Sunday, May 20, 2018

Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card-hen: Episode 19 Review!

Episode 19: “Sakura and Akiho’s Lullaby” aka "Cardcaptor Cantabile"
Aka "The Return of Syaoran's Sisters"

This episode, we get introduced to the hero of Cardcaptor Cantabile, a child prodigy violinist from Hong Kong, Li Syaoran, who is currently suffering from a major slump, and regains his inspiration for music through playing the piano for children who are inpatients at the Tomoeda Hospital in Japan. In Japan, he faces off against other talented musicians who are vying for Grand Prize at the Clow International Music Competition, including young heiress Daidouji Tomoyo, a talented primadonna with a penchant for fashion and film, newcomer ingénue Shinomoto Akiho, vying for the spot of top soloist, and commoner Kinomoto Sakura, still grappling to discover her own music. Unknown to our protagonists, Hiiragizawa Eriol, a genius composer from England, will make an appearance for the final showdown, not to be beaten by harpist Sasaki Rika, from a rival music academy! Just kidding but I wish. The animation quality dipped again compared to last week, but it’s fine because there was no big action scene this episode, no capturing of cards, and also, I think the budget is going to be saved for next episode, one of my most awaited episodes.

Sakura: Kero-chan, I want to hear Syaoran play piano again. Listen to my plan.
Sakura: Akiho-chan, have you heard of reading out loud?
Akiho: Nope.
Syaoran in English: “It’s like story time. Like reading stories to children
Akiho: Oh, I get it now because Syaoran explained it!
Sakura: Gurl, stop pretending not to understand Japanese whenever it's convenient!

We start off the episode with Sakura practicing a reading with Yukito at home with Kero-chan spotting her. Then at school, Sakura invites Akiho to join her in reading out loud, but Akiho doesn’t get it. Syaoran intervenes and tells Akiho in impeccable English, “It’s like story time. Like reading stories to children.” Akiho says she understands finally. I think she just wants to talk with Syaoran. But as someone who grew up bilingual, I can’t help thinking, kindred spirits! Poor Sakura is left in the dark here. She needs to learn some English. Sakura then explains she’s reading to children in the pediatric ward at the hospital and invites Akiho to join her, along with Syaoran. She says that they can act out the different parts together. Akiho worries that her Japanese isn’t good enough. I had to crack up at Syaoran’s own profession that he was awful at acting in the Sleeping Beauty play! How self-aware is the boy! He goes: “I can’t. I was awful in our elementary school play!” I love how Tomoyo remarks, “Your portrayal of a princess was very… unique.” To say the least! But she reassures, “You were wonderful as a prince,” in the sixth grade Nadeshiko Festival play! Akiho agrees, and Syaoran is like, “How do you even know?” Tomoyo goes, “Ohhohohho.”

Best quote of the day by Syaoran: "I suck at acting! Have you seen 'Sleeping Beauty' in elementary school!"
Tomoyo: "Ohohoho your potrayal of a princess was unique but you were a fantastic prince!"
Sakura: Actually, you were rather pretty as Princess Aurora, if you weren't scowling all the time, with the pink dress and macaroni wig and all.
Syaoran: Yeah, yeah it's fine, you don't have to console me with empty words.
Sakura: You suck at acting so you can accompany us on the piano instead!

Syaoran’s still not having it, but Sakura then suggests Syaoran can play the piano to accompany he story. Syaoran points out that Tomoyo is better at playing the piano, but Tomoyo automatically replies she has to be videotaping. And then Sakura grabs Syaoran’s sleeve and stares up at him with the biggest puppy eyes, the sweetest scene of the episode, and who can resist that irresistible look? He blushed bright red, and says he can do the accompaniment, much to Sakura delight, while Akiho has no idea what’s going on. Akiho remarks Syaoran’s face is red, and Tomoyo replies, “Sakura’s attack reduced his HP to zero.” Why is Tomoyo talking like a gamer? I knew she was the Final Boss! Cute Sakura is shaking Syaoran’s hand and saying thank you. Poor Syaoran’s heart. He immediately takes to leaning against the wall to catch his breath. Next, Sakura grabs Akiho’s hands and gets Akiho to agree. Tomoyo shrewdly points out Akiho-chan’s HP also dropped to zero. So, the Final Boss was actually… Sakura! 

