Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 09

“A lot happened, but today was a good day.” Sakura could say that about just about any day, considering how much she has going on in her life, but I’ll concede that this day was better than most because she got to finally go on a date with Syaoran.

Sakura arrives at the meeting spot early after a quick chat with Yue (during which Kero once again transforms for no reason other than ‘it’s cool’), but Syaoran is earlier still.

The date unfolds as one would expect, with the two periodically getting embarassed and blushing but also generally having a great time. Syaoran also gets to show off his encyclopedic knowledge of jellyfish—they’re poisonous…who knew?! ;)—as well as his fluency in English.

In an interesting scene, Touya appears as a waiter at the aquarium tea room, and Syaoran later feels bad for simply glaring at him (though Touya glared back!) Also, the height difference between Sakura/Syaoran and adults like Touya is a pretty weird quirk of the show. Look how low that table is!

It wouldn’t be a Sakura date without some kind of Card-related excitement, and Sakura almost seems to be expecting some, especially when she takes Syaoran to the same place where she secured the Watery Clow Card. That excitement takes the form of a cracked water tank, in which…something grabs hold of Sakura.

Touya hits the emergency drains and Syaoran plucks her from the water (interestingly, neither seems embarrassed by him carrying her). That tank burst occured just when Syaoran was going to tell Sakura he officially wanted to go out with her.

Instead, it’s a wash (pun intended), but there’s nothing saying they can’t go on another date in the near future. Indeed, when Sakura vows to return to the aquarium after dark to secure the Card there, Tomoyo dresses both her and Syaoran up and makes sure she has plenty of pics and footage taken.

Sakura uses Lucid to hide everyone from security, then goes through various Cards from Gravitation to Flight to Gale, and isn’t quite able to bring down the Card, which rather than watery, has the form of a kind of giant Slinky.

Syaoran comes through with an assist, freezing the Card with ice magic so Sakura can secure “Spiral.” While larger questions loom and few were answered, Sakura is still quite correct that a lot happened, but it was a good day. From the happy would-be couple’s priceless interactions to the gorgeous environs of the aquarium, to even Tomoyo’s next-level surveillance, it was a pretty good episode too.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 11

Jeanne and Nina wait for the right moment to make the slip and start the long climb to the elevator that leads to the surface, and freedom. Jeanne quickly learns how useful Nina can be as an ally.

She’s able to run and jump better than any Olympian even with a ball and chain, as well as bend metal bars. These two have great chemistry and their repartee during their escape attempt is great stuff.

Meanwhile, in the realm of the gods, Gabriel lifts whatever seals had been cast on Mugaro, AKA El, and he transforms into someone who, well, looks like they belong among the gods.

El also gains a voice; the voice of Kugimiya Rie, to be exact. He uses that voice to essentially parrot Gabriel’s words: he’ll “correct” humanity and save his mother. He’s like putty in Gabe’s hands so far.

Back at the prison, Rita arrives and quickly works her way down to the lift that will take her to the subterranean network where everyone else is imprisoned, showing what a force she can be on her own when motivated.

It’s also a ton of fun to see Rita clearly take so much joy in her work; she’s having a hell of a time barreling through dozens of guards with ease…until they shoot her out of the air. Even then, she has her umbrella to slow her descent.

In the capital, one of the mob-appeasing demon-on-demon gladitorial matches Charioce is holding in the colosseum becomes the dramatic stage upon which Gabriel gives him one last chance to heed her demands he return the godly property he stole, along with St. Jeanne.

Charioce remains unbowed, despite knowing the gods now have Jeanne’s powerful son. Apparently he believes El isn’t enough for the gods to defeat humanity…but he may well be mistaken. Nevertheless, Gabriel gives him what he seemingly wants: a declaration of war.

Once Nina and Jeanne approach the lift (after a harrowing ordeal with a spider), Jeanne is discouraged by the legion of guards awating them…but Nina assures her she’s got this—she’s “strong”, after all, and demonstrates that strength by acting as a one-woman wrecking crew, creatively using her ball and chain as a leg-mounted mace.

But it’s all for naught, for when the elevator doors open, it isn’t Rita awaiting them, but King Charioce XVII himself, who quickly points his sword at Jeanne’s throat and demands that she join his side against the gods, so that neither the gods nor her son will suffer or die.

