Vlad Love – 10 – The Incredible Cyber-Franken-Kong

I have myself been blasted in these hopes, yet another may succeed.—Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

In a return to “conventional” Vlad Love, Chihiro-sensei introduces the new transfer student to the night class: Franken Yasohachi, an immense part-robot, part-golem who must be plugged in to operate. Mai also recognizes him as…her fiancée. Needless to say, this is problematic for Mitsugu. Mai tells the story of how this came to be, starting with when she once ran away from home to escape one of her awful previous step-moms.

While picking petals to determine whether to kill her, lil’ Mai is approached by Franken offering her a single flower. While initially startled, Mai is charmed by his face and accepts the flower, which in vamp society is how one proposes marriage. The night class soon learns their new transfer student has the brains of geniuses both scientific and musical and the body of an olympic athlete. He can even heel-toe an AE86 Trueno GT-Apex!

But even with a newly-installed battery, Franken can only operate unplugged for three minutes, and charging back up takes three hours—almost as slow as the GM EV1. As such, during off-hours he’s stored in a closet, while Mitsugu gets to hang out with Mai. Mitsugu is happy it’s a quiet night, seemingly oblivious to the giant electrical storm outside that brings Franken to wireless life.

Woozy from her blood dinner, Mai mistakes Mitsugu for “Daddy” and wants to share her closet with her for the night. Mitsugu swallows hard and decides to see how this will play out, but the scene is interrupted by the suddenly berserk Franken, who is a bit too aggro in offering Mai another flower. Mitusu and Mai escape on Mai’s umbrella.

During their escape, Franken is hit by lightning again (a one in 9 million chance!) and transforms into a Hulk-like green rage monster who starts stomping and smashing his way through Minato, Tokyo. We’re treated to some cool cityscapes as the JSDF scrambles apaches, while Franken-Hulk climbs Tokyo Tower like King Kong climbed the Empire State Building.

After an interminable call with a half-asleep Chihiro who can’t be otherwise bothered, Mai and Mitsugu learn how to switch the monster off: land on his head and twist the bolt on his head, and he goes out like a light. The city is saved from total destruction (again), and the dynamic duo of Mitsugu and Mai were the ones to save it.

Franken is returned to his closet, unplugged and insulated to prevent further power surges. The flower meant for Mai remains in his hand, wilting away. Who knows if we’ll see Franken again, but he was a fun new member of the class while he lasted.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 46 – Love Not Lest Ye Be Loved

Yue is in no mood for delays; he’s going to judge Sakura right here and now: she’ll either subdue him with her mastery of the cards, or she’ll lose and catastrophe will be unleashed. There’s just one problem: Sakura has no intention of fighting someone who just a few minutes ago was Yukito, a boy she deeply cares for. We learn Yukito never had any knowledge that he was really Yue, which only adds to Sakura’s reluctance to fight.

The thing is, Yue doesn’t care if Sakura cared about Yukito. If she won’t fight, then he’ll mop the floor with her, just like he did Syaoran. And holy crap does Sakura ever receive by far the worst beating of the entire series, getting tossed around like a ragdoll before being ensnared in the vines of the Wood card she herself summoned. The fact she doesn’t even know that Wood is controlled by the Moon (i.e. Yue) irritates him even more as he passes his final judgment: Sakura loses.

The catastrophe that shall occur due to her failure? Everyone in the world will forget about the person they love or care about most. Kero-chan was right: it isn’t a “world-ending” kind of apocalypse. After she’s completely enveloped in vines, Sakura wakes up in bed, and there’s even the Cardcaptor Sakura doll on her headboard.

She has her normal morning routine, but Yukito vanishes when she spots him, while Tomoyo and Syaoran are no longer warm or friendly, but mere acquaintances. Same with Chiharu and Yamazaki…and Rika doesn’t even like that teacher she likes!

Having had adequate time to take in this horrifying bad future (or at least the equivalent of such from her perspective), Sakura runs to Yukito’s gran’s house, only to find it abandoned and in poor repair. She breaks down in tears in the bamboo forest, but then something happens: she starts hearing the voices of everyone she loves, first calling her name, then singing the song Tomoyo sang (and which Song copied).

