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.

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 16 – The Feathery Fifth Heroine

It happens sometimes in RPGs: You come upon a boss you just can’t beat, either because you’re underleveled (as Naofumi and his party certainly are), or because you’re meant to be rescued so that a potential ally even more powerful than that boss can be introduced.

That’s what happens in this thrilling episode of Shield Hero. The “dragon emperor” (read: souped-up dinosaur) wreaks havoc in the town after smushing Idol, but Filo’s able to use her fragment to lure it out of town to a lake where they can fight without collateral damage.

Only the best Raphtalia, Filo, and Melty have isn’t enough to scratch the dragon. Naofumi prepares to bring out the Rage Shield, but a mysterious voice warns against it. Then a massive retinue of slim, disciplined Filolials march out of the forest and circle the boss.

Then something comes out of the lake—something huge: the Filolial Queen. That’s right: for sixteen episodes we’ve waited in vain for Melty and Malty’s mom to take the stage and use her authority to bring an end to Naofumi’s persecution. But a very different queen beats her to it.

After a magnificent entrance that really drives home the difference in scale between the Filolial Queen and the party, she confronts the dragon face to face and gives it a chance to surrender its fragment. When it refuses, she delivers a kick for the ages that throws it back hundreds of feet.

Not interested in a quick fight, the Queen finishes the dragon off quickly and decisively, with an attack so lightning-fast we can’t see it. The Queen then transforms into human form and introduces herself as Fitoria, voiced by Cardcaptor Sakura, Cardinal, and Saber Nero herself, Tange Sakura.

To Naofumi’s shock, Fitoria has been around for centuries, ever since she was raised by a previous Hero and tasked with protecting humanity in their stead. Her prodigious age and experience means her warnings about Naofumi’s overuse of the Rage Shield carry weight.

She also has many questions for the Shield Hero, so she bid he and his party get in a carriage, which she uses a portal to teleport them to some ruins that serve as a filolial sanctuary. There, she samples Naofumi’s cooking, and her lesser filolial subjects’ puppy eyes force him to make enough for everyone.

With the rest of the party sleeping off a long, hard day, Fitoria and Naofumi talk, speficially about her and the Cardinal Heroes’ symbiotic relationship. She is currently more powerful than any of them, so they’ll need her for the tougher Waves to come; seeing Glass in action proved that.

But while she’s very powerful and has lived a long life, she isn’t immortal. When her power starts to wane and flicker out, she’ll need the Heroes as much as they need her now to protect the world—not just Melromarc—from the Waves. This is all news to Naofumi.

Which brings us to her main complaint: the Heroes cannot under any circumstances be at odds; even the classically shunned Shield Hero. He must find a way to reconcile with them. When he outright refuses (and not without good reason…we know what he’s had to contend with) and assures her he won’t be convinced to make nice with the other heroes, Fitoria’s demeanor grows very grave.

She informs him that in the event the Heroes can’t get along, it’s her duty to kill them, for “the sake of the world”, as four dead Heroes are apparently preferable to four warring ones. For his sake, I hope Naofumi changes his tune and entertains diplomacy. Otherwise, this show will be without its titular character for the balance of the series…which seems unlikely.