Cardcaptor Sakura – 27 – Return By Card

First when she met Kero-chan, then Syaoran, and now Mizuki-sensei: Sakura tends to have strange, cinematic dreams involving the Tokyo Tower after meeting someone with a lot of magical power. These dreams, and the music that accompany them, are always wonderfully otherworldly and striking. This latest one also ends when Sakura wakes up at six in the morning, long before she needs to be at school.

Sakura uses the extra time to take a morning stroll on her blades, and ends up at the Tsukimine shrine, where she encounters Mizuki in her shrine maiden garb. Sakura decides to help her sweep the shrine grounds, and Yukito shows up to help, making it a very good morning for Sakura. Only when she and Mizuki-sensei come to school, Syaoran’s mistrust of the latter remains as strong as ever.

That night, after revealed through her father that Touya and Mizuki indeed knew each other, Sakura heads back to the shrine, where Kero-chan senses a strong Clow Card presence. So does Syaoran, so he joins Sakura in the search. Notably, neither Meiling nor Tomoyo are there. This leads to Sakura and Syaoran having some quality alone time to frankly discuss their mutual love for Yukito…at least until Syaoran is too bashful to continue and runs off.

When he does, however, the previously concealed Return Clow Card makes its move, pulling Sakura into the past using both the magical power of the tree the full moon. Turns out a lot happened under that tree over the years: it’s where Touya first met Kaho, who was a student teacher when he was in eighth grade.

As Sakura observes, the tree was also where Touya confessed his love for Kaho, Kaho returned his feelings, and where they eventually broke up, all of which Kaho handles with a kind of stoic serenity that suggests she knew everything that was going to happen ahead of time…and maybe she did! Eventually Sakura is pulled back to the present. Return’s physical form is revealed, and Sakura seals the card…but this one flies over to Syaoran, and Kero-chan grudingly admits Sakura owes him her thanks.

Just as Return needed an enormous amount of magical power to activate (and even then could only send Sakura to the past), Syaoran expends a great deal of power using Time to bring Sakura back in a timely fashion. Sakura expresses her gratitude by giving Syaoran a big old hug, and when he starts glowing pink, it’s an early sign that he’ll get over his Yukito crush…all in good time. Of course, the question remains: Just what exactly is Mizuki Kaho’s deal? Is she a baddie? Are WE the baddies?

Zoku Owarimonogatari – 01 – Through the Loo(Koyomi)ng Glass

The long-awaited “epilogue” to Shinbou Akiyuki’s venerable Monogatari Series premiered in theaters last Fall. The movie can be cleanly split into six episodes. Here’s the RABUJOI review of the first, with more to come, on the 10-year anniversary of Bakemonogatari’s first episode. You can view a Big Board of the complete Monogatari anime saga in the order of when events occur here.—R.S.

It’s March 16, 2007 – just two days after the events of Owarimonogatari, and Araragi Koyomi has graduated from high school and has not yet been admitted to his college of choice. It’s a kind of purgatory he’s never experienced. From grade to middle to high school, he’d always known for sure what came next, whether he was a vampire or not. Now it’s all up in the air.

It’s not surprising for someone with such a murky view of the future to turn his gaze inward, thus undertaking a new adventure (or oddity): a mirror universe. Going into this movie (which I’ll be reviewing in six parts) I had no idea what to expect from these “bonus levels” or “lost levels,” but as a self-avowed Trekkie, exploring alternate realities is always a ton of fun and I’m glad to see Monogatari employ the device.

Aside from the familiar setting of his house being literally reversed, Koyomi starts to notice everyone’s a bit…alternate: Karen is short instead of tall; Tsukihi’s yukata is reversed; Yotsugi is extremely expressive. They’re all fun reflections the significance of which rely not only on the audience having pored over the previous ninety-seven episodes of Monogatari, but also having thoroughly enjoyed said poring, as I am on record as having done.

The most entertaining of alternate characters to date has to be Hachikuji Mayoi, the recently-installed town god whom Araragi visits to get some answers when Shinobu won’t respond to his summons. At first Mayoi doesn’t show when he presents an offering of aluminum 1-yen coins, two claps, and a prayer. But that’s because she’s stalking him.

Unlike the 10-year-old Mayoi who has been the victim of numerous Perverted Araragi Attacks™, Mirror Mayoi is 21; Koyomi’s senpai and onee-chan, and the hunter, not the hunted. Turnabout is certainly fair play, as Koyomi is the unconsenting recipient of wholly inappropriate verbal and physical manhandling. After her ambush, she helps him determine that the mirror world is a moment from his world that branched off, with some elements that have reversed and others that haven’t.

Drawing from the utilization of the temple’s torii as a time-portal back to 1995, Mayoi suggests that Koyomi attempt to return to his world by the same means. That means employing the unique talents of one former Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade to open the gate for him, even though her being a vampire means she has no counterpart in the mirror universe.

He just needs a way to convey that idea to Shinobu, who may be back in her prime if they’re truly separated. He suddenly recalls the cypress bath in Kanbaru’s house as a potential means to contact her. As the start to a new mystery box out of which Koyomi must think and network his way, Zoku is a welcome new addition to the mythos. Voice actors, art, design, and particularly Haneoka Kei’s pulsing soundtrack are all in top form. I can’t wait to see where this bonus stage goes.