Hamefura – 08 – Pages of Desire

All Mary Hunt wants is to study alone with her one true love Catarina. Unfortunately, the object of her affection is also the object of everyone else’s, so the study group in the library consists of…everyone. Alas, while taking a break Catarina notices a flashing book on the shelf, and when she opens it, she and everyone except Mary and Maria are sucked inside!

It’s a high concept Hamefura this week, as one by one everyone in the book lives out their deepest desire, as interpreted and amplified by the magic of the book itself. Gerald, for one, reveals some of his sadist qualities in his wedding night desire, or Keith revealing his steamier side in his. Before anything can “happen” between Catarina or anyone, Mary slams the book shut in disgust.

The desire I enjoyed most was Catarina in Sophia’s private library, in which Sophia delivers an epic wall slam to Catarina like she’s the guy in a shoujo manga and declares her love. It’s just a shame nothing more comes of our discovery that Sophia may be the reincarnation of Acchan.

Mary and Maria endure all these desires until they finally come to Catarina, which involves finding an entire house made of sweets, only because the sweets are fictional no matter how much she eats she’s never satisfied. This seems to break the logic of the book, which explodes in a cloud of sweets and the trapped people. All’s well that ends well!

We end with a post-credits scene I found a bit puzzling: Catarina, with no inner monologue at all, ends up barefoot and up a tree with Alan during a gorgeous sunset. Mary spots them and moves to intercept. It’s a pretty scene, but Catarina feels out of character here; certainly have an inner council meeting or two before getting so friendly with Alan…

Somali and the Forest Spirit – 08 – Two Hearts at a Time

Thanks to Praline’s library guide and the Head Librarian’s own voice, Golem and Somali are able to locate Isolde Nebsolv, who not only was the last person to check out Chronicles of Haraiso, but actually wrote it. One of her head guards, Leigle, is suspicious of the intruders, but Isolde is glad to see them and all too happy to tell them the story from the now-destroyed book, the events of which took place many centuries ago.

Isolde’s ancestor Feodora was flying on her broom and got caught by dragon twister winds that blew her off course and wrecked her on an island. She’d later learn that Haraiso is not only the name of the island, but its “god”, a skinless golem. The rest of the island’s population are humans, who distrust all other “grotesques” except Haraiso.

Knowing this, and knowing of humans’ nature to fear the unknown and exterminate anything that is too different, Haraiso assures them the witch Feodora is actually a human and they have nothing to fear. Feodora quickly befriends Miya, the little girl who rescued her, and the rest of the villagers, as she slides into a pleasant, idyllic daily life.

The golem Haraiso eventually determines that Feodora will be able to fly home by riding the dragon twisters as they circle north to her home, but she’s hesitant to leave such a lovely place full of such kind people, and Miya doesn’t want her to go either. That’s when a “grotesque” appears: a large, two-headed beast that insists he has no quarrel with them.

The humans don’t believe or listen to their pleas for mercy, and they tie up, stone, beat, and cut the beast to death without mercy as Feodora watches. Even Miya tosses a stone. It’s clear now that her secret is a knife at her throat; she has to get out of here before she ends up like the beast.

But the morning of the day she’s to cast off, the villagers go looking for her, and Miya knows she’ll be at their spot: the bluff under the tree. When the winds pick up and toss Miya off the cliff and into some brittle branches, Feodora has no choice but to use her broom to swoop down and save her before she’s dashed on the rocks below.

All this happens in full sight of the villagers, who quickly ignore her heroics and start to call for her execution. Haraiso intervenes in time, pardoning Feodora for saving Miya but banishing her from the island. Feodora flies off, and only Miya bids her farewell. In the end, Feodora got through to Miya, and the friendship they shared overwrote her prejudice and fear.

Feodora shared her story with others, but considering how starkly it laid out how far apart humans and other clans were, it was decided not to write about it for a thousand years. Isolde wrote the book earlier than that, and for that, blames herself for the humans being wiped out. Still, Golem only sees it as a string of coincidences. Bottom line; humans and monsters were going to clash with or without this tale as ammo for the latter.