Then she hears Mizuki’s bell clang, and she bursts out of the vine prison, waking from her helldream and returning to Tokyo Tower. Turns out the bell was also furnished by Clow Reed and used by Mizuki to give the Cardcaptor one—and only one—last chance against Yue.

This time, Sakura uses her own magical power to draw not from the Sun or the Moon, but her own personal stars, and a new wand is forged that allows her to summon Windy—the first Clow Card she ever captured—and restrain Yue without him being able to counter.

Sakura tells Yue what he never thought he’d hear, that she understands now how much Clow Reed meant to him, and why he never wanted another master after Reed died. However, Sakura isn’t offering to become Yue’s master or a replacement for Reed; she wants them to be friends, plain and simple, making the world better together.

Yue thus judges Sakura to be the winner of their little duel, and she has a brief stop up in the stars to meet with Clow Reed, who is grateful Sakura was able to locate and follow the path of “necessities disguised as coincidences” he had set out—her own way.

After that, Sakura returns to the shrine grounds and is reunited with Tomoyo and Syaoran, taking both of a surprised Syaoran’s hands and dancing with him in pure unadulterated joy.

Kero and Yue acknowledge that due to her youth, Sakura isn’t quite ready for their true forms full-time, so they agree to return to their disguises for the time being. That means Kero-chan is back to being a pint-sized plushie, while Yue returns to the form of Tsukishiro Yukito.

Sakura’s adorable dance with Syaoran, paired with her far more understated reaction to Yukito’s return seems to signal the start of a transition from her feelings for Yukito/Yue—whom she knows will always love Clow above all—to Syaoran, who is, well, an actual human being.

And that does it for the grand Clow Card arc and the second season of Cardcaptor Sakura! My stars, has this show been a balm in these times. While this finale wasn’t my absolute favorite of the series (that might be “Sakura’s Dizzy Fever Day”) it definitely makes the top five, merely by dint of its vital story, cinematic scope and utterly gorgeous animation. On to season three!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 45 – Here Comes the Judge

In a further departure from the usual formula, there’s no set up this week, we jump right back into the action. It figures that the last Clow Card to be captured is the most ornery: Earthy. Huge fissures and massive stone towers threaten to destroy the city, and it’s all Sakura can do to weave and dodge.

After an unsuccessful use of Watery, Kero gives her the hint that offensive magic won’t work. Then Sakura notices that while lots of roads and buildings are being ruined, the trees aren’t being touched. So she summons Wood to hold the Leviathan-like Earthy’s main body in place.

Sakura seals the card, and the biggest, most pulse-poundingly impressive battle yet comes to close. To Sakura’s shock, the receipt of the final card has another effect: it restores Kerberos’ true form. Sakura doesn’t recognize him at first until he responds with his trademark dialect, only in a lower register, and she can’t help but remark that he’s looking “rather cool.” He certainly is!

To celebrate the capturing of all the Clow Cards, Tomoyo summons her costume van and dresses Sakura up, and even gets Syaoran into his ceremonial robes. Sakura’s costume is notably the one in her dreams. Then Sakura learns from Syaoran that Yue is one of the two guardians along with Kero who Clow Reed created to protect the cards. And just when it seemed Mizuki would transform into Yue…Yukito does instead!

While I knew Yukito was Yue’s vessel from the much later Clear Card, Mizuki had been so effective a red herring I came to wonder whether she’d be revealed as Yue’s vessel prior to Yukito. Instead she’s just a particularly powerful moon-oriented magic user, which combined with Yue concealing his magic within Yukito meant he was right under their noses the whole time.

While Kero serves as the selector of the one to command the cards, Yue is the final arbiter of the Cardcaptor’s worthiness. The trial is simple: use the Clow Cards to defeat him. Since Syaoran captured a handful of cards, he is the first to undergo “final judgment”—and Yue proceeds to mop the floor with him.

