Oigakkosan’s Summer 2019 Anime Season Wrap-up

Arifureta began as a grim, visually unremarkable dungeon crawler, hinting at global conflicts and structures of political and social control… before devolving into guy-shoots-monsters-gets-harem-rinse-repeat. Pitting guns, missiles and motorcycles against orcs and wolves is tricky to make compelling, and Arifureta’s mediocre animation, slow plot, and constant battles doesn’t help.

Worse shows aired this season but few featured dragons being anally raped by the protagonist with a giant metal spike, nor said dragon joining said protagonist’s harem afterwards. However, and I’m going out on a limb here, even if this is up your personal kink, Arifureta’s PG-13 sensibilities probably wont go far enough for you. Niche at best, Barely Watchable for the rest of us.

Dr Stone is delightfully consistent with it’s focus on science process, over the top characters, and methodical plot to rebuild society from the stone age up. While its medium term objective (defeat super-strong/ super evil antagonist with science) has taken a back seat to gaining support of the villagers Senko discovered mid-season, its not forgotten.

We’ve learned about electricity, food chemistry, and glass as much as human nature, motivation and weakness. Hand in hand with lovable characters and charming visual style, Dr Stone is probably my most recommended show of the season.

Given’s relationship story is lovely, thoughtful, and matured with deeper issues of loss. The wow is in the details. From taking a dozen buses just to stand by the ocean, just to stand where you once stood with a close friend, to walking off stage after only one song, Given doesn’t over explain itself with dialog.  It’s solid but, like real romance, the best parts come from getting to know the characters. So I called it quits after episode six. Still, highly recommended

Granbelm finally developed an emotional core: Mangetsu is a magic puppet created by Ernesta’s subconscious desire to have a friend who isn’t an effed up mess. Also, despite earlier signs that losing wasn’t that big a deal, it has been revealed that girls die all the time in magic fights but no one remembers because… magic amnesia.

These are solid reveals and Mangetsu’s heart filled good bye to the cast (almost all of which immediately forget she ever existed) was strongly delivered. It just took way too long to develop. Combined with a dull pure evil villain, power levels that swing at the whim of the story, and Granbelm’s misunderstanding of what a mystery is (as opposed to just being confusing) and the show is only watchable.

Maou-sama, Retry! started off so absurdly bad, so generically Demon Lord/Isekai, that it had a certain charm. As it strolled forward, it took no greater objective than to introduce new characters to Maou’s harem, and forget about previous characters and potential destinations for the story. Aku hasn’t even been in the previous two episodes. The result is powerfully without purpose. It doesn’t care. You shouldn’t either. Barely watchable.

UchiMusume also suffers from a lack of purpose and follow through. For a show that features a central character who’s past is a mystery, and a hero who occasionally kills people for political gain, there’s an awful lot of wandering around aimlessly and eating food!

The result is harmlessly cute but smidgens of world building do not make up for a four episode long trip to and from a village to buy a new trench coat. It’s Barely watchable.

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest – 01 (First Impressions) – The Pit of Misery, Dilly Dilly!

Arifureta doesn’t bother with any light-hearted introductions or explanations into how Nagumo Hajime and his class ended up transported to a new, fantastical world, it simply plops us right beside him as he wallows in an abyss of despair. He’s weak, ineffectual, and his only magical skill is transmuting the rock in his immediate vicinity.

He was underleveled way further up in this labyrinth; now he’s prey for prey. When a giant polar bear-like monster with a tanuki face slices his left arm off and eats it, he retreats into a cavern of his own making and passes out under a healing holy crystal, bleeding and waiting for death.

Then and only then do we get some insight into how he ended up in this situation: he was on a quest in the labyrinth when a careless classmate touched something that transported them to a far more dangerous level.

He manages to save his classmate Kaori from a rampaging behemoth, but while the others cover his escape, one of them targets him directly, sending him plummeting into the abyss where we first meet him.

