Episode 12: "Sakura and the Icy Ball-Sports Tournament"
|aka "The Prince of Badminton" meets "Sakura no Basket"|
What an awesome episode—it had a little bit of everything I would love in an episode of CCS. I actually wouldn’t mind watching a whole CCS series focusing on sports and cooking, and maybe some music.The artwork felt more original CCS-like this episode as well.
|Kaito: So, tell me about your dreams, Akiho-san.|
|Don't drink it, Akiho!!! He's evil!|
|The butler did it!|
We start off the episode with morning tea time with shitsuji/butler Yuna D. Kaito serving Akiho. We learn that Akiho has been having recurring dreams, looking down at someone from somewhere high, and learning that she wants something from that person. Kaito remarks that her dreams are progressing. His remark that her “consciousness” is progressing is kind of sketchy because it could be that there is another side to Akiho that we do not know. But Akiho doesn’t know she is looking at Sakura at the moment, it seems. Pretty sure Kaito does.
In direct contrast to the serenity of morning teatime at the Shinomoto house, we start off the day with a nostalgic “HOEEE!!! I’m late!!!” from the Kinomoto house. Sakura’s bed hair is the cutest thing ever, and Kero-chan is the most useful sidekick ever, handing Sakura her hairclip (cute green wing-shaped clip present from Yukito), pencil case, towel and handkerchief and even gym clothes! Sakura’s trained her well.
|Sakura: Ain't nobody got time for pigtails anymore!|
|What three years of training under tween girls does to the Great Golden-eyed Beast of the Seal, Cerberus.|
We see Kinomoto Fujitaka after a long absence, and even Sakura’s surprised to find her father home today. Sakura regrets not getting up earlier to spend more time with her dad, and Touya’s already out for his part-time job. Fujitaka is an archeologist, so I wonder if he actually goes on excavating trips like his Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles counterpart did. I think he might find something valuable someday with Sakura cheering on him like that. They chat a bit about Akiho and Touya already cleared up the basement library—how messy is the basement they had to make mention of this every episode. Sakura’s late again, and Fujitaka smiles, thinking: “Even as a middle schooler, some things never change.” I was hoping we get a Nadeshiko daily photo, and we do. Fujitaka remarks, “Some things about her still makes her seem like a child, and some things make her seem so grown-up. But she’s really grown into a wonderful young lady,” which may be the favorite line of the episode. Ah, the mixed feelings of a parent. And he asks Nadeshiko to keep watching over Sakura.
|Best dad award goes to Kinomoto Fujitaka aka Indiana Jones!|
|Sakura: Hoe, I'm late!|
|"Even as a middle schooler, some things never change."|
|Nadeshiko in a bed of sunflower: Fujitaka-sensei, if you're late for school, usually you just skip breakfast!|
Best part of sleeping in may be Sakura bumping into Syaoran in the morning on the way to school. Kero-chan initially ducks when he sees someone approaching, then goes, “Oh, it’s just him.” Kero-chan’s just really hitting it off with his one-liners, I can’t even. I love how Sakura’s so excited to see Syaoran, but Syaoran’s just like “We’re late, let’s hurry.” Sakura remarks that it’s unusual to see Syaoran running late. Syaoran the tardy boy this season—who’s actually usually very punctual—explains Wei called as he was leaving. I smell a lie. Wei would never call Master Syaoran when he’s leaving for school and make him late for first period! Probably facetiming with Eriol again first thing in the morning. Anyhow, Syaoran says that Wei was worried about whether he was doing well on his own in Japan. Kero-chan pops out of Sakura’s bag and remarks, “He’s worried because he knows you’re still so immature.” And to Kero-chan’s complete shock, Syaoran agrees, “Probably.” In contrast, in the original series, Syaoran always was a cocky know-it-all, who always bickered with Kero-chan, so this acknowledgement is a testament to Syaoran’s maturing.
|Syaoran: Oh my gosh Sakura's bed hair.|
|Syaoran: She's dating me and has the audacity to wear a hair clip from another guy?|
|Kero-chan: "Yo, immature brat, do you know Sakura spends all evening yakking away with Yukito on the phone at night? Aren't you jealous?"|
|Syaoran: If Eriol and Yue like talking on the phone so much, they should just call each other and leave both of us alone.|
Syaoran says they’ve got to hurry or they really would be late, and they run off. Sakura makes it to class in the nick of time as the school bell rings and worries Syaoran made it on time too. Tomoyo learns that the two came in together and gets excited over the two’s, “Morning date.” Best Tomoyo line! And Kero-chan remarks, “She just overslept.” Tomoyo laments that she can’t videotape Sakura in the ball sports tournament as a student, but Kero-chan comes to the rescue again, saying he’ll videotape on the sly. Sakura really kicks ass during the basketball game, with her crazy dribbling skills, sharp passes, eyes focused forward while slyly passing to the side, and her awesome three-pointer shoot. As expected from Touya’s younger sister. Or, I’d like to think she’s been getting pointers from Yukito off screen to prepare for the ball tournament.