He’s sent back to the others dazed but more or less fine, and Sakura is transported to that now iconic spot of her dreams, with Tokyo Tower looming in the near distance and Yue standing on its red steel beams. Sakura realizes this is exactly like the dream, that it was a prophetic dream, and that THIS IS IT.

Either Sakura can defeat Yue with the Clow Cards she’s collected—Yue confiscated all of Syaoran’s—or the “Catastrophe” Kero warned about will occur. Even if I didn’t know everything would work out, all my money would be on Sakura. Poised on the biggest, highest-pressure stage in her eleven years life, she won’t shrink from the task before her.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 44 – Feeling the Moon

Something new has shown up in Sakura’s dream: someone with long, silvery hair and black wings. When Sakura wakes up, Kero-chan takes note of the Sakura doll by her bed. Tomoyo made it before she became a Cardcaptor, and yet the doll is wearing an outfit very similar to the one Sakura is wearing in her dream—which has already been established as foretelling. We’re getting into some trippy territory here, and I like it!

Sakura is up early on a weekend in order to travel to Tokyo, watch Yukito’s traditional archery competition, and provide him with three or four bento boxes for lunch. Tomoyo and Syaoran tag along, with the former always up for hanging with Sakura, while Syaoran says “being around her is useful for capturing Clow Cards”, to which she innocently replies “that’s true”.

Kero-chan tags along as well, not just for the chance to eat some of the lunches Sakura made, but because the description of her dream points to Yue being near, and Kero doesn’t want to be unnecessarily separated from the Cardcaptor. While on the train to the competition, the Tokyo Tower comes into view and Sakura spaces out…but both she and Syaoran space out upon seeing Yukito in traditional Japanese archer’s dress!

Everyone is also surprised to find Mizuki-sensei not only participating in the competition, but making it to the final round along with Yukito. The two exhibit grace, elegance, and strength as all their arrows impact on or near bullseye…that is until something distracts Mizuki and she misses her shot. Even so, she’s gracious in defeat and congratulates Yukito.

While he has lunch with Sakura, Syaoran and Tomoyo, Kero sneaks out of Sakura’s bag to meet and chat with Mizuki. Throughout the day he’d been “feeling the moon”, or rather the power of the moon, which Mizuki admits she draws upon for her magic. She also seems to know about Yue, who we learn is Kero’s guardian counterpart. Finally, Touya reveals himself as working as a balloon-peddling mascot at the shrine.

Both Touya and Mizuki both forebodingly declare that there’s no such thing as “coincidence”, only “inevitability.” Sure enough, a Clow Card makes its appearance on the shrine grounds, and judging from the fissures and mountains it creates, it looks to be an earth-element card—and a tough one to boot! In a break from most CCS outings, the credits roll before the card is captured…lending it special significance.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 40 – Tower of Dreams

Sakura, Tomoyo, Syaoran and Meiling go on a shopping and sightseeing trip to Tokyo…on their own. Wait, aren’t these eleven-year-old kids who require supervision during such a trip? Apparently not! I guess all that cardcapturing has forced them to grow up fast. In any case, I was definitely vicariously living through them as they did ordinary city things now made far more difficult during the Covid ordeal.

As the quartet darts around the metropolis, they are shadowed by a glowing blue butterfly that is most definitely a Clow Card that starts having an effect on them one by one. First there’s Tomoyo, who is happily recording their day when all of a sudden an entire squadron of Sakuras in battle costumes surround her. As you would expect, Tomoyo enjoys this hallucination immensely.

When the group catches a movie and it gets to a romantic scene with a seaside sunset, Syaoran shows himself out of the theater to grab some drinks as Sakura and Meiling both swoon. Unfortunately, upon reaching the theater door he finds himself within the movie as its protagonist and Sakura as his love interest, flustering him even more than if he’d just kept his seat.

From there, the group heads to the Tokyo Tower to get some birds-eye views of the city. Despite having never been there in person before, as we know Sakura has been dreaming of the tower on-and-off ever since Syaoran showed up, with the dreams increasing in frequency when Mizuki-sensei arrived. Upon entering the tower’s base, Sakura feels…off? Then she encounters both Touya and Yukito working up in the observation deck, even though they’re supposed to be playing soccer.