Kaori, who may not see Hajime as a love interest but still looks out for him, warns him not to come on the quest after she has an awful dream about him meeting his doom, but he convinces her to help protect him, and he’ll be alright.

Turns out her dream was prescient, but when Hajime wakes up in the abyss, in pain but still not dead, he decides to change his tune and pump himself up into Survival At All Costs Mode. First, he drinks holy water, then he captures a smaller monster and eats its raw meat, which ends up poisoning him and turning his hair white.

But that’s not all: in addition to his badass hair, Hajime’s muscle mass and stats have all increased, and he’s gained the skill of the monster he ate. Much like Rimuru Tempest when he first arrived in a new world as a Slime, Hajime uses the ample resources around him to continue leveling up and build weapons that will let him defeat ever more powerful foes.

It’s a very A-leads-to-B-leads-to-C procedural process, but one thing’s for sure, Hajime’s seiyu Fukamachi Toshinari stops sounding so annoyingly whiny and adopts a cooler voice to go with his cooler appearance and upgraded skill-set. It’s as if he had to fall into the deepest abyss (and get betrayed by a classmate) in order to awaken the will to become a stronger person in this world.

Armed with a pistol and grenade, Hajime locates the bearlike monster who ate his arm, and utilizes all of his new skills to tear its arm off and eat it, then puts a bullet between its eyes. Hajime is no longer messing around; he’s going to survive and get home, and he’ll kill anyone “in his way.”

Isekai shows are like American crossover vehicles: there are a lot of them, and most of them are exactly the same, but still others are actually good. I’m not quite sure what Arifureta is quite yet, but it at least distinguished itself nicely by putting us right beside a protagonist who had already literally hit rock bottom.

Aside from some glimpses of his elaborately kitted-out classmates and the awakening of a starving, red-eyed Loli, this was a stripped-down and minimalist outing that focused on one young man shrugging off death and despair and improving himself to the point he can climb out of the darkness.

I’ll see where he leads…especially since Youjo Senki taught me the dangers of passing judgment on a show after its first episode.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 22 (Fin) – A Duel that Never Happened

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card ends with some fireworks, danger, and a much-awaited reveal to Sakura that her new friend Akiho is the cloaked figure who has been haunting her for months—only for that reveal to be undone by Yuna D. Kaito’s time reversal magic, the use of which fatigues him.

It just underscores what a contemptuous cad Yuna D. Kaito is to not only make Akiho do these things, but not even have the courtesy to let her remember. Akiho has been in the “Clock Land” of her dreams so often, the lines between dreams and reality are starting to blur, as she feels she’s somehow being a bother to Sakura in real life.

One night, while reminiscing about meeting Kero-chan for the first time, and how she’s glad she met everyone she’s met on her Cardcaptor adventures, she’s interrupted in mid-thought by yet another waking dream, only this time Cloaky is really there, balanced on an electrical pole.

Sakura releases her staff, activates Flight, and flies out to meet the figure, but Kero is blocked from leaving the same window by some kind of magical boundary he can’t break even in Big Mode. It’s clear Cloaky wants this confrontation to be one-on-one.

What follows are the aforementioned fireworks, with Akiho sending a giant ball of broken glass (which Sakura destroys with Blaze), a curtain of flame (she dissipates with Aqua), and a barrage of glowing projectiles (she gathers up with Spiral). Then Cloaky re-seals Sakura’s staff and begins to draw her key towards her.

When Sakura tries to re-release an grab her key back, Akiho dumps out all of Sakura’s Clear Cards, and even deactivates Flight, sending her careening to the earth from hundreds of feet in the air. It’s the tightest of tight spots Sakura’s ever been in, and as she falls, the cloak is pulled back and she catches an unmistakable look at a very out-of-it Akiho.

That would’ve been a fine cliffhanger on which to end things, but if Yuna was going to swoop in and undo it all, I’m glad it happened now and not in the next season, lest I get my hopes up for too long that the reveal would stick.

