Cardcaptor Sakura – 04 – Into the Woods

Sakura is super-hyped about a Sunday picnic with Tomoyo, but that particular bubble is burst when Touya reminds her that she has to do all of the house chores on Sunday, as a result of switching days with him earlier. Still, after calling to postpone (and Tomoyo’s sumptuous basket lunch is already prepared, *sniff*!) Sakura rolls her sleeves up and gets to it, briefly transforming into Housecleaner Sakura and enlisting Kero for laundry duty.

While she first discovered the Clow Cards in the basement, up until this point none had started anything in her house. That changes when in the process of cleaning she finds not one but two cards, one of them smudged with ink. When her dad calls her to come to the bus stop to bring him a file he forgot, she leaves the cards alone briefly without writing her name on them, but that’s long enough for the woody mischief to begin!

After hearing ominous groaning sounds, Sakura opens the basement door to find a gigantic tree has sprouted. She releases her staff and seals the card, but it soon returns with a vengeance, since the card itself is still in the basement with a second card. As Tomoyo arrives to help (but mostly to dress Sakura up and film her) the tree re-sprouts with a vengeance, threatening to destroy the house…something Sakura can’t allow to happen.

Donning a super-cool pink pop costume complete with winged headband and moon boots, Sakura braves the labyrinth of branches until she reaches the basement and locates the source of all the trouble. According to Kero-chan, The Wood is a very gentle card, but the second card, Rainy, is basically The Wood’s rowdy enabling friend, raining on the tree and spurring its growth. In order to calm The Wood down, Rainy must be dealt with.

Sakura ends up fighting water with water, summoning Watery to create a feedback loop of water and rain and eventually restraining and sealing the mischievous Rainy. With the catalyst for growth gone, Kero urges patience, and after a moment the branches withdraw, leaving the structure house rather implausibly intact (though Kero said it was gentle; in this case extremely so!)

Still, the aftermath leaves the house a horrendous mess, but have no fear: Tomoyo volunteers to help Sakura and Kero set everything right, and by the time Touya and her dad come home the place is sparkling once more. The first of likely many “stay-at-home” episodes, we got a glimpse of life in the Kinomoto residence, where every family member in. We also witness Kero-chan’s lifeless “Plushie Mode” for the first time!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 03 – Ice to See You

Let’s get one thing out of the way, which I believe was an issue I had with Clear Card: Touya and Yukito are way too tall. That, or Sakura, Tomoyo and friends are too short. In any case, the proportions are all messed up. Just take this image: Sakura is standing straight yet the top of her head just reaches Touya’s navel. Even if Touya is six feet tall—pretty tall for a 15-year old!—that would make Sakura only three-foot-six, or nowhere near her listed height of four-foot-six.

But nevermind. What isn’t strange is that her big brother’s best friend Yukito is handsome and kind to Sakura, so it’s understandable for her to harbor a cute little crush on him. Sakura even gladly offers some of her hotcakes (the mix for which she bought with her allowance) with Yukito, while castigating her brother for sneaking a bite.

Yukito repays her generosity by making her dreams come true and taking her on a date, and to one of her favorite spots: the aquarium. Knowing what I know about Yukito’s hidden true identity from Clear Card, I assumed the date was an excuse for him to investigate the disturbance that occurred when Sakura and her class went there on a field trip. A strange whirlwind caught one of the penguin assistants, and then the penguin itself, almost drowning both.

As it turns out, Yukito is just Yukito this week, and just showing Sakura a harmless fun time. For the record, it’s fun watching Sakura react so lovey-dovily and elatedly to her good fortune of scoring a date with her crush. She also learns that Touya works with the penguins, something she sees as a dream job. Both the aquarium date and the eventual breaking of the water tank and flooding of the cafe are elements that are revisited in Clear Card’s ninth episode.

In this far earlier iteration, the cause of the disturbance isn’t the Clear Card Spiral, but the Clow Card Watery, which Kero-chan warns is an aggressive unruly card that Sakura can’t hope to defeat with just Windy, Fly, and Shadow in her hand. Like that episode, Tomoyo records both the date and the battle with the card, and provides logistic assistance to Sakura, in addition to providing her a sharp, jester-style blue battle costume.

Sakura determines that if she can simply slow Watery down she’ll have a good chance to capture it, so she provokes it into chasing her as she flies through the bowels of the Aquarium until it dead-ends into the walk-in fridge—where the penguin food is stored! There, Sakura summons Windy to whip up the cold air around Watery until the card is frozen solid. Now Sakura has two elements to work with, and her first truly offensive card to use against future cards.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 02 – Clothes Maketh the Magical Girl

When Sakura wakes up to the sound of an Osaka accent, she assumes the TV is on. Alas, the developments of the last day and night are of the lasting variety: she’s a magical girl with a tiny winged familiar. And even she knows she should keep those things secret as long as she can.