Night falls, and Sakura watches her dream unfold from a different viewpoint, and it’s confirmed beyond doubt that Mizuki is the woman perched on the tower. Sakura starts to wig out, not sure what to do, but “Dream” Sakura approaches Sakura and tells her everything will be alright and work out in the end. From there, Sakura wakes up to find she never left the tower’s lobby, with Syaoran supporting her with one hand while pinning the Dream card with the Time card.

Sakura manages to seal Dream, which flies into Syaoran’s hand as the one who subdued it, and the four continue their trip without the threat of slipping into any more dreams. Then we cut back to one more wide shot of the tower and there is Mizuki-sensei, in broad daylight, magic bell in hand, smiling her inscrutable smile. Kero warns Sakura that the dreams she’s experiencing foretell events that will come to pass in the real, waking world. But the nagging question remains…What the heck is Mizuki up to?

Cardcaptor Sakura – 27 – Return By Card

First when she met Kero-chan, then Syaoran, and now Mizuki-sensei: Sakura tends to have strange, cinematic dreams involving the Tokyo Tower after meeting someone with a lot of magical power. These dreams, and the music that accompany them, are always wonderfully otherworldly and striking. This latest one also ends when Sakura wakes up at six in the morning, long before she needs to be at school.

Sakura uses the extra time to take a morning stroll on her blades, and ends up at the Tsukimine shrine, where she encounters Mizuki in her shrine maiden garb. Sakura decides to help her sweep the shrine grounds, and Yukito shows up to help, making it a very good morning for Sakura. Only when she and Mizuki-sensei come to school, Syaoran’s mistrust of the latter remains as strong as ever.

That night, after revealed through her father that Touya and Mizuki indeed knew each other, Sakura heads back to the shrine, where Kero-chan senses a strong Clow Card presence. So does Syaoran, so he joins Sakura in the search. Notably, neither Meiling nor Tomoyo are there. This leads to Sakura and Syaoran having some quality alone time to frankly discuss their mutual love for Yukito…at least until Syaoran is too bashful to continue and runs off.

When he does, however, the previously concealed Return Clow Card makes its move, pulling Sakura into the past using both the magical power of the tree the full moon. Turns out a lot happened under that tree over the years: it’s where Touya first met Kaho, who was a student teacher when he was in eighth grade.

As Sakura observes, the tree was also where Touya confessed his love for Kaho, Kaho returned his feelings, and where they eventually broke up, all of which Kaho handles with a kind of stoic serenity that suggests she knew everything that was going to happen ahead of time…and maybe she did! Eventually Sakura is pulled back to the present. Return’s physical form is revealed, and Sakura seals the card…but this one flies over to Syaoran, and Kero-chan grudingly admits Sakura owes him her thanks.

Just as Return needed an enormous amount of magical power to activate (and even then could only send Sakura to the past), Syaoran expends a great deal of power using Time to bring Sakura back in a timely fashion. Sakura expresses her gratitude by giving Syaoran a big old hug, and when he starts glowing pink, it’s an early sign that he’ll get over his Yukito crush…all in good time. Of course, the question remains: Just what exactly is Mizuki Kaho’s deal? Is she a baddie? Are WE the baddies?

Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta – 05

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An old man arrives at Hime’s house with the mayor Kohime is running against and a powerful monster, and activates an anti-youkai field that weakens full youkai, including Hime, who is badly beaten. The man demands Kohime drop out of the election and for Hime to relinquish her mayorship to him. Juri arrives and takes Hime to the hospital. Akina and Kyousuke fight with the half-youkai Shinozuka while Ao uses her Satellite ability to locate the source of the field: the Tokyo Tower.

This episode is only one half of a two-parter and is mostly setup for a showdown with a so-far nondescript villain, but it was a waaaaay better effort than last week’s dawdling clunker. We already knew from previous version of this anime that Hime was a youkai, but the flashback with Akina was very touching, and we liked Hime’s reasoning for wiping everyone’s memories of what she really is so she can better understand her constituents. This episode did something else gutsy, in taking perhaps the most powerful fighter of the quartet completely out of action in the first minutes.

