Magia Record – 16 – Will the Real Iroha Please Wake Up?

Shortly after entering the Eternal Sakura, Yachiyo finds herself being woken up in her bed in Mikazuki Villa by Felicia, Sana, and Tsuruno. As soon as they mention Iroha, Yachiyo rushes to her room and finds her sleeping there. But something, of course, is off: for a split-second, Iroha’s face turns into that of her Doppel.

Yachiyo and Kuroe have been absorbed by Iroha’s Doppel, who is holding Iroha hostage after a fashion by keeping her happy and at piece in an ideal fantasy version of her life. In this fantasy, Iroha’s Mikazuki friends all know Kuroe even though they’ve never met IRL. As for “Iroha” herself, she’s clearly under the spell of her Doppel.

When Yachiyo mentions Ui, she and Kuroe are transported first to a train, and then to Ui’s hospital, where Kuroe learns Iroha’s sister shared a room with Nemu and Touka, and where Kuroe tells Yachiyo that Nemu created all the Rumors in Kamihama City. But when Ui is finally presented, she’s not human, but a stuffed animal. Yachiyo determines that this fantasy is neither Nemu’s nor a Rumor’s doing.

Yachiyo goes through an Alice in Wonderland-style tiny door to another part of the dream, ordering Kuroe to stay behind where it’s “safe,” but is really not willing to accept help from a member of Magius. Kuroe learns when Yachiyo isn’t around, Iroha’s Doppel creates one, and sees the appeal of such a peaceful, pleasant dream, which matches the gentle, cheerful nature of the Iroha she knows.

Meanwhile, in a lush flower-strewn meadow, Yachiyo locates the Ui stuffed animal, by far the most suspicious thing in the dream. When another Iroha arrives, it’s clear the Doppel, and not Iroha, is talking to Yachiyo, warning her not to ruin the perfect dream world she created. Meanwhile, Iroha’s Soul Gem continues to darken.

When Kuroe breaks the reality of the dream by asking Iroha why Ui is a stuffed animal, Iroha transforms into a Doppel and restrains Kuroe. The Doppel explains that when Iroha fell to the bottom of a Uwasa, she was filled with fear for her sister as well as despair over knowing the truth of the magical girls, so the Doppel overwrote her nightmares with new and happier dreams.

Yachiyo rescues Kuroe, but despite urging her to stay out of the fight, Kuroe transforms and the two connect their powers to bring the Doppel down. Yachiyo doesn’t care how much work went into this fantasy world; she’s taking Iroha back so they can take back her real sister, the real Mikazuki Villa, and their real friendship.

She and Kuroe succeed in suppressing the Doppel and freeing the real Iroha, who falls to the soft grass at the base of the Eternal Sakura where an elated Yachiyo is waiting for her. The two embrace, join hands, and celebrate their reunion. Iroha mentions that she promised she wouldn’t die, and she didn’t…she just needed to be rescued from a dream prison created by her Doppel to protect her from anger, fear, and sorrow.

Magia Record’s second season’s third episode is by far the most straightforward, as Yachiyo and Kuroe are basically on a simple rescue mission. There’s a wonderful dreamlike atmosphere distinct from either the “real life” of the show or the more textured witch realms, and it’s a clever way to check in with the other members of the villa, even if they were only dream versions.

With Iroha back, could she and Yachiyo help bring the others back from Magius? Will Kuroe’s loyalties to Magius conflict with her friendship with Iroha and now Yachiyo, whom she fought beside to save their mutual friend? And what’s up with that post-credits appearance of Madoka? For now, I’ll do as Yachiyo does and simply revel in the unbridled joy of having the real Iroha back.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

NIGHT HEAD 2041 – 02 – Diner of Illusion

In addition to showing us a lot of cool stuff, NH2K41 can add another feather to its cyberpunk cap: it’s able to cover a lot of narrative ground in these two episodes. There’s a lot of information to convey, and while it isn’t always the most elegant or subtle (we learn the Kuroki brothers were abandoned because…they mention it while looking at a photo) it’s all easy to digest. And Takuya’s whiskey on the rocks looks frikkin’ epic.