|Yandere Tomoyo: I missed your morning date with Syaoran AND I can't film you at the ball sports tournament.|
|Kero-chan: Don't cry, Tomoyo, I'll help out! Sakura: Oh no, he fell for Tomoyo's crocodile's tears again.|
|Tomoyo: Oh ho ho! Kero-chan's completely domesticated now.|
|Sakura: Let's rename the show Slam Dunkor Sakura! I know basketball is the one thing I can beat Syaoran at!|
Over on the other court, Syaoran and Akiho are playing a grueling match of badminton. The two are surprisingly evenly matched. I really hope Syaoran was just going easy on her, but he was breaking more sweat than her and he’s a trained martial artist! Considering this is a shoujo anime, the animators did an excellent job animating all the sports action, first the basketball scene, then the badminton match. In fact, I don’t know why they can’t just play tennis, but badminton it is. Back to match, Sakura doesn’t know who to cheer for between Syaoran and Akiho, and wishes they both can tie. And as she wishes, it suddenly gets overcast and starts hailing. Actually, random hailing in the middle of summer time is not that bizarre. Just, in this case, it’s over Tomoeda Middle School.
|Syaoran: Akiho, the last one to drop the shuttle will get their love come true.|
|Akiho: I'll never hand over Kaito to you!|
|Sakura: Oh gosh, I just remembered, I never put straight the upside down King Penguin Slide last episode.|
|Syaoran: Eriol told me that if I stay calm and don't lose myself in the moment, I can become stronger.|
|Akiho: Who's Eriol? Your lover?|
|Syaoran: No, more like my keeper.|
Tomoyo is ready with a suction camera for Kero-chan and a weather-proof poncho battle costume for Sakura. The crew is attacked by hail, and Syaoran with his quick reflexes moves Tomoyo to safety, considerate as always. The hail is wrecking the school structure, Syaoran points out that Hail is ice, so Sakura realizes she needs heat, but she doesn’t have a fire type force. Syaoran uses his ofuda and uses his fire magic, but watches the fire fizzle out and remarks to himself, “I guess this spell won’t work anymore.”
|Syaoran: Oh god, I think Akiho's going to beat me. Now would be the perfect time for a card to show up.|
|Sakura: I think Tomoyo's the cloaked figure. How does she know beforehand what card will strike and have a matching outfit ready at school?|
|Battle costume of the day poncho-style! Sakura: Seriously, Tomoyo, how did you know that it needs to be waterproof and easy to put on?|
|Syaoran: Sorry, Big Boss, we need to protect your identity a little bit longer! Eriol's orders!|
Meanwhile, Sakura is getting attacked by the hail. Syaoran seems alarmed, and for a moment, he looks troubled before he releases something from his hand and his voice is muted out as he recites a spell. For me, the action of releasing something bright from his hand and then the action of slamming his sword blade onto the ground is very similar to when he would release a Clow Card. It’s all the more mysterious because we don’t get to here him say, “Firey,” for that’s what the force looks like.
|Syaoran: Ugh, I hate the cold!|
|Sakura: First time Syaoran's all fired up this season, and it's because he's cold!|
|Syaoran: How come I don't get a waterproof poncho, Tomoyo?|
|Syaoran: It's so cold.|
|Syaoran: Darnit, I have to break my cover and use the original Sakura Cards that I stole from Sakura.|
Either way, this time the fire contains the Hail, and Syaoran calls out, “Sakura!” I love the way he calls out her name during action scenes with such urgency. And Sakura seals the new card. I still think it should go to Syaoran because he helped capture it. I think this may be the best team effort between Sakura and Syaoran in a battle scene since Clear Card Arc started. But it’s also the first time Syaoran had to actually take proper action to help Sakura because she really was in danger and couldn’t take care of the card herself, mainly because she doesn’t have the right countermove.