Emo-Syaoran: Tomoyo's better at piano than me.
Yandere-Tomoyo: I videotape. You play piano!
Tsudere-Syao: Don't want to!
Moe-Sakura: You don't want to? Can't you do it for me?
Tug tug.
Kyun! I'll do it!
Tomoyo: "Sakura Hanyaan Attack!"
Tomoyo: "Syaoran HP zero! K.O.!"
Sakura Attack Round 2.0!
Tomoyo: Akiho HP zero! K.O.
Final Boss Tomoyo: Sakura victory!

We get a sweet phone call scene with Syaoran and Wei in Hong Kong for a change instead of Eriol. Speaking of which, what is Eriol up to these days? Syaoran tells Wei that he will be accompanying a story about a fox that goes to buy a mitten, because it is cold. Wei asks if it has a happy ending, and Syaoran says he supposes so. Wei says he will email Syaoran a piano score that will match the story within the next 30 minutes. Oh Syaoran, look up your own piano scores instead of getting your butler to do it for you, you’re a big boy now! Oh wait, as Great Elder, he must be busy with other obligations. Oops, wrong canon. Syaoran’s four sisters, are peeking into Wei’s room, which by the way is super fancy, and they are cajoling him to put Syaoran on video call. Wei clears his throat and asks Syaoran if he’s doing well. Syaoran replies that Meilin should have filled Wei in. Wei said Meilin told him how much she enjoyed being in Japan again and seeing her friends, but that Syaoran made a serious decision. Syaoran apparently trained vigorously from the day he returned home from Japan under his mother, and that he grew much stronger. (Unlike Sakura who apparently did nothing over the past year). Wei adds that his only wish is to protect Syaoran-sama, no matter what happens. And it leads to Wei asking Syaoran to turn on the video mode so he can see Syaoran’s face. Syaoran shrewdly points out, “My sisters are there, aren’t they?” 

Once in a Blue Moon, Syaoran doesn't call Eriol.
Wei: Syaoran-sama, please cover your belly when you sleep or else you'll catch a cold.
Syaoran's sisters: We want to see Syaoran's cute scowling face!
Syaoran: Wei, I realized acting is not my groove. I'm considering transitioning over to music.
Syaoran's sisters: Yeah, we saw Tomoyo's videotape of Sleeping Beauty, Syaoran. Good thinking!

And true enough, his sisters are leaning over Wei’s laptop. Syaoran goes, “You’re there, aren’t you? Perfect timing!” He scolds them, telling them to stop sending him pictures of food and large videos through text messages. Oh Syaoran. I can’t believe Syaoran’s sisters can be any more annoying than they already are. One sister goes, “Doesn’t seeing delicious food and your beautiful sisters make you happy?” Heartless Syaoran replies, “You send too many,” making his sisters squeal in dismay. International texts are expensive if they’re not using a messaging app! But that brief smile at the end was so precious. Like with Meilin, you can tell how he speaks sternly and pretends to be annoyed with his sisters, but how fond he is of them. I also like the shifted dynamic in relations—in the CCS Movie 1, Syaoran seems to have been more distant and just drained and peeved by his sisters, but here, we see his sisters genuinely concerned about Syaoran, and also Syaoran’s fondness for his sisters. Syaoran reminds Wei to send him the score, and promptly hangs up, without ever showing his face mind you, while his four sisters are determined to bother him even more and send him even longer videos! (At least they won’t be flying over to Japan anytime soon!) Poor Wei looks even more haggard at the end of the scene, but remarks that Syaoran is kind, which is why he worries about him. 

Syaraon: I know you guys are there. Perfect timing.
Syaoran: Stop using up our family data plan on sending stupid photo and video messages!
Syaoran: I've got to save up my international data plan for face-timing with Eriol.
Syaoran's sisters: We'll waste more data and send more videos!

