The God of High School – 05 – Punch Pals

Mori’s semifinal fight with Mr. Brazilian Jujitsu is as short as Daewi’s against Mira, if not quite as violent. While Mira has no hard feelings—the stronger fighter won—and is on the mend, how Daewi beat Mira doesn’t sit right with Mori, and believes there’s a score to settle with their mututal friend.

Neither Mori nor Daewi pull any punches, as the latter is just as ferocious against Mori as he was against Mira, and also makes it clear hes never thought of either of them as his friends, which begs the question: why’d he crash Mira’s wedding? I guess he just doesn’t consider them friends compared to his one and only BFF, Woo Seungtae, who had his back at school and was a willing and enthusiastic brawling partner.

Daewi made a deal with Park to win the semis and the finals “overwhelmingly” so Seungtae could be treated with nanomachines, but it’s too late. Park informs Daewi his friend is dead in the middle of the match and Daewi shuts down…until Mira arrives, delivers a goodbye letter Seungtae wrote, and tells him to get back into the match.

He does so, but after some very spirited brawling replete with stylized ink brushstrokes, Mori ends up besting him, but gives him a hand up once the match is over. Both Mori and Mira end up helping Daewi back to the locker room.

While nowhere near as bad as the last episode, Daewi’s great epic friendship felt both rushed and simplistic, with way too much emphasis on hollow machismo. GoHS also continues to insist that the three leads are best buds without evidence beyond the fact they all love fighting (and getting beaten up). This episode didn’t do enough to convince me to keep watching.

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 05 – Very Old Friends

In a flashback to two thousand years ago, Anos sends his most trusted subordinate Shin to defeat the Great Water Spirit Lignon, which he does easily. When Anos offers him a reward, Shin asks to be resurrected, even if his resurrected self loses his memories and experiences, he wants to remain by his lord’s side.

Back in the present, Emilia also announces a new transfer student, a prodigy known as the “Master of Magic Sword”, and that the class will start sword training with two Elder Demon Emperors. She also tries to pretend the specter has been “stolen” in order to deprive Team Anos of a perfect score, only for Anos to pull said scepter out of one of the students ordered to hide it.

Before he does, one white uniform comes to his defense: Misa Iriologue, a demon-spirit hybrid and member of the Unitarians, who work towards a more racially and class-equitable nation, one not dominated by “Royalty” who just happened to be born with pure blood.

Misa and her associates believe Anos is the Demon King of Tyranny. Not only does she want to join Team Anos, but she wants to tell them more of their efforts in hopes Anos will join the cause, as one Elder Demon Emperor already has.

I never thought MDKA would have been able to pull off sociopolitical worldbuilding with an Anos fan club full of bookworms who swoon and faint in his presence and consider the same air he breathes to be a direct kiss…but here we are!

The Unitarians seem like a nice bunch of hardworking girls who just want to make the world a more just and equal place, and while Anos has thankfully never come off as a horndog in want or need of a harem, their mission statement aligns with his own distaste for blood purity trumping merit.

During the sword training, Anos is the first and only student to successfully pull his sword out of the ground, Excalibur-style … until a second student does it with similar ease. He’s the new transfer student and sword prodigy, and my first thought was that he was the reincarnated Shin.

My confidence that this Ray Gransdori is Shin is reinforced when he shocks Emilia by declaring he’d rather have a competent leader giving him orders than lead a team himself. He also pays Anos’ “Misfit” label and white uniforms no mind; it’s clear he shares both Anos and the Unitarians’ belief that parentage isn’t as important as achievement.

Anos initially refuses Ray’s request to join his team because he doesn’t want to make it too easy for him. Both he and Ray have clearly been rearing for a good sword battle lasting more than a couple seconds, and no one else has proven a challenge to either. Anos issues a challenge: Ray will lead Misa and the fan club against Team Anos, which they get to join if they fare well.

With her new ice ring, Misha is able to build a giant ice castle in a matter of moments, while her and Sasha’s newly upgraded sources (due to the time travel stuff last week) mean they are now considerably more powerful, and when they join forces are able to easily bring down the fan club’s golem-like mobile castle.

While the “kids” play with castles and immensely powerful magic spells, Anos and Ray have a good old-fashioned sword duel, only Ray’s sword is dull and Anos’ sword is just a tree branch. The ensuing clash is everything both of them could have hoped for, and you can tell they’re having a ton of fun.

Anos obviously bests Ray, but Ray proved he’s worthy of joining the team. Ray also has a strange feeling that they’ve crossed swords before. Surely Anos could tell from the way Ray fought and the instinctive desire to serve him that he has his right-hand-man back.