To that end, she sneaks Kero some food and warns him to keep it down until her dad and brother leave. Turns out Kero-chan wasn’t interested in sitting around her room all day, but stows away in her bag. Sakura’s best friend Daidouji Tomoyo discovers him, and just like that the cat’s out of the bag.

Tomoyo actually already knew about her magical girling, because she filmed it with her camcorder. Fortunately, the secret is safe with Tomoyo. A nastier character might try to blackmail Sakura with the footage, but Tomoyo loves Sakura and would never betray her.

In a sight that’s commonplace in the Monogatari series, Sakura, Tomoyo, and their classmates find all their desks haphazardly piled up on top of one another. Everyone else assumes it’s an ambitious act of vandalism, but now knowing what Sakura is caught up in, Tomoyo suspects a Clow Card to be the culprit.

That night Tomoyo meets Sakura and Kero at school—for the record, Sakura is just naturally scared of school after dark—with a quartet of her expensive suit-wearing bodyguards in tow. Tomoyo dismisses them until needed…which never happens, and what could bodyguards do against magical creatures anyway?

Tomoyo then invites Sakura into a big Dodge van that doubles as a mobile wardrobe, packed with magical girl outfits she’s made for Sakura. Her first official battle costume ever consists of a navy leotard and leggings, white tunic, bold red cape, bow, and cap, and some slick high-top sneakers. It’s a pretty bitchin’ look…not to mention cute as hell!

I’ve always enjoyed this quirk of CCS—the clothes don’t just magically appear when she transforms, but are lovingly made by Tomoyo. The show doesn’t always address the practicalities of how Sakura finds time to change into these elaborate outfits, but in the words of Ruby Rhod (no stranger to fashion), “Who cares!”

Her wardrobe thus sorted, Sakura proceeds to have a rough time with the escaped Clow Card, called Shadow. But in what will follow a familiar but solid formula, she’s eventually able to utilize the two cards in her possession (Fly and Windy) to restrain, capture and seal Shadow and restore peace to the school…at least until the next card shows up.

Part of that card-catching formula not only includes Tomoyo’s input as costume designer, but one-girl film crew for the documentation of Sakura’s heroics. The next day Sakura finds Tomoyo in the screening room watching Sakura’s fight—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and Sakura is embarrassed. But she’d better get used to it, because this is only the beginning of Tomoyo’s well-intended involvement in her new magical girl career!

P.S. You can expect CCS reviews on Tuesdays and/or Fridays, time permitting. The schedule may change/slow when Summer 2020 heats up—P.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 01 – The Start of Something Beautiful

My entry into the gorgeous, charming, feel-good world of Cardcaptor Sakura was the Clear Card arc of Winter 2018, twenty years before the original. Now that Netflix has notified me that the original is mine to watch in all its 4:3 late-nineties glory, I simply couldn’t resist.

That’s not to underestimate the scale of such an undertaking: the original series runs a cool 70 episodes split unevenly across two major arcs (compared to just 22 for Clear Card), but you’ll note that I didn’t say when I’d complete this task; just that I’d plan to. It will certainly take a while.

In a show hailed as quintessential Maho Shoujo anime for everyone, Kinomoto Sakura holds the same position among mahou shoujo heroines. If you don’t know her, know that what she lacks in academic ability she makes up for with athleticism, cheerfulness, and just generally being one of the most goshdarn adorable characters in all of anime, both in design and Tange Sakura’s fabulous voice.

It’s honestly pretty thrilling to watch Sakura’s origin story unfold in this first episode. It’s a tale simply and confidently told, and there’s a refreshing quality to the late-90s animation style—not to mention Sakura’s totally bodacious habit of rollerblading to school (something she’d sadly given up by high school). CCS’s production quality in its day was a large part of its wide appeal, and it holds up extremely well.

Sakura’s mom died when she was three, but she has a kind, loving archaeologist father and a big brother who, while a little antagonistic at times, clearly cares for her as well (he also has a best friend in Yukito, on whom Sakura has an innocent crush). She also has a best friend in the super-rich but kind videophile, Daidouji Tomoyo, who will get a more detailed intro next week.

What Sakura categorically wasn’t prior to this episode was involved in anything remotely magical. That changes in a hurry when she hears strange animal noises coming from her dad’s basement study, and encounters a glowing book full of cards. One of them is called “Windy”, and when she says the name, a gust of wind blows all of the other cards out of the house and into the vast outdoors.