The show also wastes no time connecting our two pairs of brothers, as Yuuya has a momentary vision of the Kirihara brothers, who are once again just trying to fill their stomachs in an unassuming diner. Unfortunately for them, the fugitive Miracle Mick is there, along with a Harley Quinn-style femme fatale, who uses Mick’s celebrity to bilk a 2D three-man band out of all their cash. She, not Mick, is the one with the psychic power: the power of mind control.

It isn’t long before the Thought Police (Takuya and Yuuya’s squad) show up, but they’re just there for Mick and the woman using him and manipulating the musicians, whom she sics on the cops like brainwashed dogs. The order comes down to arrest everyone in the diner, even the cute waitress, but when they start getting rough Naoto gets pissed off and uses his psychokinesis to fight back, stopping all the bullets Neo-style. In the process, Yuuya learns he has a skill: psychic shields.

Naoto, Naoya, and the waitress are able to flee, while Mick and the band are arrested as scapegoats. Then the mischievous woman, Kobayashi Kimie, reveals she’s a cop who was working undercover to bring Mick down. She also demonstrates her powers of illusion in one of the coolest manners possible: by “stabbing” the four squad members with glass spikes. It’s as pretty as it is gruesome.

That’s when Takuya, Yuuya, Reika and Michio learn that it isn’t that the supernatural doesn’t exist, but that the government wants the public to think it doesn’t exist. Psychics, like the four cops are about to awaken to be come, are the exclusive purview of the government. If they have to use supernatural powers to root the civilian world of the supernatural, so be it.

The waitress Naoto saves isn’t particularly thankful, as now the cops will be after her since she’s a Psychic too (though not, as she says, a “monster” like the brothers). She thanks them before shuffling off, warning them to keep a low profile. That may be tough in what is clearly a police and surveillance state where everything that has a microchip could be watching or listening.

The fact that when the Kirihara brothers escaped from the lab where they spend fifteen years, only to find themselves ten years further into the future than they expected, doesn’t help matters. Naoto thought they were going somewhere where their own kind were accepted and coexisted with regular humans. Instead, the opposite has happened.

Clearly the girl in the school uniform is a part of the experiments at the lab, as she’s returned unconscious and with a weak pulse, but alive after an apparent trip to the future. The question is, is there any way to prevent the awful post-WWIII dystopia that exists in 2041?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 01 (First Impressions) – Oh, The Humanity!

Unknown to regular kid Misumi Makoto, his parents are actually immigrants from another world who made a deal with that world’s Goddess. They were able to travel to Earth, and in return Makoto is summoned to the other world to be its hero in a time of increased strife.

The only problem is, the Goddess is very shallow, and deems Makoto too ugly to be any hero of humanity. She reluctantly gives him the ability to read and write the local languages and dumps him at the edge of her world. Her fellow god Tsukuyomi assures him he’ll be okay, as living on Earth was akin to walking around with heavy weights on his limbs.

Sure enough, Makoto is able to execute a superhero landing on his first try from a several thousand-foot drop. After three days of wandering, he encounters a cute orc girl with very creepy hands being attacked by a two-headed dog. Without even trying that hard, he puts his fist all the way through the great beast, saving but also frightening the orc, whose name is Emma.

But as she can’t fight or flee, Emma takes him home, makes him dinner, and teaches him magic. Turns out while he’s only Level 1, he’s a quick learner. In no time at all he’s conjuring flames without a verbal incantation. It’s all very pleasant!

To thank Emma for her hospitality, he sets out to deal with Shen, to whom she was about to sacrifice herself. Turns out some goblins were using the legend of Shen to subjugate the orcs, and Makoto accidentally kills them all and destroys Shen’s torii gate.

Shen appears in the form of a giant green dragon, and while Makoto is more than a match for them, Shen possesses the ability to trap their victims in an illusion borne of their own memories; in this case Makoto being asked out by his cute, taller kohai. He soon realizes this isn’t real and breaks free.

Shen, who is extremely intrigued by Makoto’s memories of another world, suggests they form a contract, and Makoto agrees. Shen was hoping for more of a 50/50 arrangement, but such is Makoto’s latent magical power it becomes more like 80/20 in the kid’s favor. Shen transforms into a cool samurai-esque beauty. Roll credits and a charming Irish-y ED with Enka-like vocals.