Sometimes when a transfer student shows up they’re meant to be a rival or obstacle to the MC, but this was a nice subversion of that formula. It’s also refreshing to have a male character who isn’t Anos—or an asshole. Both he and Misa are welcome additions. On to the Magic Sword Tournament, in which Anos and Ray are clear favorites to make the finals.

The God of High School – 04 – Wedding Bashers

We’re already down to the regional semifinals as Mori, Mira, and Daewi have all advanced and Mira and Daewi will face off against each other next. I for one thought we’d see another fight or two, but I guess GoHS is eager to get to the higher-stakes nationals. However, the tournament is put on hold when Mira is suddenly approached by sports entertainment tycoon Seongjin, who asks for her hand in marriage.

The suddenness of this development is matched only by the sloppiness with which its fallout unfolds. Mori makes it his mission to stop the wedding, as Mira is still in high school and doesn’t want her to lose her dream of winning the tournament and resurrecting her father’s sword style. But Mira is marrying Seongjin as a shortcut to putting that style on the map.

While I can understand Mori’s objections to the marriage, it’s not as if he’s Mira’s childhood friend. Despite jumps forward in time, it still feels like they’re more casual acquaintances brought together by the tournament, which makes it seem way out of line for him to dictate how he thinks Mira should run her own life. He didn’t even know where she lived for Chrissake!

I mean, let’s get real here: Mira, Mori and Daewi had a couple of brief chats about their goals and shared one little moment fishing her sword out of the water (which was Mori’s fault in the first place). THEY ARE NOT BEST FRIENDS. The show can’t just proceed as if they are, or that they have some kind of unbreakable bond. And yet that’s exactly what this episode does.

I also find it problematic that the only main female lead is portrayed at the start as shortsighted and even stupid for accepting Seongjin’s proposal, and has to be “set straight” by three men: Mori, Daewi, and her uncle, who was a terrible custodian of his late brother’s school. More than that, it’s problematic that Mira considers her life to be so tied to her father’s legacy that she’s given up on living a normal high school life in order to keep the style alive.

Even so, that’s a tall enough task that if a rich and powerful figure in the martial arts world offered a strategic alliance in the form of a marriage, and that she could be as blatant as she wanted in exploiting his prestige to promote her style seems…reasonable? The only reason it isn’t is because all the other characters and the episode itself think it’s a bad idea.

And, oh yeah, because Seongjin is an evil dark shadow clan member just following orders from his grand wizard to obtain the Moon Light Sword style for the organization. So see? See? Mira was a fool for thinking his intentions were honorable!

Everything conspires to put Mira in a box where she looks weak and misguided no matter what she does, because on one path she’s being played by the evil guy, and in the other she’s deferring to her “friends” who Know What’s Right for her. And again, there just hasn’t been enough evidence Mori and Daewi are her good friends.

The jump from “we’ll help you fish out the sword we threw in the drink” to “we’re going to crash your wedding and save you from both yourself and the bad guy” is ludicrously steep and ultimately untenable. Her sudden change of heart just doesn’t work, narratively or emotionally.

To me, the fact Seongjin turned out to be evil is irrelevant; the fact is, Mira’s agency was negated by both Seongjin and her so-called friends. Even more ridiculous is how easily she’s able to defeat Seongjin. Surely, if he’s as big a deal as he says, both publicly and in the shadows, she’d have had a bit more trouble with him? To me, making him look so toothless just underscores how Mira could have potentially gained the upper hand in their strategic marriage.

Never mind, as Mira walks away from the venue smiling and laughing with her bandaged abdomen, taking both Mori and Daewi’s arms. She’s smiling! She’s happy! From the look of their noses, everyone clearly still has bad colds, but all’s well that ends well! Only no; Mira can’t even have a whole episode dedicated to her hastily planned and just-as-hastily cancelled wedding.

Instead we cut to Daewi standing by as his buddy is on death’s door. It’s not clear whether he actually dies, but Daewi takes it out on the bullies who hound him at work, then takes it out on Mira in their semifinal match by exploiting her abdomen wound and beating her to a bloody pulp.

After we’d just dealt with Mori nearly being disqualified for breaking the rules, all three of them ended up assaulting people outside of the tournament this week. While in Mira’s case it was self-defense, both Mori and Daewi should have gotten in trouble for crashing the wedding, and Daewi should have been arrested for assaulting the bullies. But no; everyone was allowed to break the rules and continue the tournament. Interesting.