While inspecting the frozen Akiho and Sakura, Momo is of the mind Akiho will simply think this was all a dream as usual (she’s been “sleep-acting” as Cloaky all this time, after all), but Sakura will remember, spuring Yuna to use more taboo time magic to undo the duel.

I can’t help but feel terrible for poor Akiho, who is little more than a tool doing Yuna’s bidding while he hangs back, observes, and intervenes when necessary. In the season that follows I’d love to see her somehow break free of his hold on her, though that would require an awareness of her situation she still doesn’t have.

As for Sakura, she has no recollection of her big fight with Cloaky and losing all her cards and nearly her life, and simply continues on with what she was saying to Kero-chan after he dried her hair: with all of the wonderful people she’s met by her side, she’s confident she’ll be just fine, come what may. After that close call, I can’t yet share her confidence.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 21 – Two New Keys to Victory?

In an extended opening act between Sakura’s brother and father, the two discuss her similarity to her mother Nadeshiko, both her smile and the “something mysterious” about her. Sakura’s husband left things he couldn’t sense to Nadeshiko and didn’t ask questions, even if it meant he felt left out. But unlike his dad, Touya has the power to aid Sakura, should that time arise…and it’s looking pretty likely that it is!

Meanwhile, Sakura’s grandfather gives her one of the two items her mother wished her to have: a jeweled key she always treasured. My first thought was that this could be the key she needs to focus her magical power in order to oppose Yuna D. Kaito. The second “item” turns out to be gramps’ villa itself, meaning not only does Sakura have a potential new tool in the key, but a base from which to draw power.

Eriol mentions to Yue and Kero that the mansion where Yuna and Akiho live was once torn down to build an amusement park, yet now the park is gone and the mansion is back; its location being a particularly strong base for magicial power. He also informs his associates that Yuna was excommunicated from the order that gave him the “D” title, ostensibly for stealing a magical relic.

Eriol has a lot of exposition this wek: confirming that it is Sakura herself who has summoned all of the cards she’s been securing. They represent various aspects of her power, and while that power is considerable, it is still chaotic, without focus, and most importantly, inadvertent on the part of their creator.

Perhaps sensing his enemies have conspired together long enough, Yuna launches an attack on Eriol, cutting off both magical and conventional communications between him, Yue, and Kero. Eriol manages to fight off the attack, cracking his staff in the process, but it exhausts him. Even he can’t go up against a “D”-class magician for long.

While Yuna’s watch is finally broken, he still has that stolen relic—I’m guessing the book—and doesn’t seem too perturbed about pushing Akiho has far as he can in order to get Sakura’s cards.

Sakura remains uneasy about recent events, but nevertheless blissfully unaware of the identity, nature, and scale of her enemy and his plans. Instead, while watching Syaoran and his reflection in the car window, she wishes she could look in a mirror and see the Sakura everyone else sees.

That wish casts a fog around her home, and when she and Syaoran arrive, it has flipped around; become a reflection of itself. While a little strange and unnerving, there’s no active physical threat; all Sakura has to do is release her staff and secure the card, somewhat unimaginatively called “Mirror.”

It’s her twentieth card, and it enables Sakura to “mirror” her Flight card, making a double which she affixes to Syaoran so they can fly around hand in hand. Of all the things she could have done, she did something to make her and Syaoran happy. Too much power will make its owner unhappy, and Sakura is certainly hella powerful at this stage, if still chaotic. But Syaoran embraces her in midair and promises her he won’t let her be unhappy.

I’m not sure what he, or Kero, Yue, Eriol, or Touya can actually do, considering it’s been implied Yuna is stronger than all of them, and Sakura is the only one who has a chance of defeating him. But first she has to be told that Yuna is even an enemy that needs defeating, right? He’s been operating in the shadows for far too long while she’s dilly-dallied about with her newfound powers and ancillary high school life.