Akiho is at home practicing for the reading with Kaito and taking notes on a pad. I do agree with Akiho about not being able to write on books. I hated it when people marked up my precious books when I was younger. And god forbid, people who wrinkled my pages or dog-eared them when I lent them my books. Then there are those who never returned my books, yes I remember it 20 years later! Okay, back to Akiho, she professes her love for… books. Momo thinks, “There was no need for you to correct that statement, Akiho.” Kaito serves black tea (koucha) with honey because honey is good for the throat. I love that combination as well. Akiho remarks the huge platter of chocolate might be too much for the two, but Kaito says it’ll be just enough. Momo thinks, “To fill my wonderful body,” as opposed to “Nice Body” Cerberus. 

Kaito: You read so much, why is your Japanese worse than Syaoran and Meilin's when they're not even Japanese?
Akiho: I love you! I mean, I love books!
Momo: More chocolate for gorgeous body moi!

Yukito is reading to the children at the pediatric ward of Tomoeda Hospital a book called “Night on the Galactic Railroad.” One boy asks when the story ends, “Where is heaven?” Oh gosh, I hope that wasn’t Subaru-chan. The story is written by Kenji Miyazawa and apparently the theme of the book is, “What is true happiness?” Syaoran remarks Yukito is good, and Tomoyo agrees. For some reason, I feel like this is the first time we see Yukito and Syaoran together in a room this season. Sakura and Akiho are in a corner amazed by Yukito and also getting stage fright. Syaoran approaches the two girls and reassures them, they’ll be okay because they practiced so much. I’d forgotten about this side of CCS!Syaoran, but when in crunch, he always pulled together and became the mature, reassuring, encouraging figure. Of course Tomoyo had matching outfits for Sakura and Akiho prepared and makes them change. She had one for Syaoran as well, but he’d have none of it. 

Yukito: And he drowned to death. The end.
Best outfit of the week goes to--it's a tie between Tomoyo and Syaoran!
Tomoyo: You dare refuse to wear the matching outfit I made for you?
Syaoran: As if I'll be caught dead wearing a white smock and beret.
Sakura: What is this ominous feeling coming from Queen of Hearts Tomoyo?
Sakura Nightingale: How come Syaoran doesn't have to wear one?

Sakura and Akiho read out the story, “Buying Mittens” by Niimi Nankichi. Yukito is in the audience with the children, while Tomoyo is videotaping. Boy Mozart, aka Syaoran, accompanies them playing the organ, which makes me think of both Touya and Sakura’s mother, Nadeshiko. Kero-chan, aka sidekick of Big Boss Tomoyo, pops out of her satchel and remarks, “Figured you’d have outfits ready,” but that the Brat refused to wear one. Thank goodness, because Syaoran nailed it with his Eriol-inspired Victorian outfit with a white high-collar shirt and a fitted navy vest, over gray slacks. I would have hated for him to be forced into another hat/beret he doesn’t want to wear and matching smock. Tomoyo says, “Best that he can play the piano comfortably so I gave up on him THIS TIME.” I love how stubborn Syaoran can be, and that even Tomoyo can’t sway him at times. But that little gasp Kero-chan made when Tomoyo emphasized, “This time,” was hilarious. 

Buying Mittens: A Story of a Young Fox's Foray into Capitalism
Mozart Syaoran: It took an hour getting dressed this morning, I was late again. As if I'll lose the best outfit title this week!
Tomoyo: "I'll surely get him to wear my outfit next time. Oh ho ho!" Kero-chan: "Eek!"
Sakura: I was tricked! Actually, Syaoran agreed to do this because he wants to look good in front of Yukito-san!
Sakura: I spy Subaru and Nina.