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy is one of the latest products to come out of the non-stop isekai anime Play-Doh extruder, containing nothing original and breaking no new ground. But it’s self-aware, well-executed, the pace is brisk and efficient…and I’m a sucker for friendly dragons! It’s no KonoSuba, but its also not as mean, and Makoto is much more likable than Kazuma. We’ve also only met two-thirds of the main trio, so I’ll stick with this for now.

Otherside Picnic – 07 – Queens of the Seaside

Those curious about what became of the American Marines get no answers this week, as the girls are on to their next adventure, this time on a beach. Sorao wakes up in a posh hotel room, having shared the bed with a naked Toriko. She can vaguely remember going shopping and bar hopping, and is proud of her drunk self for plugging in her phone.

While taking a taxi to the beach, both Sorao and Toriko nod off, and when they come to, the taxi is derelict and covered in plants and sand, as if it had been sitting there for years. It looks like they’re still in the Otherside, though with a very Spirited Away vibe with a lush blue and green palette.

The duo do a thorough search of a long-abandoned beach shop that, while creepy, contains no active threats, so on Toriko’s urging they change into the bikinis they bought yesterday(?) and proceed to have a fun time on the beach, drinking beer and practicing shooting. The Okinawan afterlife of Narai Kanai is also referenced as the two discuss the Alcatraz-like ruin on the horizon.

Sorao’s been letting her have her way so much, Toriko is worried Sorao could get sick of her, but that’s not the case. Indeed, Sorao again tries to bring up her feelings, only to miss her chance once again. Regardless, she’s happy to be having fun on the beach, a place she never felt was her scene. It’s also a welcome deviation from the standard Otherside aesthetic.

Their solitary fun is cut short when they hear odd noises and discover zombie-like punks beating up little kids. When Sorao and Toriko are rushed, Toriko freezes up, but Sorao shoots them all down before they can get to them. Toriko is impressed: Sorao can shoot and kill to protect herself and Toriko, but she credits Toriko with helping steel her resolve.

Sorao can also see with her eye that the punks weren’t human, but reanimated piles of washed-up beach detritus. Suddenly, the skies turn blue and brooding, which Sorao remembers the captive Toriko saying was the most dangerous time to be in the Otherside. A legion of creepy child-dolls bursts out of the beach shop while huge walrus-like beasts appear on the beach. The girls are well and truly freaked out.

They also don’t have enough ammo to deal with all of these creepy monsters great and small, so Sorao arranges for their exit, using her eye, Lady Hasshaku’s hat, and Toriko’s hand to open a portal. A great light flashes from the dissolving hat, turning all of the monsters back into garbage, and the girls fall through.

They emerge back in the normal world, apparently still on the beaches of a populated, non-ruined Okinawa, and perhaps where they had their day and night of shopping and drinking. Before the portal closes, Sorao spots a woman with flowing black hair. Could it be Uruma Satsuki, mentioned by one of the monster boys as part of the “Queen of the Beach” urban legend?

If it was, Toriko didn’t see her, and Sorao doesn’t bring it up. Instead, they have some beers and enjoy the fireworks, even though they’re broke and not sure how they’ll get home. As always, because they’re living in the moment together, nothing else seems to matter as much.

With its fun girls trip to the beach-turned-freaky seaside monster convention, Urasekai Picnic again scores high marks for its mastery of mood and atmosphere, and the cozily-infectious chemistry of Sorao and Toriko.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Otherside Picnic – 06 – To the Trained Eye

Lt. Blake takes Sorao and Toriko to Major Barker, the “current” commander of the unit, implying a previous commander was among the many casualties. Barker seems nice enough, but weary of the situation, and like Blake, isn’t sure how much longer things can stay “civilized.”

They are surrounded by “bear traps” (i.e. glitches) that either kill or transform whoever or whatever touches them. They are running low on diesel fuel and will soon be out of food. The girls are offered an empty tent that’s strewn with garbage. It’s empty because its previous occupants are dead. It’s just not a place you want to be, especially after a pleasant dinner and drinks.

