Sunday, April 15, 2018

Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card-hen: Episode 14 Review!



Episode 14: “Sakura, the Shrine, and the Zoo" aka "The Hug"

This may have been the creepiest CCS episode to date, but there were aspects of it that were the most groundbreaking and heartbreaking. Considering it was a “filler” episode, there was a lot of exposition and background story and character development for Sakura, Syaoran, and Meilin. I had been expecting a light, fluffy episode with the return of Meilin, and perhaps some animal-themed cuteness, but boy are we all in for a ride this week. And you guys know a certain “Fantasyland” scene was to die for. Leave it to CLAMP to evoke horror, dimension-traveling, a splash of romance, and sugary sweetness, all in one episode. And this episode was brilliantly animated, especially the latter half, so we know where all the budget last week went!

Sakura's morning after a sleepover: expectations.
Sakura's morning after a sleepover: reality.

Kero-chan: Not bad for something the Brat made.
 Sakura wakes up to Meilin and Kero-chan staring over her face. The trio share breakfast, Kero-chan grudgingly compliments Meilin’s dish, and they head out to the Tsukimine Shrine. Meilin is dressed in acute safari-style vest, and Sakura wears avant garde harem pants and gets her hair curled by Meilin. 

Where is my pink shirt? I need to wear it for my date with Sakura!
Syaoran-bear, I just realized, I forgot to furnish the rest of the house.
Thank goodness Meilin's staying over with Sakura. Sakura looked so cute eating dumplings last night. While I ate in an unfurnished room, with Syaoran-bear for company, and Eriol calling me all night long like a stalker.
Shoot, I forgot the Tsukimine Shrine outing. Who to text first to say that I'll be late? Yamazaki-kun.

Meanwhile, over at a certain apartment across town, the Dark One himself, I mean, Li Syaoran, sits in darkened room exerting great efforts over his EMPTY living room, save a wooden table, concentrating over his Rasinban. Syaoran-bear appears to be used as a focus point, seated across the Rasinban, there are weird red ward symbols on his window, and he extracts a crystal from the Rasinban, which condenses into a small globe the size of a marble. And then he selects a Dark Force of the day. Well, more like, there are multiple glowing orbs of light over his Rasinban, and he selects the yellow one.  I’m pretty sure it’s his living room because there is a fireplace in the EMPTY room, and the large full-length window leads to the veranda. This poor freaking boy is living in an UNFURNISHED house after moving back to Tomoeda how many weeks ago?

Outfit of the week goes to Yamazaki Takashi, who does the "sporty look" right, yes I'm speaking to you, Touya.
Tomoyo: Today is everyone wears pants day! Wait, what is Sakura wearing? And am I cosplaying Meilin? Oh well, Sakura's cute with her curly hair. But the baggy pants!

Akiho, Tomoyo, Naoko, Chiharu, and Yamazaki are waiting over at Tsukimine Shrine market. The girls wonder how Mizuki-sensei, their old elementary school homeroom teacher, is doing in England. Naoko recalls that she is the daughter of the priest of the shrine. How does she know this, was this a known fact? Meilin and Sakura, debuting curled hair for the first time, makes an appearance, interrupting Yamazaki’s story of the day. Everyone love’s Sakura’s new do, especially Tomoyo, and Hairstylist Meilin explains in detail that she braided Sakura’s hair wet and used tissue to curl it. And she lamented Sakura’s place didn’t have hairspray to fix the style, the extra-strong type that Kai uses. (Okay, just regular hairspray). I don’t know why but why does Meilin have such strong traces of Kai around her, from wearing her hair down, to being good at styling hair, to matchmaking! On a side note, I used to Dutch braid my hair into pigtails for curls during school days back before I learned how to use a curling iron. And yes, it does last all day, at least for me.

Hairstylist Meilin: If Syaoran doesn't compliment your new hair, I'll bonk him on the head.

