Cardcaptor Sakura – 65 – The (Near) Disappearance of Tsukishiro Yukito

Sakura is blading home from the grocery store when she spots Touya grabbing Yukito and moves to intervene. That’s when she learns she’s rolled into the middle of a scene being filmed by Touya and Yukito’s class for their school fair.

The director, one Akizuki Nakuru, offers Sakura a role, knowing her cute factor could pay dividends. This elicits a hoeee from both Kinomotos in unison, which I believe is a first! She also gets approval from Eriol to use the old European-style mansion they live in with Spinel.

Tomoyo laments she can’t design Sakura’s costume for the movie, but she does help with hair and makeup, while her Taisho-era garb made her closely resemble a mini-Yuna, especially when she breaks out her wand later. Sakura’s look is a big hit with Nakuru and the high school girls.

That said, Sakura is super-nervous and her movements become super-mechanical as a result. Even so, she’s able to film her scenes to Nakuru’s satisfaction, though we don’t get to watch her performance live, Tomoyo is also filming the “making of” movie.

Sakura ends up finishing before Touya and Yukito, whose final scene takes place on a balcony. Unfortunately Yukito passes out and goes head over heels over the railing. Distressingly, it seems Nakuru AKA Ruby Moon was actually hoping something like this might happen.

Sakura quickly hides behind a bush, summons her wand, and invokes Windy in order to cushion Yukito’s fall, while an uncharacteristically anxious Touya climbs a tree down to him in order to carry him back inside.

Yukito is awake again when Touya decides it’s time to finally say what he’s wanted to say all season, but kept getting interrupted by Nakuru: he knows Yukito isn’t human…but it doesn’t matter. He just doesn’t want him to disappear. With the proverbial snow rabbit out of the bag, Yue reveals himself to Touya for the first time.

Yue tells Touya that Yukito above all didn’t want Touya to find out, but he’s kinda out of options, so he asks Touya if he understands what needs to be done to ensure Yukito (not to mention Yue) don’t disappear. Touya does know: it means giving Yue all of his magical power, which up to this point has allowed him to not only see his mom and others who have passed, but detect when Sakura is in danger.

Even so, Touya doesn’t hesitate, and after the transfer, he’s the one laid up in bed, recovering from the shock of losing all his magic. In exchange, Yue is stronger than ever, something Nakuru was trying to avoid all this time, but ultimately something neither Spinel nor Eriol believe will matter much in the long run.

Sakura feels bad about not having sufficient power for Yue, but he tells her not to cry lest she make her brother sad. So Sakura resolves to be strong and protect her brother now that he’s lost all his power. When she comes home, she learns Kero-chan knew all about Yue’s risk of disappearing, but kept it from Sakura lest it get her down.

But she’s down now anyway. Things have worked out for now, but having come so close to losing Yukito has spurred her to step up her efforts to confess to him. This is somewhat surprising, as her crush on Yukito has been markedly underplayed this season as Syaoran’s crush on her (and many a failed attempt to confess) has been at the forefront. Even so, she’s poised to make her move next week.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 58 – Within the Bubble

Whether you consider it testing Sakura or just plain fucking with her, Eriol keeps up his little secret game this week. Sakura, Syaoran, Tomoyo, Kerberus and Yue all show up at Penguin Park when Clow’s presence is felt, but they can’t find anything out of the ordinary and it starts to rain, they all go home.

Eriol’s “trial-of-the-week” this time involves blocking either Kerberos or Yue from transforming back into their disguises. While nobody is in any immediate danger, it’s certainly a hassle to have to hide them from those she believes not to be in the know (namely Touya). More distressing to her is the prospect of Yue never being able to become Yukito again, as she considers them two distinct people she cares about in equal measure.

But again, this isn’t a particularly pressing matter except insomuch as it will be tough to keep what is essentially a winged lion and cultish-looking winged dude in her room indefinitely. So she tries to catch some shuteye, hopeful the guardians be able to change back the next morning. Alas, the situation doesn’t change, and on top of it all Sakura has a Sunday full of house chores to perform.

She puts Kerberos to work doing what he can with his beefy paws; he’s ironically far more useful in a house in his plushie form! When he gets fed up with Yue simply standing around not helping (and Sakura not insisting he help, thus spoiling him just like Clow used to), Kerberos prepares to toss a bag of flour at him, only to himself become covered with it. Sakura takes him into the bath and he suggests she convert and use Bubble to wash him, as Clow once did.