Blake “advises” them not to use their phones, but it should have been an explicit order and explained that making a call, as the girls do to Kozakura, has an effect on the environment. Specifically, it calls the “Meat Train” to the station, and with it a frightening train of “face dogs”, on whom the soldiers’ mortars and gunfire have no effect.

Toriko hops onto a Humvee and whips out an M14 EBR, but even though Sorao spots the proper target for her, her shots never reach them. This gives Sorao the idea that the one perceiving the targets must be the one to pull the trigger, so she has Toriko anchor her so she can take the shot, all before the soldiers can stop them.

The face dog mass dissipates, but when firing the shot Sorao lost her contact, and the soldiers wig out. She and Toriko make a run for it, and are probably lucky none of the exhausted, extremely on-edge soldiers took any shots at them. Call it a win for Major Barker in keeping discipline under suboptimal conditions.

As the Meat Train approaches, Sorao has another hunch: even though it doesn’t look like it will stop, she belives they can board the train if Toriko reaches out and touches it with her translucent hand. Sorao repeats Toriko’s line about everything working out if they’re together, and take a leap of faith.

It works, and they’re on the train, but Sorao senses a great number of unspeakable, horrifying things on that train, the collective auras of which are enough to cause her to lose consciousness. However, when she comes to, Toriko is smiling from above, and a bright blue sky indicates that they successfully returned to their world, safe and sound.

That’s not to say they returned to Ikebukuro. The beach and palm trees indicate they could be in Okinawa, having used the same entry point to the Otherside the Americans used. Further weird details include the childish drawing of a train track in the sand, and a cut to Kozakura playing back her phone call with the other two, which is distorted and full of unsettling gibberish.

If they’re now in Okinawa, I’d think the next step for Sorao and Toriko is to report the whereabouts of Pale Horse Battalion. Yet even that carries some risk: Kozakura has never heard of such a unit, though the Dark Horse Battalion is stationed in Okinawa. Just what was that unit really up to in the Otherside?

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 08 – Doctor Tamayo, Medicine Demon

Tanjirou pounces on the man Kibutsuji Muzan transformed into a demon, while urging bystanders to keep pressure on the wife’s shoulder wound. The police arrive, and demand Tanjirou get off the man. When he refuses (for their sake), they whip out the batons.

A woman in the crowd scratches her arm and from her blood a flowery screen of illusion occludes the cops’ vision. Tanjirou locates the source of the magic: the ethereally beautiful woman and her boy attendant…both of whom appear to be demons.

Last week demonstrated that Kibutsuji Muzan can turn humans into demons with one scratch and has no qualms about doing so in public. This week we learn a little more about the man. To his wife and adorable daughter he appears to be the model husband and father, and they’re rich enough to afford a car and fancy western-style clothes.

But when his family isn’t around, he doesn’t hesitate to bear his claws, easily killing a drunk kid and his big brother and then burying his clawed finger into the brain of a poor woman, transforming her into a demon so quickly her body can’t bear it, and turns into a horrific mass of blood and viscera that collapses into red dust.

After making things right with the udon vendor by eating two bowls, Tanjirou encounters the lady’s attendant once more. Things between the two boys don’t start out smoothly, as he calls Nezuko a “hag”—which is just objectively false, by the way—but the attendant was order to fetch him, and he follows his lady’s orders. He leads Tanjirou and Nezuko through an apparent brick wall to reveal a hidden medical clinic.

It is the refuge and laboratory of Tamayo (Sakamoto Maaya), a doctor who was transformed into a demon by Kibutsuji but was able to sufficiently modify her to survive on only a small amount of human blood to survive. Her attendant, Yushirou, whom she turned into a demon, can survive on even less.

Tamayo is excited by Tanjirou and Nezuko’s arrival, because they each have something they can offer one another. Tamayo tells Tanjirou something he desperately needed to hear—it is possible to turn Nezuko back. But the means to do so must be thoroughly researched and tested. To that end, Tamayo asks for permission to study Nezuko’s blood, and also asks that he bring her the blood of demons that were made by Kibutsuji or his creations.