The story is about how a baby fox goes to town to get mittens, and his mother warns him that humans can be scary and gives him instructions on how to get the mittens in safe manner. Story short, baby fox’s paw is turned into a human hand, but he messes up and shows the wrong paw to the human through the hat shop door. Kids cry out in alarm from the audience, pausing the momentum of the story, Mozart-Syaoran goes off on a crazy fancy improvisation on the organ for dramatic effect—building up the tension for the climax of the story! And I thought he played by the books. Then he returns to the usual chords he started out with, indicating that all is right, and the flow of the story is kept, Sakura continues to read, and we learn that the baby fox pays the man, gets his red woolen mittens, hears a mother’s lullaby, sung by yours truly Akiho, and comes home to mama fox safe and sound, and we learn the humans many not be so bad after all. 

Cardcaptor Cantabile: The Rise of the Rivals
Sakura: Syaoran's freehanding!
Listen, Sakura, to the music unleashed from my soul.
Sakura: Whoa, beat that, Eriol!
Syaoran: So, who plays better, me or Touya?
Akiho: I'm not going to get outshone by Syaoran. I'll sing now!
Syaoran: Why is Akiho singing here? Oh gosh, why is she singing about a mother's lullaby and missing mama?
Sakura: Who chose this story again? How insensitive.

The story ends, the kids are delighted and they all earn applause! Children flock to Syaoran and tell him, “Onii-san, you’re so cool!” We know. They ask him to play a TV theme. Akiho gets compliments for her singing as well and then poke fun of her for speaking in keigo, so formally.

Akiho: Eek Attack of the Zombie Children!"
Nina: "Onii-san, you're so cool! But not as cool as Kai-nii-chan!" Yukito: "Syaoran, you're so cool! But not as cool as my Touya!"
Children: We speak better Japanese than you, Akiho-nee-chan!

Kero-chan blow dries Sakura’s hair at home after a shower and compliments Sakura. Kero-chan is so useful, compared to CCS Season 1 when he was just a moocher, I want a House Elf Kero-chan as well. Sakura releases Record to see what she recorded, but instead, we get a flashback to olden days. You can tell from the nurses’ uniforms and the fact that it is snowing outside it’s a different era—same as in the photos on the wall earlier at the hospital. Sakura doesn’t think much of it but Kero-chan quickly contacts Yue, makes an excuse that he got a lot of sweets set to expire today, and flies straight over to Yukito’s place. Sakura has the best one-liner of the week, “It would be find for Kero-chan even if they were a week past their expiration.” Kero-chan goes, “How rude!” I love how Sakura talks back at Kero-chan now. 

Kero-chan: Dobby thinks mistress did a fantastic job today!
Kero-chan: How many times did you spin the Time Turner?
Kero-chan's quote of the week: "Who's that old dude!"

Clever Kero-chan remarks to Yue at his place that the flashback must have been to over 30 years ago based on the nurses’ uniform. Cerberus transforms and remarks Sakura doesn’t have a clue, but that the only magicians he knows of that are powerful enough to show the past are Clow and only three others. Who are the three others? Yuuko? I hope Kaito’s not from that era but he knows how to manipulate time. Yue remarks that Sakura inherited the Clow Cards from a descendent of Clow, then transformed them into her own cards. Cerberus remarks that he knew Sakura’s magic was strong, but not this strong. They agree they need to contact Eriol, no matter what.

Sakura's quote of the week: "Kero-chan, you're such a glutton aren't you fine with eating expired sweets."
Yue: It's true.
Cerberus: But usually an expiration date is the recommended consumption date for peak quality, not an indication that the food actually expires!
Best screencapture of the week is again with Yue!
Cerberus: Am I included?
Sakura: So, who picked the storybooks this week? I thought we were supposed to be cheering up the children!