Upon returning to the kitchen, Sakura finds that Yue has helped out after all by cleaning up the flour mess. She broaches the topic of Clow and Yue’s particular devotion to him, noting the look in his eyes when he speaks about him is similar to how her dad looks when talking about her mom.

Suddenly it dawns on Sakura to convert and use the Shield card on her guardians. Eriol’s magic is repelled by the shield, enabling them to finally change back to their disguises. And since Yukito is at Sakura’s house, he might as well stay for dinner!

All’s well that ends well, but Kero-chan is thoroughly unnerved about the possibility of someone with Clow’s power out there unchecked. Whether it’s Kero, Yue, Syaoran, or Sakura, I’m certain someone will manage to connect the strange incidents and Eriol…but with twelve episodes left, a few more trials are likely…in the cards.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 50 – Thread and Thrum

Sakura wakes up early, but seeming a little down. Kero-chan tells her whatever the deal is with the Sakura Cards, she needs to keep her spirits up and stay positive. To that end, she goes to school early to watch Touya and Yukito play soccer. Naturally, they’re a dynamic duo on the pitch—and Akizuki is quick to pounce on Touya and glare at Yukito.

Sak’s friends have noticed she’s seemed not quite her usual cheerful self, so Rika makes her some delicious homemade cookies, and also shows everyone the teddy bear she’s making for Terada-sensei. Syaoran lounges in a tree high above Sakura, about whom he’s worried, when Eriol confronts him about all the nasty looks he’s shot his way. Eriol seems to have plans for Syaoran, deeming him “useful”.

While she seems to have the blessing of her friends, I do wish Terada-sensei would give Rika a tactful yet firm word about not falling in love with an adult when she’s still in fifth damned grade. As for Tomoyo, she holds firm in her position that she’s happy if Sakura’s happy—even if Sakura doesn’t requite her feelings. It’s an incredibly sweet sentiment…but also deeply sad considering how clueless Sakura seems to be!

Sakura’s attempt to make a bear for Yukito hits some snags when she suddenly senses Clow Reed’s presence once more. She meets with Tomoyo where the feeling is most powerful, and calls Syaoran to be by her side as she promised. However, this works against Sakura in this case as Syaoran’s body is being controlled by someone, and it’s making him attack her! A heroic Tomoyo tackle stops Syaoran from slicing Sakura.

This costs Tomoyo her camcorder, but she can buy more cameras. She only has one Sakura! Syaoran manages to regain control long enough to summon the water spirit, which makes visible the puppet threads in which he’s tangled. Sakura quickly releases her wand, converts Sword to a Sakura Card, and slashes the threads with authority, freeing Syaoran.

Having expended considerable magical power, Sakura passes out once more, this time in Syaoran’s arms. This side-effect of using Sakura Cards could prove a decisive liability if shit really hits the fan—say if a second threat appears after she falls asleep battling the first. It seems inevitable Eriol is going to make that scenario happen in the near future, because he seems determined to, in the parlance of our times, fuck Sakura’s shit UP.

And why, do you ask, would he want to do that? Well, the same reason Sakura and Kero-chan sense Clow Reed before something bad goes down: Hiiragizawa Eriol is the reincarnation of Clow Reed. Further, he’s created two guardian equivalents to Kero and Yue in Spinel Sun and Ruby Moon, AKA Akizuki Nakuru. Not only is Nakuru not human, she’s not a “she”, and doesn’t want to date Touya, but eat him!

Clearly, Eriol is testing Sakura’s powers, and while they’re impressive, I’m sure he’s just itching to regain control of the Clow Cards. Hopefully Sakura and her friends can keep that from happening and send Eriol and his minions back to merry old England. But since twenty episodes remain, that’s probably going to take a while!

Stray Observations:

  • Sakura’s all-white and gray battle costume was gorgeous, making it a dreadful shame when Puppet!Syaoran slashes it with his sword.
  • I also want to note this third season’s OP is probably my favorite so far, which isn’t too surprising since it’s anchored by the lovely vocals of one Sakamoto Maaya.
  • It also features my favorite OP Battle Costume, though Sakura seems awfully sleepy throughout the OP…no doubt since using her cards is so tiresome!
  • GROOVY! was the most toe-tapping end theme but the New ED has the best visuals, with a glowed-up Sakura and Tomoyo having an absolute blast baking a cake.

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!

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 08 – Slashing Through Absolute Space

Prior to the start of the final duel between Anos and Ray, the owl MC fitted Anos with a Spirit Drain Ring that saps his Magic Power. If that power is depleted, Ray’s mother will die. If he defeats Ray, the contractual Magic Sword will destroy his source.