This leaves her friends to save the day, and so far they seem more than up to the task. Once everyone leave’s Himes house and splits up, there’s a great energy to the story. Everyone is given something to do (except Touka…where’d she go?) and they have to do it under considerable duress (in the form of flying scooters for Akina and a rampaging dragon-thing for Ao and Kotoha). This was more or less table-setting, but highly competent table-setting. We look forward to seeing how things shake out, which is more than we could say after last week.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • That “anti-youkai field” is a hell of a plot device…but we like Yae’s workaround, as well as Yuuhi’s subtle hint to Ao. Gods can only interfere so much, after all.
  • As soon as we heard “Minato” and “high place”, Tokyo Tower immediately came to mind. Though we’re a little disappointed it wasn’t the Tokyo Sky Tree.
  • About Minato: didn’t Juri point out to Akina and Kyousuke that no one could physically leave Sakurashin? If that’s the case, how are Ao and Kotoha going to get to the field? Hopefully this quandary is answered and isn’t just a plot hole.
  • Seems odd how Ao is able to use her ability at such a high level when the anti-youkai field still in place and Yae weakening all youkai power town-wide. Perhaps it’s just evidence Ao is one seriously powerful cat girl. She says all of Tokyo is “no sweat”; perhaps if the field were down she could read the whole country’s minds…
  • The huge pile of gifts from townsfolk was a cute little scene that quickly showed Hime that the people in fact do love their mayor. Who wouldn’t? That scarf is adorable.
  • So far the nameless villain is pretty damn bland. Here’s hoping we won’t have to watch him standing around yammering all next week.

Mawaru Penguindrum – 15 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 22 Oct 2011 – In this Yuri-centric episode, a young Yuri lives with her horrible, abusive father, a famous, renowned sculptor. He only loves things that are beautiful, and thinks Yuri is ugly, so he “chisels” away at her, leaving a body part bandaged after each session. It is during this abuse that she meets Momoka Oginome, who tries to gain her trust by telling her about a her diary, which she can use to transfer fate to living things, changing their futures. Before Yuri’s father kills her, Momoka transfers Yuri’s fate; her father and the massive tower that represented him is gone, as are her injuries – but Momoka has to pay the price, and dies. Masako infiltrates the bathhouse and makes off with half of the diary, but Yuri still has the half she stole from Ringo.

This episode began with a fresh new opening sequence, so we knew that a big episode was in store, and it didn’t disappoint one bit, opening up an entirely new can of whoopass by answering a lot of questions hanging out there, among them, who was Momoka? We finally see and hear her, as she befriends Yuri. Momoka has god-like powers. Her diary can transfer fate as easily as transfering subway routes (we friggin’ love that analogy). We also know what killed her, and that was a selfless act that saved Yuri from The Worst Father In The World. So there’s a little bit of Jesus in her, too. And how about the fact that the Tokyo Tower used to be a massive stone skyscraper in the shape of Michelangelo’s David? Weird. Wild.

Was was so amazing about this week is just how much managed to be dished out. Not only do we learn a bunch about Momoka and Yuri, but Shoma realizes the error of sending off Ringo so forcably, and comes to save the day – although, true to fate, he doesn’t have to go far, as he just happens to be in the hotel room right next to the one where Yuri has Ringo tied up and ready to do awful things to. We also have a great surprise cameo by Masako, taking back half of the diary after an excellent little battle between the two feisty women. So now we know just how powerful the diary (penguin drum…) is. And if Ringo was successful in using it previously, than it’s clear she too had to pay some kind of price for every fate she changed.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Mawaru Penguindrum – 15

In this Yuri-centric episode, a young Yuri lives with her horrible, abusive father, a famous, renowned sculptor. He only loves things that are beautiful, and thinks Yuri is ugly, so he “chisels” away at her, leaving a body part bandaged after each session. It is during this abuse that she meets Momoka Oginome, who tries to gain her trust by telling her about a her diary, which she can use to transfer fate to living things, changing their futures. Before Yuri’s father kills her, Momoka transfers Yuri’s fate; her father and the massive tower that represented him is gone, as are her injuries – but Momoka has to pay the price, and dies. Masako infiltrates the bathhouse and makes off with half of the diary, but Yuri still has the half she stole from Ringo.

