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!

Hamefura – 03 – Catarina Claes and the Cursed Child

Lil’ Catarina has just discovered the romance novels of her world and has become hooked, just as she was hooked on manga and otome in her world. All she hopes for is someone she can converse with on these books, and she finds that someone quite by chance at the Stuarts’ tea party. Her name is Sophia Ascart, and due to her white hair and red eyes she’s a pariah among most of their peers. Obviously, Catarina sees things differently.

After rescuing her from verbal barbs of other nobles, Catarina becomes fast friends with Sophia, and they geek out on romance novels. Catarina could see her and Sophia being friends in the other world too. She also learns that befriending Sophia won’t throw up any additional doom flags, though Sophia’s taciturn older brother Nicol is quite the looker, attracting women and men alike.

I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop with her friendship to Sophia, but…it never happens. In this manner, Hamefura subverts expectations by playing things straight. They become good friends without any problems, and all of a sudden seven years have passed and Catarina is now fifteen years old. Now all the characters look like they do in the otome.

That means the prologue is officially over. The time jump was abrupt but well-timed: watching lil’ Catarina dart from party to party was growing stale. She’s done her best to avoid the things that kill or exile her in the game, from remaining close and kind to Keith to honing her combat skills.

She also remains good friends with Sophia and Mary, with no messy love triangles with the guys (so far). Gerald is still committed to marrying her (and plants a hickey on her neck, demonstrating his covert sadism). We’ll see how things unfold as she pursues the route of survival in earnest!

Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 09 – Be Wary of Lost Things

The focus immediately returns to Nene this week, as last week’s parting shot of Kou mourning his friend was meant to close the door on that storyline for now. I’ll admit to a bit of tone whiplash, but as great as last week was it didn’t mark a permanent change in either character focus or tone, but rather an exception to the norm we return to here.

Things begins with Nene being unable to refuse an invitation from pretty face, or two in this case: her senpai Hyuuga Natsuhiko and his senpai Nanamine Sakura. Tsukasa appears and splashes water on Nene, transforming her into a fish.

She wakes up in cute new duds in the middle of a sumptuous tea party hosted by Sakura. The doll-like senpai explains that the two of them are in the same situation: bound to a ghost by a wish. To that end, Sakura apologizes in advance for what Tsukasa has decreed: that Nene should “disappear.” It’s not her wish, but she must obey her master.

Sakura, Tsukasa, and Natsu triad works as a sort of bizarro analog Hanako-kun/Nene/Kou trio; it’s fun to watch them bounce off each other in much the same way, albeit populated by different personalities. That familiarity initially puts Nene at ease…until she’s chained to a chair and the water level starts to rise. Natsuhiko is similarly detained, simply because Sakura is normally this “rough” with him, which he sees as her way of expressing her affection.

After being fully submerged, Nene and Natsu wake up in a strange place she assumes to be a boundary. Her pleas for Nanako-kun to come to her aid are answered when some mokke present her with a speaker with Hanako on the phone on the other end. He tells her she’s actually “nowhere”, and all of the doors she sees floating around lead to different worlds and times.

Hanako has sent one of his hakujoudai to find Nene, but she can help by finding the door back to her world. Natsu recklessly opens one door after another until a monster on the other side swallows him up, leaving Nene alone, but she eventually finds the door, recognizing the music that plays at 5:30 when it’s time for kids to go home.

Nene recognizes the old school building’s classroom and walks through, and encounters a recently beaten-up Hanako. She kneels down to offer aid and comfort, but a skittish Hanako flees, dropping a key with a rocket keychain in the process.

Shortly after her encounter, the hakujoudai locates Nene and teleports her back to her world, and we catch a glimpse of a calendar that reads “July 18, 1969.” Nene had the door to the right world, but for the wrong time.

Back in Hanako-kun’s bathroom in the present, Hanako wastes no time embracing Nene and offering a heartfelt apology for ruining her donuts. Naturally, Nene forgives him, glad they can put the awkwardness aside. Hanako just saved her from certain doom once again, after all.

Now, however, having seen Hanako in the past clearly in the midst of some kind of physical and emotional crisis, Nene wants to be the one to protect him for once. And with Past Hanako’s key in her possession, she may have the means to do just that. Just don’t sleep on the evil-by-nature Tsukasa making another attempt to get Nene out of the picture.