Before Isolde passes away in a cloud of butterflies, she considers herself fortunate to have not only met a human in Somali, but one who has friends among non-humans. It means perhaps she wasn’t wrong to write a book that, for all of the ways it depicted the humans as utterly incompatible, was at its core about two people: Feodora and Miya, who were able to reach an understanding and a bond.

There’s still hope for Somali, even after Golem dies, because of the friends she’s made. But it looks like Golem is still determined to find her fellow humans at the ends of the earth…just in case.

Somali and the Forest Spirit – 07 – The Witching Hour

As he did with Shizuno and Yabashira, Golem confides in Haitora the truth of his dwindling lifespan, and how like Haitora he won’t be around to see his charge grow up. It’s like he’s getting the weight of the lie off his chest; dropping the facade of pretending everything’s okay with Somali.

Even so, Haitora considers Somali all too lucky to have found Golem, as she gets to live her life with a smile on her face and with peace of mind thanks to her guardian’s care, despite being a human.

Haitora’s words make Golem feel lighter in the chest. Anyone who thinks Somali hasn’t made him more human isn’t paying attention. The next day, Golem and Somali say goodbye to Haitora and Uzoi, but Uzoi promises Somali they’ll meet again once she’s found a cure for Haitora. I for one would have enjoyed them remaining together longer, especially since it makes sense for all four of them should be headed in the same direction.

That’s because Golem and Somali’s new destination is a village filled with witches who bear a solemn duty to amass all of the world’s knowledge. If there was a cure for eating harpy flesh, you’d guess you’d find it there. Alas, it’s just Golem and Somali, who are greeted by a bevy of witches selling all manner of delicious food an drink, in which the food-crazy Somali is all to happy to indulge. The village is gorgeous with its whimsical architecture and glowing light.

The pair are directed to the Witches’ Crest Library, a huge and grand structure containing millions of books of every conceivable topic. Just being led into the libarary and hearing the various voices bounce off the walls has a major impact, a feeling of being truly immersed into this gradually expanding fantasy world. Somali is eager to read a book about food, and I’m surprised she knows how to read!

Among the myriad non-human clans of this world, one would think witches, like harpies, would be able to “sniff out” a human in disguise. But if their magical hosts detect Somali’s true nature, they don’t make an issue of it. Instead, friendly librarian witch Hazel and her bookworm older sister Praline are happy to escort Golem to the location of a biography that makes mention of humans.

Things are derailed a bit when Somali locates the book in question on a shelf and recklessly pulls it off the shelf, dislodging a school of skeletal book-eating fish who are particularly interested in that particular book. Praline summons several little blue penguins to eat the fish, while Hazel produces a cloud of rose petals that squash the remaining beasts out. Their magic, and the accompanying music, adds the whimsical, wondrous atmosphere.

Even Hazel’s spell isn’t enough, however, as the surviving bookfish coalesce into a single giant subspecies. Somali refuses to give up the book, runs off, and inevitably trips over her feet. The book goes flying and the bookfish destroy it before a single page can be written. Worse, Golem must sacrifice the remaining “skin” on his arm and enter into a reflexive Attack Mode to rescue Somali and defeat the fish boss.

Somali is tearfully apologetic for getting Golem hurt, but he’s not concerned as long as she’s okay. Praline also suggests that all is not lost if they can find the previous person to have read the book, who could then share its contents with Golem and Somali. It turns out the last borrower of the book was Isolde Nebsolv, their boss and Head Librarian.


Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 06 – Staying Put

When the entrance to the 4 O’Clock Library is revealed, Kou accompanies Nene inside, and it isn’t long until she finds her own book. She can’t resist the temptation to read ahead into the future, whereupon the book starts to turn red with blood and the Fifth Wonder attacks. Kou forgets his staff was sealed, but Hanako-kun arrives to save them.