Ray decides to damage the contractual sword himself anyway, breaking his contract and leaving him with nothing but his fight with Anos. It’s a duel they both wish to fight for its own sake, not for any outside stakes.

When Anos stabs Ray through the chest (at the cost of his own arm), he learns that both the contractual sword and his participation in the tournament was arranged as part of a plot to eliminate him for good.

The author of this plot? Melheis, who promptly locks Anos in a dimensional prison with more than half of his Magic Power drained.

Melheis seems to have thought this plan out very thoroughly, as it employs multiple contingencies, from the use of Ray’s mom as a hostage to creating an “Absolute Space” where he and only he can reside, thus preventing him from ever being defeated.

He even saved a part of the wall Anos himself used to divide the world into four. What Melheis overlooks is the fact Ray had already made peace with the fact he wasn’t going to be able to save his mother no matter what.

That, and that by bringing his mother into the dimensional prison, he brought the one person who could destroy Ray’s pessimistic resolve with hope and love. She remembers when he slashed a pot with a kitchen knife. Now she becomes a sword (her true spirit form) with which he’s able to slash the un-slashable Absolute Space.

Melheis’ third and final mistake is attempting to eliminate Anos with Beno Ievun (the wall spell) after sapping so much of his Magic Power. Rather than the intended effect of killing Anos, it instead releases a limiter of sorts that had resided in Anos’ Destruction Source. Anos had never faced quite this much peril, so the true depths of his power had been limited…until now.

With that power he summons Venuzdnor, chops Melheis’ legs off, and destroys the prison. He then destroys a tiny Sword of Subordination that was attached to Melheis’ brain, thus explaining his sudden heel turn. With that brain bug destroyed, Melheis is again loyal to Anos.

The duel ends with Anos as the winner, and he makes a very loud and precise speech to all the assembled spectators in the arena and throughout the land crediting his victory to his sword, which contained his father’s very soul.

By doing so, he’s able to create the “tradition” of souls within swords that enables him to heal Ray’s mother’s source and revive her safe and sound (again, her true form being a sword). Ray never had to choose between his life, his mom’s, or Anos. Go fam!

All that’s left is the presentation of Anos’ trophy sword, which has always traditionally been performed by a Necron, hence Sasha making a last-minute appearance in an exquisite dress and a very cute alternate hairstyle. While she initially coldly holds the sword out to him, when he asks her to stick to the script she draw close and kisses his cheek.

Sasha took the job because she knew Anos would win, and she’d never accept any Demon King but him (though we may have gotten our first glimpse of the usurper Avos Dilhevia). Misha, meanwhile, never one for jealousy, simply asks if Anos had fun. He did!

Demon King Academy turned out another baroque magical skirmish that threatened to collapse under the weight of its arcane magical jargon. But just like the battle that saved Misha and Sasha, everything was held together with a solid emotional core, carefully prepared and supported by previous episodes.

Anos isn’t just an all-powerful Demon King. He’s a son who loves his mom and dad, and can and will do anything and everything for his friends. His enemies, while crafty, lack that sense of family unity and are instead held together by a patchwork of defeatable spells, trinkets, and fear; all easily defeatable. That’s why Anos always wins.

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.

Fruits Basket – 25 (First Season Fin) – Fighting Their Way Forward

Kyou quickly came to love Kazuma not just as a foster parent or guardian or shishou, but as a father, but because of the stigma carried by his status as the Cat, he always felt he didn’t have the right to call him one. Kazuma took Kyou in in part as an act of penance after even he treated his kind grandfather with cruelty and revulsion, only to be forgiven with a smile.

Then Kazuma began to love Kyou like a son, but found himself never quite able to say so. Matters weren’t helped when Kyou would forcefully insist he was no son of his when he (often) got into trouble. Kazuma also feels it would be too selfish to continue to see Kyou as a son after forcing him to reveal his true form to Tooru, so he leaves without saying goodbye.

But Kyou is glad what happened last week happened, and it could not have happened without Kazuma…or Tooru. After years of sparring with his shishou, the two finally connect on an emotional level and acknowledge that they are, in every way that matters, father and son. Tooru is the bridge that makes that possible…and in a neat touch, that connection happens on a bridge!

While everything is peaches in Kyou-land, and he is committed to becoming more independent and tempering his fiery nature when needed, the rancor between him and Yuki has not ceased. Judging from Yuki’s body language, part of that may be due to Kyou’s recent “monopolization” of Tooru.

