An episode that threatens to put you to sleep… until someone falls asleep.
Hello, and welcome again to Kinomoto’s Kitchen, where Sakura is making… rolled omelets. Again. She’s on the phone with Meiling about how the date with Syaoran went, and the disaster that was the fish tank destroyed her last set of omelets. This set isn’t for him, though. It’s for Akiho, who is coming over to visit. It isn’t anything too special, just a day where all the boys are out of the house, so she wanted company. Akiho brought cookies, made with love by her guardian/not-so-secret-crush Kaito. The two share cookies and chat while Kero hides in a drawer, hungrily eyeing the cookies. The topic of conversation wanders: from room looks to cooking skills. What we do learn is that the Shinomotos are very selective as to whom they bring to their home. Only people they consider good friends. That means, of course, that Akiho feels very close to Sakura and Tomoyo. Second, as Akiho opens up to Sakura a bit, she admits that she is truly impressed by Sakura’s cooking. Sakura offers to teach her as much as she can, and the two can learn more together. She’s a bit surprised Akiho doesn’t try to learn from Kaito, and puts two-and-two together. Akiho wants to cook for Kaito like Sakura is desperately trying to cook for Syaoran. That blush is raging.
As Sakura takes care of something in another room, a flit of light floats over Akiho’s head. When Sakura returns, Akiho passes out. Whatever this little ball is, it’s put her to sleep! As Sakura and Kero charge after the light ball. It goes out the door and into the open air. She charges after it, to find that the world around her house has been replaced with a labyrinth made by M.C. Escher. Combined with the speed of the lightball, it’s hard for the two of them to continue the chase. The pair split up to use a pincer attack, with Sakura using Gravitation to maneuver. She can’t use Siege to stop it either. The bubble doesn’t know what to do. That’s when Sakura comes up with a plan! She uses Gravitation to create a gravity well in Kero’s belly. He chases after the lightball, and sucks it in using his black hole tummy. With it in there, Sakura can easily convert it into the Snooze card. Really handy for infiltration! However, the maze around her still exists, and it’s started shifting. It must be a card, too! She captures it, gaining Labyrinth. Despite returning to the real world on the roof of her house, Sakura manages to get back to Akiho before she wakes up. The girl apologizes for falling asleep, but her host won’t hear anything of it. She’ll just have to come back! Next time, Sakura will show her the library in the basement. Kaito arrives to pick Akiho up, and is genuinely pleased to see that his charge is making real friends in this small town.
I spent this whole episode floating between the states of boredom and frustration. On one hand, we are here in the home stretch of the show, with the bulk of the episode taken up by chatter that goes over the information we are already aware of. Akiho is rich, loves books, and has a crush on her caretaker. Sakura has skills in a lot of things because she has a single parent. The two engage in small talk for the first half of the show and it is boring. On the other hand, we have also been led to believe that Akiho is the ominous figure in Sakura’s dreams, so I end up spending the whole episode waiting for a trap to spring or a lie to get uncovered. Some action that gives us a clue as to Akiho’s involvement in all of this. Heck, when Kaito says “That pleases me” to the fact that the girls are friends, I figured the other half of that sentence was “since I’m going to have you kill her.” Maybe I’m just a suspicious person. My head is racing with all the things that are going on here, and the show is giving me nothing to latch onto. We have four episodes left, and this is the point where you would unveil the final plot, leaving a few episodes to resolve things. Nope. We are still left with an almost slice-of-life episode, if not for the action at the end. I feel like this series spent so much time reminiscing about the past, it forgot to get to the plot, and wasn’t sure how to get into it. So, they are still poking at the plot, unaware the series is about to end. Perhaps this series is being written with the assumption there will be a second season, and the end of the first will unveil what the real threat is to set up. I can’t tell what they are thinking here. The clamp is usually much better with their storytelling than this, and I will be a disappointment if the show waits for the final episode to make something happen. We know nothing about why the Sakura Cards went blank. We don’t know where the Clear Cards are coming from. We are in the dark about the intent of the ominous figure or the visions. We have no clues about the impending cataclysm that has been hinted at since episode one. Nothing. Four episodes from the end of the season, and we might as well be at the beginning. The content of the next episode also marks the halfway point of the story arc as a whole, but that means this season could have been far more succinct to make a more exciting season.
The combat scene shows Sakura isn’t getting all that original with her combat tactics. She continues to get around using Gravitation, despite having Flight. Though her use of Gravitation to attract the enemy card to Kero was unique, we still aren’t seeing her use these rather offensive and tactical cards to use. Being able to turn invisible would have been rather useful when going after a fast-moving card. The action could possibly move the Labyrinth’s chunks to help her. On the other hand, I find Labyrinth to be a rather useless ability, especially when put up against Snooze. The little sleepy ball could be used for all sorts of non-magical threats, for infiltrating places the cards might be. Labyrinth just makes things into a maze, which could be argued to be a more powerful version of Siege. Problem is that the space inside Labyrinth is so huge, you can’t really interact with whatever you caught in it. It is a direct port of The Maze from the Sakura Cards, only far more sophisticated in its interior designs. The episode does show, however, that the Clear Cards are able to work together, with one preventing the easy capture of the other. Perhaps they are smarter than they seem?
The animation in the first half of this episode wasn’t anything to write home about, especially since it was mostly spent talking. The visuals during the fight scene are deceptively impressive. Most of it is a bunch of sliding layers that can be repeated. The effects of her use of her abilities are brilliant as usual, but I was a bit confused in how air swirled to mark the trajectory of her Gravitation power. This wasn’t really done before and looked like she was using Gale instead. For an episode that focused so much on conversation, the voice acting was kinda one-note. They were sweet, little girls chittering on, but I didn’t feel anything in their discussion. On the plus side, the dub makes good word choices here, adding phrases that make a character’s intent more clear. In the subtitled version, Akiho claims she’s never had anyone over to her new house, where the dub claims that she hasn’t had anyone else over to her house. These are small choices, but keep us from seeing a logical fallacy.
Ultimately, without the action scene, this would have been a throwaway episode. Nothing revealed, little gained. Just warm fuzzies and an impending nap. I give it six trips in an Escher maze out of ten.