Turns out the fifth wonder’s manager Tsuchigomori-sensei, was only teasing them. Hanako-kun is the leader of the seven wonders, who are dedicated to keeping the supernatural peace at the school, but one one of them is working with a human like Nene, only stirring up trouble. His solution is to temporarily sap the wonders of their power by neutralizing their Yorishiro.

Hanako chooses Nene to accompany Tsuchigomori to the site of his Yorishiro, which turns out to be a moon rock Hanako gave to him back in the sixties during the moon landing. When he was alive, Hanako was Yuji Amane, a Tsuchigomori was his homeroom teacher who was always concerned about Hanako getting bullied and beaten up.

Hanako was the only human Tsuchigomori knows about who was able to change the future as written in his book. Hanako’s book said he’d have a future as a science teacher at the school, but he died when he was still a “brat”, which Tsuchigomori considers a tremendous shame.

The flashback plays out like Yako’s, with Nene experiencing his memories as if in a dream. When she comes to, she’s in the infirmary. As she desired, Nene now knows a little more about Hanako, including his real name and enthusiasm for space and science when he was alive.

But as she greets him with an almost maternal hug, he can tell she’s learned something about him, and if anything seems a bit miffed. Still, he can hardly have expected to keep all his secrets secure considering the amount of time Nene is spending with him.

In / Spectre – 01 (First Impressions) – An Eye and a Leg

Two years ago, Iwanaga Kotoko saved Sakuragawa Kurou‘s life by catching him as he fell backwards. All she asked in return was that he remember his savior for the rest of his life. Kotoko later learned Kurou had a girlfriend, but they recently broke up. Having harbored a one-sided affection the last two years, Kotoko now approaches Kurou with her intentions to date him with eventual plans for marriage.

If Kotoko sounds like an unusual girl, she is: when she was eleven she was kidnapped by various youkai who asked if she would consent to serving as their “God of Wisdom”, one who could both mediate issues between youkai and between youkai and humans. In exchange for agreeing to help them, Kotoko lost her right eye and left leg, but considers becoming a god who can commune with youkai to be a fair trade.

When a particularly nasty ayakashi troubles a local library, youkai go to Kotoko to ask for aid. But as she’s outgunned in this particular case, she asks Kurou to accompany her. While youkai everywhere fear him like some kind of bogeyman, including a kappa whose reaction to seeing him led to his breakup with his girlfriend, Kotoko sees the value of having someone like him in her corner.

Thus, their “first date” involves confronting the giant beast in the library, and while Kotoko’s words fail, Kurou’s actions don’t. Only even Kotoko is surprised by how Kurou deals with the beast: he lets it rip his arm off, only for it to immediately regenerate, and the beast shortly dies, poisoned by Kurou’s flesh. Kurou confesses that something happened to him when he was eleven too: he ate youkai flesh.

While lacking in action until the final  minutes, the introduction of the forthright, no-nonsense, charming Kotoko and the inscrutable, unflappable Kurou is very well-handled and their dialogue never drags. They sport instant chemistry, owing in no small part to the voice talents of Miyano Mamoru and Kitou Akari, and I’m eager to see not just how they work together but how they become closer going forward.

Assassins Pride – 12 (Fin) – In the Name of Love

Mule’s spell transports Melida into an Alice in Wonderland-style rose garden, where Duke Shicksal and all of his noble allies put her on trial for, essentially, being a bastard and an impostor. Melida listens to about as much of their prattle as I’d be able to stomach before telling them to STFU. If they don’t believe she’s the real deal, she’ll just have to prove them wrong—and she does, defeating their champion, a reluctant but still committed Salacha.

When Shicksal sees things going badly, he summons a giant ink dragon to undo the recording of these events and eliminate their witnesses, but Melida and Elise are joined by Sala and Mule in helping to evacuate everyone, even Othello, who had had nothing but horrible things to say about Melida. I’m a little fuzzy on why Sala and Mule let things go so far before helping their friend, but whatevs.

When Melida’s Impostor dad reappears to put Melida in her place, Kufa arrives in time to parry his blow. But rather than let her instructor save her once again, she resolves to fight with him side-by-side, showing him what she’s learned. Having endured so much nay-saying and bile from people who don’t know what they’re talking about, it’s very satisfying to watch a defiant Melida take an active role in silencing them and foiling their schemes.