If her boyfriend, brother, friends and allies are really serious about preserving her happiness, she needs to be told the truth, even if it makes her unhappy. She needs to know so she can prepare for what’s coming. Because you know what would make her even more unhappy? If they, or anyone else (say Akiho) gets hurt because Yuna successfully stole her cards and becomes an unstoppable force.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 20 – The Lunch Mooch

Whatever the precise nature of Yuna D. Kaito’s goals, he seems pretty confident he’ll be able to pull them off. And can you blame him? Sakura still doesn’t have the slightest clue she’s being targeted, let alone how or why, and is content to continue living life as if nothing’s amiss.

She spends the morning making lunches for herself, Syaoran, Yukito and Kero for the day. I will say for the record she makes making rolled omelets look way too easy; aside from the fact those pans aren’t cheap, her method requires a lot of practice and a lot of failure.

Her date with Syaoran is replaced by a visit to the sprawling villa of Masaki, her mother’s grandfather, who apparently has something he simply must give her before departing abroad the next day. Syaoran accompanies her, and he and Sakura bicker over whose bento is better (each arguing for each other, not themselves, naturally).

When Grampa Masaki is alone with Syaoran, he comments on just how similar Sakura is to her mother; someone whose constant outward happiness and joie-de-vivre makes everyone around them happier. Meanwhile, Kero and Yue confer on the growing powers of both Sakura and Touya, while Kero receives a message from Eriol in England: a magic circle which both Kero and Yue replicate.

While wandering around the vast estate looking for someone to make more tea, Sakura comes upon her mother’s bedroom, which shines as brightly as the sun. Sakura uses Record to view a montage of moments from when her mother inhabited the room, but then the projection of her mom turns to her, puts her hand on her cheek, and warns her not to go any farther, lest she not be able to return.

Sakura and Akiho end up in the clock dream again, in which Sakura knows who the cloaked figure is (though doesn’t say it) while Akiho recognizes the cloak as the one passed down in her family. Yuna and Momo converse on how “the power of the dream is growing”, and much faster than originally thought. Kero and Yue arrive in England, where Eriol is finally ready to tell them what he’s learned, and it’s not good: “the one thing [he] feared the most is becoming reality”.

As confident as Yuna and Momo appear to be so far, and as oblivious as Sakura appears to be (it’s particularly unnerving to see her dip so far into her powers she becomes woozy and has to lie down), but she has no shortage of powerful friends, from Kero, Yue, and Eriol to Touya, who doubtless won’t hesitate to use his growing power to protect his sister. And then there’s always the slight possibility Yuna’s intentions aren’t even sinister…

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 19 – Storytime for the Kiddies

Sakura’s a wonderfully kind person, and so it comes as no surprise she’d go to the pediatric ward to read to children. I also think she intrinsically understands she has a tremendously entertaining voice, and it would be a shame not to show it off once in a while!

Tomoyo is coming to film the event (of course), and Sakura manages to recruit both Akiho to help her read and Syaoran to accompany them with piano. She achieves this by knocking both their HP levels to zero with her thoroughly persuasive glare.

Syaoran checks in with Wei for help with scoring the book (and denies his four doting sisters’ request to see him on video mode), while Akiho studies the storybook and marks in a notepad all the places she’ll have to be careful (Japanese not being her first language an all).

After being given simple yet elegant tunics and caps, the two read the story of the Fox and the Mittens to the assembled children, all while Syaoran plays the organ, an upgrade from the piano.

It’s a delicate and beautiful presentation, an interesting departure from the usual formula of the show. This is also an episode in which Sakura doesn’t capture a card, and doesn’t even say her trademark “Hoe” once!

When the crowd gets riled up at a perilous point in the story, he quiets them with a flourishing solo, allowing the girls to get back on track. All in all it’s a tremendous success, and the group of kids come away not only entertained but impressed with the skills of the storytellers and organist.