Dagashi Kashi – 10

dk101

This week’s DK starts off with a little mystery, as Tou is confronted by an out-of-breath, distraught Hotaru who has been running in her stocking feet, takes Tou’s hands, and begs him for help. But with what? What is her big issue? And where are her shoes?

dk102

After the credits, we’re in Coco’s store, only Hotaru isn’t there. She hasn’t come by for two days, which to Coco isn’t just bizarre; it’s a little scary. When he doesn’t find her at Saya’s cafe either, the two pay a visit to Hotaru’s massive house for the first time, and find Hotaru in her pajamas and a surgical mask, looking very much the worse for wear.

dk103

They mystery deepens as Hotaru seems to freak out whenever she sees Coco’s face. And while she seems interested in the snacks he brought for her, she always ends up recoiling in fear, and can’t complete a sentence without wincing in pain multiple times.

Turns out the mouth ulcer she had last week—and continued to torture with pop rocks and the like—has only gotten worse, swelling her cheek to a ludicrous degree.

dk104

When pressed for answers, Hotaru tells them the tale that led to her encounter with Tou the other night. She used Pop-a-Fortunes to try to wish for her mouth to heal before a new Baby Ramen flavor release, but the candy instead tells her to go on an “outing”, which she goes on immediately (without putting on her shoes).

That led her to Tou, who gave her advice to abstain from candy until her mouth fully heals. That way, the candy will taste even better, since absence makes the heart (and stomach) grow fonder and all that. The only problem is, that abstinence has led to candy withdrawal.

dk105

When Hotaru just can’t hold back anymore, she has to be physically restrained by both Coco and Saya. Her cuckoo clock snaps her out of her trance, letting her know to take her disgusting-looking but lovely-smelling homemade medicine.

That “medicine” turns out to be the culprit behind her increasingly huge mouth ulcer: it’s made from a combination of powdered pine, melon, and “American Cola” drink mixes. In other words, it’s pure sugar.

Upon learning Hotaru’s cure (and her candy abstinence) is a sham, they take off, leaving her to continuing drinking her nasty—and very harmful—witch’s brew. But what’s the daughter of a candy company to do?

7_ses

Dagashi Kashi – 09

dk91

This week brings back evenly-spaced variety and some interesting candy, all consumed while Hotaru is nursing a pretty bad canker sore (mouth ulcer). Of course, Hotaru has no idea how she got it, and when Saya suggests the obvious—too much candy—Hotaru swiftly laughs it off and pops the equivalent of cotton candy with Pop Rocks in her mouth.

This marks the return of “Candy POV” in DK, in which two of the straggler bits of explosive rock linger on her tongue, saying their heartfelt goodbyes before popping, causing a cascade of sharp pain. However, once it’s all over, Hotaru says it feels great. There’s a fine line between pleasure and pain.

dk92

The discomfort becomes more mental than physical for Saya as she innocently points out a cute cartoon animal package that turns out to be the new hit product for primary schoolers: UnChoco (or PoopChoco), little grape-chocolate balls that are “pooped” out of a hole in the back.

Saya thinks she and Hotaru are a little too old for such things, so Hotaru classes it up by creating a mature lady’s al fresco tea party atmosphere, belying the fundamental immaturity of eating what are essentially candy turds. Hotaru never makes the connection (despite saying poop repeatedly); instead, she likens the candy to eggs being laid.

dk93

Since no one character can withstand an entire episode alone with Hotaru’s hijinx (hojinx?) Saya is swapped out for Koko at the midpoint, and he’s perplexed to find her eating a bowl of rice (the canker sore goes unmentioned here, but we still see it; it’s not going away in a candy store!)

The reason Hotaru is eating rice is because the sweet and sour taste of Sakura Daikon makes her want to. She also decides to confess to Koko that she’s from Osaka, and has always been hiding a Kansai dialect. However, her Kansai-ed-out exclamations feel a bit forced to Koko (not to mention really irritating), so he’s not surprised when she confesses she isn’t actually from Osaka.

dk94

This entire episode takes place in the Shikada storeroom, which technically makes it a “bottle episode”, but the final segment involves not the bottle, but the breast.

