being contrite for hurting Touya, but Sakura can’t rule out more unruly cards possibly hurting her family or friends, and she’s also weary of the “catastrophe” Kero brought up when she first became a Cardcaptor. He comforts her by saying that depending on the person it may not be a catastrophe at all, but privately he says it might be worse than the earth going “boom”.

In any case, Sakura resolves to collect all the cards before they can cause too much trouble…double or otherwise. The episode ends with a mysterious redheaded woman in sunglasses outside the Kinomoto residence…I wonder what she wants?

Bunny Girl Senpai – 08 – A Boring Yet Sound Argument

On another night at the Azusagawa residence, Futaba Rio lends Sakuta some insight into how her separation into two different Futabas took place: it was the result of her inability to reconcile her need for attention with her inability to forgive the means of getting that attention.

Futaba developed faster than the other girls in her class—a lonely development, to be sure. It isolated her; made her feel alone, conspicuous, even dirty. And yet, her need to not be alone led her to start the photo stream; any reactions, no matter who from, were a consolation; they made her feel a little less lonely.

This debunks my theory about the competing sides of her psyche splitting off, but only partially: you could still say the Futaba living at Sakuta’s is the one more like the superego, while the one living in Futaba’s house is more like the id. One can live in an imperfect world far easier than the other.

While accepting the judgment of Mai’s manager that she cut out most private meetings with her boyfriend as a “strategic retreat” for the sake of her just-restarted career, Sakuta digs fully into this Futaba Dilemma. After all, he’s dealing with a childhood friend.

“Shut-in” Futaba wants “Wild” Futaba to shut down the account, and while meeting with her she shows him pictures from when she was in middle school; a form of “self-mutilation” in which she intentionally posted pics of her developing form. Both Futabas say they “hate” themselves.

After a day when “Wild” Futaba gets to fan a hot Kunimi, she starts to get unwanted propositions and threats to expose her from strangers looking at her pics online. This naturally freaks Futaba out, and she deletes her account, runs to her (huge!) house with Sakuta, and has him sleepover.

There, she reveals to Sakuta that she felt like she’d be all alone again after both Kunimi and Sakuta got themselves girlfriends. She already feels like Kunimi is so far away, but all it takes is one call from Sakuta on her phone for him to come running (well, biking) to her side in the middle of the night.

Unknown to Kunimi, Sakuta just proved what a loyal and dedicated friend he is. When she realizes she was never alone after all, she tears up, and Kunimi has Sakuta buy them both drinks to rehydrate: him for his biking, her for her tears.

Sakuta also buys fireworks and they go to the beach, lighting sparklers and candles and crackers and rockets until the night sky starts to brighten. Futaba smiles and laughs and the three old friends have the most fun they’ve had together in ages.

Futaba’s “separation” may have been unfortunate, but one could argue it was also necessary in order for her to be reminded of what she has, not to mention bring the three back together after some distance was created between them due to extenuating circumstances.

More importantly, “Wild” Futaba started the day wanting Sakuta to take a side—since “the world only needs one Futaba Rio”—and ending with her urging Sakuta to help the other Futaba. He heads home to report  that the account is history, then passes out, leaving the other Futaba her phone.

The background shows “Wild” Futaba with Sakuta and Kunimi during their idyllic evening. When Sakuta wakes up, she’s gone, but the other Futaba tells him “if it were her” where she’d be: the school, in their classroom.

There, Futaba repeats the other Futaba’s words about there only needing to be one of them in the world, and how the “Wild” one is clearly being “the better Futaba”, and that she should just disappear. Sakuta rejects all of that, an invites her to the fireworks festival he, Kunimi, and the other Futaba agreed to attend (since he and Mai can’t date and Kunimi is having a fight with his GF).

He leaves it at that…then passes out a product of his bike ride in the pounding rain being a bit too much exertion immediately following an all-nighter. He wakes up in the hospital with Mai by his bedside, having been called by Futaba.

By being there for Sakuta, Futaba proved that she actually is needed. And when Sakuta sits with her later, he neither tries to tell her all of her positive qualities nor tells her how she needs to start gradually liking or loving herself, as a friend might be expected to do.

It’s because Sakuta is “the worst” in this way, not saying what a usual friend would say, Futaba is relieved and comforted. She then calls the other Futaba on a pay phone, voices her desire to go to the festival, and in a neat trick where the phone receiver suddenly falls, she disappears. But she’s not gone. Futaba Rio is simply whole again.