But yeah, after that whole song-and-dance with Mori, Mira and Daewi being the three best goshdarn friends there ever were, and that the guys support Mira chasing her dream with her own hands, Daewi puts an end to her GoHS run the very next day. I told you they weren’t friends! What a horrific mess. With three straight weeks of decline from the promising first episode, I think I’m done here.

The God of High School – 03 – Life Is a Battle…Do What You Want

After a quick check-in on a cult consisting of members with black pointy hoods (the third such anime to feature this after Misfit/Demon Academy and Food Wars 5—not sure what’s up with that) Mira faces off against Ma Miseon, an American pro-wrestler built like a brick house who assures Mira her wooden sword will be useless.

Miseon indeed exhibits incredible speed, agility and power and Mira looks not only overmatched but like she has no business fighting in the ring…until she loses her wooden sword and Miseon thinks she’s got this in the bag. That’s when Mira demonstrates that she doesn’t actually need a physical blade; her entire body is a sword, and she uses it to quickly eviserate Miseon and claim victory.

Daewi and Mori are happy their new friend has advanced, with the latter itching to fight her himself, but he must face punishment for interference in Gambo/Manseok match (both of whom are out of the tournament). Park Mujin sees that Mori is the grandson of Jin Taejin, and decides to test him by pitting him against a Commissioner. Mujin also gives Mori some suspicious produce, which causes Mori to cough up blood and pass out when after eating it.

We know Daewi wants to win the tournament for money, but now we know what that money is for: his ill friend/brother Seungtae, cut down at the height of his powers by cancer (or something like it). Thugs Daewi used to tangle with think Daewi is vulnerable without Seungtae to back him up, but they might not be thinking that if they saw Daewi dismantle the cerebral Baek Seungchul in the GoHS ring, which he does after taking one hell of a metal bat beating.

With Mira and Daewi both advancing, Mori recovers and arrives for his match with the commissioner, albiet a bit late. It’s a handicap match, and all Mori has to do is knock the guy down. He does that so quickly and both “Green Four-Eyes” and the crowd are insulted, and the former loses his temper and unleashes a summoned jester-like demon-beast.

Park has the other commissioners tackle their colleague and ends the match, naming Mori the winner since he knocked his opponent down. Now he knows he’s dealing with Jin Taejin’s “Tiger Cub” and apparently has big plans for someone of his power and potential.

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 04 – Live Like There’s a Tomorrow

Anos deduces that Misha and Sasha are actually the same person, since Sasha was able to break a Zacht unilaterally. Ivis Necron utilized “Division Fusion Resurrection Magic” Dino Jixes two create a more powerful race when the two beings fused into one on their fifteenth birthday. But Anos isn’t going to let that happen.

He’s going to make sure Misha lives on. He just needs her to believe there’ll be a tomorrow for her…because he said so. When they catch up to Sasha, she’s still pretending like she hates Misha, when in reality, she sets up two massive magical circles, one of which will be used to transform Misha into the original, instead of Sasha.

Sasha had been trying for years to get Misha to hate her so she’d reject her and welcome the transformation, but Misha never could. Anos proposes he send the two of them back in time fifteen years, which would cause two “new” sources to appear for a total of four, which would fuse into two separate beings: the two sisters.

That’s when Ivis shows up and stabs Anos through the heart in order to prevent him from disrupting his plan to create a vessel for the founding ancestor via Dino Jixes. Of course, Anos is the founding ancestor, so not only does Ivis’ attempt on his life fail, but he’s able to toss Ivis across the room with little effort.

Anos begins the Rivide spell that sends the sisters back in time, but his actions attract the attention of Eugo La Raviaz, the Guardian God of Time, who doesn’t take kindly to people messing with his domain. He lends his godly powers to Ivis, who stops time both the sisters and Anos’ initial attacks.

Even with Eugo’s power, Ivis again fails to do away with Anos, who stubbornly remains alive…because he’s the Demon King. He restarts time for the sisters, and urges them to declare their belief in him as the Demon King, which they do wholeheartedly.

Since this is all taking place within Anos’ castle, he’s able to summon the Magic Sword of Destruction Venuzdnor, which he not only uses to shatter Ivis’ time prison, but to purge Ivis of Eugo’s godly power. Anos is also able to remove the influence of the impostor and restore some of Ivis’ memories. He tasks him with investigating that impostor while letting him believe he’s still under his control.

With the sisters now secure as two separate entities and any threat of Ivis eliminated, Anos leads Misha and Sasha to the castle entrance to collect their perfect score, something that for all his power he’s never actually attained.

It’s all part in parcel of becoming weary of war and being glad to be resurrected in a world of peace, even there are only two people willing to acknowledge him. He gives Misha the magic ice ring for her birthday, while Sasha gets to keep her magic coat. All’s well that ends well, but damn did this episode throw a lot of jargon out there—Demons, gods, spells, weapons, and concepts, oh my! 