She’s come a long way, which goes for her maturity as well. That’s why she uses the request of Kufa she earned by passing the qualification isn’t to go on a date or to be her boyfriend, but simply to ask him to keep watching her as she continues the work of showing Flandore that she’s not the Incompetent Talented Girl, and never was. Kufa accedes to her request wholeheartedly, as she, who was once his target, has become his greatest pride.

Assassins Pride – 11 – A Vast and Insidious Conspiracy

From the moment Mule and Salacha arrive, Melida and Elise are at Mule’s mercy. Her family administrates the library, and she knows what all the books do, from dressing them in fairy tale cosplay to showing them the way through the labyrinth. The whole time, we know Melida and Elise’s “new friends” are up to something.

What we don’t know is why, aside from loyalty to their respective houses. What those houses are conspiring to do to Melida is evil, and all it takes for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing. So…who are Mule and Salacha, really?

When the quartet completes a trial, which consists of defeating low-level imps and organizing books, four new books bearing their names materialize on a shelf. This is when Salacha decides: forget her bro’s orders, she’s Melida’s friend, and she owes her at least the warning that all of this is a trap, and help her chase down Mule, who’s taken her book.

Meanwhile, the Headmistress and the upperclassmen (of whom apparently only Shenfa can actually fight) are attacked by a Guild Grimface necromancer, but are bailed out by Kufa, who in turn is bailed out by Williams Gin when the necromancer transforms into Ains Ooal Gown’s cousin.

Grimface has apparently come to eliminate any and all witnesses to the screwing over of Melida, but Kufa made sure some students, led by Rosetti and Naqua, stayed on the surface to repel the guild’s raid. Thanks to Salacha, Melida at least knows that even two of her friends are working against her on behalf of their blood purity-obsessed families.

But what does Mule mean when she says she’s doing this because she “likes” Melida? Is she really doing her father’s bidding, or does she have a third, distinct agenda all her own? Was she just putting on an act in last week’s secret meeting? The final episode (at least of this season) has a lot of questions to answer.

Assassins Pride – 10 – No Point Imagining Bad Scenarios

No sooner than Melida returns to Flandore, she’s encouraged to enter the Vibria Goat Librarian Certification Exam, which in addition to being a damn mouthful, involves exploring Flandore’s sprawling central labyrinth library. Melida and Elise are eligible owing to their status as Luna Cadets, but the headmistress just wants them to stay on the safest level and get the feel of the place for a future exam.

Meanwhile, a widespread conspiracy is in motion against the Angel family, whose political rivals are annoyed that a girl of dubious parentage continues to rise. The movement is led by Salacha’s older brother, and she and Mule flank him as he discusses how they’ll take the Angels down. Mule even offers a magical book to aid them, which begs the question: whose side are these girls on? Salacha’s hesitation over harming Melida seems to suggest the answer isn’t so simple.

Salacha’s brother’s first move is to send in a goofy joker-masked man into Melida’s school to loudly and publicly declare he, not Lord Angel, is her real father. While examining her mana, Kufa reminds Melida that he warned her this kind of thing would happen when she started to gain renown, and to simply keep facing forward and doing her best.

Despite the headmistress’ meager expectations, Kufa thinks Melida should try to win the Certification Exam, in order to silence further doubters of her potential and prove that even if she is technically a bastard, she has what it takes to serve Flandore with distinction. So of course, things don’t go as planned when the Exam begins, with the lift being interrupted and a strange tentacle monster snatching up only Melida and Elise.

As the two girls battle high-level undead—apparently the ghosts of past librarians, very Ghostbusters—in the sprawling library, Lord Angel himself visits her school, and is received by Kufa and Rosetti. After the incident with the impostor claiming to be her father, the Lord’s fears about Melida’s fast rise causing trouble for the family has led him to decide to pull her out of school—away from both Kufa and Elise.

