Episode 14 of Card Captor Sakura, "Sakura, Toya, and Cinderella", suffers from what is either their fault or mine. Essentially, while watching the episode, I had the distinct feeling that the B-crew were the ones animating this, considering the number of warped background character designs and animation mistakes (for example, Tomoyo's hair ribbon changes colour between scenes… you bastards). Everything just seemed a bit lacking, as though all my love for the show was due to what was in my head, rather than what was actually on the screen.
However, I also noted that prior to watching this episode, I had just marathoned The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and eight years of progress of anime technology (along with the obvious realities of producing a seventy-episode anime versus a fourteen-episode one) would certainly make a difference. Perhaps I was merely judging too harshly with regards to mere surface quality, and the actual contents were in line with the higher class of filler, for which I should be thankful.
And so I cannot actually say whether this episode was good or bad, until I have reacclimated myself with the rather unique world that CCS is immersed in. Until then, please enjoy Osamu Dazai's [No Longer Human] the sight of Super Baito Touya as a… well, it appears that there is one thing that Touya is not good at, and that is wearing a dress.
Consider all jokes about "relationship", "Yukito", and "pants" already made.
I had way too many Tomoyo screenshots this episode, just like every other episode where Tomoyo is present, instead of Somewhere Else. So, as is standard procedure for cases like these, every time Tomoyo comes on-screen, CHECK!Point it. CHECK!Point it with all your ability, all your being, all your soul, dear readers. Tomoyo deserves nothing less.
The setting is Seijyou High, Touya's and Yukito's high school, during their culture festival. In any other high-school based anime, this would be one of the primary episodes, if only to show the characters out of the class and doing strange and terrible things to gain more customers. For my case, I only really remember one of the equivalents back in Junior College, where the class had a "ring toss" stall set up. We made something like (Singapore) $400 then, about $200 of which was from one die-hard who absolutely insisted on getting that top prize (worth about $5 in materials, but about $50 in rarity; this was during the Hello Kitty craze). It was not one of my favourite memories, since I got bawled out for letting that top prize go at all, but in my view, when you've paid anywhere from four to forty times what the thing is worth, you deserve it.
Anyway, there's a short flashback in the usual sepia tones to Yukito giving Sakura a… well, it looks like a coupon or ticket, to the cultural festival. Some significance is alluded to Touya not willing to give his own sister a ticket, with Yukito speculating that it's because of "the play". You can see where this is going.
Meanwhile, Super Baito Touya is preparing for the play by sewing. A group of girls approach him and say how much he's suited to being a good husband, which would probably rank somewhere up there in the annals of irony, all while giggling and being generally suspicious. If I were in Touya's position, I'd probably have wondered if I was being set up for some private joke or punchline on me, but Touya is a better person than I am, and simply sits stoically sewing.
I've never been entirely sure why the aloof, apathetic sort of personality is so attractive in anime. I mean, if he doesn't care about so many things, chances are he doesn't care about you either.
Sakura and Tomoyo enter Yukito's tea shop. This does mean that Touya's class is both running a tea shop and a play, which the class of School Rumble would do well to note. Admittedly, they're not wearing meido outfits, but then Tsuruya and Mikuru are not here.
Yeah, I'm just overflowing with injokey references today.
Instead, the waiters/waitresses are wearing what look like generic yukata (or whatever they're actually called) and geta. The cuisine served appears to be random snacks plus unmarked bottles of Ramune, albeit without the characteristic marble, which makes me wonder if it's just generic carbonated soft drinks. I can only assume that the tea shop is but a side business to the play.
Sakura gets her usual jitters at being stared at, and sure enough, Syaoran is present and glaring. Also, he has apparently been so for some time, having spent enough money to significantly litter the floor around him with empty plates and bottles. I now have great respect for the boy's bladder.
Syaoran decides to somersault his way to Sakura, instead of, yanno, walking. This elicits no comments from the peanut gallery, and Yukito, in his eternal Bishounen Bliss, presents another bottle of soft drink to Syaoran. Exactly how Syaoran has not exploded yet from the sheer volume of drinks is beyond me.
The girl in the centre of the screenshot is Youko Nakagawa, who will be present only for this one episode. Remember her well.
