It’s all an illusion, but illusions can kill too.
Sakura and friends are taking a day of fun together. Since Akiho hasn’t seen a Shinto shrine, and Meiling has never been to one during market day, everyone decides to go there. Too bad. Sakura wanted to go to the zoo. She’s also a bit disturbed since she had hallucinated cat ears and tails on Meiling the night before. However, there’s plenty of fun to be had around the shrine. Syaoran arrives a bit late. He was held up doing REALLY OMINOUS MAGIC all by himself. Remember, kiddies: even if your eldritch rites don’t summon C’thulu, don’t do them alone.
The hallucinations start all over again! And now, everyone is turning into animals. Everyone except for Syaoran. Huh. As her hallucinations get worse, she finds herself in a parallel world. In this idyllic valley, she and Kero watch as her friends (minus Syaoran again) lose their humanity. They turn into various cute creatures and run from an incoming storm. As they huddle under a giant tree, lightning blasts said tree to smithereens. It seems as if all Sakura’s friends are about to be killed!
That’s when Syaoran pops open the magic sphere he made earlier in the episode, using it to stop time and rip into the dimension to join Sakura. He may have spent all his magic power to do this, but he brings a helpful piece of advice. This whole world is based on Sakura’s thoughts. She wanted to see animals, so her friends became animals. She got scared that they wouldn’t turn back, so the world around her got scary. He holds her close and tells her to wish for what she really wants with all of her mental effort. With her wish, everyone returns to normal, and she captures Mirage.
The last episode was really boring, but it directly leads into the plot of this episode. It made us feel like this episode was going to be a big deal. It really wasn’t. There was a bunch that the show suggests, but it is quite subtle as it goes about it. The entire point of the episode was the development of Syaoran and Sakura’s relationship. It seems like a small deal to us that he actively embraces her, but these are middle schoolers in a society this sort of thing is major. There is almost a ceremony to admitting you like someone. They have three different sets of rings to exchange on the way to getting married. A hug is important.
However, until a particular point, it’s another snoozefest. Sakura and friends party reasonably at a shrine. Yay. Once the card reveals itself, there is a palpable sense of malice that comes to a head as Syaoran charges to the rescue. Until the card shows up, the episode is just bleh. This makes me question, why was this episode not fused with the last one? Moreover, why did they bring this episode in at all? Mirage is not even in the original manga. This entire episode is FILLER. They may have been trying to build up Saku/ran, but otherwise, they are just wasting time.
There is more hidden in this episode, though. In this parallel world, if you looked up, you would not see the moon or sun, but the Earth! That suggests that the worlds created by mirage actually occur on the moon. For those that aren’t into Japanese folklore, the moon is heavily associated with rabbits, such as Akiho’s Momo. This further ties the goings on to the Akiho/Kaito/Momo trio. Since Akiho’s book predicts what these cards are going to do, and the visions suggest that Akiho is going to try to steal Sakura’s powers. But, what if the Clear Cards actually originate from Akiho? That would explain why they parallel Sakura’s old powers, but with a slightly different focus.
The technicals are the saving grace of this episode. The animation is great, and the cinematography full of interesting angles and shots. The best of everything is, again, when Syaoran jumps in with the save. Extremely dramatic, lots of fun. The voice acting is absolutely perfect throughout, with every character loaded with expression. Monica Rial (Sakura) and Jason Liebrecht (Syaoran) put some good effort in with the climactic scene, and all of the characters’ feelings came through.
I really question these last two episodes. They're so soporific. Then, they culminated in a fight that, while dramatic, isn't worth the hype. Still, it's good technicals and develops some of the plot. I give it seven time stopper spheres out of ten.