Yamazaki: "It feels like every time I try to talk lately, I get interrupted by some great power." Chiharu:
"Amen to that."
Favorite lines of the week is Yamazaki remarking: It feels like every time I try to talk lately, I get interrupted by some great power.” And Chiharu responds straight-faced: “I hope that great power kicks in more often.” Then Chiharu points out to the group that Syaoran is going to be late (AGAIN). I’m pretty sure Yamazaki told her. Sakura checks her phone and confirms this (thank goodness the boy is also texting Sakura as well—I thought he was only letting Yamazaki know for a second.) I love that Meilin points out that it’s unusual for Syaoran to be late, that he almost always shows up ten minutes early. It’s so refreshing to have someone who knows Syaoran so well point all these things out as well, from inside the story. Tomoyo the peacemaker points out, “Maybe he had something to do,” and suggests they go ahead. Maybe she knows something’s up perceptive as she is. The mood brightens as Meilin declares she is the star of the day, Kero-chan from Sakura’s red backpack declares, “You never change, Brat,” and Meilin flicks him back into the bag. I loved Kero-chan and Meilin’s bantering throughout the past two episodes, for it’s both nostalgic but also shows an evolution to their relationship, like they’re old friends now. 

Sakura: "Syaoran texted me he will be late." Meilin: "That's nothing to get happy over." Sakura: "But he never texts me first." Yamazaki: "Sorry, he texted me 10 minutes ago."
Meilin: Stop imagining me with cat ears and tail, like some old pervert (ahem Kaitou Magician)!

Sakura remarks that she wanted to go to the zoo and the shrine, but chose the shrine because Yamazaki said it was the shrine market day. Yes, everything was Yamazaki’s fault. Yamazaki thought a zoo would be the same in any country. Note how frozen Yamazaki Takashi is frozen in background in all the panels after his stories gets interrupted. Also note how Chiharu covers her ears and says, “I can’t hear anything,” when Yamazaki tries to get the only person who will listen to him listen. Thank goodness for the comic pair—otherwise this would be a very dark episode. I love their date outfits, the cargo pants are totally Takashi. 


Chiharu: "Lalala I can't hear you!"
Akiho: “I’ll treasure the cookies you bought me, forever and ever.” Sakura : “Eww, that's gross.”
Sakura has a rare best line of the episode, when she buys Akiho a bunny cookie at the shrine that looks like Momo-chan. Akiho goes: “I’ll treasure it.” And Sakura says: “I’d rather you ate them.” Oh, the pair are too cute. Actually, I’m like Akiho in that way sometimes. When I was their age, I think I treasured a lollipop that my crush gave me on my birthday. I never ate it. Tomoyo and Naoko appreciate pottery, Naoko likes vegetables pickled in fermented rice bran (nukadoko), Meilin, also ourresident dietician, is an expert about enzymes, and Neko-Meilin makes a return.
 
Syaoran the Tardy Boy: The real fashionista of the week arrives fashionably late.
Meilin: "Ta-da! Presenting my masterpiece--bed-hair Sakura no longer!"
Sakura: I wonder if Syaoran likes my new hairstyle. Maybe he'll like it if I grow it out more?
Syaoran: The pants. OMG, Sakura's pants.
Syaoran's vision: Meh, she's still cute, bed-hair, curled hair, pigtails or not. But the pants.

Syaoran the Tardy Boy, extra handsome in a steel-gray button-down shirt with three-quarter sleeves, paired with a canary yellow tie and light spring green trousers makes his entrance down the shrine stairs, apologizing for being late. He is wearing the same outfit he was wearing earlier conjuring up crystal globes. Meilin debuts curled-hair Sakura to Syaoran, and Tomoyo films the moment. Syaoran fails to compliment a flower-background filled Sakura on her new hairstyle.


Syaoran: Sakura, I just had a déjà vu of what our wedding would be like, with Meilin officiating and Tomoyo as our videographer.
Meilin to Akiho: “You don’t have to be so nervous, I won’t eat you.” (Translation: Gurl, you better back off from Sakura and Syaoran, I'm the OG crazy new transfer girl, and you can't fill that position better than me!)
Meilin: Drink a lot of milk--it will help with your figure.
Yamazaki: Drink a lot of milk, if you want to grow tall like me!