In a beautiful little moment during Tamayo’s proposal, Tanjirou tenderly places his hand on Nezuko’s lovely forehead and she affectionately takes it into her hands. It says all that needs to be said about their bond without words, as do most of their interactions, as she is no longer verbal.

He agrees to the deal, but no sooner is it struck than two demon henchmen Kibutsuji ordered to find and kill Tanjirou (whose earrings reminded him of someone he fought in the past) crash their way through Tamayo’s illusory barrier, ready to fuck shit up.

These two look like tough customers, but as we know well by now, so are Tanjirou and Nezuko…and Yushirou and Tamayo are likely no slouches either. I like the good guys’ odds.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Otherside Picnic – 05 – Pale Horse

After treating Kozakura to well over $100 worth of dinner as an apology for her unwanted excursion to the Otherside, Toriko and Sorao complete their making-up by ordering another $100 worth of grub and drinks. During the meal, Toriko whips out Lady Hasshaku’s hat, which turns out to be much more than bad table manners.

After the waiter starts acting very strange (muttering about “sublance” and “abardmont”), Sorao leads a tipsy Toriko out of the oddly empty café and to the station, but something is off about Ikebukuro: all the lights are out and there isn’t another soul in sight. Before long the pair find themselves in an unfamiliar field, and encounter a bizarre two-headed robot horse-like monster, carrying several hanging bound bodies.

Neither brought guns to dinner, so they have to make a run for it, with Sorao doing her best to scope out potential Glitches. They reach a train track, which they believe will eventually lead to a station (i.e. shelter), but they’re then chased by a frightening mass of glowing purple faces.

Suddenly, Toriko hits the deck and has Sorao do the same, and bullets fly over their heads—bullets from the guns of soldiers. Their leader identifies the girls as human in Japanese, but his men chatter in English. The bullets aren’t meant for the girls, but for a third monster: a towering Groot-like hulk with branches for antlers.

Eventually the tree man wanders off, while the robotic horse doesn’t continue its pursuit. The lead soldier introduces himself as U.S. Marine Corp Lieutenant Will Drake, commander of the Pale Horse Battalion, Charlie Company 1/2 out of Okinawa. (“Pale Horse” is a reference to Death, the fourth Horse of the Apocalypse.) He and his unit have been trapped in the Otherside for over a month, while their robotic pack mule was transformed into a monster that has claimed a number of his men.

Lt. Drake & Co. lead Sorao and Toriko to “February Station”, which Sorao identifies as Kisaragi Station from the real world, but the group keeps moving until they reach the company’s well-equipped base camp. The thing is, a lot of Drake’s men distrust the girls and aren’t convinced they’re not monsters in disguise. They obeyed his orders to stand down this time, but what if fear of the unknown, or additional illusions, cause them to lash out?

The introduction of American marines from Okinawa to the Otherside, as well as the new manner in which the girls ended up their themselves, brings a fresh new dynamic to their adventures. Toriko may have been joking about marine basic training, but now they find themselves unarmed and exposed in a potentially paranoid hornets’ nest. As Toriko is also fond of saying, as long as they stick together, things will work out. Here’s hoping.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Otherside Picnic – 04 – Hey Little Sister, Shotgun

Sorao’s waffling over helping Toriko find Satsuki comes to a head when Toriko leaves in the middle of a very weird lunch to search on her own, thanking Sorao for her help thus far, but implying she can’t count on it anymore and that’s fine. To be fair, Sorao has every reason to fear the Otherside: one of its inhabitants, “Space-Time Man”, warns her she’ll be stuck there if she returns.

Unable to find Toriko to apologize, Sorao visits Kozakura, who inexplicably finds a photo of Satsuki on Sorao’s phone. When three strange people knock aggressively at her door, she whips out an enormous shotgun. Turns out it’s not overkill: the lead woman’s head swells to enormous size, threatening to swallow the two up.

In fact, maybe they do, because one moment the head is there, the next moment they’re in the Otherside. This is particularly distressing to Kozakura, a hermit who doesn’t do field work and is far from dressed properly for an Otherside excursion.