Kufa protests, and the Lord can tell he has reason to, but the dispute is interrupted by a message from Guild Grimface, indicating that Melida and Elise are in grave danger. Back in the library labyrinth, just two undead enemies cause severe wear to the girls’ swords, making it unlikely they’ll last if more than two were to appear. Naturally, ten ghosts appear, surrounding them, which is when Salacha and Mule drop in and eliminate them.

Is Salacha here to carry out her brother’s wishes and those of the families who have allied against the Angels? Is Mule seriously going to take steps to expose Melida’s “blunders”? Or are they there as they were at the slumber party: fast friends who want to protect and aid them?

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 11 – A Big Catch

In a desperate attempt for a win, any win, Nishikata manages to find out from Takagi’s friend that she’ll be walking down a certain road at a certain time, and arranges for a game to guess the steps to a certain spot.

Thinking more than one step ahead for once, he correctly predicts she’ll call for a further target, but he’s such an open book she changes it again, demonstrating that thinking just two steps ahead won’t cut it if you want to beat Takagi!

Still Takagi had fun, and is flattered that Nishikata would go so far to win a game, and asks what he wants her to get him as a souvenir on her family vacation. Later, Takagi’s friend can tell from her face “something nice happened.”

When Takagi is back, she presents Nishikata with another great gift: a 100% Unrequited Love-themed curry kit. He also went on vacation, and surprises her with a gift of cookies. Little does she know they’re sour cookies. When she suggests they go to the shrine to enjoy their gifts together, it’s the perfect chance to see her distressed, puckered face…

…But on the way there, Takagi expresses her happiness so genuinely, Nishikata has no choice but to warn her ahead of time. Turns out the cookies are actually pretty good. Takagi also uses their shrine visit to tell him she had her family vacation shortened so she could go to the upcoming summer festival.

Nishikata isn’t planning to go with anyone, and neither is Takagi, so she tells him in no uncertain terms that if someone asked her to go, she would—someone she teases all the time, for instance. Knowing him all to well, Takagi provides him with everything he needs…all he has to do is, well, ask her out.

The subtle animation really shines in this scene, conveying Takagi’s nervousness as she adjusts her legs and stretches her trembling hands, matching Takahashi Rie’s superb voice work.

Asking Takagi out is one of the hardest things Nishikata has ever had to do, because it pretty much throws out the window the fiction that, as he’s so fond of saying, “it isn’t like that” between them. When the two run into each other on the street and he offers to carry her groceries in his bike basket, the atmosphere gets more and more awkward as he utterly fails to speak up and say the words that need to be said.

I really can’t overstate how much tension is built up as they walk up to her house and say goodbye and he starts to walk away, without asking her out. Her usual cheerful smile vanishes, replaced by a look of resignation…she tried her best. But then she hears his bike returning, and the shy sonofabitch finally, finally asks her if she wants to go to the summer festival with him.

The answer, of course, is yes, and in her elation she tosses more canned drinks into his arms before he heads off to fish with his mates. Nishikata doesn’t get to see her adorable quivering look of relief and joy as he pedals off. Now this is how you build anticipation for the twelfth and final episode!

While fishing, even when he gets a bite on his line he doesn’t notice, as he’s in a kind of trance state. Not surprising, as he’d already snagged the biggest catch of his life.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – 13 – Sage of the Infodump, Part II

Cardinal completes her story, in which Quinella, basically running out of soul disk space, copies her memories to a young girl’s fluctlight, overwriting whatever was there. But Cardinal, now possessing a good deal of Quinella’s powers, decided to try to make her move. She fails, but was able to flee to the Great Library to fight another day.

Their duel is brief but exciting, despite all the awkwardly long English incantations the two must make (“System Call: Generate Luminous Object”, etc.) For 200 years since being banished to the library, Cardinal has been observing the Underworld, waiting for the right person with which to collaborate. She used a little spider named Charlotte to help bring Kirito to her.

Cardinal also suspects the god of the outside world (i.e. Rath) aren’t doing anything about Admin because the happiness of the people of the Underworld isn’t their primary goal. Rather, the whole system is a load test to see how much they can tighten the vise on a civilization before it loses cohesion.