The crew has teatime under a wisteria-filled pagoda. Why is Sakura having café au lait at her age? Kids that young shouldn’t be having caffeine it will stunt their growth. Well, I guess Meilin drinking coffee is also canon now. Sakura, Meilin, and Akiho are seated together, and while I’m bummed that Syaoran is off sitting with Takashi, I do appreciate Meilin finally getting to know Akiho. She tells Akiho, “You don’t have to be so nervous, I won’t eat you.” And Kero-chan mutters in his best one-liner of the week: “No, she totally will eat you!” Meilin gets Akiho to spill the beans about Kaito, whom she bought coffee beans for, Akiho asks Meilin what it was like living alone in Japan back in the days, and Meilin takes a furtive glance over at Syaoran, who is being duped by his newest BFF Yamazaki—who I know is telling some nonsense about coffee to the only person who will listen to him earnestly.  Meilin remarks there are a bunch of pushovers (aka Syaoran, Syaoran, Akiho), and that “birds of a feather do flock together.” 


Sakura: I want to touch Meilin's nekomimi!
Akiho: I thought I'm supposed to be the villain. Why, Kaito-san, why?
Tomoyo: This is the greatest fashion faux-pas to date. Had I known, I have the perfect sheep costume to go with this look.
Sakura: I hope Syaoran turned into a little wolf.
Syaoran: Oh no, Sakura expects me to turn into a wolf.
Syaoran: Is it too obvious that I'm the culprit since I'm the only one who hasn't turned? Wolf-ears for me? It would be convenient if they're all blasted to another dimension at this point.

Meilin’s cat ears and tail makes a reappearance, but this time, Akiho has bunny ears, Tomoyo is a sheep, Naoko is a squirrel, Chiharu a dog, and Yamazaki a bear. Syaoran appears, and he’s the only normal one, surprise, surprise. And Sakura gets transferred to another dimension, with Kero-chan. Note, you can see both Earth and the Moon from this outer-space dimension. I like how the first name Sakura does call out is “Syaoran-kun.” And we see Tomoyo, Meilin, Naoko, Akiho, Chiharu and Yamazaki more and more resembling animals. This part was rather creepy, actually, more like a horror film than cute. The creepiest part is Sheep-Tomoyo sitting expressionless, with hoofs! You think this should be cute, but it’s actually not. It’s more horrifying, than anything else, that your friends are turning more and more into animals. I know, I know, I have explored a similar theme before, but still, the way this was animated I think was to emphasize that horror aspect. Sakura shrewdly points out that her friends turning into animals and being in the new dimension is both the works of a new card, and notes the force is coming from all around them, hence they are in a card. She wonders why her friends are turning into animals, remarks they are cute, and then Kero-chan is the one who notices that the friends are looking more and more like animals. Note, Syaoran was not drawn into this dimension.

Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.
Tomoyo: I'm a faun. Hey Sakura, I always thought I was a rainbow unicorn. What gives? This is what you imagine me as?
Attack of the Titanimals
Macross Sakura has turned extraterrestrial!

The animals start running away, Yamazaki-bear and the others goes on all fours, and I swear, if I were a kid, this scene would give me nightmares since it looks like it’s out of some sort of apocalyptic Sci-fi movie. Sakura worries that they will never turn back to normal. A thundercloud brews overhead, above a gnarly tree, lightening strikes down, splitting to trunk into two, animal-friends curl up into balls, cowering, tree burns, about to collapse atop the group. This is not the first time we’ve seen the looming thundercloud (not Leiyun) overhead before a dark force appears, including during the badminton match and at the cherry blossom-viewing outing with the same group of friends. 

Yggdasil, split into two by lightening!
Animals: You tricked us CLAMP! We signed up for a new season of Card Captor Sakura, not Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle!
Sakura: I'm still traumatized since Tokyo Revelations. (Note, CCS!Sakura made a cameo in the OVA, look!)

 And a (not so) mysterious hand appears, releasing what appears to the be Time Card, if it were a Clow/Sakura Card. Time freezes, as can be seen by the greenish-yellow glow of the Time Card (which was a card that Syaoran sealed back in Season 1). The boy who slices through dimensions, aka Syaoran, splits through the dimension with a slash of his sword, making a fantastic sliding on his knee entrance. All her other friends, including Kero-chan, have been frozen by the “Time.” He staggers toward Sakura, and in turn, Sakura runs forward and catches Syaoran, who collapses over her, bracing his weight on his sword. He tells her, “I used magic to stop time.” Not technically a lie, I suppose. We see that blazing fierce look in his eyes, the image that I think has been driving everyone crazy from the preview last week. 