Jeanne says “thanks but no thanks”, and Charioce orders her thrown back in her cell, where she’ll stay, powerless to stop those she cares about from “marching to slaughter” (though I still think he’s being overconfident). Say what you will of Charioce the villain, he did give Jeanne a kind of chance to prevent a war; it’s just that Jeanne would never betray her gods, even to save her son…not to mention Charioce simply can’t be trusted.

At this point, Nina, on the bridge, holding off the guards literally singlehandedly, has had enough of Charioce picking on Jeanne, and gives him a peace of her mind once more. Charioce approaches her and gets in her face, causing her not just to blush, but realize he is the man she arm wrestled with; with whom she shared that magical night; with whom she danced.

Learning that man and the evil king are one and the same is definitely gutting for Nina, who offers no resistance as she and Jeanne are re-imprisoned (though I wonder if they’d be placed right back in the same block together again).

Nina’s spirits immediately lift when Rita and Rocky appear, having taken advantage of all the ruckus Nina and Jeanne’s escape attempt caused to sneak in under the radar. Here’s hoping Attempt #2 is more fruitful.

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 12 (Fin)

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Our final episode has our wolf girl going toe-to-toe with Kyoya’s Mom—no, not the giant tanned lady, that’s Big Mama, who runs a nearby bar. The mom turns out to be basically as Kyoya described: your typical normal middle-aged lady. But as nice and cute as she is, there’s a tinge of sadness to her, which has nothing to do with the fact she gets drunk and passes out on the first night Erika is there.

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No, Erika’s mom is not a drunk; but she does blame herself for Kyoya’s cold behavior and suspicion towards romance, a product of his parents separating due to various and ultimately mundane circumstances (bad luck, bad timing, what have you). Kyoya’s sis was old enough to accept it, but Kyoya dealt with the shock by closing his heart, which Erika was able to re-open, which led to his string of empty flings with women.

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Even Erika remembers the Kyoya who was more like Nozomi…but even Nozomi is reformed at this point, thanks to Erika (she’s just been all over the place maturing men, hasn’t she?) Case in point: an exceedingly cute exchange between Nozomi and Ayumi, who is so inoculated against his charms that when he asks her out to the fireworks she assumes he’s up to his old tricks and ignores him. Still, I think they’d make an intriguing couple.

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Back in Kobe, understanding a little more about the situation, Erika wants to help her treasured Kyoya make up with her mother. She devises a plan in which Kyoya ‘upsets’ her into wandering off that even had us going…

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…Until we see her smirk and the wolf ears pop out. I like how she’s no afraid to use her ‘wolf girl abilites’; they may have been used for nefarious purposes in the past (like pretending Kyoya was her boyfriend to impress Marin and Aki in a desperate attempt to make friends with someone, anyone), but now she’s learned how useful they are for other purposes. Of course, when she’s on the phone using lies to get Kyoya’s mom to come to the festival, she pays a price for her ‘treachery’ when her necklace breaks.

Kyoya, who came to ‘protect’ Erika in the first place (knowing full well how cute she was and the fact that guys would hit on her if she was alone), is predictably worried when Erika doesn’t return from the bathroom, and he searches the fairgrounds with increasing worry with Reika until their mom arrives and does something that, while embarrassing, is the most effective way to find their lost girl: yelling really loud.

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Kyoya finally overhears some put-off bystanders watching a filthy girl rustling through the garbage and discovers Erika. Reika tries to tell her it’s just an object; its the memories and emotions she still has that matter; Kyoya gets down on the ground and helps her search.

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Not only that, while mom is watching her not-emotionally-wounded-after-all son help his cute girlfriend, the fireworks start and light up the space between the dumpsters…where she spots the pendant. All’s well that ends well. Kyoya thanks his mom and promises he’ll come to visit more; Reika apologizes to Erika for badmouthing Kyoya, and Erika gets some cute pictures of a young Kyoya having his snowman kicked over by Reika.

Erika wants to make snowmen with Kyoya when it gets cold, and he considers if he should be the one doing the destroying this time. Erika is fine with that, but she’ll just build more snowmen, bigger and stronger!

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Erika tries to distribute those pictures to her friends, but is stopped and taken aside by Kyoya, who leads her to the roof deletes her pictures, and leans in for a kiss, telling her in his suavest voice that why worry about pics when the real things right in front of her?

As Ayumi remarks to Nozomi, Erika and Kyoya sometimes have a funny way of communicating and expressing their love for each other outwardly, but it works for them. Just like this show worked for me!