While I’d hardly label Sakura an überklutz, it’s somehow appropriate that the genesis of her magical girl status was an innocent moment of clumsiness. When the magical creature who was making the noises presents himself to her as the tiny yellow creature Kerberus, we learn that he too was asleep at the switch, making this card-losing screw-up both their faults.

Kero-chan’s Osaka accent and general cozy casualness about this whole situation makes him as instantly endearing as Sakura herself. But now that Sakura has woken Kero up, her duty is clear: take up the mantle of Cardcaptor and, well, capture the Clow Cards.

It’s a wonderfully elegant premise that promises a vast and deep collection of clever monster-of-the-week stories that all coalesce around that central goal to re-complete the collection. The first card Sakura captures is “Fly”, which takes the form of an ornery bird she must both flee from and chase on her rollerblades…in her pajamas. That’s right, no fancy magical girl battle costumes as yet!

This process, like the next few capture missions surely will be, involves quite a bit of trial-and-error, which is to be expected, but Sakura’s pluck, determination, and heart means once she sets herself to the task, she doesn’t stop until she’s unleashed Windy, restrained and sealed Fly back into the card.

She then learns she can use Fly to…fly, which she does in a beautiful closing sequence that Kero-chan suggests is the beginning of a beautiful working relationship. Sakura on the other hand insists she hasn’t told Kero she’s not necessarily her girl for card-capturing going forward…bless her heart!

After a super-upbeat ED with what sounds like music from a Genesis-era Sonic game (not a bad thing!) we get Kero’s post-credit omake segment, in which he makes keen observations about Sakura’s wardrobe in the episode, among other things. I may have watched Bleach and met its small yellow mascot Kon first, but Kero-chan beats him in the head-to-head matchup every time.

The more cards Sakura collects, the more abilities she’ll have in her repertoire to capture still more cards. The dynamic of Sakura figuring out the best way to utilize those abilities with Kero’s help, as well as the inevitable Daidouji wardrobe supervision and clashes with the villain seeking the same cards, all figure to make this a yachtload of fun to watch.

Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu – 03

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Both Kuroda and this show’s title make reference to the “wasteland” / “wildlands”, but this show covers precisely zero new ground and blazes no new trails. Its premise and themes have already been thoroughly explored by other shows. There’s no uncharted territory here; only a retracing of steps.

KOYA also continues to paint its six main characters with the broadest of strokes in the dullest and least adventuresome of tones. This week features an interminable “training camp” that is supposedly intentionally aping the Hot Spring Inn cliché for comedic effect, but really only comes off as a Hot Spring Inn cliché, full stop.

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There are two main developments at play here: the constant philosophical clashing of Kuroda and Andou, and feelings for Bunta awakening in Yuuka, depsite her hard friendzone status in his eyes (as far as one can tell). I personally prefer the raw, spunky Yuuka to the more muddled raven-haired maiden that is Kuroda, but portraying Yuuka as suddenly so blushy and weak-kneed around Bunta – who is barely a character at all at this point – does her no favors.

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As for the conflict between Kuroda and Andou, well…Kuroda’s a hard one to figure out. Her character has a couple of distinctive ticks and qualities that don’t mesh into a cohesive whole. She’s more of a promising idea of a character not fully thought out. As for Andou, well…she is a character driven by one thing and one thing only: BL. And using the word “fangirl” as a verb; she really digs doing that.

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She loves BL so much, in fact, she’s willing to see the treatment of Kuroda’s game through BL eyes, labeling it a “Yuri-homo” rather than a straight-laced shoujo story. Her constant reminders to everyone that she’s obsessed with BL even seems to wear on the cipher Bunta.

No, the most impactful moment of this increasingly dreary episode was when Andou got fed up with sparring with Kuroda, said “I’m done”, and peace’d out. Bunta managed to very easily lure her back to the inn from Akiba (he spends a lot on rail travel this week!), but I fear no amount of convincing will bring me back to KOYA. There’s just not enough here to sink my teeth into. To borrow Andou’s phrase: “I’m done.”

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Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu – 02

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Now that Bunta has agreed to make a bishoujo game with Kuroda, he must be properly initiated into the world, which Kuroda achieves by leaving a choice selection of games in his shoe locker. She also shows him where the magic will eventually happen: the room she has reserved for the “Marketing Research Club”, which she helpfully points out is just a front in another quirky discussion between the two.

