Continuing our narrative from the previous episodes, fifteen and sixteen move us through Meiling’s final days in Japan while wrapping up a little mystery between Kaito and Akiho.
At the the top of episode fifteen, Akiho basically recounts exactly what happened to Sakura and company as Kaito listens patiently with that same almost smug, knowing face. Kaito hopes aloud that Alice will continue to do her best, and at the moment I see him as veering benevolent. He knows who Alice is an allegory for, so if we was truly hostile why would he wish Alice well? Is it possible he is testing her in a similar way Eriol had?
Throughout the first half of the episode there is a lot of focus on Momo, Akiho’s bunny. Don’t worry, she never moves, but the intense close-ups of this “stuffed animal” are really pushing the idea that she is going to come to life soon. As I mentioned in the last post, Momo is featured now as a character in the end card, which only tells me that she is either alive now or going to be alive soon. It’s just a matter of time, though I wish we could stop on these close-ups since they are really just working as a fake-out distraction.
Back with Sakura and Meiling, there is a great bit of animation and framing where Sakura is on the phone with Syaoran twisting her feet in nervousness. I love when we remember to use body language in anime to show emotion, not just faces. It’s so important to a good, well-rounded show.
After our great bit of animation to revel over, the girls head over to Tomoyo’s house with Akiho. After being led into a theater room, the girls are informed that Tomoyo is going to exhibit the play Sakura was in the previous year. There’s a lot of adorable hubbub until partway through the second video they watch of Tomoyo’s singing.
A huge earthquake happens, similar to the one that happened during Sakura’s plane, causing quite the disruption. Luckily, Sakura is able to use Snooze to put everyone in the house asleep (besides Tomoyo and Meiling) before she takes to the sky to find the card outside the house.
The episode ends here, with a cliffhanger that moves us into episode sixteen. Overall, Clear Card has been focusing on the slow life aspect of Sakura’s life and easing us back into the monster-of-the-week style that was prevalent through last season. Though we aren’t seeing the enemy this episode, the set-up is obvious enough to be still exhausting at this point.
I love Clear Card, don’t get me wrong, but I have higher expectations for story than what we’ve been shown the past few episodes. Honestly, if I wasn’t watching for this post, I don’t think I would be paying as much attention as I have been to it.
Episode sixteen picks back up with Sakura in the skies, attempting to enclose Tomoyo’s property with the Siege card to prevent the earthquake cause form escaping. We see the card manifest itself as a sort of dragon-worm thing after it continues to cause wonton destruction throughout the property. Then, before destroying the mansion itself, Sakura seals the Swing card. I’m honestly not such what use a Swing card will be in the future, but I do hope it can do more than ruin property like a large gopher.
Everyone in the mansion is weirded out because they fell asleep during the day in the middle of a crisis, but overall, no one is the wiser of Sakura’s plot. The rest of the visit goes on well, and the girls head home without issue.
Well, sort of. We finally get the scene we’ve been waiting for all this time- something to actually clench our teeth on in regards to narrative story in this show. We follow Akiho after she splits off from Meiling and Sakura, and she ends up meeting Kaito on the way home. He insists that he came to meet her, but the framing and quick cuts between close-up faces and wide angle shots make the whole conversation seem uncomfortable. Thinking about it now, I still get a bit queasy- cutting like was very effective visually. What’s most interesting here, before the really good part, is that this sharpness is undercut by the warm colors being featured- as if to show us that Akiho doesn’t feel the same tension that Kaito does.
As Akiho talks to Kaito about her day and Sakura, Kaito comments that Sakura’s father must have a lot of cool books in his library. Akiho stutters and wonders if she had ever told Kaito about Sakura’s father and the library. The music is immediately silenced as Kaito stops walking. It’s a section of scene that makes you want to get up and leave, far more unsettling than the quick-cuts before this.
Kaito pulls out his stopwatch and invokes a magic that resets Akiho’s memory. Before this happens, Akiho looks utterly terrified obviously not remembering Kaito ever doing this before, or possibly finally remembering every time he has done this at once before her next reset. There’s great visual split on the fire hydrant that really drives home our visual elements.
From this particular exchange, I think we can hazard that Akiho harbors no intentional ill will toward Sakura and has no idea what is going on. We can’t label Kaito as the big bad; however, since this could have been a move to protect Akiho- however terrible of a move it was to her free will. I really don’t know what to think after all this, but I do know that I’m very much into this idea that Kaito is controlling Akiho’s consciousness or will to attack Sakura.
At the same time Kaito and Akiho have their altercation, Meiling and Sakura meet another card. Coincidence? Probably not.
Either way, the card looks like a robotic Meiling in her traditional fighting gear. The card itself reminds Sakura of the clone card card, only this time the card is upsettingly strong physically. Luckily, our girls are able to work together in a feat of acrobatics I am still amazed by, and they seal the Struggle card.
“Struggle” sounds a lot like what Akiho may be doing under Kaito’s control.
Before we move to the end of the episode, we are reminded that Kero is having issues with sleeping. This time, he slept through the entire fight with the Struggle card. It seems he’s losing more and more power, though I’m unsure where from.
Meiling and Sakura have a great last night together, and Sakura sees Meiling off via Taxi. Meiling leaves Syaoran on a bittersweet note, and I think this is the last we are going to see of her in Japan for a while.
I finally got what I wanted, actual story progression, and now that Meiling has finally flown off, I think we are going to get more. Kaito has also taken his first on-screen action which seems to invite the idea that we will be seeing more of this going forward. I am eager to see where we go with Akiho’s story, though it’s going a little differently than I had initially predicted (and hoped).