Whole, and no longer alone. While watching the fireworks at the festival, she seems to tell Kunimi her feelings, but rather than seeking an answer she already knows, she simply urges him to make up with his girlfriend.

Bunny Girl Senpai – 07 – A Tale of Two Futabas

Fresh off the amicable resolution of the Koga Tomoe arc, we are presented with not one but two new mysteries, both involving characters we’ve dealt with before. Just as Sakuta’s earlier, seemingly random encounter with Koga paid off nicely (butt-kicking leading to quantum entanglement), his past established crush on “Makinohara Shouko” makes the sudden appearance of someone with the same name who looks just like her, only two years or so younger, that much  more intriguing.

At the same time, Futaba Rio is elevated from Sakuta’s sounding board and scientific consultant to an actual participant in Adolescence Syndrome weirdness. Sporting a fresh look with ponytail and contacts, Futaba doesn’t have any answers for Sakuta about why some younger copy of his crush suddenly appeared. If it’s not causing any harm, just don’t worry about it for now.

And the episode doesn’t; not really. Shouko is mostly tabled as the episode veers toward the slow-burn relationship of Sakuta and Mai, who is done with a job early and surprises him by showing up at the restaurant where he works, and even implies he’ll let him make out with her later.

After his shift, the two spot Futaba entering a Net Cafe and follow her. Using Mai’s phone, Sakuta calls her (presumably so the sound of her phone will indicate where in the cafe she is) but as he’s talking to Futaba on the phone, he and Mai spot a second Futaba. Yup, she’s got herself a doppelganger!

This Futaba, with glasses and no pony tail, finds herself temporarily homeless, since the other Futaba is already living in her house. Sakuta invites her to stay at his place, something Mai only approves if she can spend the night there as well.

This Futaba is extremely coy about what could have brought on Adolescence Syndrome to the point she’d split in two. Sakuta puts her up in his room with Mai, but Mai soon comes out to the living room where he’s sleeping, giving him the hints and nudges he needs to indicate she’s open to him making a move whenever, not just a special occasion for an apology. After all, he’s her boyfriend. Unfortunately, their kiss attempt fails when they bump heads. These guys are just to frikkin’ cute together.

The next day, after some domestic bliss with his full house, Sakuta has Mai watch one Futaba while he goes to school to track down the other. Shouko shows up, but nothing further on her situation is explored; it’s just an opportunity to confirm to Futaba that there is a new Makinohara Shouko in Sakuta’s life.

At school, while on the way to science club (which consists only of her) Futaba stops to watch Kunimi play basketball, which is where Sakuta finds her. After talking with her for a bit, it’s obvious he’s not dealing with “real and fake” Futabas; they are both Futaba, through and through.

That’s not to say the two aren’t very different; not just in appearance (though that’s a start): the ponytailed, contact-wearing Futaba just seems far more assertive, confident, and active, whereas the Futaba back at his place seems, well, almost the opposite of those qualities.

When Kunimi’s girlfriend confronts Sakuta with a social media feed of Futaba taking risque pictures of herself, my theory solidified: the two Futabas embody her id and ego (or super-ego). She is out of balance, and her unrequited feelings for Kunimi seem to be the cause. The question is, how is Sakuta going to help her restore that balance and become one again…and where does Shouko fit into all this?

P.S. A powerful little moment is when Mai’s cell phone goes off and Kaede suddenly looks like she’s about to be shot. Now we know why Sakuta doesn’t own one!

P.P.S. Futaba fell for Kunimi when he bought her a Choco-Cornet; Id-Futaba makes that her social media handle for her photo feed.

Kuromukuro – 13

kuro131

Two Efidolg knights seem to have “gone rogue” in order to pursue their own personal ambitions against Earth. The first is Mirasa, who fights the Black Relic and GAUS units to a draw and escapes into the woods to regenerate. The second is “Muetta”, whose hair immediately indicated is Yukihime, or at least some kind of Efidolg clone of her.

kuro132

As Takeyama High prepares for their cultural festival in the interests of maintaining normalcy and taking a break from studies and battles alike, Yuki looms over the episode like a silent wraith, crouched and ready to strike.