This episode began with a fresh new opening sequence, so we knew that a big episode was in store, and it didn’t disappoint one bit, opening up an entirely new can of whoopass by answering a lot of questions hanging out there, among them, who was Momoka? We finally see and hear her, as she befriends Yuri. Momoka has god-like powers. Her diary can transfer fate as easily as transfering subway routes (we friggin’ love that analogy). We also know what killed her, and that was a selfless act that saved Yuri from The Worst Father In The World. So there’s a little bit of Jesus in her, too. And how about the fact that the Tokyo Tower used to be a massive stone skyscraper in the shape of Michelangelo’s David? Weird. Wild.

Was was so amazing about this week is just how much managed to be dished out. Not only do we learn a bunch about Momoka and Yuri, but Shoma realizes the error of sending off Ringo so forcably, and comes to save the day – although, true to fate, he doesn’t have to go far, as he just happens to be in the hotel room right next to the one where Yuri has Ringo tied up and ready to do awful things to. We also have a great surprise cameo by Masako, taking back half of the diary after an excellent little battle between the two feisty women. So now we know just how powerful the diary (penguin drum…) is. And if Ringo was successful in using it previously, than it’s clear she too had to pay some kind of price for every fate she changed.



Rating: 4 ~series elevated to favorites ~

Tokyo Trip Journal 5

8 June, Heisei 22 (Tue)

Riding the subway is actually quite fun, especially when you don’t have any set schedule or anywhere in particular to be. Also, you can ride it all you want for 1000 yen (a bit over $10), so I figured I’d get my money’s worth. It threatened to rain all day, but only momentary sprinkles here and there until something resembling a drizzle at sundown.

I took the subway to Roppongi, and to a very trendy (and Westerny) quarter called Roppongi Hills, right next to TV Asahi HQ. Another art gallery sat upon a high place; in this case the 52nd floor of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower (Mori owns many towers in Roppongi). The Mori Art Museum made the Sompo Musuem seem a little dowdy, not least the which because it was full of much newer and flashier pieces and installations of audio and video. The prices in the museum shop were, shall we say, optimistic?

I made a brief stop in nearby Akebanebashi to check out the Tokyo Tower, which was tall, white, and international orange. Then to the nearest station, Daimon, which via Shimbashi led me to Ginza, of of Tokyo’s swankiest districts. I took a look at a lot of fancy stores like Adidas and Sony, saw the new Nissan Leaf, and got lunch a a fast-food chain called Lotteria, which had very good cheeseburgers and emerald green Suntory Melon Pop to wash them and the fries down. I also bought a bottle of sake.

From Ginza, I took the Ginza line west, all the way to Shibuya, yet another cosmopolitan/bustling/chic ‘hood full of stores selling stuff no one needs at exhorbitant prices. I’m beginning to see a pattern. No matter; I realize these places need to exist. In any case, Shibuya has some of the largest crosswalks; at one notable intersection all automotive traffic stops so pedestrians in all directions can cross. It’s really something to behold and to experience firsthand. From Shibuya I took the Fukushotin line to Meiji-Jingumae, the station closest to the Meiji shrine in Yoyogi Park. I did a bit more walking than I should have, but it was worth seeing such a serene and gorgeous place.

Back in Shinjuku as night approached, I grabed dinner at a hole-in-the-wall eatery packed with smoking diners…after much constirnation and head-wrining about where to eat. The simple matter is, there is so much choice, it can potentially be paralyzing. This restaurant has a machine that tilts a mug and slowly pours Kirin beer, pauses briefly to let the fizz subside, then tops it off. Also, the average diner was smoking 3-4 cigarettes during their meal, not after. Smoking indoors is very much allowed at most restaurants and bars. The diners here ate very fast, too…and loud slurping of broth is not frowned upon. Dinner was 1000 yen.