Cardcaptor Sakura – 69 – Tsukimine Showdown

This is it: with just one episode left in reserve (presumably for an epilogue), the big clash between Team Eriol and Team Sakura has finally come. After revealing himself, Eriol releases the true forms of Spinel and Ruby, and the trio really play up the Big Bad Villain act.

Eriol shrouds the entire city in darkness, which puts everyone to sleep except for Sakura and Syaoran (though even he’s woozy). If Sakura can’t lift the darkness spell by daybreak, everyone will remain asleep…forever.

The show makes a point to underline the stakes by showing almost every secondary character out cold, including Touya, who has no more magical power, after all. Sakura asks Eriol why he’s doing all this, but Eriol will only tell her if she breaks his spell.

Spinny and Ruby aren’t just arrogant, but also exceedingly powerful, and even when Yue arrives to shield Sakura, both he and Kero have a tough time keeping pace with Eriol’s guardians. The aerial battle between Yue and Ruby in particular is a beautiful action set piece.

Once it’s clear Sakura will have to stop playing defense and do something about the darkness spell, she takes out her cards, notes that eight Clow Cards remain to be converted, and then proceeds to convert six at once. Two “refuse” to change, however: Light and Dark.

Since those cards are most closely tied to her guardians, Kero and Yue tell Sakura to absorb the two of them into her staff. She does so, and her staff becomes longer and grander; Syaoran helps her hold it steady, and relies on his Clow Reed blood help convince the cards to change.

Once both Light and Dark are Sakura Cards, Sakura invokes Light, which proceeds to shatter the darkness and restore the regular sky. Everyone wakes up, safe and sound, and Eriol and his guardians stand down, his mission to help Sakura convert all of his cards now complete. Call it tough love on his part: in order for Sakura to summon the power, he had to create a crisis only she could fix.

When Kero and Yue go chasing after Eriol, Spinny and Ruby, Sakura prepares to follow, but Syaoran holds her up so he can tell her something he’s been wanting to tell her practically all season: he likes her. That’s right; the kid finally got the words out!

Alas, all he gets in response before the credits roll is Sakura’s shocked expression. But as she puts it in the preview for the finale, she once had no idea how she felt about Syaoran…but now she does know.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 68 – A New Spring Dawns

Eriol writes a letter in his dark office then observes the intensifying winter snow through the French doors with Spinel and Nakuru. He assures them that it’s “almost time”…for something. Meanwhile, we join poor Sakura rollerblading through that snow in her jammies while being chased by a swarm of mini snowmen pelting her with snow. She’s eventually buried, but quickly emerges and fights snow with Snow.

Kero is impressed with how powerful Sakura is becoming, noting that she could one day surpass Clow Reed, but Yue disagrees, saying she isn’t close. That ends up keeping Sakura up at night, wondering if and how she’ll ever be able to live up to Clow’s legacy. Then it dawns on her: she can use the Return card to go back in time and ask him herself—and while she’s at it, ask him why she keeps feeling his presence before strange things happen.

After another pinky promise to Syaoran that she’ll safely return, Sakura uses the Tsukihime cherry tree as a conduit to the past, where she finds Kerberos, Yue, and clow. They’re just having an afternoon nap in the shade of a sakura tree, ironically enough. Sakura sees how happy Kero and Yue are and can’t help but feel a little jealous, simply because she isn’t Clow.

The seasons pass, and the tree transforms with it, which Clow uses to make a point about everyone and everything: that it all changes, and that it’s all supposed to. That means even he, the most powerful sorcerer alive, must one day shuffle off his mortal coil. That doesn’t mean Yue is happy about it, or about the prospect of having a new master, so Clow tasks Kero with the duty of finding one.

While at first seeing Clow interact with his creations and vice versa only heightened her feelings of inadequacy, the fact is she is her own worst critic, and not even Clow, whom she replaced, would see value in comparing her with himself. Clow is Clow and Sakura is Sakura. He had his time, and now it’s hers. This point is aptly illustrated by the transition from the winter when Clow passes on to a spring when all the lovely flowers—including sakura—bloom anew.

Her confidence and enthusiasm in her task thus restored, Sakura returns to the present, where Tomoyo and Syaoran had been waiting with baited breath (though they don’t mention how long they were waiting). Sakura reports that while she did meet Clow, she didn’t learn any thing about why they keep feeling his presence. That’s when Eriol jumps into the conversation and offers an explanation.