The Bishoujo Club has a producer in Kuroda and a writer in Bunta, but they’re short, a minimum, four more staff positions: for lead animation, programming, CG Art, and voice acting. She uses English-based acronyms to describe these jobs, but since this isn’t my first otaku rodeo, I found her explanations to Bunta somewhat redundant.

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Despite Kuroda’s belief his social skills would make him the perfect recruiter, Bunta brings back a bunch of unmotivated poseurs. Then Yuuka and Atomu barge into the club to look around, and Bunta realizes Yuuka would be perfect for the voice actress role (of course she is; she’s Hanazawa!) and Yuuka herself is interested in voice acting, even if she doesn’t much care for games.

That leaves Atomu, who isn’t sure how he can contribute, and fails to impress Kuroda…until the subject of dating comes up, and he goes on a bitter rant about how fickle girls are and how he wants nothing more but to abandon the 3D world for 2D paradise. That gets Kuroda’s applause, and she appoints him assistant director.

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Kuroda continues the initiation of her new club members by returning to Akiba. Strangely, Bunta acts like he’s there for the first time despite having gone there just last week with Kuroda alone. Maybe now that he’s into games he’s seeing the place with freshly opened eyes?

There, Kuroda shows them some very nice doujin works (including some by pros) and boldly proclaims they’ll create a game that will leave all the others in the dust. This isn’t a labor of love for her, results matter. Especially when her brother runs a highly successful game company.

After the group breaks up for the day, Bunta visits a maid cafe…where his classmate Andou Teruha just happens to work part-time in secret under the work name “Luka.” I thought sparks would fly, but both parties keep their cool, with Teruha switching from her normal deep voice to the bubbly Luka at the drop of a hat, while making clear her job will remain a secret (she doesn’t have to say “…or else”).

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After spending all night playing games he’s legitimately into, Kuroda’s next task is for him to acquire an artist. He’s not that good at discerning good art from bad, but that’s the person she wants searching for talent: if he’s moved by something, than it’s going to be something special.

Sure enough, while perusing the wares at a bookstore, he comes across a little sign drawn in a style that makes his heart flutter. His research determines it was done by  “Hokikiyo”, alias of the top-ranked-on-Pixi Yuuki Uguisu, who also just happens to attend their school as a first-year, and works at the bookstore Bunta visited.

However, she’s also a painfully skittish milquetoast, however, so the club’s aggressive attempts to recruit her fail at first (i.e., drawing her out with a love letter and then surrounding her menacingly).

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It’s when Teruha sits beside a frustrated Bunta and learns he’s making a girl game and looking for “Hokekiyo”, Teruha reveals she’s a fujoshi (another term defined by side-chatter), is familiar with her work, and helps recruit her, cornering her in the girl’s lavatory and bringing her to the club room. Everyone praises her enough to convince her to createart for their game, though she quietly confesses she really wants to draw for an eroge.

Teruha herself also joins the club as a programmer, and just like that, the team has been assembled, presumably leaving the rest of the show to the production of the game. On this efficiency, I’m a little torn: quickly getting the “building the team” out of the way is satisfying in its way, but it relied on an awful lot of convenient coincidences.

Also, and this is could be an ongoing thing if the two episodes are any indication: the characters all feel rather smoothed over, subdued; as if they lack sharp edges; Atomu’s “breaking”moment being the lone exception. The characterization and accompanying comedy often walks a fine line between understated and overly buttoned-up, even to the point of tedium.

I hope it doesn’t stray too far to the latter side. What with all the intros, there wasn’t a lot of time to go in depth with anyone. Perhaps the show will find a stronger voice once the game-making gets underway in earnest.

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Meet the Staff!

(This isn't what we really look like.)

Starting with the Spring 2014 season, the reviewing duties around here will be split between three authors, who will watch, review, and rate three to four shows each. They’ll continue to deliver the concise, insightful anime reviews RABUJOI is known for. They will not always succeed.

We felt the change from Winter to Spring was the ideal time for the staff to step out from behind the monolithic rabujoistaff moniker, and take their places behind new, distinct identities. Where there once was one voice, soon there will be three. Please be nice to them…or don’t; they can take it!