In this regard he’s going through something similar to Saki, who had to fight back the notion of Tooru spending less time with her and more with the Souma’s as something bad, since constant possession isn’t love. Heck, Kagura is experiencing the same thing, only with Kyou.

While Tooru’s attention—and her heart—is split among many different parties, she’s not alone in worrying about Yuki. Haruhatsu, one of the more emotionally intelligent Soumas, also notices something’s off, and so makes sure to remind Yuki that just because Tooru’s been busy with Kyou of late doesn’t mean she’s forgotten about him or worries about him any less.

Yuki then seeks Tooru out on the stairs, thanks her for her continued worrying, and commits to spend more time outside doing things with people this summer…and with Tooru in particular, even breaking out a modified wall slam in semi-jest!

It’s clear the second season will likely involve the continued push-pull of Tooru between Yuki and Kyou, but both have become categorically better people with her in their world, so it’s all good in the Soumahood.

While the show makes it clear that it will be far from smooth sailing all the time in the second season, those hoping for the first season to end on a hopeful positive note can breathe a sigh of relief. One after another Soumas gather at Shigure’s for a big celebratory meal with Tooru; the only major players missing being the two yet-to-be-introduced Zodiac animals, and Shigure, who is meeting with Akito.

Before joining the others, Hiro meets with Rin, perhaps one of those two  animals, while the other could be the faceless guy with the faceless female friend who spots Yuki at school. But there’s no devastating cliffhanger that upends everyone’s lives or threatens Tooru’s marvelous little world.

Instead, she’s looking forward to a fun-filled Summer with everyone. I hope, after all she and the Soumas have been through, they’ll be allowed at least some of such a Summer before the next storm(s) arrive. With quite a bit of source material yet to be adapted, we can reasonably expect plenty more of this wonderful show well into 2020 and beyond. I can’t wait!

Fruits Basket – 24 – The Rosary

When Kyou’s mother committed suicide, everyone blamed him because he was cursed with the Cat spirit; everyone but Souma Kazuma, who took him under his wing and trained him without judgment. It was Kazuma’s grandfather, after all, who carried the spirit before Kyou, so even though he himself didn’t know what it was like, he was close to someone that did, and had empathy for them both.

Now Kazuma is back, and while he doesn’t show it around the others, Kyou is elated. He assumes he’s to go back to living with his shishou and continue his training. But Kazuma is there for something else. He’s seen Kyou with Tooru, and believes it’s time to tell her the truth about what Kyou is, even if Kyou would prefer to keep running away from that truth.

Kazuma doesn’t see much point in dragging things out. After informing Tooru, he takes Kyou’s arm and removes the rosary of red and white beads that never leaves his arm. Once it’s off, his true form is revealed, and it’s a truly terrifying, monstrous form with a smell to match. Throughout the transformation, Kyou recalls how Akito reacted (how you’d expect Akito to react—with utter disgust and rejection).

He expects the same reaction from Tooru, and while she’s initially frozen in shock, and later nauseous from the sight and smell of him, she still dutifully chases after him, completely forgetting that she just got over a cold!

Assuming she’s only there to have pity on him and offer hollow comfort, both things he’s sick to death of, he tosses her aside, hoping to hurt her enough so she’ll never forgive him. This strategy fails, of course, because we’re talking about Tooru here.

Kyou is weary of Tooru’s comfort (the “lukewarm bath” in which he’d gotten too pruny) because that’s what he got from his late mother: she gave him the rosary, checked his arm dozens of times a day to make sure he was wearing it, and wouldn’t let him outside. He could never trust or accept the love she insisted she had for him because she worked so tirelessly to hide his true form, sweeping it under the rug like it didn’t exist.

Even though his mother told him all the time that she’d die for him, that wasn’t what Kyou needed, or needs. What he needs, and what Tooru ultimately provides, is not an assurance she’ll die for him, but that she’ll live life with him. She doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but she won’t look away or turn away from him, even in his true form.

Tooru fears Kyou never returning to Shigure’s house more than the reality of his true form, so she takes hold of his misshapen limb and doesn’t let go, until he transforms back into human form, and then into his cute Zodiac cat form, and they return to the house together triumphant and to Kazuma’s relief.

