Oh, well that’s a nice story. WITH A TWIST!
Sakura plans to go to Tomoeda Hospital. Nothing is wrong with her, don’t worry. No, she’s going to work with Yukito, volunteering to read to the children. Of course, given her lack of confidence speaking in front of people, she has a foolproof plan for keeping her composure. She’s gonna wrangle everyone else into helping her! While Akiho will read along with her, Syaoran will accompany them on the organ. Akiho hurries home to practice, reading the book aloud and taking notes on spots where she messed up. To give her a hand, Kaito brings her black teas with honey to soothe her throat. He also brings a tray of chocolates. Far more chocolates than Akiho could eat herself. He remarks that it will sort itself out, as the camera lingers on Momo. Yeah, that tray is really for her.
In the meantime, Syaoran calls up his old butler as his four sisters listen in. The butler promises to furnish him with an arrangement for the accompaniment but mostly tries to pry information out of the kid on how he’s been doing. Apparently, the brief time he had been home, Syaoran underwent some of the most intense training imaginable, all under the imperious eye of his mother Yelan. That explains why he was able to stop time during the filler arc.
Time has come to read the story to the children. They’re the follow-up act to Yukito’s reading of the Galactic Express, the story of a boy who went out to get milk and ended up on a space train. Honestly, I’d like to hear that story, too. It’s tough to follow, and even harder while Tomoyo records the whole thing. Their story is that of a fox cub who wants to pick up mittens because he’s cold. His mother has had bad experiences with humans and uses her kitsune magic to give him a human hand. If he shoves that in the door of the haberdashery, and not his paw, he should get his mittens.
Unfortunately, dazzled by the lights in the human building, the cub forgets and holds out his paw. Still, the hatter gives him the mittens, and the cub returns home. The whole experience forces the mother fox to re-consider her views on humanity. Perhaps they aren’t as evil as she thought… The reading takes the children by storm, and the trio agrees to do it again another time. Sakura can’t even wait to watch Tomoyo’s playback and reveals that she hid the Record card in the room with them. She pops out the card and tells it to play back everything it saw.
Nothing. The card shows a room with children and doctors, but nobody reading stories. Instantly, Kero begins freaking out. He claims that Yukito is offering a ton of almost-expired sweets. In reality, the two discuss what Record saw. The doctors and nurses were all wearing uniforms from thirty years ago. She wasn’t glitching. She was watching the past! This sort of time travel has only been done by four sorcerers in the past, one of them being Clow. Sakura’s powers are growing and at an alarming rate. This may seem like a good thing, but a warning: Those with great power also attract disaster.
Okay, on the first take, this episode is a bucket of mush and fluff. Up until that last paragraph, you were thinking it was horrifically boring. It had nothing to do with the plot of the series, and barely any character development. No action, no cards “captured”, no villains unveiled, nothing. Even that last bit is just a vague hint she’s getting more powerful, so it has little to do with anything. That’s what you’re thinking, right? Get ready for the wrong-a-thon. It’s okay. You may not have gotten all that deep into the Clamp Multiversal crossover stories of xxxHolic and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles. This episode began the set-up to bring us full circle into those stories and combines with comments made in those stories to tell us where things are going.
Before we go full tilt on theory and headcanon, let me say that this episode had some great voice acting, particularly from Amanda Lee as she portrayed Akiho doing the reading. I wasn’t expecting her to sing the mother’s song during the story, but it sounded great. Jad Saxton, voice of Momo, only had about two lines, but I enjoyed the diva sass she threaded through them.
The sequences that depicted the book may not have been that animated, but the art style was beautiful. It looked like crayon or colored pencil on arches paper and amped up the feel of a children’s book. The rest of the episode tried to give us good animation, but some awkwardness in positioning lead to animation errors in faces here and there. They did do a good job of animating Syaoran as he played the organ. We saw his fingers on the keys, and it looked authentic to me. They even kept in the fingernails.