Hotaru asks Koko straight-up what he thinks of boobs, and he initially responds as if Hotaru were a normal girl – that they’re no big deal to him. Incidentally, this line would have worked well on Saya, who, while not necessarily normal herself, doesn’t need Koko to be boob-crazed considering her bust size.

But because it’s Hotaru, she nearly storms out at his measured response. He quickly reverses his opinion, and she presents him with tamago ice cream, which she calls “boob ice cream”, but which he’s always called “bomb” ice cream.

In one of the more raunchily suggestive sequences of the show to date, both nicknames are validated, first when Hotaru squishes the ball like a boob, then when the balls explode like bombs, releasing melted vanilla ice cream all over the place, making Hotaru’s clothes see-through. Call it mutual understanding through confectionary…er…release.

7_ses

Akuma no Riddle – 10

aku101

With Nio apparently content with hanging back and observing (for now), Hanabusa Sumireko is the only assassin still around to threaten Haru, and threaten her she does: with sweet smiles, impeccable etiquette, a gorgeous dress, and an invitation to a very special tea party on the school’s 99th floor. Behind every smile and perfectly-formed sentence lurks an immensity of pridefulness and malice.

aku102

Sumireko’s badassness has never really been in question, but nor has it really been explored thus far. She has demonstrated the colossal wealth of the Hanabusa conglomerate to which she belongs, but this is the first time we see her bear her fangs in earnest, and it’s quite terrifying. The dread builds slowly but steadily as she lures Haru and Tokaku into her web of death and destruction.

aku103

Sumireko’s strength is previewed when Takehi Otoya of all people escapes from prison and sneaks back into school. But not only does Sumi block her best scissor shot with her bare hand, she crushes her scissors into crumpled bits with that same hand. This episode went on to deliver the most complex, intense, protracted, and best battles of the show, and it was everything I could have hoped for.

aku104

The episode was full of misdirection and feints, starting with the possibility Haru could be able to negotiate some form of rapprochement with Sumi; no dice. All Sumireko lives for is to defeat Haru—the “queen bee” of an older clan—and proving her superiority as the one and only queen. Also, Takehi looks like she could serve as a wild card, but she accomplishes nothing and is later dragged away by Nio for committing a “no-no”…gulp.

aku105

The last feint is the first time we see the whole gang assembled at the party; the cameras far back enough that it looks like the real deal, and then Gahh, creepy killbots, all of which turn on Tokaku when Sumireko dispenses with the pleasantries and gets down to business, tearing off her dress to reveal a skintight battle suit. Tokaku hangs around as long as she can, but her guns, knives, and flesh-and-blood limbs are no match against Sumireko, who sheds her suit to reveal a skimpier Kill la Kill-style outfit that reveals she’s bionic. You gotta hand it to her, she has a flair for the theatrical.

aku106

It only takes a few fleeting flashes into Sumireko’s past to know what makes her tick: like Haru, she’s been targeted and scarred by enemies her entire life. The difference is, she’s never had a “worker bee” like Tokaku buzzing around protecting her. She’s borne the brunt, and had entire pieces of herself hacked off and replaced with stronger metal to help her endure even more (whether she wanted that or not, now she believes it. She has to). Her implacability is on full display as she delivers a merciless, bruising beatdown upon poor Tokaku.

aku107

When Tokaku is out for the count, Haru proves yet again she’s no damsel in distress, staging an elaborate counterattack that consists of blowing out the door with a bazooka, luring Sumireko down an elevator shaft, and tossing many grenades down to her. That doesn’t kill her, and the chase resumes to the skyscraper’s rooftop, where Haru makes use of Sumireko’s own extended cables to sends her plummeting to the ground screaming—an unignified death for the self-styled “supremely powerful” royal.

aku108

What’s best about the fight is that it felt really substantial, but Haru’s victory didn’t feel hollow, nor did Sumireko look particularly foolish or tactically unsound; Haru simply got the better of her, mostly by using her head, and exploiting the fact Sumireko was a bit too full of herself and underestimated her prey. And I loved the look on Tokaku’s face when she learns that even after everything she’s done for her, Haru still isn’t ready to tell her who she really is. One thing she isn’t: weak.

9_brav

 

P.S. It’s probably a coincidence, but Sumireko bears a passing resemblance to Takakura Himari from Mawaru Penguindrum, whom Arakawa Miho also lent her delicate, dignified voice, and who also dressed in skimpy outfits.