Way to rub it in that Sakura doesn’t have a mother with selection of the story, guys. But in a sense, this episode was setting stage for the next episode which will expound a bit more about Nadeshiko, as Sakura and Syaoran visit Sakura’s great-grandfather’s house. I can’t tell if Yue’s remarks are implying that Nadeshiko was a descendent of Clow, or Fujitaka is. CLAMP enjoys including pictures books in their stories, and this was no exception. I could psychoanalyze the stories told in this episode, both the one Yukito read, and the fox story, but as I mentioned, I don’t really do theorizing of Clear Card. But I did look up “Night on the Galactic Railroad,” or “Night on the Milky Way Railway,” and was a bit alarmed by the synopsis and then had to go read the novel which was first published posthumously in 1934. The story is about a poor boy called Giovanni is friends with Campanella, who always sticks up for him, and their trip on a train across the Milky Way and coming to terms with grief and the loss of the friend. Read the summary and telling me if it isn’t about the most depressing story ever—why is Yukito reading this book to hospitalized children? I get it, but at the same time, Yuki! Maybe it’s Yue’s choice, it seems like his sort of book. And I truly hope this story isn’t some sort of allegory for Yukito and Touya, either. I would rather think, though, it’s an allegory for Yue and Clow Reed, Clow being Campanella, who leaves behind Yue, who can be represented by Giovanni. Because Yue too had to learn about grief and loss, and learning to live on. I’m sorry, old habits don’t die—I did mention I was an English major, right? Truth of why I don’t theorize—I can go totally all out if I want to, so I don’t. 

It's time again to appreciate Syaoran's beautiful hands, playing the piano.
Reflected in the window!
Reaching for Syaoran-bear!
Playing chords on the organ, not to be outdone by Kinomoto Touya, a legendary senpai in Cardcaptor Cantabile and older brother to commoner Sakura, who also played the piano, organ and violin, like Syaoran.
And running his fingers over the keys like a pro!

I enjoy episodes like this focused on character-building rather than action and cardcaptoring. There was a melancholy note about this episode, maybe with the setting of a children’s hospital, maybe the tone of the children’s stories, maybe with even the brief flashback with that doctor. The highlight of this episode is the return of Syaoran’s four sisters and Wei. I never thought we would get to see Syaoran’s sisters again since Movie 1, let alone actually in the anime, voiced and animated. I would have liked to see more interaction between Yukito and Syaoran as well. I never thought we would get to see more piano-playing Syaoran, and he even played the organ here. But again, the organ is an instrument closely connected with Nadeshiko (and Touya). I loved CCS Episode 54 with Nadeshiko playing the organ with Touya, which was the second episode to focus on Sakura’s great-grandfather. That episode was always poignant in my mind because it gives depth to minor characters that you would never have expected to hear about again, and also gave definition to Nadeshiko, Fujitaka, and Touya’s universe in such a short episode. I used to determine my favorite episodes on how much Syaoran was in it, but Episode 54 was a standout episode without a speck of Syaoran it. It also probably is one of the fundamental episodes that helped in forming the framework for the Nadeshiko arc in New Trials, if I reflect back on it.
This time, Syaoran will be meeting Grandpa Amamiya. I’m pretty sure it’s not in the manga, but I would love for there to be a scene with Syaoran playing the organ or piano for Sakura’s great-grandfather. 

Young Amamiya Nadeshiko!
Young Touya and Nadeshiko playing the organ.

I leave you with a passage from “Night on the Milky Way Railway.”

"Campanella, it's just us two again. Let's keep traveling together, forever and ever. I want to be like that scorpion. If I could bring true happiness to everybody, I wouldn't even care if I was burnt up a hundred times over."

"Yeah, me too." Crystal clear tears welled in Campanella's eyes.

"But what really is true happiness?" wondered Giovanni.

"I don't know," replied Campanella absent-mindedly.

I was wondering why I loved Tomoyo's outfit this week so much--and I looked back at my sketch of Tomoyo and Eriol for White Day. Otherwise, Syaoran would have gotten the best outfit tag, no doubt!

1 comment:

  1. I honestly didn't feel like I got much from this episode since so much of it was a story within a story, but your review gives me a renewed appreciation for it. That beginning part with Sakura tugging on Syaoran's sleeve was so sweet! It doesn't take much for him to melt. I thought it was very cool to see the NT canon of the cast visiting the orphanage come to life in this episode.

    Wow, the outfit that you drew on White Day is insanely similar to what Tomoyo was wearing in the show!