First bit we have to cover is that in T:RC, the Sakura of our series gives her old Star Wand to the Sakura of T:RC. That wand becomes payment to Yuuko from xxxHolic to give that Sakura transport to Clow Country. We now know how that is possible. Sakura received the Dream Wand in this series, rendering the Sakura Cards and the Star Wand moot as she chases after the Clear Cards. The events of Clear Card happen before T:RC and xxxHolic by several years. When we see her in T:RC, our Sakura is an adult and living with her boyfriend Syaoran. So, Clamp already tied a bow around that one a while back.
That interchange also lets us in on something else. In fact, I have a pretty solid theory now as to what is going on. When our Sakura gave the Star Wand to that Sakura, she told her that the cards would still be there and everything is going to be alright. Interesting. The Sakura Cards are still around in the future, connected to the Star Wand. However, our Sakura’s powers are just starting to awaken. A power that began with her prophetic dreams long ago. A power she later uses to hand a physical object over to someone else in another universe through a dream. Her power is growing, and manifesting in ways that have put her on par with Clow and “D” rank sorcerers.
The story began with Sakura capturing Cards powered by Clow’s magic, while using a wand powered by Clow’s magic. This is made visually obvious by the wing motif on the original Sealing Wand. The card system was effectively creating an artifact and investing energy in it to later cast spells without it sucking up your power. Then, during the Final Judgement, she transformed it into the Star Wand, now fueled by her own magic. Using that, she made the Clow Cards into Sakura Cards.
However, this is merely taking a machine and plugging it into a different outlet. These artifacts are still bound to Clow’s personality, his legend, by the choices he made in creating them. They simply drew their power from Sakura. Early on, the conversion from Clow to Sakura Card took its toll on her energy, but the more she did it, the easier it became. The power within her grew like muscles, increasing as they were used.
Sakura’s magic, aligned with the Stars and heavily associated with dreams, had yet to take shape. She merely had prophetic dreams. Now, she has forged a new wand, a “staff of dreams”. The Sakura Cards turned blank, and new cards appeared. Cards that are far more powerful than the previous set. This isn’t an outside force she’s taming. The Clear Cards are born from Sakura’s magic directly. Her magic is growing to the point that she can create these immense “forces without master” subconsciously using her power. Using the Dream Rod, she can then seal them into the card form.
This is why they don’t follow the same organization as the old cards. They follow the organization that makes sense to her. The old cards haven’t really vanished. They simply lost power, since she is using her power for her new magic. When she hands the Star Rod over to the other Sakura, the card go to her as well. She isn’t using anything given to her by Clow. She is her own sorceress now.
However, this doesn’t explain what’s going on with Akiho, Momo, and Kaito. We’ve had it suggested to us that Kaito is one of those magicians who can manipulate time. Okay, it’s been shown. However, there is obviously something that is beyond his power, something that he believes Sakura could do in the future. His watch can go back in time, but the book that Akiho reads tells the future. The two are visually themed off each other, so they are likely drawn from the same European magic system. He knows that by bringing Akiho in close proximity to Sakura, the book will give him vague previews of what is coming up, while Akiho gives him more detailed accounts of what is happening. If anything goes pear-shaped, he uses his watch to turn back time and try another way of doing things. But, what are his motivations?
And this is the beauty of the story that the girls read to the children: it gave the moral we needed to hear. We’ve been told time and again that a disaster is coming. We assume that the disaster is related to the unknown factors in the show. But, what if the disaster isn’t being brought by them directly? This disaster may have actually been following Kaito. He, like Sakura, is a powerful magician. Power attracts trouble. Time travel causes more trouble than can be managed. That trouble is coming for him, and may turn its attention on Sakura now that she’s outclassing Kaito.
He came not to hurt Sakura, but to get her help with stopping the apocalypse he may have accidentally caused. He isn’t a villain and isn’t trying to hurt us. Kaito isn’t as evil as we thought. Just like the mother fox of the story, we must reevaluate our view on the new trio.
What seemed like a meaningless episode is chock full of plot. Subtlety wrapped with subtlety and coated in subtlety, but given a cute presentation. Good enough visuals and some pleasant voice acting make this an episode I'm glad is necessary viewing for the rest of the season. I give it eight fox mittens out of ten.