While searching for Toriko, Sorao tells Kozakura about her rather checkered past, involving a parent who was swallowed up into a cult (were those the folks at the door?), then tried to abduct her, only to end up being killed before Sorao could torch them with kerosene. She talks as if this is all the most normal backstory in the world…which it isn’t.

That said, it seems Kozakura was only included so Sorao had someone with whom to talke about her past, because Sorao soon ditches her when she starts using her special eye to discern what’s real and what’s fake. She ends up chasing another version of herself to a strange modern cell where Toriko, dressed in some kind of weird cult garment, is being held.

Toriko is entranced by a figure outside she sees as her “special someone” Satsuki, but in reality is some kind of Art Nouveau monster trying to lure her to God-knows-where. Luckily, Toriko shoots the shit out of the monster with the shotgun, causing it to collapse into itself. Toriko comes out of her trance, and the two make up.

The pace remains leisurely and the runtime is peppered with “wait, what?” moments, but the atmosphere of Otherside and the haunting music accompanying it remain a strong draw. Sorao’s still threatened by Satsuki and pretty generally scared besides, but at least now seems to realize that she and Toriko need to keep sticking together in this bizarre realm.

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.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 06 – Forest of Illusion

Sakura isn’t a fan of ghosts, like, at all. So when her friends suggest they investigate the forest behind the school for signs of haunting, she basically has to be dragged along. Sure enough, something appears in a flash of eerie blue light, but that something is different for everyone. Tomoyo sees a meat bun, but Sakura sees her mother Nadeshiko, who died when she was only three, and the anniversary of her death is approaching.

This is another case where Kero isn’t sure if a Clow Card is at work, but it’s enough of a possibility to visit the spot again, this time with Kero tagging along, Sakura in a kind of Italian opera bunny costume, and Tomoyo with her camera. When the spectre of her mother appears again, drawing Sakura closer, she steps right off the very sheer cliff she herself warned the others about.

Fortunately, Yukito catches her before she hits the ground, but she still passes out. She wakes up at his house, where he makes a point to mention his grandmother changed her clothes, not him, and that her “plush toy” is safe with Tomoyo for the evening. When Sakura contemplates whether who she saw was her mother, Yukito asks her: if it really were, why would she put her daughter in harm’s way?

When Touya comes to collect his little sister, Yukito tags along, and we learn that Sakura’s intense fear of ghosts comes from two things: her innate ability to sense (but not see) the real things, and Touya’s incessant teasing of her when they were younger. While he declares it his right as a big brother to mess with her, I could sense a tinge of regret in Touya’s telling, while Yukito suggests that maybe he can skip scolding her when she wakes up.

The next night, Sakura, Kero, and Tomoyo return to the forest, this time with Sakura wearing a very slick, futuristic, vocaloid-esque yellow costume. That’s two looks in the same episode for the first time! This time her mother beckons her to the cliff’s edge again, but Sakura snaps out of it, remembering Yukito’s words. Turns out it’s not the ghost of her mother, but a Clow Card called Illusion, which Sakura successfully captures.

The next morning, Sakura is ready to go back to school, but takes a moment to say hi to her mother, confident she’s not lonely by that cliff, but up in a beautiful place among the stars. Touya suddenly notices the real ghost of Nadeshiko appearing, however briefly, watching over Sakura and smiling.

This was the first truly heartstring-pulling episode of CCS, exploring how despite barely remembering her mother, she still loves her deeply due to the stories her dad and brother have told her, and in turn Nadeshiko is always watching over Sakura, no doubt immensely proud of her daughter’s new calling.

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 20 – Strong Bonds

Well, look at that…Queen Mirelia understands that you need to have a camp and supplies if you’re mobilizing a large force. She also understands the need to make a regal impression in front of that force, as she suits up in her armor against the wishes of her Shadows. Finally, it seems she’s ready to take a more active role, promising to bring the Pope and his flock to justice for their treason.

Meanwhile, in the magic Cathedral, the Pope manages to block, parry, or nullify pretty much every attack thrown his way, and unlike his opponents, he doesn’t particularly care if his acolytes push themselves so far they end up dying; he considers that martyrdom (though I bet if you asked him to lay his life down he’d have a different view).