Syaoran, the Boy Who Cuts Through Dimensions
And lands perfectly.
Sakura: Which Syaoran are you? Clone? Real? Or are you my Syaoran-kun?
Syaoran: Whichever one you need me to be.
Sakura: I don't care if you're real or fantasy.
Syaoran: It can't be helped, now that we've crossed dimensions.
Syaoran: We've got to save Clone!Syaoran and Clone!Sakura. There's no one else but us that can help them.
 Per usual, Syaoran says that with his magical powers, the time halt won’t last long. He tells her to find the cause, the most like the old Syaoran he has been this episode, playing the role of mentor, protector, and calming, guiding presence for Sakura that we’ve become familiar with in the original CCS series. Sakura replies she can’t find it because the force is coming from all around them. He guides her through her thought process, asking her what does the animals remind her of, anything. Sakura remembers she wasn’t sure if she wanted to go to the shrine or zoo today, and before she knew it, they were in these grasslands, and her friends had turned into animals. Sakura says she doesn’t know what to do. Syaoran looks like he had an epiphany, then looks really pained when he hears Sakura’s stricken voice. That strained expression which he only wears when she is not looking at him, comes over him. And Syaoran drops his sword and embraces Sakura with both arms, one hand tenderly cradling the back of her head! Yes, we can all squeal here, because I think regardless of everything else, this is the action truest to his heart that he has taken all series long. We have some awesome new background music for this entire scene as well, so can’t wait for the OST!

Sakura: What’s wrong, are you hurt?
Syaoran: Days and months and years I wandered through dimensions and time and space to find to you. But I had to keep going and going. It was my curse, the price to pay, in order to reach you. And yet, life after life, I could not be with you. Wait... what is this sense of déjà vu.
Sakura: "I don't know what to do anymore."
Sakura: "Syaoran-kun."
Syaoran: "It's okay, I'm here."

 A shocked Sakura murmurs, “Syaoran-kun,” and Syaoran tells her in a low voice, “Daijoubu, ore ga iru. (It’s okay. I’m here.)” He then asks her if she’s still scared, and she only shakes her head, indicating she isn’t. He asks her if she can take a deep breath, and she does, and lets out her breath. He tells her that his magic will wear off soon, and tells her she has to think, what does she want. Sakura replies, “I want everyone to go back to normal, and go back to our own world.” Syaoran tells her, “Then wish hard for that, Sakura.” Oh, the way he murmurs her given name. And he collapses over her shoulders. At this point, we know that Syaoran is the best actor and liar in the world, or really is making the greatest sacrifice ever to protect Sakura. I would like to believe the latter. Also, there is something very masculine about Syaoran referring to himself as “ore,” or "I," here. The way Syaoran walks Sakura through how to capture the card is somewhat reminiscent of the Erase Card episode, CCS Episode 17, where everyone’s disappearing, even Syaoran, but Syaoran makes a tearful Sakura calm down and find a way to seal the Erase. But compared to the edgy, blunt-tongued Syaoran then, we have this reliable, calming, gentle Syaoran despite the panic both of them must be feeling at the moment. 
 
Syaoran: "Are you still scared?"
Syaoran: "Can you take a deep breath?"
Syaoran: Wish hard for what you want, Sakura...even when I am not here.
Syaoran: Just kidding, I'm not dead.
Sakura: You didn't compliment my new hairstyle yet!

Time is unfrozen, the burning tree is about to fall on the animal-friends, Sakura wishes everyone turns back to normal and that they can return back to their world, with Syaoran, in the knick of time. Sakura is back at the shrine’s backwoods, and she seals a new card, the Mirage. Syaoran and Kero-chan are found collapsed in the woods. The group is also back to normal, and the girls remark that Sakura and Syaoran had disappeared. Meilin covers for them, saying she asked Sakura and Syaoran to check out the other side of the shrine for her. Syaoran is totally drained, Sakura is crouched by his side, all worried, Tomoyo asks if he wants water. Meilin is still covering for him, telling the group the forest air got to him. Oh Meilin, Syaoran’s not that fragile. Sakura offers to go buy water for him, Tomoyo tags along, and Sakura explains what happened, that Syaoran overtaxed himself with stopping time with his magic. Kero-chan in the bag is also back to normal, admits that he is pathetic, and even reassures his mistress that she doesn’t have to worry about him. Sakura again blames herself, saying it was her fault.