My head was spinning for a while, until I decided to let much of it flow over my head and simply enjoy the brass tacks, once the elaborate details are stripped away: Reality isn’t what others tell Anos it can or can’t be—it is what he makes of it, simply by being the most powerful individual in the world. In this case, that meant eliminating the need to sacrifice one sister to save the other.

Gibiate – 02 – Lights Out

Remember my comment about being able to feel the enthusiasm of the assembled talent emanating from the first episode? Yeah, that wasn’t the case this week, as Gibiate joins the list of anime I won’t be continuing this Summer. It’s a disappointing, but unavoidable cut considering its misfires.

However, things start out okay, with Kathleen recording Sensui for posterity, then sparring with him to determine his ability. He’s pretty good, and is even trained in Western swordsmanship. If only he had a more worthy opponent than the Gibia.

I also like the explanation both for Sensui and Kenroku’s RPG glow-up and Kathleen’s own cheerful attire: in such dark times, one must look as awesome as possible. This means Sensui not looks very much like a lone-wolf FF protagonist. Kenroku now rocks blue hair, making the two more discernable from a distance.

There’s also a beat where Kathleen’s mom—an Edo-period history buff, which is kinda convenient—informs Sensui how his lord and guardian ended up dying. Sensui carries the guilt of not being by his lord’s side at his end…ignoring the fact the lord sent him off into exile for his own missteps. I imagine Sensui didn’t even consider that betrayal.

Despite a relatively solid first half involving character interactions in the light, Kathleen and Senroku mostly remain ciphers while Sensui is your typical stoic honorable samurai. Then the lights of the camp go out and all hell breaks loose…and unfortunately not in a good way.

First, the ease of the Gibia’s attack calls into question how this camp even survived as long as it did. This night doesn’t seem any different than previous nights other than the fact Sensui and Senroku have joined the survivors, so I guess that’s when the plot decides it’s time to expose the camp’s many many logistical and tactical flaws.

“No backup lights or power” is pretty egregious. “Guards firing off all their ammo in all directions” is another. The supposedly brilliant Yoshinaga deciding to burn the camp to create light that will repel the Gibia, only for fire to be too dim to make any difference. Of course, all of this is overridden by an unavoidably fatal flaw: the Gibia designs and CGI is embarrassingly horrible.

This camp looks utterly doomed if it wasn’t for Sensui stepping up with the katana Maeda finally gets to him, but only after the old man suffers wounds we know will eventually turn him into a Gibia. When there’s a Gibia with armor too thick, Senroku tosses a grenade at it. Oddly, the blast disables the Gibia but doesn’t hurt Sensui—who was standing right there.

The Gibia attack that must have claimed at least a quarter of the already fewer than 100 survivors. And yet only one person gets a hero’s sendoff, complete with cheesy Casino keyboard music: Maeda, who we barely knew. There’s no accounting for how many others were lost or whether this whole camp thing can continue.

There’s also the little matter of Gibia being a virus, and that by slashing them left and right like a crazed banshee, Sensui gets their blood and guts and other fluids all over the damn place. Isn’t that, like, a problem? Never mind; this episode has killed by enthusiasm for continuing with Gibiate. Which is a shame, because the first episode had so much potential.

Gibiate – 01 (First Impressions) – Samurai Pandemico

Okay, this might not seem like the best time for an anime about a goddamn pandemic, but there are times when battling literal monsters seems preferable to the current sociopolitical situation, and it looks like Gibiate will have plenty of that, so let’s dig in, shall we?

It’s 2030, and a virus that transforms humans into monsters has spread across the globe (likely hastened by anti-maskers). Kathleen Funada is one of only one hundred people in all of Tokyo who hasn’t been infected.

There’s an immediate realism and intimacy to introducing her via a home video diary of events for posterity. And despite her idolish appearance, her gloom is palpable, and reflected in the de-saturated palette.

Meanwhile, all the way back in 1600, samurai Kanzaki Sensui and ninja Sanada Kenroku are on a boat leaving Edo. Both have been exiled; Sensui because he took the blame for his lord’s strategic blunder; Kenroku for murdering a motherfucker (who apparently deserved it).

When they’re caught in a horrific electrical storm, they both pass out and wake up in Edo, now Tokyo, 430 years later. Definitely some shades of Kuromukuro, which I enjoyed quite a bit, and potential for amusing fish-out-of-waterage (and samurai ownage).