When the other heroes urge Naofumi to break out his “overpowered” Rage Shield, the cursed dragon within takes hold of him. Like Emperor Palpatine, the dragon wants Naofumi to let the hate flow through him—not just the dragon’s hate, but his own, amassed during all the various injustices that have befallen him since arriving in this world.

Thankfully, Raph, Filo, and Melty pull him out of his rage spiral by reminding him that they love and support him, and aren’t about to lose him to the darkness.

Naofumi promises not to let the shield get the better of him, and coordinates with his allies and the other heroes to press the attack against the Pope.

But no matter what feints and combos they throw at him, he calmly deflects it all, and serves up more innane religious babbling as if anyone wanted to hear any more. All the while, his followers outside fall and expire one by one. He can’t keep this up forever.

Ultimately, the Pope decides to concentrate his remaining Mana into a large-scale illusion spell that creates a kaleidoscope of Pope clones along the inner surface of the Cathedral, enabling him to attack his foes from above and every angle.

It’s almost game over for our heroes, but Queen Mirelia casts an Icicle Prison spell that freezes him in place for them to finish off. Naofumi delivers the coup-de-grace by casting Blood Sacrifice, which, you guessed it, requires him to expend the majority of his own blood.

At first it looks ineffective, but the blood creates a mechanical serpent that bursts out of the ground, snatches up the Pope, snaps his staff, and basically dissolves him into a pool of blood. With that, the Cathedral falls, the Heroes are free, the lame boss I never cared about is gone (hopefully for good), and Queen Mirelia introduces herself to the nearly-bloodless Naofumi, apologizing for not showing up sooner and promising not to let him die.

Obviously, he’s not dying—we have at least five episodes left—but hopefully this victory marks the beginning of détente and future cooperation between Naofumi and his fellow Heroes. I’m just glad this Pope-Coup mini-arc is behind us, and that it was resolved in reasonably satisfying fashion.

Iroduku: The World in Colors – 12 – The Firework Called Love

Yuito and Hitomi’s embrace late last week felt like a turning point in their romantic development—as scenes  in which two sides of a couple run towards each other in the middle of the night tend to feel. But the aftermath of that embrace is tempered by two factors this week.

The first is the looming dread of Hitomi having to return to her time, despite not wanting to. The second, and possibly most unfortunate, is that as romantic pairings go, Hitomi and Yuito are just a bit dull. The flame of last week’s dramatic gesture was fizzled out rather quickly and anti-climactically, without so much of a hint of the ever-important confession.

But maybe that was the point. After all, what’s the point of confessing your love to someone you may never see again…though considering Kohaku is still around in the future there’s a good chance Yuito could be too—more on that later.

The club has a festival to execute, and despite her issues, Hitomi puts on a brave face and gives it her all. The result is some of her most impressive magic to date; Kokahu notes after the immensely successful first day that it’s the result of Hitomi’s training, not to mention being around people she wants to make happy with her magic, something she didn’t have in the future.

Back home, Kohaku’s folks have prepared a lavish feast to send Hitomi off, but some of their practical logistical talk initially harms the mood until they drop the subject and just let Kohaku enjoy her last night there, while preparing for her last day.

Festival-wise, the second day goes as well as the first; so well that Asagi, having made a mint off her bunny postcards, decides to kick Hitomi and Yuito out of the clubroom to explore the festival together, a sweet gesture on her part that shows how far she’s come.

Asagi later tells Shou people shouldn’t apologize for having liked someone (in his case Hitomi). She respects how Shou was able to put himself out there, and hopes one day she’ll have the courage to do the same. Naturally, she doesn’t specify whom she’d muster the courage to confess to, and even if she did, Shou still might not quite get it.

As for Hitomi and Yuito, they have fun running around the festival, culminating in a visit to what frankly seemed like a pretty lame haunted house—only one thing jumped out at them. Still, the darkness is an opportunity for the oh-so-timid couple to hold hands some more.

When they exit, Hitomi decides to cut their break short, perhaps satisfied with the moments they shared, but possibly also because she doesn’t want to get too deep into anything so close to ZHIEND.

