Deja vu, and date time, too!
One week after Sakura captured Lucid from the Shinomoto Manor, she’s set to go off on her date with Syaoran. She’s a bit behind, owing to a conversation with Yue about recent developments, but the both of them are early to their meeting. This date is to the aquarium, a site she’s been to before with some of her other friends, but Syaoran’s never been. Her father gave her two tickets: one for her and one for “someone she likes”. Yeah, that explanation made them both blush.
The aquarium hadn’t changed since back then, so Sakura takes him around. As they talk about jellyfish and Mei Ling’s unfortunate encounter with them, Mei Ling herself sends Syaoran a text. Almost as if she were watching, she tells him to ignore his shyness and take initiative. From there, they decide to go see the penguin show. To show his initiative, and a bit of awesome, he reaches out to a lost couple from France. He speaks French, did you know? Not only does it help them find their way, but it impresses Sakura. Good show. The penguin show reminds Sakura of the time she was here before. If you don’t remember episode three of the original series, The Watery card appeared during the penguin show. She broke into the aquarium that night to capture it. But, the Watery isn’t here anymore. It’s gone clear, so she and Syaoran are clear to have a snack in the tea shop. It has a huge, cylindrical tank in the middle of it. While the waiter (Toya, who is none too pleased his sister is dating) gets their drinks, Syaoran decides this is his chance. He’s going to ask her to go out with him as his gi- Movement in the tank, and it cracks. Water surges out into the room as the habitat dumps its contents. In the middle of it all, something swirls around Sakura’s ankle, holding her underwater. Toya pulls the switch to activate the drains, and Syaoran pulls her out of the water.
Of course, they’re going to have to come back that night. That was obviously the work of a new card. They tell Tomoyo, who uses her “I’m Ridiculously Rich” card to cordon off the area and get them access in exchange for another opportunity to record Sakura in action. She even brings outfits for both Sakura and Syaoran based on their outfits early on in the old series. Even though this Clear Card lives in a tank of water, it isn’t made of water. Instead, it seems to be a form of the slinky. It can separate some of its coils out to clone itself and contort to attack. Sakura initially escapes by flying around. Unfortunately, even the more open arena and use of Gale doesn’t do much to help her odds. What does help is Syaoran’s elemental magic, which he uses to freeze the slinky in place while Sakura captures it? Now she has Spiral!
This episode, more than many others, relies on viewers’ nostalgia. Some might say that this is actually a problem of the show as a whole. It’s so busy being like the original, it doesn’t do anything that new. This series, however, is all about subtle things drawing parallels to the past. Here it is a bit more obvious than other episodes since she is returning to the scene of an old story. However, this time, we have Syaoran in the party. We not only see how different the fight is with him on her side, but how much the two of them have grown. Tomoyo even goes as far to know when NOT to record Sakura, even convincing Kero to leave the two alone on their date. Syaoran was about to ask her out, which is really something for these two. The script is solid in its simplicity. The first half derives its interest from the development of their relationship and the tension from watching them overcome their awkwardness. The whole way, there’s just enough childish sweetness that it makes you smile, without being saccharine. The second half is a great battle. It’s exciting and dynamic, but it also lets them both show off their powers. They are now an effective card-fighting team and are individually more powerful than they were. However, we now have only three episodes left. It is time for the writers to shake things up a bit and make some changes before everything starts to feel like a rehash.
The animation in this battle is incredible, as we watch this morphing shape barrel after Sakura. She uses her powers all over the place, leading to dynamic angles and constant motion in different directions. Spiral is done entirely in CG, but its simple, warped plane keeps this from being too obvious by moving really fast. It’s constantly spinning around and recoiling into new shapes, at some times reminding me of a slinky, others of a DNA strand. It’s a great effect. The only issue is that there are a couple of odd angles going on in the cinematography, such as one that zeroes in on Sakura’s armpit, then reels back as she captures Spiral. It’s just a bit strange.
Mikaela Krantz continues to pour life and expression into Kero, though sometimes she reveals a bit too much of the feminine formants in her voice as she does so. This gives Kero a feminine air at times. I doubt she can really control this, and it’s too subtle to pull me out of the experience of the show. Still, she does great work. On the other hand, Jason Liebrecht had a few issues during the battle of Syaoran. Trying to voice this little boy with a soft voice is a task that he’s up to. When that little boy starts yelling, it all falls apart. Not in a way of his voice breaking, but that the character doesn’t feel like he is authentically shouting. Syaoran sounds like he’s wheezing. Other than that, we have solid performances from the crew.
But, despite its hiccups here and there, the episode is fun to watch and demonstrates how far the characters have come before we move into what looks like a more serious arc. I give it eight broken habitats out of ten.