The two wander the strange streets until they encounter a man who transforms into a bizarre beast (the CGI is merely passable). With no weapons, the pair can only do so much, but they’re fortunately saved by Kathleen, armed with a heavy-duty taser.

Sensui and Kenroku accept a ride with Kathleen and an old man named Maeda, neither of whom doubt the origin of the two very traditionally dressed and spoken men. By the same token, the pair aren’t particularly freaked out by the “wagon” that’s faster than any horse. They learn they’re in what was once Edo, and that the monsters are called Gibia.

Maeda gets dropped off to grab a katana he owns so Sensui can be useful, while Kathleen drives them to the camp where what’s left of Tokyo’s uninfected hold out. She introduces them to her mom, whom she later laments is so “mentally broken” she can’t tell humans and Gibia apart.

They then meet Kathleen’s boss, Professor Yoshinaga, who is trying to develop a cure for the virus and end the last two years of misery. He may look like a Final Fantasy villain (thanks to awesome character design by Yoshitaka Amano), but Sensui also looks particularly “Amano-y”, so I’ll trust that both of them are good guys for now, and just ridiculously cool-looking.

The professor warns Sensui and Kenroku to avoid being stung lest they want to be Gibia themselves, and if they can hear the sound of drops of water inside their head, it’s a sign they’re already infected. Interestingly enough, the first scene in the episode is Kathleen in a bathtub listening to water drip out of the shower head.

In addition to the Amano design, the OP theme was composed by the Yoshida Brothers, and many other eminent Japanese creatives are involved in its production. It feels more like there’s more passion and sincerity than calculation and cynicism behind this project.

Gibiate is a fun grab bag of classic anime tropes, and I’m already stoked to see how two vintage warriors can contribute to the cause. While it’s too early to tell if it will add up to more the sum of its myriad parts, it is nevertheless a very well-executed piece of entertainment, balancing the dreary bleakness of its future with the occasional vivid flash of hope.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 21 – On Your Marks

I tellya, if Sakura doesn’t start taking her rival seriously, this could soon turn into The Meiling and Syaoran Show! In all seriousness, since arriving Meiling has done all she can to take over Sakura’s spotlight. Despite the fact Sakura isn’t actually trying to compete with her for anything (or anyone), Meiling is committed to beating Sakura at every turn–even a 2.5k when all the races she’s ever run were sprints.

It’s all too apropos that “reserving your energy” is a foreign concept to Meiling; it takes both Syaoran and Wei to convince her that she needed go all-out at the beginning of the race, and she should focus more on her breathing. Going for a run after a big meal is also a bad move, but Meiling is determined to cross that finish line 1-2 with Syaoran, so she’ll weather any stomach cramps or other hardships.

When the day of the race arrives, Tomoyo injures her foot, but that just means she gets to record Sakura running. She even employs Kero-chan as an aerial spotter. Meiling shows off how much she’s learned by keeping pace with both Syaoran and Sakura—who are both motivated by the fact Yukito is watching them run with Touya.

But as the race progresses, the theme song transitions to more ominous music, indicating something’s not quite right. Sakura, Syaoran and Meiling cross Tomoyo twice…in the same direction. As Sakura notes that the tree-lined road seems longer than usual, Meiling trips and hurts her ankle. No matter how far they run they can’t seem to get to the finish line. That means a Clow Card is in play, and sure enough Kero-chan identifies Loop as the culprit.

Once Sakura literally stumbles on the seam between “real” space and the loop’s spacial distortion, she and Syaoran each produce swords with which to cut said loop, which takes the form of a red ribbon. Sakura seals the card, and despite Meiling’s insistence Syaoran cut it first, it passes into Sakura’s possession. Syaoran finally relents and carries Meiling on his back across the finish line, thus achieving the spirit if not the letter of her dream.

The God of High School – 02 – Gotta Have a Code

Interestingly, the second GoHS doesn’t pick up where the first ended, but after the battle royale. Mori, Mira and Daewi all advanced, but Mori’s fight with the “slipper jerk” was interrupted by Mira. Turns out all three share the same route home, much to Mira’s consternation. During their walk we learn the basics of their being in the tournament. For Mori, it’s to become stronger. For Daewi, it’s for money.

Mira is fighting for honor and family; namely to save her late father’s dojo. When Mori snatches her sword again and she moves to snatch it back, it ends up in the drink. Mira slaps Mori and tell the other two to scram, but it’s not long before the lads are helping her search the water. They actually find the blade off-screen, but the point is the three bonded over the activity.

The next day the preliminary brackets are set, and the last person standing will move on to the national tournament. When Slipper Jerk (AKA Gang Manseok) attacks his opponent Go Gamdo in the locker room, Mori steps up to defend him, earning Gamdo’s gratitude and respect.