Youko and friends were just discussing Super Baito Touya, who was being all Manly with a heavy prop. Youko has a rather obvious crush on Touya, which is especially pronounced given how she immediately denies it.
Sakura and co., now accompanied by Yukito, tour the festival further, before coming across a set of dolls which should be very familiar to anyone who's read the Wish manga, where these rabbit doll things with flowers were used as messengers from heaven. Or something.
So the requisite for a doll would be one hundred yen plus an attempt at shooting a basketball into the hoop (sans netting, for some reason) past the basketball team. This, obviously, would be a good chance to show off Yukito's basketball skillz.
You had to have seen that coming.
I'd probably be a lot more garrulous about this if I knew anything about basketball pop culture, but sadly, unlike Jason, my geekery extends mostly to the more basement-dwelling sort. Of spheres involved in sports I know very little, but twenty-sided polyhedrals are my shape of choice.
Yukito then goes against the basketball team twice more, leaving them all tired and- dammit, I can't finish that. Too many years in a female-dominated fandom has driven my mind into the depths of depravity. And they call me a pervert.
Suffice to say, now all three of the ten-year old guests at the festival have their own little bunny dolls.
CHECK!Point: You get to see Tomoyo's. Like you expected any different.
Also, my respect for Syaoran went up by a small but significant amount, considering that he is apparently secure enough in his masculinity to walk around with a plush bunny holding a flower.
The conversation turns to the play which Yukito's and Super Baito Touya's class is putting on. Apparently it is the age-old tale of Cinderella, updated for teenage creativity, with all that entails. Yukito will be playing the part of a can of mackerel.
As usual, Sakura tries to find something polite to say about this, and settles for "that sounds very tasty", to which Yukito readily agrees. I know that if I were in their shoes, I wouldn't miss the play for anything, if only due to a sort of horrified fascination.
Meanwhile, a strange green mist is shown to creep up around the venue of the play (which I think is the school gym) like some sort of sentient radioactive being. Or maybe I've been reading too many bad superhero comics.
The pre-performance preparations done, the curtain rises to show a forlorn figure orzing with the best of them. Faint strains of "shiku, shiku" (the Japanese onomatopoeia for "sob, sob") are heard, and Sakura notes that the voice sounds familiar.
As well it should.
Not even the bishounen sparkles hastily reassigned to bishoujo duty can really take away the impact of Super Baito Touya in a dress. The fangirls in the audience go wild, and I'd make some comment about taste and lack thereof if I weren't sometimes guilty of the same accusation.
Sakura's reaction is suitably dramatic.
CHECK!Point: Tomoyo's, for her part, is polite and yet sympathetically embarrassed. For some reason, her "oh my" expressions are just so moe~, at least to me.
Sakura gradually sinks down lower in her seat as the play progresses, at pretty much a constant rate to how horribly Super Baito Touya is acting. If you're wondering, the male parts are taken by the girls, while the female parts (including the three very ugly step-sisters, or step-relatives, or whatever) are taken by the guys. One can only imagine that this was done intentionally, either for some subtle criticism about the gender roles in mythical fairy tales as applied to the modern day, or just for a few cheap laughs.
Bonus points for humour as the step-"sisters" strut off to the dance, Touya-rella laments that he really wants to go too, and Syaoran notes that this sounds nothing like the case.
Around this time in the greatly-abridged story, the fairy godmother should appear, which heralds the entrance of Yukito.
As a can of mackerel.
This time Syaoran joins in the facefault.
Weirdly enough, although perhaps not that surprising, Tomoyo picks up on the intended message here immediately, that discarded items may sometimes gain magical powers, and so it's a good idea to take good care of inanimate objects, either by nurturing them, or immediately condemning them to be recycled.
Yeah, I got nothing.
At the grand ball, the prince, played with great aplomb and actual acting skill by Youko, announces her intention to find a spouse. I suppose that despite the gender reversals, this should work out anyway.
Touya-rella shows up with a dress he obviously has trouble moving in, as well as his usual mildly-irritated deadpan scowl. Possibly for effect, but probably for balance, he grabs onto Youko.
CHECK!Point: In any other high school romantic drama/comedy, this would pretty much be paint-by-numbers, and yet expected. Because there's just something moe about a girl being caught off-guard in a not entirely unpleasant manner.