Cardinal also tells Kirito that this isn’t just about defeating Asmin and ending her domination over the Underworld. The Forces of Darkness beyond the Realm of Humanity are planning a massive invasion, and Admin’s Integrity Knights are far too few in number to repel them, and she had all four guardian dragons slewn because she couldn’t control them, further hampering her defense.

Cardinal isn’t going to allow the Forces of Darkness to invade the Realm of Humanity; she’s willing to destroy the Underworld and start over to keep that from happening, and this is why she needs Kirito and Eugeo’s help.

If they successfully defeat Admin and Cardinal regains her authority, she’ll let Kirito save “about ten or so” Fluctlights, which if I’m honest, is close to all of the people in the Underworld who mean a lot to him (Cardinal also asks, and is given, a simple human hug, which she considers more than adequate reward for her efforts).

Of course, that’s not ideal, and Kirito will be searching for a way to have their cake and eat it too (I mean, he wouldn’t be Kirito if he didn’t). As for saving Alice, it turns out to be just a simple matter of ejecting the “piety module” from her head that’s blocking her past self, by reminding her of her most treasured memory—stored in Admin’s chambers.

Kirito and Eugeo’s mission has similarly simple steps, though of course they’re all easier said than done: First grab their newly-improved weapons from the third floor. Then, go to the 100th floor to recover Alice’s stored memories.

I have no doubt the 97 floors in between will prove a challenge, but should they run into Alice herself, Eugeo is given a dagger that will connect her to Cardinal, who will put her to sleep. So that’s the plan…all that’s left is to execute.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – 12 – Sage of the Infodump

Kirito and Eugeo just barely hold their own against Eldrie Synthesis Thirty-One, who is armed with all manner of magical attacks and divine objects. They’re only able to escape defeat when Eugeo suddenly remembers why Eldrie seems so familiar: he used to be Eldrie Woolsburg, the North Empire representative swordsman.

Hearing his former name and other details of his past, a triangular prism is slowly ejected from his forehead, and the former Eldrie’s personality seems to return. The transformation is interrupted by an attack by a second knight armed with a bow and riding a dragon, but the implication is clear: what happened to this guy must’ve happened to Alice. The person she used to be might not be gone; only repressed.

Kirito and Eugeo would have probably eventually been caught by the second knight, but are given yet another break when a voice tells Kirito which way to turn and presents them with a glowing secret doorway through which to dive.

They land at the bottom of a stair, before a diminutive-looking sage called Cardinal. She is the Cardinal System that once governed the Underworld, but she’s been usurped, and her powers are now limited to the great library that contains all of the world’s knowledge and history.

Upon showing the boys around, she sends a sneezing, soaked Eugeo off to the bath to warm up, and summons some food and tea for Kirito. The balance of the episode is Cardinal (voiced, I think, by Tange Sakura, complete with “umus”) basically delivering a lengthy infodump, focusing on her “twin elder sister”, Administrator, the self-made Pontifex of the Axiom Church and only one who can contact the outside world.

“Administrator” was once Quinella, the offspring of the first political marriage between high lords, and the descendant of one of the “original four” inhabitants of Underworld who, unlike the other three, was driven by greed and a lust for power. Quinella was gifted with System Call, and used it to hunt animals and gain more and more authority.

Eventually, she had her followers, upon whom she demonstrated various “miracles”, build her a church in which she still resides to this day, being worshiped and ruling with absolute authority. She solidified that authority by writing the Taboo Index, which forbade the very actions that gave her the power boost she needed to seize command of the world.

Even Quinella couldn’t initially win against the ravages of time, but even on her death bed never stopped trying to find the right commands to undo her demise. She succeeded, either due to coincidence or help from the outside world, and her fluctlight was augmented with the Cardinal System as it was to create a new, no longer “human” being, naming herself “Administrator.”