|Key that holds the power of the stars. Reveal your true form to me.|
|I, Syaoran, command you under contract|
|Sorry Sakura, I had no choice!|
|I'm not going to make the logical conclusion, because if I do, that will implicate Syaoran.|
After the card is sealed, Sakura checks that Tomoyo is all right then looks at Syaoran, and sees him very quiet and pensive, not meeting her eye at first. When he does look up at her, still silent, he’s frowning, and I think for the first time since Syaoran came back, Sakura feels something is off with him as she murmurs his name. But her thoughts are interrupted because Akiho comes their way. Akiho sees Sakura in her weird get-up but just concludes that Sakura is in another school play.
|The time will come when you learn of my betrayal.|
|Will you forgive me then, I wonder?|
|Till then, as long as I can, I will keep hiding the truth from you.|
|Akiho: So, who were you rooting for in the badminton match? Me or Syaoran?|
We can really tell that all the lying and deceiving has been taking a toll on Syaoran this episode, first in the morning when he bumps into Sakura, and even when they capture the Hail together. Kudos to Motoko Kumai for capturing the subtleties in his voice, and the animators for illustrating all the slight changes in expression on his face. I think Syaoran gained so much popularity in his own right even though he is part of a mahou shoujo series because compared to other male leads of a mahou shoujo series, he’s so much more fleshed out and undergoes a great growth as well. And it wasn’t even clear if he will make it out of the series as the male lead, at least until Season 3 of Cardcaptor Sakura.
|Sakura: "Pound it into onii-chan!"|
Kero-chan's already sleeping, and we end the day with Sakura talking on the phone with Yukito, who never leaves the darned room! But I guess Yukito is supposedly in on things because he’s Yue, but Touya isn’t? Weird. It’s cute that both Yukito and Sakura are worried about Touya pushing himself too hard with work. Sakura remarking that Touya is always convince that he’s tough enough to handle everything on his own is a really sweet observation. She tells Yukito to pound this into Touya’s head, but Yukito also remarks that it will be more effective is Sakura tells her brother herself. Sakura grumbles that her brother never listens to her at all and is so mean (and even made her konjac rice the other day!) And Yukito murmuring more to himself, “That isn’t really true at all,” was a rather tender moment, and shows how much he treasures both siblings. I would like to see Sakura reading out to the kids at the aquarium with Yukito. I hope Yukito is a children’s education major in college and goes to become a kindergarten teacher here. I don’t even mind that Sakura goes to bed without calling Syaoran because he’s probably busy reporting to Eriol all that happened today anyway.
|But I don't speak parseltongue!|
|I'm a dragon, not a serpent!|
Sakura has a dream again and the cloaked figure tries to steal her key, and Sakura demands why. The cloaked figure stands atop a black dragon creature. Sakura wakes from the dream, and the cloaked figure is outside Sakura’s house in real life too. So, if the cloaked figure is Akiho in a semi-conscious state and dragon Kaito, who is controlling who?
|Let's appreciate some gratuitous shots of Syaoran.|
|And ignore that he's getting owned by a girl from England... in badminton.|
|And a bit more of sweating, scowling Syaoran.|
|And some Syaoran in action.|
I really enjoyed this episode since it had the perfect mixture of plot advancement, meaningful action time that requires team effort to seal the card, sweet character interactions and even a fun ball tournament! This episode more than any other episode so far felt like a chapter of New Trials if it were to be made into an anime, substituting the “enemy” and the “dark force.” I like secretive Syaoran because all the secrets he’s keeping from Sakura are killing him, which is very much like him, and Sakura is also finally realizing something is off with Syaoran as well. But if Syaoran really was using the Firey Card and he stole the Sakura Cards from Sakura… I don’t know, I think maybe I should just retire from writing New Trials. You would think that Sakura or Kero-chan would be able to sense the Sakura Cards, but maybe that’s where Eriol’s help comes in. The action of this episode is very similar to Episode 36, when the Snow was captured with the Firey.
|Let's appreciate Syaoran's beautiful muscular arm for a second.|
|Syaoran is most likely summoning a Sakura Card here.|
|It's the same pose as how Syaoran used to summon Clow Cards back in the days.|
|The Firey capturing the Snow in CCS Episode 39.|
Best news is that Meilin is coming next episode, and she’s staying at Sakura’s house! Because Syaoran is harboring Eriol at his place, maybe.
|Meilin: Nihao! No one better be wearing the pink shirt I bought Syaoran! Hey Eriol, I see you!|
|Sakura: No, Syaoran, guys aren't allowed at an all-girls' sleepover! Go hang out with Eriol!|