Tomoyo caught everything on tape, but Sakura managed to stealthily release her Record card. Unfortunately, the footage it took is from over thirty years in the past! Sakura is disappointed; she must’ve “done it wrong.”

Upon seeing this, Kero-chan finds an excuse to rush to Yue’s place and inform him of what she did. Sakura has become far more powerful than either of them could have imagined, to the point it has become imperative they inform Eriol, of whom we’ve only gotten the slightest glimpses so far.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 18 – Dance of Water and Fire

In the aftermath of the Cake Roll Incident, Sakura (and Tomoyo) have to stay quiet as their friends ponder what the heck happened to all the ingredients for their home ec class, while both Sakura and Akiho try not to blush when remembering when they gave their cake to the people they care about.

Sakura also gives Akiho Rika’s gorgeous pop-up Alice book, which Ahiko only accepts as a gift reluctantly, and which indirectly leads to a Sakura daydream in Clock Land right in front of Akiho. But since Akiho remains conscious the whole time, they don’t get the chance to “meet” one another there; she merely stops Sakura from tripping on a step.

That night (and considering the height of the moon, it’s fairly late at night for dinner, if you ask me!) as Akiho places the book on the “Alice” shelf of her family’s library, Yuna D. Kaito sidles up to her once more, reiterating how pleased he is that Akiho has gotten so close to Sakura, and hopes she gets even closer. Gee, I wonder why?

Meanwhile, Sakura, Tomoyo, and Syaoran are at the Tsukimine Shrine, the site of the very first Clow Card Sakura captured (“Fly”), leading her to reminisce on how talkative and pushy Kero-chan was back then. They’re there because she sensed another card and would rather deal with it at night. Tomoyo provides a fire-themed costume, while Syaoran is there for backup.

It turns out Sakura needs it, because Aqua, her initial gambit against the new card—a vicious firebird—proves ineffective. Syaoran has Sakura launch into the air with Flight and standby while he uses…some power he’d rather not tell Sakura about in order to bind the firebird and enable Sakura to secure it.

WIth that, she’s gained a third elemental card after wind and water (ice, which one would have thought would be more effective against fire, must be covered by water). It’s yet another colorful, gorgeously staged and rendered battle in the best traditions of CCS.

After some post-game play-by-play, the trio prepare to return to their respective homes. Sakura took steps to ensure her absence wouldn’t be noticed, but her brother Touya enters her room to find she’s not there (he’s studying late with Yukito and must have sensed something amiss).

Yue emerges from Yukito to tell Touya that Sakura is safe and on her way back soon, then comments on how Touya’s powers are returning. Touya is coy about how he’ll used them, except to say that he will do everything in his power(s) to protect Sakura and his family, and asks Yue to be patient. Personally I’d love to see these to face off against Yuna D. Kaito.

Barring another season (or a wrapping OVA or movie), Clear Card saga ends in just four episodes. Yue isn’t the only one who has to be patient!

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 09

“A lot happened, but today was a good day.” Sakura could say that about just about any day, considering how much she has going on in her life, but I’ll concede that this day was better than most because she got to finally go on a date with Syaoran.

Sakura arrives at the meeting spot early after a quick chat with Yue (during which Kero once again transforms for no reason other than ‘it’s cool’), but Syaoran is earlier still.

The date unfolds as one would expect, with the two periodically getting embarassed and blushing but also generally having a great time. Syaoran also gets to show off his encyclopedic knowledge of jellyfish—they’re poisonous…who knew?! ;)—as well as his fluency in English.

In an interesting scene, Touya appears as a waiter at the aquarium tea room, and Syaoran later feels bad for simply glaring at him (though Touya glared back!) Also, the height difference between Sakura/Syaoran and adults like Touya is a pretty weird quirk of the show. Look how low that table is!

It wouldn’t be a Sakura date without some kind of Card-related excitement, and Sakura almost seems to be expecting some, especially when she takes Syaoran to the same place where she secured the Watery Clow Card. That excitement takes the form of a cracked water tank, in which…something grabs hold of Sakura.