You see, he is Hiiragizawa Eriol now, but in his previous life, he was…Clow Reed. While this isn’t exactly a shocker, now that it’s out in the open means we’re finally poised for the final showdown between Sakura and Eriol. That said, despite all the shadows and dark musical stabs, Eriol may prove not to be an enemy, but simply a reincarnated Clow ensuring that Sakura becomes powerful enough to convert all of his cards and complete her succession.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 67 – Scarfknitter Sakura

When Sakura wakes up in the morning, it’s the first time she does so knowing Yukito’s answer definitively. When Syaoran lent her his ear, he enabled her to get all of the sadness out and accept that answer.

Sakura wants to show her gratitude to him for helping to cheer her up, so first thing in the morning during class chores, she asks Syaoran if he’ll join her at the Tsukimine Shrine festival, even getting him to pinky promise!

As the school days pass, Sakura gets sleepier and sleepier in class, concerning Syaoran, who thought she’d gotten over the fatigue of card-converting. Sakura promises she’s fine.

While walking home with Tomoyo hand-in-hand, Sakura makes sure to thank her for all of the many ways she’s helped, including being living proof that you can be happy with the one you love being happy, even if you’re not the one they chose.

We learn that Sakura had been staying up late not going to underground raves, but knitting Syaoran a scarf. She knows the Hong Konger isn’t a fan of the cold—it’s why she initially hesitated to invite him out to the festival—but the choice of gift shows just how kind and thoughtful she is, and why Syaoran fell for her so easily!

That said, Syaoran confides in a disappointed Tomoyo that he’s decided not to confess to her after all. Now that Sakura knows the pain of rejection, she’ll naturally empathize with him in that same scenario, and he doesn’t want to trouble her with that. Ah, but kid, you’ll only “trouble” her if she doesn’t return your feelings!

Yukito is similarly needlessly guilty about having taken all of Touya’s magical power, especially when Sakura unwittingly sneaks up on her brother (Before, he’d have been able to sense someone coming with his eyes closed), and now that Touya is as sleepy as Yukito once was. Touya sets Yuki’s mind at ease: he did what he wanted to do, because keeping Yuki around was more important than his power.

This brings us to the Eriol-fuckery of the Week, which takes a form somewhat similar to the hell-horse that greets visitors to Denver International Airport. It emerges from a moon pool where Sakura learned from Mizuki Kaho (remember her?) how to tell one’s fortune.

Sakura and Syaoran work together to bring the horse to heel, the former converting the Thunder card in the process, but the damage is already done: the horse clipped an electrical wire, shrouding the festival in darkness. Rather than let it be shut down, Sakura converts one more card—Glow—in order to re-illuminate the festivities and enchant the festival-goers and her friends alike.

As Syaoran lets one of the glowing orbs settle into his palm, Tomoyo tells Syaoran to reconsider his refusal to confess to Sakura. No one has watched Sakura closer than Tomoyo, and she knows Sakura isn’t someone who “keeps sad things in her heart as sad things forever”. Basically, he owes it to himself and Sakura to tell her about his feelings, thus giving her the chance to accept them. Syaoran seems convinced!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 66 – These Bitter Tears

Nakuru’s movie is a big hit, with particular praise going to Sakura’s cuteness, but as Yukito sits with Touya in the projector room, his heart is uneasy, since now Touya knows he’s not human. Touya assures him it doesn’t matter what he is, as long as he doesn’t disappear and stays by his side.

After some post-movie drinks, Sakura, Yukito, Syaoran and Tomoyo enjoy the other diversions of the school fair, with Syaoran watching wearily at Yukito and Sakura in particular. Nakuru then insists only two can enter their class exhibit at a time, thus separating Yukito and Sakura from Syaoran and Tomoyo. Nakuru is following Eriol’s orders, but it ends up working in Sakura’s favor, because this gives her the ideal opportunity to confess to Yukito.

It’s also fitting that she does so while surrounded by stars, the source of her magical power. But when Sakura tells Yukito that she really likes him, he says he likes her too, but asks her to look closer at her feelings. He posits that her feelings for him are quite similar to those for her dad, which is understandable since he looks so much like her dad and is a kind lad besides. But his point is, there’s someone she likes more than anyone…and it’s not him.

Sakura is thus rejected by Yukito, but in the softest, gentlest way possible. He also admits that the person he likes most is indeed Touya, who saved him, after all. And while he’s unsure if Touya feels the same way, Sakura grasps what he’s getting at. Alas, their talk is interrupted when all of the glass stars around them start to shatter, and Yue appears to protect her.