Sakura: Syaoran, you embraced me, didn't you embrace me? Are you going to pretend it didn't happen? Or does it not count since it was inside the Fantasy?
Meilin: "Syaoran has a delicate constitution, the forest air is not good for him." Ugh, I suck at lying, and I learned from the master.


Meilin sits behind Syaoran to cheer up her cousin, remarking that obaa-san-tachi (his mother and others) said he pushed himself way too hard in training. Is it still not enough, she asks him. He grunts a yes, and she asks, “You’re doing it for Sakura, right? I’m really aggravated right now.” And before we get ideas that jealous Meilin is back, she adds, “Because I don’t have magic myself.” This morose, troubled Syaoran that we see is probably the true Syaoran, not the forced smile one that we’ve seen most of the time since he came back to Japan. He tells Meilin, “Even without magic, Meilin’s been plenty of help to Sakura and me,” which I think is coming straight from his heart. To lighten the mood, Meilin makes fun of Syaoran calling Sakura by her first name, then tells him not to get worked up again and make himself ill again. Then she badgers Syaoran about telling Sakura what he thinks about her new hairstyle. I was looking for one-on-one time between the Li cousins all season long, so I am glad we finally got it at the end of the episode. 

Meilin: "You push yourself too hard, Syaoran."
Syaoran: "You help Sakura and me a lot, Meilin, with or without magic."
Meilin: "You called her 'Sakura.'"
Syaoran: That's not the point! I was trying to cheer you up!
Meilin: "Have you still not told Kinomoto-san what you think about her hair? You fail!"


Tomoyo, Sakura, and Kero-chan also look at the new Mirage Card, and Sakura reflects the things she was thinking became a reality because of the card, and that when she got scared, everything became scarier. She also realizes that Syaoran stopped all this, and that he is pushing himself too hard. Kero-chan notes that stopping time is really advanced magic, and that the Li Clan would have such spells to do so, but they don’t get a chance to explore on this idea further, as Sakura is determined to become stronger so that no one gets hurt or scared in the future. Most important point to note, Sakura’s curls lasted all episode, through different dimensions, fires, Syaoran’s stroking, and all, kudos to Meilin!



So, it’s getting more and more difficult for me to keep from blurring aspects of Clear Card Arc with the New Trials of Card Captor Sakura. I had to quote some dialogue from Chapter 70: Eye of the Dragon in the screencaps above.The twist in Clear Card… Syaoran is the Dark One. Or it could just be a red herring, knowing CLAMP. I’ve mentioned CCS fillers are not really fillers because Nanase Ohkawa-sensei is the scriptwriter, and if anything, she expounds on the CCS universe further through the anime, and plays up certain aspects of characters and plots that otherwise may not have fit into the manga. If anything, I consider parts of the anime more canon, because I see it as a more “complete” version of CCS. The only exception to this is the ending of the CCS anime, because obviously, the anime finished before the manga. But some of the best Syaoran episodes have been technically “filler” or as I would call it, “new” material. 

Today, we are going to appreciate Syaoran's beautiful hands up to no good.
Another shot of his lovely, long, piano-playing fingers.
Conjuring Dragon Balls? Or the Time Card.
Fingers gently caressing Sakura's carefully curled hair... which he still hasn't complimented.
This whole episode made me wonder, what is fanfiction and what is reality. Meilin being back in Japan is surreal enough, and then we have more dimension traveling, perhaps to a dream world, perhaps to outer space based on the position of the Earth and moon in the sky. I guess using the Time amid dimension traveling is also a thing here. I'm still hoping for my dragon world arc that we got duped out of in TRC. That said, I would say the equivalent of the Mirage in New Trials of Card Captor Sakura would be the Fantasy. Well, that was climatic, and we’ve gotten the best S+S scene thus far out of the whole Clear Card Arc so far. It’s like Syaoran’s Dream Card episode vision come to life but much intense! I’ve always valued a good hug more than a good kiss. And even in the midst of it all, Sakura blushed a little bit! 

And another gratuitous shot of Syaoran's smothering look.