In this regard, Tooru has emerged as his new proverbial rosary; one that doesn’t hide what he is but accepts it and is committed to living with him anyway. And however dark the future gets, he’s able to move past his dark past because she’ll be right there facing that future beside him.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 06

CCS definitely seems to be building towards something on the Clear Card and Cloaked Figure fronts, but the show is more than content to apportion that plot in dribs and drabs. To be honest, so am I—Sakura and her circle friends are likable enough that I’m just fine hanging out with them as their normal lives unfold.

While out shopping Sakura runs into Akiho, and discovers that she carries around a little stuffed rabbit, and considering Kero-chan pretends to be a stuffed animal, I wouldn’t be surprised if Akiho had a familiar of her own who stayed still around others.

As a newcomer to the franchise, I’m also chuffed to finally meet Keroberos in his “true form” as a great winged cat; he whips that out when another face from past shows, Meiling, has a Facetime call with Sakura.

Our only check-in on the Cloaked Figure mystery is when Sakura suddenly spaces out and ends up in a strange space filled with giant shimmering clocks and gears. She asks the figure questions but as always the figure says nothing.

From there, it’s back to school, where both Sakura and Akiho demonstrate their aptitude for reciting Japanese, and Tomoyo invites Akiho to try out the Chorus Club, recruiting Syaoran to accompany them on the piano as they sing a lovely duet.

The Clear Card of the Week is almost an afterthought, as ominous sounds of a camera recording turn out to be the “Record” Card, which Sakura secures without any difficulty whatsoever. I guess not every card-capture involves hazards!

Another week, another card for Sakura, while Syaoran seems increasingly frustrated he can’t sense them the way he could sense the Clow Cards of past series. Whether that inability will curdle into resentment or envy, creating a rift in his budding romance with Sakura, remains to be seen.

But then, a lot remains to be seen: who Akiho is, who the cloaked figure is (if not Akiho), whether Momo can move and talk like Kero, what Syaoran is keeping from Sakura and why, and what exactly the deal is with all these dang Clear Cards.

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 09

After the dispersal of Cartaphilus, life returns mostly to normal for Chise, who enters a nice, steady routine along with her new familiar Ruth. The part that isn’t normal is Elias: he’s confined himself to his room and Chise doesn’t dare enter. Eventually, Silky tires of her standing by Elias’ door and throws her and Ruth out of the front one with spending money.

It’s not long before Chise runs into Angelica, and the two do some sightseeing and shopping around town. Angelica first tells her she needs to learn to rely on people more, but later wonders out loud if she’s being too dependent and fixed on Elias. While Angelica apologizes for saying too much, Chise latches on to her latter point, and turns it into a larger criticism on her own perceived “selfishness” for not wanting to be abandoned.

Obviously, Chise’s being too hard on herself. Considering how much she’s already lost in her sixteen years (and how few years she may have), I’d say she deserves a measure of selfishness. Besides, even as an apprentice she’s touched a number of lives in meaningful ways. She’s a good person becoming a good mage.

As if she heard my words about her, Chise decides to do what she wants, which is storm in Elias’ room and ask him what exactly is going on. The Elias who she meets is even farther from human than usual, and he warns her (with a steady voice that belies his fearsome appearance) he’s having trouble controlling his body. I couldn’t help but think of Howl (of the Moving Castle) when he’s extended himself too far and become beast-like.

Chise was startled initially, but doesn’t remain afraid for long (thinking it’s because she’s cursed). In fact, she spends the night with Elias, during which she dreams of him on top of her turning into her mother, who tells her she should never have given birth to her. How creepy and messed up is that? She wakes up to find Elias gone and a note saying he’ll be back that night.

That’s not sufficient for Chise, who didn’t get all the answers she wanted, and initiates a search for Elias with Ruth. Along the way, they encounter an old man apparently in thrall to a leannan sidhe, a kind of vampire that gives their host talent in exchange for their blood – but she is invisible to him.

The thing is…while Joel Garland is a big reader and occasional writer, he doesn’t have the talent or fame one would expect the Sidhe to give him. Nor does she even take his blood, because he lacks the ambition that is usually the opening her kind uses to gain a host.

Instead, she fell for him, years ago, when they met eyes. They meet eyes again, and the Sidhe believes it’s because Chise, a sleigh beggy, is there. She gives Chise a couple of kisses as thanks and asks her to come see Joel again some time, but insists, almost tsundere-like, that she doesn’t actually love the guy, since she can’t give him talent or take his blood.

Chise doesn’t think she can talk of love when all she can think about is herself…but is she really doing that? Does she only worry about Elias because he saved her; because gives her a reason to live; because she benefits?