When other students enter the exhibit, Sakura uses both Maze and Illusion to cover up the damage, as well as hide the two of them, though they’re soon separated. Even so, when Syaoran senses Clow’s presence, he’s able to cut through the illusions with his sword. As he and Yue search for her, Sakura encounters Eriol with his staff and Clow’s magical circle.

Admitting he’s been “found out”, Eriol puts Sakura to sleep. When she comes to, she remembers Clow’s presence and the circle…but not Eriol. She leaves the school fair with Syaoran, Yukito, and Tomoyo, but when the latter two split off to head to their respective homes, Syaoran insists on walking Sakura all the way home.

Sakura asks a favor: that they stop by the park first. While they sit on the swings, Sakura tells Syaoran how she confessed to Yukito and was turned down. And while Yukito is right that she mostly thought of him as family, a little part of her liked him in a way differently than that. And while Tomoyo told her there’s no greater happiness than seeing the one you like most happy—Sakura can’t help but weep bitter tears.

Syaoran offers his handkerchief, a smile, and the promise that she too will find that someone, and they’ll be just as happy when she finds them. Of course, Syaoran wants to be that very person, but wisely doesn’t press that issue. Here and now, he’s there to be an ear to listen a shoulder to cry on…and a friend to console the heartbroken Sakura with a hug.

My goodness, that was one emotionally heavy episode, but absolutely flawlessly executed, and one of the all-time best episodes of CCS as a result. The show can spin its wheels with diversions to pools and ski slopes, but when the time comes for a major development it does not hold back the feels. And now, of course, with Yukito officially eliminated as a potential love interest for Sakura, Syaroan’s path is clear.

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 – 48 – The Rain Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Time was, Sakura could solve pretty much any weird problem that arose in her life by releasing her wand and sealing a Clow Card. But now an unceasing rain pummels Tomoeda Town, and her wand won’t release. Kero needs to confer with Yue, so Sakura asks her brother if Yukito will be over.

To paraphrase Touya, if you cook a tasty dinner, Yukito will come. Meanwhile Eriol, who if I’m honest is looking a lot like the new big bad in disguise, tries to cheer Sakura up with flowers from his home garden and later invites her to his house. Syaoran is understandably concerned, as Eriol is still very much an unknown element.

That pretty much describes Akizuki Nakuru, who while cute, spunky, and flirty with Touya, treats Yukito like an oblivious rival, declaring she’ll just go ahead and “take” Touya, thank you very much. Like Eriol, Nakuru is hiding something…something big.

That night, Yukito is indeed lured to the Kinomoto residence by the promise of a good meal, and when Touya has to go off to a night job and Kero is alone with Yukito, the latter transforms into Yue. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have any answers for Sakura or Kero; all he knows is that the rain is being caused by someone with immense magical power.

Yue and Kero accompany Sakura (and Tomoyo) back to Penguin Park, where a whirlpool of rain forms above them that shoots out tendrils of water. The Guardians, apparently outmatched, are paralyzed, and everyone is sucked up into water spouts. I’m not gonna lie, it’s a super-perilous situation, and I was expecting Syaoran to show up with his magic sword. Alas, he’s nowhere to be found.

No, it’s up to Sakura, for whom letting Tomoyo, Kero and Yue drown is not an option. When she remembers what Clow said about stars being the source of her power, Sakura modifies her incantation and successfully summons a new star-topped wand.

Despite this, when she tries to use a Clow Card, nothing happens. This requires her to command the card to change its form into a Sakura Card, at which time she can draw upon its power with her want.

The first Clow Card to be converted to a Sakura Card is Fiery, which Sakura deploys in order to turn the water spouts into steam and free the others—though practically speaking I’m wondering how nobody got singed or scalded!

With a new wand and new card, Sakura is finally able to end the endless rain over Tomoeda. But as a result of her exertions, she suddenly falls asleep, her magical power apparently depleted. Not far away, three ominous figures float in the sky, having observed the battle. The one in the center is impressed with Sakura’s skills so far. That probably means his next “test” for her won’t be so easy!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 47 – The Popsicle Has Been Taken Away

Summer vacation is ending and school is about to start back up, but as Sakura and Kero-chan work overtime to finish all her homework, strange and powerful magical people and beings arrive in Tomoeda Town, no doubt drawn there by her own power and status as master of the Clow Cards.

