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

Cardcaptor Sakura – 66 – These Bitter Tears

Nakuru’s movie is a big hit, with particular praise going to Sakura’s cuteness, but as Yukito sits with Touya in the projector room, his heart is uneasy, since now Touya knows he’s not human. Touya assures him it doesn’t matter what he is, as long as he doesn’t disappear and stays by his side.

After some post-movie drinks, Sakura, Yukito, Syaoran and Tomoyo enjoy the other diversions of the school fair, with Syaoran watching wearily at Yukito and Sakura in particular. Nakuru then insists only two can enter their class exhibit at a time, thus separating Yukito and Sakura from Syaoran and Tomoyo. Nakuru is following Eriol’s orders, but it ends up working in Sakura’s favor, because this gives her the ideal opportunity to confess to Yukito.

It’s also fitting that she does so while surrounded by stars, the source of her magical power. But when Sakura tells Yukito that she really likes him, he says he likes her too, but asks her to look closer at her feelings. He posits that her feelings for him are quite similar to those for her dad, which is understandable since he looks so much like her dad and is a kind lad besides. But his point is, there’s someone she likes more than anyone…and it’s not him.

Sakura is thus rejected by Yukito, but in the softest, gentlest way possible. He also admits that the person he likes most is indeed Touya, who saved him, after all. And while he’s unsure if Touya feels the same way, Sakura grasps what he’s getting at. Alas, their talk is interrupted when all of the glass stars around them start to shatter, and Yue appears to protect her.

When other students enter the exhibit, Sakura uses both Maze and Illusion to cover up the damage, as well as hide the two of them, though they’re soon separated. Even so, when Syaoran senses Clow’s presence, he’s able to cut through the illusions with his sword. As he and Yue search for her, Sakura encounters Eriol with his staff and Clow’s magical circle.

Admitting he’s been “found out”, Eriol puts Sakura to sleep. When she comes to, she remembers Clow’s presence and the circle…but not Eriol. She leaves the school fair with Syaoran, Yukito, and Tomoyo, but when the latter two split off to head to their respective homes, Syaoran insists on walking Sakura all the way home.

Sakura asks a favor: that they stop by the park first. While they sit on the swings, Sakura tells Syaoran how she confessed to Yukito and was turned down. And while Yukito is right that she mostly thought of him as family, a little part of her liked him in a way differently than that. And while Tomoyo told her there’s no greater happiness than seeing the one you like most happy—Sakura can’t help but weep bitter tears.

Syaoran offers his handkerchief, a smile, and the promise that she too will find that someone, and they’ll be just as happy when she finds them. Of course, Syaoran wants to be that very person, but wisely doesn’t press that issue. Here and now, he’s there to be an ear to listen a shoulder to cry on…and a friend to console the heartbroken Sakura with a hug.

My goodness, that was one emotionally heavy episode, but absolutely flawlessly executed, and one of the all-time best episodes of CCS as a result. The show can spin its wheels with diversions to pools and ski slopes, but when the time comes for a major development it does not hold back the feels. And now, of course, with Yukito officially eliminated as a potential love interest for Sakura, Syaroan’s path is clear.