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 11

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In a high percentage of rom-coms, there are two kinds of second-to-last episodes: the ones where either the guy or girl is on the verge of confession, which won’t come until the finale; or the ones where the couple, already together, faces the biggest threat to their relationship, which will be resolved one way or another in the finale. Ookami Shoujo avoids both tropes in its second-to-last episode.

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Granted, it does so by employing another pretty common trope — the Unapproving Family Member — but employs it well. Kyoya and Erika are already a pretty stable, happy couple, and as much of a force of nature as she is, Kyoya’s sis Reika never seems intent on wrecking the relationship. She mostly wants to know if it’s really true, because it would mean not only that Kyoya had changed a great deal, but the woman who changed him did something that she, his own big sis, couldn’t.

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The progression of Erika and Reika’s interactions is predictable, considering their personalities. Erika, who respects Reika telling off a half-assed flirting guy before they even meet, is incredibly intimidated and thus polite and boilerplate ‘brother’s girlfriend’ to Reika. Reika stuffs her full of sweets and continually mocks Kyoya until Erika is forced to put her wolf ears away and defend her man.

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While Erika’s outburst and harsh words surprise her, Reika is actually pleased with this development, as it proves that Erika isn’t just another one of her bro’s ‘ways to kill time.’ But she still wants to know if things between Erika and her bro are as serious as they’re both letting on. The Tigress Reika challenges Erika the Wolf, vowing to apologize if Erika wins.

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Reika calls Kyoya asking him to pick her up, letting him know Erika is with her, and because she ran her mouth she had to ‘deal with her.’ Much to Reika’s surprise, Kyoya races to the scene and promises consequences depending on how badly Reika treated Erika. This Kyoya is nothing new; he won’t let anyone hurt Erika, not even his sister, just as Erika won’t suffer insults directed at Kyoya, even if they’re from Reika.

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In a way, Reika did ‘bust Erika up’, but only because she made her eat too much. Erika is sick, and more to the point, sick right in front of Kyoya, something Reika slaps him for, as it was insensitive for him to barge in while Erika was having such an embarrassing time. It was just as wrong for Reika to set them up, but while she won the eating contest, Kyoya’s behavior proved that Erika was right: he can love someone, and he does: her.

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But there’s no time to rest even though the hurdle of the big sister has been overcome; it’s Summer break, and Erika has nothing to do, so she can’t refuse Reika’s invitation to join her and Kyoya at their mom’s place in Kobe. It’s actually pretty funny how quickly they end up there.

It’s just…I’m not sure what to make the mother herself: she appears to be an extremely well-built, extremely tanned ‘middle-aged lady’. Or the mom could actually be the blonde-haired face behind her left elbow (unless that’s Kyoya). Either way, this should be interesting!

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 10

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Ookami was in a giving mood this week. We got a break from ominous new characters and fresh internal/external threats to Erika and Kyoya’s relationship. It’s Erika’s birthday, and while Kyoya seems a little put out at first, he puts in the effort and has a good showing. After all, it’s not like he’s getting nothing out of this; he likes to see Erika happy, so he’s not going to screw up this time.

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It may not be much (plus he doesn’t have to lift a finger to plan anything for her date) a sea change from the ‘there’s nothing wrong with me, it’s the world that’s wrong’ attitude. Hanging out with Kakeru and now a newly-reformed Nozomi (who make a great duo) has worn him down; he now knows it’s better to be honest with your feelings and do whatever it takes to make someone happy. It’s part of what love is.

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Which is convenient, because when Kyoya asks Erika what she wants for her birthday, Erika says simply, ‘love’. Eavesdropping on her chatting with Ayumi, he learns that for Erika, that means telling her, straight up, “I love you,” and meaning it. Kyoya doesn’t have an issue with meaning that anymore, he does love her, but it’s the actual physical act of saying it that provides the only measurable conflict in an otherwise blissfully perfect date that follows.

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Likin’ Erika’s new ‘do!

 

Kyoya’s mates clued Kyoya in on something that he adheres to when it comes to interacting with Erika. It’s not about going through motions to placate her, it’s about being natural and wanting to do and say the things he does…which he does, he’s just shy and bashful and has gone so long without acting like a normal emotive human being. Heck, Erika is the one who yanked him out of that abyss to begin with, so while he looks and sounds stiff at times, there’s no doubt he’s enjoying himself too.