Touya hits the emergency drains and Syaoran plucks her from the water (interestingly, neither seems embarrassed by him carrying her). That tank burst occured just when Syaoran was going to tell Sakura he officially wanted to go out with her.

Instead, it’s a wash (pun intended), but there’s nothing saying they can’t go on another date in the near future. Indeed, when Sakura vows to return to the aquarium after dark to secure the Card there, Tomoyo dresses both her and Syaoran up and makes sure she has plenty of pics and footage taken.

Sakura uses Lucid to hide everyone from security, then goes through various Cards from Gravitation to Flight to Gale, and isn’t quite able to bring down the Card, which rather than watery, has the form of a kind of giant Slinky.

Syaoran comes through with an assist, freezing the Card with ice magic so Sakura can secure “Spiral.” While larger questions loom and few were answered, Sakura is still quite correct that a lot happened, but it was a good day. From the happy would-be couple’s priceless interactions to the gorgeous environs of the aquarium, to even Tomoyo’s next-level surveillance, it was a pretty good episode too.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 08

CCS keeps on keeping on, with Sakura capturing another card and only the slightest movement made on her “clock dreamworld” situation. She also learns that yet another frined of hers is stinking rich, or at least gets to live in the house of someone stinking rich; namely Akiho living in the house Eriol used to live in.

Eriol may have been “very mature and a wonderful person”, but he still hasn’t replied to Sakura about the Clear Cards. Nevertheless, Akiho invites Sakura and Tomoyo over to see her collection of books from her travels.

Sakura invites Syaoran, who can’t go because he has unspecified “plans,” but Sakura, undiscouraged, and asks him if he’ll go out with her the Sunday after that, to which he agrees before trying to flick a petal off her shoulder. Their romantic scene is rudely interrupted by Kero, telling them “the world ain’t just for you two!” Speak for yourself, purse rat!

After another school day and a successful cheerleading practice, Sakura heads home and is greeted by her brother who seems like he wants to say something but doesn’t, and when she reaches for her closet, ends up in the clock world again. No matter how many questions she asks, the cloaked figure won’t answer her, and the clocks only multiply. Frustrating, right!

That Sunday, Sakura and Tomoyo show up to Eriol’s former, now Akiho’s current house, and it’s not only huge and stately, but comes with a dutiful butler named Tuxedo Mask Yuna D. Kaito, for whom Akiho used to cause “all kinds of trouble” when she was little. As guests in such a house, the girls mind their manners, and flowery formal pleasantries fly freely.

After tea and cake that tastes so good Sakura lets out an exhortation in some other language, the girls hit Akiho’s book collection, which is basically a damn library. The book Akiho is currently reading and considers a favorite is not there, and when she runs to get it, Sakura notices a group of numbered books missing, along with a section of shelving: this week, she doesn’t have to fight the card or become friends with it; she only had to find where it was hiding.

The card, “Lucid”, thus captured after the oh-so-brief hide-and-seek, Akiho returns with the book, the cover of which looks just like the clocks and gears in Sakura’s now waking dreams. It’s called Alice in Clock Land, not written by Lewis Carroll. Sakura wants to learn more, but Kaito interrupts their discussion asking if they want more refreshment.

Back in the UK, an impatient Akizuki Nakuru complains to the cat Spinel Sun about why they haven’t gone to Japan to help Sakura out. Eriol insists that there’s nothing they can do but wait “for the time to come.” Cut to Syaoran studying some kind of magical tablet in his room in the dark, and roll credits.

I’m encouraged that the aesthetic of Sakura’s dreams has finally shown up in the real world, and that Akiho is most definitely connected in some way. Her interactions with Syaoran continue to be adorable beyond compare, though I wonder if they’ll be able to go on an entire date without interruption from Kero, a Card, or something/one else.