Suffice it to say, Admin is one tough cookie. Considering how badly Kirito fared against a novice Integrity Knight, he and Eugeo are going to have to seriously up their game if they want to overthrow her. I daresay it wouldn’t hurt to snap Alice out of her brainwashing (Eugeo knows far more of her past than of Eldrie’s) so she could fight beside them.

But I’m just spitballing at this point. The villain has been introduced and explained. Now we’ll see what the heroes are going do about it.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 08

CCS keeps on keeping on, with Sakura capturing another card and only the slightest movement made on her “clock dreamworld” situation. She also learns that yet another frined of hers is stinking rich, or at least gets to live in the house of someone stinking rich; namely Akiho living in the house Eriol used to live in.

Eriol may have been “very mature and a wonderful person”, but he still hasn’t replied to Sakura about the Clear Cards. Nevertheless, Akiho invites Sakura and Tomoyo over to see her collection of books from her travels.

Sakura invites Syaoran, who can’t go because he has unspecified “plans,” but Sakura, undiscouraged, and asks him if he’ll go out with her the Sunday after that, to which he agrees before trying to flick a petal off her shoulder. Their romantic scene is rudely interrupted by Kero, telling them “the world ain’t just for you two!” Speak for yourself, purse rat!

After another school day and a successful cheerleading practice, Sakura heads home and is greeted by her brother who seems like he wants to say something but doesn’t, and when she reaches for her closet, ends up in the clock world again. No matter how many questions she asks, the cloaked figure won’t answer her, and the clocks only multiply. Frustrating, right!

That Sunday, Sakura and Tomoyo show up to Eriol’s former, now Akiho’s current house, and it’s not only huge and stately, but comes with a dutiful butler named Tuxedo Mask Yuna D. Kaito, for whom Akiho used to cause “all kinds of trouble” when she was little. As guests in such a house, the girls mind their manners, and flowery formal pleasantries fly freely.

After tea and cake that tastes so good Sakura lets out an exhortation in some other language, the girls hit Akiho’s book collection, which is basically a damn library. The book Akiho is currently reading and considers a favorite is not there, and when she runs to get it, Sakura notices a group of numbered books missing, along with a section of shelving: this week, she doesn’t have to fight the card or become friends with it; she only had to find where it was hiding.

The card, “Lucid”, thus captured after the oh-so-brief hide-and-seek, Akiho returns with the book, the cover of which looks just like the clocks and gears in Sakura’s now waking dreams. It’s called Alice in Clock Land, not written by Lewis Carroll. Sakura wants to learn more, but Kaito interrupts their discussion asking if they want more refreshment.

Back in the UK, an impatient Akizuki Nakuru complains to the cat Spinel Sun about why they haven’t gone to Japan to help Sakura out. Eriol insists that there’s nothing they can do but wait “for the time to come.” Cut to Syaoran studying some kind of magical tablet in his room in the dark, and roll credits.

I’m encouraged that the aesthetic of Sakura’s dreams has finally shown up in the real world, and that Akiho is most definitely connected in some way. Her interactions with Syaoran continue to be adorable beyond compare, though I wonder if they’ll be able to go on an entire date without interruption from Kero, a Card, or something/one else.

As for still being mostly in the dark about everything going on around Sakura, well, at least we have good company, in that Sakura herself is just as in the dark! Nothing for it but to keep capturing Cards as they come, and living life in between.

Koi wa Ameagari no You ni – 06

Akira is more than just her infatuation with Kondou; she’s just choosing to dedicate all of her headspace to him at the cost of everything and everyone else. I’m not judging her choice—I have no right to, and don’t even really disagree with it—I’m just stating the facts here.

One of the casualties is Kyan Haruka, who has been friends with Akira for ages. Theirs is a friendship that endured being separated for their last year and change of junior high. They said they’d be back together again, and then they were. Then Akira was injured and was torn away from the thing she loved most,  and the primary reason for their hanging out: running.

Haruka now finds herself in the unintentional, unfortunate position of being a constant reminder of what Akira has lost. That can wear down a friendship in a hurry, so when Haruka spots Akira at a bookstore, she’s weary of approaching her (especially after their last, not-so-smooth encounter) and almost seems relieved when Akira’s co-worker appears.