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What’s so great about the date is how astonished Erika is that Kyoya is being so nice, fully expecting him to flip out at any moment about one thing or another, as before. It makes her happy just to be with him doing these things, but even happier that he’s mostly past such immaturity.

Still, not overtly showing his love (or stating it) throws off a nosy little girl who asks Kyoya straight up if he loves Erika. Kyoya freezes and his face scares the girl off, requiring an apology to her mother.

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Kyoya’s inability throughout the day to tell Erika “I love you”, despite a few golden (and more silver and bronze) opportunities to do so isn’t even that huge of a conflict here, as we were pretty sure at some point Erika would give him the in he needed: hearing her say she loves him, so naturally and earnestly, while standing in a busy street, was that in, and Kyoya uses it.

The pretense of saving her from traffic, along with the bright headlights and engine noise, provided enough cover for the shy, bashful lad to say what needed to be said. And doggone it, Erika HEARD him say it!

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And that’s what made this episode stand out despite following the well-worn ‘guy/gal has trouble saying I love you’ date episodes: sure, there were the usual false alarms and redirects, but in the end Kyoya said what needed to be said, which he’s smart enough to know was the most important thing he could do for Erika on her birthday. She asked for love, after all.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 09

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At this point, I know what makes Sata and Erika work, and I know it’s a strong bond forged in hellfire that isn’t going anywhere. The show is keen to reinforce that with “challenges” to their relationship that rarely last longer than an episode or two, rather than introduce threats for the sake of stoking drama.

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Not only does Kamiya Nozomi believe he can ‘convert’ Sata into someone like him, but his charisma and persistence make us believe he can, too, at least early on. He’s the kind of ‘final threat’ that could take a show right to the end.

Ookami, meanwhile, proceeds to demonstrate just how doomed Nozomi’s crusade really is, without creating yet another relationship dilemma for Erika and Kyoya. In fact, Erika is glad Nozomi is sticking by Kyoya’s side; she knows how nice it is to have normal friends like Marin, Aki, and Ayumi.

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Nozomi believes Kyoya is resisting his instincts, and so throws gorgeous girl after gorgeous girl at him in hopes of “waking him up.” In the process, Nozomi is callously using his admirers as tools and bait…and Kyoya isn’t biting. I felt bad for Miho, Nozomi chooses, because she’s an innocent bystander in this. Nozomi is presenting Kyoya as an unattached suitor, which isn’t the case.

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Nozomi doesn’t quit while he can, but rather turns to more extreme tactics. It only takes two seconds for the girls to respond in the affirmative to his request they sneak into his room that night, and he sets up a “Who’s the King” game with the specific purpose of getting Kyoya to kiss Miho.

Again, it’s a cruel use of both the girls and guys, and underlines the fact that it isn’t Kyoya who has ‘something wrong’ with him. Even when Nozomi takes things to a point where he thinks Kyoya has no choice but to be kissed by Miho, Kyoya shuts her, and Nozomi, down.

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Foiled yet again, Nozomi is increasingly desperate and seems out of ideas, going back to the fact that he has 500 girls’ emails, all of whom worship him and would do whatever he wants, which he equates with enjoying life 500 times more than Kyoya with his plain girlfriend.

To this, Kyoya offers his interpretation of Nozomi’s situation, with classic Kyoya ruthlessness: “It doesn’t matter how much trash you pick up; You’ve just got a pile of trash.” The wording is way too harsh on the girls, but the point is, quality (of relationships, not merely looks) over quantity. Not only that; Kyoya has already been down the road Nozomi is on. He knows exactly where it leads.

A case in point occurs just after Kyoya bits him goodnight, when one of Nozomi’s 500 shows up and he puts the moves on her, wanting comfort in his time of vulnerability and defeat. She recoils: someone asked her out (Kimura, from episode 2!), and she accepted, so they can’t hang out anymore.

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Now Nozomi has 499 girls…but the loss of that one was his awakening, because deleting her made him feel absolutely nothing. He looks at Kyoya and Erika, so devoted to each other and so embarrassing in their flirtation, and for the first time really sees them.

Now he starts to get excited about finding a girl — one girl — who could be as special to him as Erika is to Kyoya. A girl who would make him feel bad (or at least feel something) if she dumped him. I’m not saying Nozomi’s lifestyle is something to avoided, and I don’t think the show is trying to make that point either.

What it is saying is that it’s far to easy to convince oneself that that’s the life for you. Kyoya once thought so, but he, and now Nozomi, have learned that it isn’t.

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