Braverade

Handle: Braverade | Real Name: Hannah Brave | Gender: Female | Birthday: 3 July | Blood Type: O- | Favorite Food: Steak Tartare | Favorite Anime: Evangelion, Macross Frontier, Kill la Kill, Eureka Seven, Book of Bantorra

Greetings. Hannah here, and I like watching things explode, or at the very least moving very fast. To that end, I’ll be focusing on action, adventure, space, and sci-fi genres. This spring, I’ll be watching Akuma no RiddleBlack Bullet (here’s hoping they’re any good), and the second cour of Nobunaga the FoolYoroshiku onegaitashimasu.

sesameacrylic

Handle: sesameacrylic (no caps) | Real Name: Zane Kalish | Gender: Male | Birthday: 12 May | Blood Type: AB+ | Favorite Food: Ceviche | Favorite Anime: Toradora!, Haruhi Suzumiya, Kare Kano, Zetsubou-Sensei, Nazo no Kanojo X, Sket Dance

My focus will be on comedy, romance, school, and slice-of-life; less explosions and punching, more jokes and hand-holding. Where those overlap with genres of Hannah or Preston, we’ll play Jan-ken-pon, but come Spring I’ll be checking out Mekaku City Actors, Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin, and the final seven eps of Nisekoi‘s odd 20-episode run. I wanted the school series Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, but Preston claimed it because it’s a magic school… :P

magicalchurlsukui

Handle: MagicalChurlSukui | Real Name: Preston Yamazuka | Gender: Female | Birthday: 22 Jan | Blood Type: B+ | Favorite Food: Tamagoyaki | Favorite Anime: Mawaru Penguindrum, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, AnoHana, Serial Experiments Lain, From the New World, Shiki

If Hannah is Strength and Zane is Stamina (you need it, getting through some of those will-they-won’t-theys), then I’m Magic. I’ll be delving into the realms of fantasy, magic, mystery, and the supernatural. My Spring watchlist will consist of Gokukoku no Brynhildr, Hitsugi no Chaika, and Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, in addition to the second cour of Nagi no AsukaraDouzo yoroshiku!

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On the eve of the Bonbori festival, it appears that Kissuiso is overbooked. The staff is overworked, accidents are happening, and everyone is more focused on “winning” the battle with the Madam Manager. Ohana is caught in the middle, but little by little, everyone realizes they don’t have the guests’ comfort at heart. When Tomoe sprains her ankle, The manager fills in, Ohana’s mom volunteers to help, and they get back to “festing it up”, rather than just grinding.

The Battle for Kissuiso was fought for all the wrong reasons. Last week I sided with the staff for wanting to keep the inn open, not thinking about how it would have to change to become profitable. This week, I was on Ohana’s side, who was basically on her own side. The frantic inn where the customers’ needs were obstacles to overcome was not the Kissuiso she loved. Overwork was making the staff short with her, and clumsy in their duties. Tomoe’s ankle sprain provided the catalyst to snap everyone out of it. Jiromaru’s corny narration was icing on the cake.

On the evening of the festival, Sui, Satsuki, and Ohana marching three abreast down the hall is a triumphant sight, and unlike the first half of the episode, everyone is working like a well-oiled machine. Not only that, they’re enjoying what they’re doing, rather than just doing it mindlessly in the pursuit of profit. This was a great final “inn arc” episode that brough everything and everyone together beautifully, and was simply oozing with emotions. It’s still in the air whether Kissuiso can make it, but it seems the finale will deal primarily with Ohana and Ko.


Rating: 4

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At one point in this week’s proceedings, in which Ohana arrives to the rescue of the same inn her class is staying at, she proclaims with surprise: “I’ve learned my job!” She was taught so well, she wasn’t even aware of when she transformed from more of a Yuina-like liability to a serious inn professional. Her “waitress’ instinct” wouldn’t allow her to stand by and let the inn’s service suffer. So in her free time, she volunteers to work.

Nakochi and Minchi soon join her, and they do what they do best. Yuina goofs off around town a little longer, but eventually returns to the inn to find that her friends are hard at work preparing dinner for the class. She stops by the bath, where an annoyed Yosuke tells her if she doesn’t want to work by his side in the inn when he inherits it, there’s no way they can marry. What’s interesting is that Yuina laid out her desired future so confidently and bluntly, and it turns out she isn’t nearly as sure about everything as she would let on.

All it takes is Yosuke praising Ohana and even suggesting a girl like her would be more suited to be his wife, and Yuina grabs a mop and starts scrubbing. This is a girl whos classmates call her princess, and she is in a lot of ways, having never done much manual labor. But she’s determined not to let Yosuke fall (settle?) for Ohana: she can work to, she just chose never to do so.

Yuina indeed helps Yosuke finish cleaning the bath just in time, and the dinner is a success thanks to the Kissuiso staff. The experience not only makes Yuina rethink whether an inn has no place in her future, but also leads to Yosuke rethinking his managing style. It also reinforces the friendship of the three Kissuiso girls, who proved that no matter where the inn is, they can make it rain, so to speak. Rating: 3.5