Mori, Mira and Daewi end up winning their respective matches easily, while other faces like Ma Miseon and Baek Seungchul get brief moments in the ring; I’m sure we’ll see more of them as the brackets narrow. But the main fight of the episode is between Manseok and Gamdo.

While Gamdo practices a very pure and conservative tai chi style focused on balance, Manseok reveals a rare northern-style Taekwondo developed for survival in war, filled with all kinds of low blows. As such, this is a match between the “cleanest” and “dirtiest” fighters. We also learn through brief flashbacks that Manseok was once a groveling wretch and transformed himself thanks to a powerful teacher.

Gamdo’s best efforts to win the battle of wills results in his getting beaten to a pulp. Manseok unbinds both his hands and starts breaking Gamdo’s limbs one by one, but Gamdo still won’t yield. In the end, Mori enters the ring (breaking the rules and risking a DSQ) to protect his new friend, and shows that he’s a far more formidable opponent to Manseok—which is probably what he ultimately wants!

The chaos is then broken up by tournament administrators and the arrival of Korean Assembly member Park Mujin, fresh off a visit to the Pentagon where he waltzed right in without fear of getting harmed. He has Mori taken away for TBD punishment, then announces the tournament will resume.

Honestly despite the big central fight this GoHS was a bit of a step down from the premiere in pure manic craziness, mostly because any indoor fight is going to seem restrained compared to the dynamism of a motorcycle -bicycle race. It also wasn’t nearly as funny. It made up for it with a key bonding moment between the likable main trio—though I hope they get more fleshed out soon.

The ep also added more intrigue surrounding users of the superpower cheryeok, which we saw employed like the hand of god smashing out an island last week. I’m confident Mori’s road won’t end with his rule infraction, because the whole point of GoHS tournament seems to be to find exceptionally strong fighters like him.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 11 – The Eraser is Mightier Than the Sword

This week on Cardcaptor Sakura, Sakura visits Tomoyo’s house for the first time, which is surprising considering they’re BFFs and even related by blood (since Sakura’s and Tomoyo’s mothers were cousins). I believe we get the first instance of Kero-chan airlifting a lost Sakura into the expansive Daidouji Estate, the reveal of which is set to Takayuki Negishi’s truly sublime track Yume ni mita date, which is the musical equivalent of walking on clouds on the loveliest day ever.

Tomoyo invites Sakura and Kero-chan in and they go up to her room, which includes a screening room for all of Sakura’s Cardcaptor exploits. Tomoyo brought Sakura to her home for a specific reason, but that’s sidetracked when her mom Sonomi shows up and suggests the three of them have tea al fresco with some cake she brought, leaving Kero-chan all by his lonesome.

Sonomi shares her daughter’s adoration and idolatry of Sakura; the intensity of her infatuation is only matched by her dislike of her father, and frustration with the fact that Nadeshiko had to marry him so Sakura could be born. Obviously Sonomi cherished her cousin as deeply as Tomoyo loves her cousin’s daughter.

Still, when Sakura earnestly asks Sonomi to talk about her father back then, Sonomi considers him a “disgusting man”…but only because he doesn’t have a single flaw. Meanwhile, Sakura’s dad sneezes while hanging with Touya and Yuki, and suspects someone’s talking about him.

When Sakura and Tomoyo return to the latter’s room, Tomoyo presents Sakura with her original reason for inviting her: a treasure box that cannot be opened, even with the key. Kero-chan determines that it is the Shield card, which is always drawn to deeply cherished treasures.

That said, there’s nothing Sword can’t cut through, so Sakura summons it for the first time in order to secure the Shield card. This “battle” wasn’t any tougher than Flower card last week—and didn’t involve any dancing! Also Tomoyo manages to record this capture, though she forgot to make Sakura change into a battle costume.

With Shield lifted, the box can be opened, and reveals the well preserved sakura bouquet from Nadeshiko’s wedding. Sakura were Nadeshiko’s favorite flower, and since she and Sonomi were little she vowed to give the name Sakura to her daughter if she had a girl.

If that weren’t touching enough, the second treasure in the box is a bunny eraser, which was the first item Sakura ever gave Tomoyo. Tomoyo treasures it like a religious relic, and a symbol of the warmth, kindness and generosity her best friend exudes at all times. Honestly both Tomoyo and Sonomi make pretty good audience surrogates: Sakura is the kind of friend you’d be lucky to have, and not just because she possesses magic!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 09 – Once More Unto the Brooch

Sakura is feeling low after her humbling encounter with Syaoran Li. Tomoyo assures her she’s doing her Cardcaptor duties beautifully, but Sakura isn’t entirely sure she’d have fared as well against Thunder without Syaoran’s advice.