After a bit of prompting from Touya about her lines, Youko then commences with what was probably supposed to be the highlight dance of the play, but which looked extraordinarily painful. No toes were stepped on, possibly because Touya-rella seemed to take extreme pains to keep Youko at arm's length.
Meanwhile, the green mist which had been surrounding the building was now inside, since it's not like the place is airtight.
Fast-forward to the climax of the play, with Touya-rella claiming that he must leave before midnight and Youko demanding that he stay, a scene which would probably have made more logical sense if it didn't take place on the balcony. I mean, saying that one cannot stay with no actual means of egress other than straight down would require either a flying carpet or a rappelling rope.
This would probably be a good idea for the Clow Card du jour to make its presence known, which promptly happens. The green mist fills the stage, under cover of the other mist from the dry ice used to create Atmosphere, and corrodes the balcony pillars, with predictable results. Touya manages to hang onto Youko's wrist, and refuses to let go, even though it's technically not a fatal fall. I suppose the presence of the DEADLY GAS AROUND FLOOR LEVEL is good enough.
Along with the pillars, the corrosive gas also eats away at the curtain ropes, conveniently causing the curtain to fall. Considering that it appears picky enough to corrode some things but not others, I have to assume that it did this on purpose.
Yukito does rush into the mist without harm, but is dissuaded from rescuing Touya by further collapse. Again, I have to assume that the mist did this on purpose.
Kero-chan, meanwhile, is watching either a soap opera or CLANNAD, which is probably repeating myself. Sakura gives him a call, and he not only identifies the card as the Mist (which probably did not tax his memory much), but also somehow manages to operate the phone easily even though neither his mouth nor ear are anywhere near the respective receiving/sending devices. Truly he is a creature of MAGIC.
Back at the school, Sakura frets about what to do, before realizing that she could conceivably trap the Mist in one location. And the card she chooses for this task is, with a dramatic flourish, the Shadow.
Yeah, I don't know either. I suppose the trapping of the Thunder Card counts as a precedent.
The Mist is summarily trapped, and a gleam of light reflects off the dome made by the Shadow.
Think about that for a while.
Nobody appears to notice this display of magic, possibly because at that moment, the balcony chooses to give way. Syaoran summons up a helpful gust of wind to slowly lower Touya and Youko onto the floor, earning him Sakura's thanks, which he seems unsure about how to deal with.
It should be noted that no repercussions about the balcony collapse and all the excitement caused by the Mist Card was ever shown or mentioned on-screen. Apparently the aftermath of the situation and explanations that nobody got seriously hurt and so on were not deemed relevant enough to the plot.
CHECK!Point: Later, Youko asks Touya to the roof, and confesses to him. I don't care how many times it's been done, but if it's sincere and respectful, any confession of love deserves a CHECK!Point from me. Especially when Youko knows (and is proven right) that Touya already has Someone Else he likes.
Youko accepts Touya's surprisingly gentle rejection with far more composure than I would have in a similar position, and asks him for one final favour: to dance with her in that large circle dance around a bonfire which appears to mark the end of every school festival in anime ever.
Perhaps one day we will discover why every single one of them appears to use the tune "Turkey In The Straw".
The dance done, the girls advance forward one partner (in the screenshot, right to left), and Touya just leaves. When Youko asks why, he says that his promise was only to dance with her, not with anyone else.
While I appreciate the significance of the gesture, I have to feel a little sorry for the girl on the far right who's probably wondering what the heck this apparent lover's spat has to do with her, now that she's without a partner.
Touya returns to Sakura and co., and Yukito decides to lead Sakura to a dance. Sakura, quite obviously, is overjoyed at this.
I don't know about anyone else, but the rather simplified and yet deformed faces of the background characters are kind of creepy.
And meanwhile, Syaoran is flabberghasted at Yukito's apparent preferential treatment of Sakura, while Tomoyo happily films away. In this tradition, at least, being a guy in Syaoran's position is probably a distinct disadvantage.
This episode's Kero-chan ni Omakase talks first about the male Seijyou uniform, followed by their schoolbags, which seems to follow every other high school schoolbag I've seen. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if he were to start discussing zettai ryouiki, but then I realized that it would probably be for an entirely different target audience.