As for still being mostly in the dark about everything going on around Sakura, well, at least we have good company, in that Sakura herself is just as in the dark! Nothing for it but to keep capturing Cards as they come, and living life in between.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 07

After a somewhat fruitless video conference with Yue, Sakura heads to Tomoyo’s vast estate to test out her new “Record” card, since who has more experience recording things than Tomoyo?

Tomoyo uses the opportunity to dress Sakura up, presents a new miniature camera drone, and then offers her vast gardens as a venue for Sakura’s experimentation.

Upon summoning the card a camera appears, which they learn can be used to record holographic footage on command.

Syaoran arrives and a apologizes for cutting their fun short, and they have yet another discussion in which Syaoran voices his frustration at not being able to sense the cards.

But when a mysterious unseen wind-like force starts bothering Sakura, he still shows he can take care of business by summoning a magic sword.

The intruder dodges his attacks, and Sakura stops Syaoran from taking further action, preferring to follow it herself and try to learn more.

The somewhat cheeky, almost childlike “wisp” sends Sakura on a wild game of tag across Tomoyo’s land, and Sakura can’t quite keep up even when she uses Gravitation to create a series of wormholes to teleport from spot to spot.

Action is even less effective, with the tree vines only serving to tangle themselves up. Finally, Sakura realizes that unlike previous cards, a direct attack won’t work, nor will any provocative action.

Instead, she has to stand still and simply act friendly, asking the wisp if she can be it’s friend. Only then can she secure the card, appropriately called “Flight.”

Sakura puts the card to use and spreads wings with which she can propel and maneuver herself across the sky with ease in a beautiful, joyful sequence. Sakura hopes that along with all of her other powers, her newly-acquired aerial abilities will be able to “make people happy”…but down on the ground Syaoran ain’t smiling.

Is he concerned about the nature of these cards he can’t detect? Worried about Sakura? Jealous? Hiding ulterior motives? Plotting a betrayal? We still don’t know enough. Ditto her dream about the cloaked figure and the giant clocks; it’s only briefly mentioned with no additional information provided.

CCS definitely elevates Sakura’s card capturing as far more than mere tedious drudgery, and the formula of most episodes has been reliable watchable and packed with fun character moments. I just hope we’ll eventually get movement—rather than further reiteration or repetition—of the show’s more mysterious elements.

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.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 05

As Chekhov’s Teddy looms in the background, Sakura prepares for a day of delicious lunches and beautiful flower petals that share her name.

Kero-chan teases her a little, her brother teases her a little, but she’s off nevertheless high in spirits.

Ain’t nothin’ bad gonna happen today! And how can it, with such sweeping, majestic, upbeat music playing as she walks to the park?

If I rated episodes purely by the quality of the soundtrack, this would easily be a 10 out of 10.

Upon meeting up with Tomoyo, the only thing that seems amiss is a slight feeeling that something has a hold of Sakura’s leg, but it’s only momentary, and engenders her smallest of “ho’es?”

The girls arrive earlier than the meet-up time to find their friends already waiting for them, having arrived even earlier.

It’s pastoral perfection and universal punctuality in perfect harmony, and it couldn’t be a prettier day to relax, eat good food, and enjoy the cherry blossoms.

But those little feelings of being pulled become more frequent and more forceful, until Sakura is being pulled away from the picnic and across the park (though she’s able to get her boots back on, somehow).

The weather turns dark and gloomy, and her destination comes into view: a gargantuan sakura tree with glowing purple blossoms that looks particularly sinister, especially with its whipping vines.

Obviously, it’s a card. Boss music plays, Sakura releases her staff, and tries to use a flexible Siege Cube to arrest her momentum, to little effect.

Still, all this card seems to be doing is pulling her towards itself, so it’s really just a matter of pointing her staff at the epicenter and yelling “Secure” from just the right distance without hitting the tree.

The new card she gains is “Gravitation”, which will come in handy if any future cards try to play hard to get. And sadly, Tomoyo once more fails to record Sakura’s heroics; I might be crazy, but this seems like it could be recurring gag.