During the festival wrap party, Kohaku and Hitomi join forces once more to create magical fireworks. While watching them burst in the sky, Hitomi describes how she feels, and Kohaku remarks that it sure sounds like it’s “happiness.” In that moment, Hitomi sees color in the fireworks—a huge improvement from when she saw them in black and white back in the future.

Unfortunately, the fireworks are the only thing she sees in color, and when they’re gone, her vision is back to monochrome. Perhaps there’s one thing she needs to do to make the colors permanent: tell Yuito how (I presume) she feels.

Whether she can do that in the past, or track him down in the future (when I imagine he’d recognize and remember her, as would the others), who can say. Maybe she’ll never confess openly at all, or maybe the magic ritual with the clock won’t work. However happily or bittersweetly it’s likely to end, I’m eager to see how this story resolves.

Iroduku: The World in Colors – 11 – Suddenly, Out of Time

The club is putting the finishing touches on their photography, art, and magic exhibition (I love how the principal asks Kohaku to define “event”) as the day of the festival approaches, but the impending joy of sharing their gifts with classmates, friends and family is suddenly, jarringly preempted by a new and bizarre development: Hitomi is starting to experience “time gaps” as a result of the future Kohaku’s magic wearing off.

At first, Asagi thinks she was just mistaken in not noticing Hitomi in the room into which she’d just walked. But it only takes us one look from Kohaku to realize that something very wrong is occurring, and it can spiral out of control fast if not dealt with immediately. All of a sudden, all of the interpersonal problems that have occurred among the club so far pale in comparison to the very real threat of Hitomi permanently vanishing into oblivion.

Kohaku contacts a scholar and expert in time magic, as well as a fellow mage at a bookstore, to confirm her suspicions: whatever time magic she used sixty years in the future, it must be used again to return Hitomi to her proper place in the timeline, lest the universe excise her by force. For as much as she’s fit in and become comfortable, the fact is she is the kind of space-time abnormality the universe abhors.

There is no easy way to break this to Hitomi, and as a result of the suddenness and finality of the news (You gotta go, ASAP, The End) she’s just not sure how to process it, what to do or what to say. It’s sobering to know there doesn’t seem to be any time magic Kohaku of the present could perform on Hitomi to stabilize her presence in the past.

The next day’s weather reflects Kokahu and Hitomi’s moods, but the rain reminds Hitomi of the night Yuito offered her an umbrella, and she takes comfort in the belief it’s a memory she’ll always recall whenever it rains. Unfortunately, she also disappears right before Yuito’s eyes, and her umbrella depressingly falls to the ground.

When Yuito reports the incident to the others, Kohaku comes clean about the extent of the danger Hitomi’s in. She and Yuito find Hitomi where she vanished, sleeping in a bed of flowers in a disturbingly funereal scene that shakes Kohaku to the core. Back home, she sits vigil for her granddaughter, but her own grandmother tells her to get some rest herself. After all, Kohaku’s future self tacitly trusted her past self to pull off the time magic that will bring Hitomi back…but she won’t be able to do it if she’s exhausted.

Hitomi wakes up the next morning literally tied to Kohaku with a string, and  ends up staying in for the day. Still, she gets up and leaves the house and ends up finding Kohaku on the beach with the others, gathering star sand for use in the spell that will return her to her time. A lot more sand than usual is washed up due to the typhoon that just blew by.

While no one is happy about the prospect of Hitomi having to go, and so soon (especially Asagi and Yuito), when Kohaku asks for help, they help, for Hitomi’s sake. They collect enough sand and she gets it to her acquaintance, who assures her they’ll have it ready to go by tomorrow.

Meanwhile, back at home, Hitomi finally finds a way to reach out to Yuito from across the town: a magical homing paper airplane, which taps on his window. He flashes his lights on and off, as does Hitomi. When her second airplane seems to go off course, she jumps into her shoes and chases after it.

Turns out it’s still en route to Yuito; he’s just not at home anymore: he’s racing towards her just as she’s racing towards him, and they meet in the middle, under the almost-new moon, and embrace. It took the urgency of impending oblivion for it to happen, but the two have finally come together and are on the same wavelength. It’s just too bad the time they’ll have after reaching this state looks to be all too painfully short…