Syaoran is preparing to return to Hong Kong to give a detailed report on the Clow Cards, and in all his interactions with Sakura you can sense an apprehension about that impending separation.

He’s heartened when Sakura is cheered up by the knowledge they’ll see each other again. But move over Syaoran, there’s a new transfer student in town: Hiiragizawa Eriol, from England.

In Clear Card I know Eriol as one of Sakura’s far-flung allies, but it’s clear from the sound of his aura (as heard by Sakura) that he’s bound to play a far more antagonistic role here, and is clearly intrigued by the power Sakura gives off.

The two of them both get the feeling they’ve met before. Sensing the time isn’t right to leave Sakura, Syaoran decides (likely on the spot) to remain in Japan after all for the forseeable future, and proceeds to blush at Sakura’s genuine expression of relief.

Just as Syaoran possibly has a new rival for Sakura’s heart, so too does Yukito for Touya’s: one Akizuki Nakuru, a cute transfer student in their class who immediately pounces on Touya’s back and steals his popsicle (which he himself stole from Sakura!)

Akizuki makes an immediate impression with her hyperactive playfulness and just a tinge of malice in her glare at Yukito, suggesting she knows who and what he really is.

That night, as a heavy rainstorm very narrowly localized over Tomoeda rages outside, the drawer containing the Clow Card book starts to glow. Sakura is temporarily transported to what I’ll call “Clow space”, the starry expanse where they met at the end of last season.

There Clow’s voice apologizes for the “trouble” Sakura is about to go through, but he knows she’ll be able to endure it. When she returns to regular space, she finds the book’s cover no longer reads Clow…it reads Sakura.

Before she knows it, Sakura is in a new, presumably waterproof battle costume and in front of the camcorder of a very excited (and costume/footage starved) Tomoyo. We catch a glimpse of Eriol in the area, and then the rain starts to form rings and attack Sakura and Tomoyo.

Kero transforms into his giant lion form to protect Tomoyo while Sakura prepares to release her wand…only it won’t release. It doesn’t respond at all. Sakura has lost her powers! That, and the mysterious duo of Eriol and Akizuki, combine for quite an enticing hook for the third season.

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 – 33 – A Thawing of Relations

Winter has arrived, as has the first freeze, and as Sakura’s class will be going on a field trip to the ice skating rink, she tries to get some practice in on her blades, only to fall on her bum. Any soreness is forgotten when she learns Yukito is spending the night at her house to study for exams with Touya. She even has a couple “anyahns” for Yukito, something she’d previously saved for Mizuki-sensei.

That night, however, she doesn’t dream about Yukito. Instead, she has the same dream she’s had several times now, only the details are becoming clearer and easier to recall upon awakening. She distinctly remembers a full moon and someone with long hair. While this figure resembles Mizuki-sensei, Kero mentions the name Yue, I believe for the first time. Could the reddish hue of the dream figure’s hair be a red herring?

Armed with a beautiful bento prepared by Touya and Yukito (such a nice couple), Sakura hits the rink with her class. While she’s not sure on her feet at first, she quickly gets the hang of it (as Tomoyo predicted) thanks to some pointers from Mizuki-sensei. Syaoran also figures it out…just a tiny bit slower than Sakura. Meiling, meanwhile, bundles herself up like a button-cute Matryoshka doll, not used to Japan’s cold winter.

Turns out she doesn’t just have a ridiculously low tolerance for cold; temps throughout the rink and cafe soon drop below zerc degrees C, and soon everyone except Sakura and Syaoran are encased in ice, in one of the more overtly frightening scenes CSS has turned out. As expected, it’s the Freeze Clow Card. If they want to free everyone, Sakura will have to seal it.

Turns out Freeze is a hugely aggressive dick, and even with the heightened agility of Jump, Sakura takes a bit of a beating. Thankfully Syaoran is not only there to catch, shield, and protect her, but doesn’t get bashful about all the close contact. He even hacks away at the ice that starts to gather around her, then shows off his newly-learned skating skills to distract Freeze and allow Sakura to seal it. Since he made the sealing possible, Syaoran earns the card’s loyalty.

After Freeze is sealed everyone thaws out and no one is the wiser. As Sakura hands out hot drinks to everyone, her eyes meet Syaoran’s and she gives him a cheerful smile, and Syaoran can’t help but blush…again. Unfortunately for Meiling, he’s well on his way to having a crush on her. I’m not sure how Syaoran will eventually wrest Sakura’s primary affections from Yukito, we’re not even halfway through the show’s run—so he’s got time!

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.