Ruth finds Elias resting in a pool and Chise races to him, demanding more answers even though she expects only a few mixed with half-truths and deflections. Elias always assumed a minimum of information was needed since she understands and accepts him so quickly.

What he didn’t realize was that Chise cares about him to the extent a note and a little bit of explanation isn’t always going to cut it; she’s going to want more sometimes. Elias, taken aback by her “new faces”, now understands, but still needs more time to recover and gather his thoughts.

Just then, Echo’s familiar appears on behalf of Lindel, to invite Elias and Chise to the Land of the Dragons where he has “business” with her, revealing the setting for Chise’s next adventure.

Houseki no Kuni – 04

When Master Kongou finally wakes up from his slumber, it’s from a strange dream in which he is in the center of a mob of Lunarians, and destroys them all with a kind of chakra. He regrets sleeping too long.

Jade, Bort, and Diamond then brief him on everything that’s happened, including the snail eating Phos, mining and reconstructing Phos from the snail’s shell, and the fact that only Phos can understand what the creature is saying, leading everyone to think Phos has gone crazy.

In defense of Phos, we can hear the creature too; their name is Ventricosus, king of of the Admirabilis, and in her current form, she’s pretty cheeky (she’s also voiced by Saito Chiwa).

Despite the indignity of a tossed Ventricosus landing on his head just right, Kongou not only believes Phos, but uses Phos as an interpreter to initiate a dialogue with the creature. He orders Phos keep the creature close while continuing work on the encyclopedia (at present, the amount of work Phos has done on that is…naught).

When Phos speaks on Cinnabar’s behalf, Kongou interrupts, stating that not only is he still working on the matter (and has yet to find a solution), but that it was Cinnabar’s decision to go on night watch to begin with, going into exile rather than sit around HQ doing nothing. It’s not ideal, but Kongou maintains the best way Phos can help Cinnabar is by doing what he ordered: work on that encyclopedia. Later, Phos and Venty get to talking, and Venty mentions that there is someone who resembles the Gems back in her homeland under the sea.

Phos, not making any progress on the land with Cinnabar, decides it’s work a look, and prepares for the trip by applying a salve to the “skin” that should protect the finish from the saltwater. Rutile tattles on Phos, and Kongou categorically forbids such a trip, reminding Phos to do what he asked and not worry about Cinnabar for now.

When it’s clear Ventri isn’t getting the proper nutrition she needs away from the sea (Phos even believes Ventri has died momentarily), Phos and Ventri have a very in-depth discussion on the nature of death (something neither the immortal Phos nor any Gem may can fully grasp the finality of), then Phos breaks the rules once again and heads underwater.

Once on the sea floor, Venty suddenly transforms into a beautiful jellyfish-queen form, and here is again where the 3DCGI fluidity really shines. Now closer to home, Venty starts to remember certain information; a kind of oral history about a race called “humans” who walked the earth.

Things happened, and humans split into three distinct forms: flesh (Admirabilae like Venty), bone (the Gems) and soul (the Lunarians). “Vague stories” also point to the fact that the Lunarians are seeking a revival of humanity by uniting the three forms, capturing them by force.

While that’s their goal, the “flesh” in the equation are content with their existence under the waves, while the “bone” would clearly prefer not being attacked from the sky all the time.

Alas, Ventricosus is hiding something, and exploits their newly-formed bond to deceive Phos. There is no malice in her actions, but her brother is being held by the Lunarians, and she means to offer Phos in exchange for his freedom.

With the sun almost down and Phos greatly weakened, the Lunarians prepare to capture Phos, smashing Phos’ arms and legs. But I’m sure Venty’s betrayal hurts far more than Phos’ loss of limbs, and the fact that Phos once again needs rescuing after disobeying Kongou’s commands to try to help Cinnabar.

It isn’t just the animation that’s beautiful in HnK, although it certainly is that; it’s also very well-written and performed, with a wealth of clever quips in the dialogue and some surprisingly profound discussion on the varying natures of existence of the three kinds of beings.

It remains a mystery what happened to humans, or what exactly Kongou is besides caretaker to the Gems, but if we take Venty’s stories at face value, we now know a lot more about why things are the way they are in this world, and have a clearer picture on the Lunarians’ goals.

Not that that puts them in the right; despite being human myself (I think), there’s something sinister about eliminating three new forms of life that emerged naturally for the sake of reviving one. It seems reckless and hubristic; akin to swimming against the waves of evolution.