Sakura is actually full of recurring interactions that differ in the details. We get out latest Lovey-Dovey Sakura x Syaoran Scene in which Syaoran initially says he just ate, then remembers Sakura made a lunch for him and eats that as well (I mean, he would’ve been a jerk not to).

Following some of Yamazaki’s patented Nonsense-Spewing and Sakura-, Syaoran- and now Akiho-Believing, and something, we get something new: everyone pipes down and listens to Tomoyo sing—and she sings beautifully.

There are no weird dreams with the hooded figure who may or may not be Akiho this week, nor any shadowy talks between Syaoran and Eriol; just a nice, idyllic spring picnic with just a brief interruption by a card that was more bark than bite.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 04

So, the pretty new transfer student Shinomoto Akiho is totally the cloaked figure in Sakura’s dreams, right? Someone her same height (and even a similar-sounding name) shows up way too concurrently with the arrival of the cloaked figure in the real world at the tail end of last week’s outing.

If Touya doesn’t let on like he knows anything concrete (for now), he certainly seems to sense Sakura is out of sorts the morning after her disturbing vision of the figure. As for Sakura, she and Tomoyo are bowled over by Akiho’s beauty and eager to make friends with her ASAP.

Whatever, I say, could go wrong here?!

Syaoran certainly seems suspicious of Akiho, even if the others are just as charmed by the newbie as Sakura (then again, remain suspicious of Syaoran…what a tangled web we weaved). Akiho seems singularly invested in making Sakura like her as much as possible, flattering her when they’re alone in the hall, and again when Sakura gets an answer right in class (apparently not a common occurrence!).

After giving that answer, Sakura notices the trees getting up and walking around outside, setting off a series of Sakura’s patented all-purpose catchphrase, HOEHHH! At this point I always look forward to every time she does that, and hearing all the subtle variations on that exclamation. Tange Sakura is a treasure.

It’s Tomoyo to the rescue, having the class believe Sakura is not feeling well. Of course, she also has ulterior motives, and has prepared a Chinese-style costume for Sakura to don during her next card-capturing escapade.

Sadly for her, Tomoyo doesn’t get to film much of the spectacle, as Sakura encloses the runaway trees within Siege, then floods the cube with water from Aqua to immobilize their scampering roots.

Every action sequence thus far in CSS has been a delight to watch, from the novel ways in which Sakura achieves victory, to even the more repetitive elements like her chants and pose-striking (week-to-week variety to which is achieved by the varying costumes).

Her next card, “Action”, thus secured, Sakura takes it to Yukito, whose alter-ego Yue inspects it and concludes that it also seems to lack magical power; it’s all, apparently, in Sakura’s key and staff. The visit gives us the opportunity to see both sides of Yukito/Yue, and learn more about the interesting dynamic he has with Sakura.

Then Syaoran calls, and we’re treated to another heart-melting romantic exchange between the two, with Syaoran accepting Sakura’s offer to make him a lunch sometime, then asking her to call him if anything unusual happens, and Sakura taking it further and asking if she can call him even if it isn’t something unusual.

While Sakura is calling from Yukito’s porch, bathed in gorgeous light of the setting sun, Syaoran is holding the phone at arms length, holed up in the shadows, because he is clearly up to some shadowy shit. He immediately calls Eriol, who isn’t returning Sakura’s calls, and reports on Sakura, Akiho, and the new card, before these words are exchanged:

Eriol: I’m sure it’s hard on you, but this is not the time.
Syaoran: I came here to be ready for that time, when it comes.

All the while, the true mastermind, the dreaded teddy bear, looks knowingly, menacingly on.

I kid, but seriously, what is Syaoran’s deal? Has he been deceiving Sakura with a fake lovey-dovey act (I won’t forgive him), or is there a less sinister explanation, like he’s working in the shadows to protect her? While it’s still a bit too soon to tell, things are not looking good…and that’s not an accident.