It’s not just Haruka keeping her distance. Even when Akira doesn’t have her head in the clouds about Kondou, when she spots Haruka, her friend is seemingly constantly being orbited by a host of other runners. It’s not intimidating per se, but perhaps too brazen for her to be able to handle.

This week’s episode covers Akira’s latest efforts to court Kondou while Haruka seeks a way to reconnect, and while that’s about it in the plot department—and that’s all very nicely done—what truly made this a treasure (and a 9) for me was the wonderful atmosphere, and the amount of breathing space one has within the episode.

After the flashback to Akira and Haruka, we’re treated to a virtually dialogue-free montage of Akira getting on with her day: missing a bus; trekking in the Summer heat; catching a gorgeous view of the town; and going to work.

It’s a beautiful and effective way of showing us that there is indeed more to Akira than her Kondou crush or Haruka troubles. She’s her own person, living life and taking the time to stop and enjoy its scenery.

While waiting for a bus, Akira hears from two younger girls about the magical romantic properties of a certain rare cat keychain, and attacks the dispenser with her yen, gaining dozens of keychains, but none of them the one she needed.

It’s while she’s obsessively turning the crank when Haruka spots her. She hides at first, but when Akira doesn’t stop buying keychains, she intervenes, as a good friend should.

Their ensuing time together is rather distant, but cordial. After all, these two have no particular beef; they’re both victims of circumstances that have limited their interactions of late. But Akira gives Haruka some duplicate keychains she has, and before parting ways at cram school, wishes her good luck at practice.

Haruka and I both agree that “good luck” is an olive branch on Akira’s part; and an acknowledgement that just because Haruka can run and she can’t doesn’t mean she hates her.

I tellya, the skies just keep getting better and better in this episode, like the brewing thunderstorm near dusk when Haruka does a practice run. She remembers Akira’s smile earlier in the day, as well as the keychain(s) she gave her, and Haruka is suddenly taken back to the day she learned why Akira always ran so fast and far ahead of her despite her protestations.

It’s not because she doesn’t like Haruka, it’s because she loves the feeling and sound of the wind that one only gets from running. When Haruka says she guess she understands what she’s on about, Akira beams so brightly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Haruka fell for her right then and there. She certainly caught the running bug after that day.

Haruka doesn’t want to lose the person who made her realize how fun running was, especially when it was with that person. So the next day she tosses a plastic egg to Akira, who opens it to find not only the rare black keychain she couldn’t get on her own, but a note from Haruka clarifying (or hoping) that their friendship isn’t just about track and field.

I’m guessing Akira is grateful for Haruka’s gift, because it then proceeds to work immediately, and she finds herself in the same library where Kondou happens to be. Akira brings up classic Japanese literature (his fave) and asks if he’d recommend anything; he tells her that’s not the best way to discover books, since everyone has different tastes.

He then invites her to explore the library, which he likens to a sea of books, and see what sticks out. She thinks it’s more of an aquarium than a sea, and her surroundings change to match that feeling. She settles on a track-and-field picture book and the famous Souseki novel Botchan.

Juxtaposed with Haruka standing at a bus stop proudly displaying one of the keychains Akira gave her, Akira stands beside Kondou, offering to borrow a book for him to read. Window by the Wave by Kujou Chihiro jumps out at him. They settle up at the front desk, then walk a little ways together before parting for the night, and I can’t help but think finding that book created the tiniest little rift in their flow.

For while Akira was “called” to the library where Kondou was by her black cat keychain, Kondou seems to believe he might’ve been called there by Window on the Wave, calling the author by her first name. Could this book have been written by his ex-wife?

Finally, while walking home the rest of the way, Akira repeats in her head Kondou’s words about a book “calling out to her”, when all of a sudden a gust of wind kicks up and reveals a majestic full moon.

The sight, sound, and feeling of that wind called to mind the same sensations one experiences whilst running at top speed; the feeling she’s loved far longer than she’s loved Kondou.