When she inevitably has to face him in class, she thanks him for his help and also mentions that she saw his green robes in a dream. Confirming Kero-chan’s later accurate assessment of him as a “despicable brat”, Syaoran demonstrates how he can turn any nicety into an opportunity to viciously neg Sakura.

Both Tomoyo and Rika want to cheer Sakura up, so they take her to a new shop that sells all manner of cute knickknacks, and the three girls end up buying brooches before going to Sakura’s house for tea and homemade pudding (which looks delectable BTW).

The pleasant decompressing takes a turn when Rika puts on her sword-themed brooch, her eyes go blank, and the brooch turns into a rapier with which Rika starts attacking Sakura and Tomoyo. Clearly, it’s a Clow Card, and Kero confirms as much when he comes down (but is also pissed about not getting any pudding!)

Kero warns Sakura that anyone with Sword card in their possession becomes a master swordsman. Thankfully, Sakura is able to dodge her strikes with her not inconsiderable agility, but Rika’s attacks are so fast all she can really do is defend.

That’s where Syaoran comes out of nowhere to insert himself into the battle. Worried he’ll hurt Rika in pursuit of the card, Sakura grabs him and uses Jump to keep him away from her friend. Sakura has let this kid get away with a lot, but when it comes to her friends, she’s not someone to be trifled with!

All that’s needed to break Rika from Sword’s spell is for her to momentarily drop the sword. To accomplish this, Sakura employs Illusion to conjure the image of their homeroom teacher on whom Rika has a crush. While she’s distracted Sakura knocks the blade out of her hand, then successfully secures the Card…all without Syaoran’s help.

Kero-chan makes sure Syaoran doesn’t interfere by biting him repeatedly, but when Yukito suddenly appears, it isn’t Sakura’s staff or Kero or the unconscious Rika that catch his attention; it’s the bite mark on Syaoran’s finger. When Yuki asks if he’s okay, Syaoran blushes like a beet and scurries off.

When Sakura arranges to meet up with Yukito the next day to give him a thank-you gift, Syaoran is already there, and quickly produces a gift of his own. As Tomoyo makes clear to her, Sakura now not only has to deal with a rival in her Clow Card capturing, but in romance too, as Syaoran seems as smitten with Yukito as she is. Unfortunately for both of them, he’s already spoken for…

Nine episodes in CCS has proven adept at shaking up the weekly formula. Sakura may not have had a battle costume this week, but she did use Illusion for the first time. Her friend Rika had a larger role, while her multi-vector rivalry with Syaoran developed further. We’re also introduced to Yamazaki—he of elaborate invented stories.

Finally, Kero-chan’s post-credits omake segment is always a delight, with him pointing out some detail of Sakura’s costume, or in the case of this week, Syaoran’s. His justifiable hostility towards “that kid” shines through brilliantly in the terse rundown of his ceremonial garb.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – 02 – Friends are Delicious

Well, that didn’t take long. Princess Connect soundly beat Shironeko Project this week, and it wasn’t close. And it did it with a no-holds-barred charm offensive, introducing the fourth member of the party: a twin-tailed tsundere catgirl named Karyl (Kyaru).

We learn all we need to know about her as she observes three cats playing together while a fourth keeps its own company. Karyl identifies with this cat. Who needs friends?

Well, if your friend happens to be Pecorine, you don’t have to answer that question. The crusader lights up every scene she’s in, managing to be immensely powerful and a complete airhead without coming across as annoying or cliched.

That’s a fine line to walk, but she walks it extremely well, owing to her cool character design, fluid, lively movements, and of course great voice work from MAO. It’s just barrels of fun watching her wake up in a stable after a rager then win an eating contest for breakfast!

Karyl seems intent on making Pecorine acknowledge her power. She also has the ability to control animals, like an Orc just outside the city. Pecorine deals with the orc easily with her bare hands, and Karyl gets knocked out by that very flying defeated orc!

The reason Peco was in the right place was that she spotted the sword thieves (who are still around and still fun characters in their own right) and was attempting to catch up to them—not because they stole her sword (she thinks they’re just minding it for her as a favor!) but to deliver “Beriberi’s” medicine.

Karyl just so happens to witness the thieves get snatched up by a dragon, who was lured to them by Peco’s valuable sword. Since Peco, Yuuki and Kokkoro were nice to her, she decides to lead them to the dragon’s lair, but won’t lift a finger to help them separate the sword (or the thieves) from its clutches.