Yukina’s class decides to do an “Efidolg Forum”, what with three UN pilots in their class. Unfortunately, everyone else at the base is too busy to join the forum, so it’s just Yukina, Ken, and Sophie.

kuro133

In a particularly clever bit of plotting, because one of the activities at the school festival is cosplay (with Mika switching her usual school uniform for another), Muetta is able to slip into the school without any trouble. Indeed, she’s commended for the craftsmanship of her armor and arms.

kuro134

While Muetta closes in, Yukina and Ken have a grand old time at the festival, with Ken remarking that modern life itself has always felt like a festival to him, but this takes it to another level. Yukina asks him what he plans to do once he avenges Yukihime, because he has his whole future ahead of him (dundundunnnn).

Almost immediately after Yuki mentions how everyone has two doppelgangers, her Efidolg doppelganger leaps on the stage and charges at Ken, who is so shocked by the sight of her (having just seen her in the digitally altered photo of Yukina), he lets his guard down and gets run through.

kuro135

The show, knowing we knew who this was all along, still expertly kept most of Muetta’s face out of the frame right up until the very end, when showing it had the most impact. And the camerawork of the stabbing is great stuff, with an extreme closeup of Muetta cutting to a dumbfounded Ken, who then falls to reveal an equally shocked Yukina.

Where goeth things from here? Hard to say. I wonder if Sophie can somehow suppress Muetta, and why Muetta stabbed him. Perhaps, like him, her memories had bene lost on Earth those centuries ago, but now they’re back and she’s punishing him for betraying their people?

In any case, this was quite the exciting cliffhanger to place between Kuromukuro’s two halves: the moment Ken’s two princesses met.

16rating_9

P.S. The rock band in the auditorium is playing the show’s opening theme, a cover of “Distopia” by GLAY.

Ushio to Tora – 26 (Fin until April)

ushi261

When Tora arrives, he’s really bored and just wants to smash shit, despite the fact things are more complicated due to the presence of Bal-chan within the Hakumen experiment. The insufferably procedural attitude of the scientists continues, with the three preparing to seal the entire lab and detonate it in order to prevent Hakumen from escaping—without regard to whoever is still inside.

That’s when Asako and Ushio are all like STFU with the science-y emotional detatchment, because it’s getting really old. They manage to convince one scientist, Helena, to stay behind and try to stop Hakumen to allow everyone to escape safely.

ushi262

Asako works with Helena up in the control room, but when Helena is seriously wounded, Asako has to take over getting the oscillator up and running. Once they immobilize the Hakumen in its tracks, Ushio and Tora free Bal-chan and smash the Hakumen to pieces. But while everyone is in a good position to be saved, Helena seems to know between her blood loss and the encroaching poisonous gas that her own time is up.

ushi263

In her last minutes, she’s enlightened by the power Ushio and Tora draw from each other, those they wish to protect, and the powerful enemies they face. As such, this episode becomes a kind of mission statement for the show and it’s core chemistry as a whole. No one in Ushio to Tora thrives alone. Ushio needs Tora and Asako; Tora needs Ushio and Mayuko (and vice versa all ’round); and Ushio and Tora need Hakumen no Mono to realize their full potential.

Without Asako and Helena’s help, Ushio and Tora wouldn’t have been able to beat Hakumen. When the humans succumb to the gas, it’s up to Tora to get them all out of the lab before it explodes. It’s a “pain in the ass”, but Tora has to do it nonetheless, or he wouldn’t be able to live with himself. More than that, he’d have a lot less fun without these humans around.

ushi264

I was glad to see Helena, initially a thoroughly unlikable and immoral mad scientist, redeemed this week, along with her less courageous colleagues, who surrender to the JSDF, ending H.A.M.M.R.’s brief rebellion. They can take solace in knowing their faithful colleague worked tirelessly until the end to get them data on Hakumen vital to developing a weapon against it.

As for Ushio, he’s faked out by the Asako dummy Tora made from his hair, and the real Asako is right behind him to hear him cry out for her. So naturally, the two start bickering in each other’s faces about who was more reckless today, but at the end of the day, aside from Helena, whose sacrifice made it possible, everyone is safe and sound.

ushi265

Back to Fugen’in we go, where it’s another day, another threat by Tora to eat Ushio, and another instance of Ushio successfully resisting being eaten by using his Beast Spear. Asako and Mayuko arrive to calm things down, or at least join in the chaos, and Shigure celebrates how back-to-normal life has become, hoping it can stay that way at least a little longer until the final showdown with Hakumen no Mono, who is awake and biding his/her time. We can look forward to that showdown this coming Spring.

8_mag