Karyl’s ulterior motive is to use her magic to control the dragon and demonstrate her power to Peco. Interestingly it’s not Peco but the amnesiac Yuuki who leads the charge against the dragon, defiantly standing before it, attracting it with his cloak like a matador, only to get hilariously snapped up as the dragon takes flight.

Peco tags along, first using her sword as a handhold and then the afro of one of the thieves. His roots eventually give way, sending Peco flying, but she manages to position herself above the dragon’s head and delivers a devastating blow, knocking it out of the sky and saving both Yuuki and the thieves from a sticky end.

Throughout all of this, Karyl is manipulating the dragon, having made it fly erratically to shake Peco off. However, on the ground she is helplesss against Peco’s luck, pluck, and brawn, the dragon proving to be no big deal at the end of the day.

Pecorine also ends up reunited with her sword, which is actually a good thing for Karyl, because the monsters she controls always have a tendency to land so close to her they manage to squash her. She’s saved by Peco and her sword, and Peco then goes into all-out Crusader Mode, cleaving the dragon’s fire breath then blowing it away with a devastating strike.

In the aftermath, all Karyl can do is gawk at Peco’s glowing magnificence…and you can’t blame her! This right here could have been the best battle of the season so far…something I did not expect, but for which I’m very grateful. The animation was smooth and sweeping and packed a huge punch, and underlining all of it is Peco’s God-Level energy an enthusiasm.

In the end, the quartet returns to Landosol (bathed in the light of another gorgeous golden sunset) and tucks into onigiri made from leftover lunch rice. Pecorine proposes the four of them create a “Gourmet Guild”, the object of which is to discover the tastiest dishes in the realm. Yuuki and Kokkoro are all about it, but Karyl reverts to tsundere mode and huffs off, offended that Peco would think she’d be happy about being included in such nonsense.

However, Karyl has a change of heart when she spots the three cats now playing with the lonely fourth. She takes a bite of the onigiri, made with love by Kokkoro for her companions, and thus tasting better. And while she claims to still not need friends, her recent escapades indicate otherwise. There’s no question of her eventually joining the guild.

Princess Connect Re:DIVE looks and sounds great, has an infectiously upbeat tone, and is legitimately funny. Kokkoro’s expression whenever Yuuki is suddenly injured is growing on me, while Peco is never not entertaining, whether she’s kicking serious ass or being a charming space cadet. I also like how food will be the focus of the party’s efforts going forward. It took two episodes, but I’m sold!

Vinland Saga – 06 – Engulfed by the Quarrels of Men

On November 13, 1002, King Æthelred II of orders all Danish immigrants in England killed. The Danish respond by sending troops across the sea, and the Vikings—Danish pirates—serve as the “army’s army.” Askeladd’s crew are right in the middle of this.

When English archers ambush their camp, Thorfinn gets a crash course in mass death, killing, and living with it, taking his first life and letting out a cry of vicious despair that carries through the forest, while Askeladd observes in quiet approval.

The battles with the English continue, and Thorfinn continues to kill and gets better at it, with his enemies continually underestimating him due to his size and youth. Askeladd starts using him as a scout, and he manages to kill two foes who come at him, gaining a second dagger with which he dual-wields henceforth.

While on another scouting mission he takes an arrow to the shoulder and washes up on a branch in a river in East Anglia. A kindly, God-fearing mother and her daughter take him in, clean him up, and feed him. The daughter worries (rightfully) that he’s a Dane, their enemy; but her mom doesn’t think any women or children should be bothered with the quarrels of men.

The mother even combs the fleas and lice from Thorfinn’s unruly hair, with the same comb she used to use on her son, who died of a cold two years ago. An English soldier arrives looking for a pint-sized scout, but the mother covers for Finn.

That night, while the daughter continues to argue with her mother about harboring him, Finn abruptly takes his leave, saying just one word to them in English: Run. He then sets a cottage on the beach aflame; the signal to Askeladd to make his landing.

The mother doesn’t run as Finn urged her; she comes to the beach and sees for herself the boy she nursed back to health and harbored: a rabid killing machine. When Finn spots her among the crowd, tears streaming down her cheeks, guilt momentarily washes across his face, as he remembers his own mother and older sister.

Then the mother is simply gobbled up by the charging viking horde, Finn takes a deep breath, and the guilt is replaced by cold detachment as he too gets lost in the crush, joining his fellow fighters in the latest retaliatory raid on a relatively well-off English village. The comb the mother used on him is trod upon and broken, and perhaps with it any possible chance of Thorfinn turning back from his current, blood-soaked path.