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Dated 5 February 2018: Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card-hen releases us from the Time card's pernicious grasp

Sakura
Just your average preteen and her WMD.

Has it really been 18 years already? Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card-hen basically picks up where the last series left off, and the transition is practically seamless. Various electronic gadgets get upgraded to the modern standard without comment, but the show itself is just the way I remember it. The cast remains intact, and while some voices have changed a bit over the years, the characters still remain true to form. Sadly, Kawakami Tomoko passed away in 2011, but Clear Card-hen did not write her character out of the show. Well, Rika did transfer to a different school, but she's acknowledged as still being part of the circle of friends and shares a phone conversation with Sakura in the fourth episode. It's not clear how large a role she will play in the current series, but this is also the case for much of the Cardcaptor Sakura cast. After all, the original ran for 70 episodes, while Clear Card is projected for only 22. I think we can expect a lot of characters to only get cameos this time around.

Touya and Sakura
Some things don't ever change.

For now, these episodes fit the "card of the week" stereotype, but that was true of the initial episodes in the original series as well. I'm fairly certain we can expect Clear Card to grow into a much larger story with complex narratives as it progresses. For the time being, I don't have much to say about Clear Card itself except that I'm constantly amazed we got a sequel to one of the best shows of all time almost 20 years after it ended, and the sequel manages to hit all the right beats so far. Moreover, this is true from both a thematic and a production standpoint. I don't know if Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card-hen has all the people who were responsible for the first anime, but they at least understand what made the original great and appear intent on bringing that magic back. As for whether or not you should watch Clear Card, the answer to this seems obvious: If you watched the original series, then you can absolutely let your feelings about that show influence your decision about this one. If you have not watched the original, then you should absolutely watch that one first instead of skipping ahead to this one. The fact that this last point ever needs to be said is itself somewhat dismaying, to tell you the truth.

Dated 2 October 2017: Symphogear? Still stupendous

Granny and Maria
Something something Maria, something something huge tomatoes.

I don't write about Symphogear as much as I ought to, consider that it's FUCKIN' GREAT. It's basically a miracle that we've gotten four seasons already with a fifth season supposedly on the way. This season, Senki Zesshou Symphogear AXZ ended up my second-favorite show, after Re:CREATORS but ahead of Princess Principal (which is itself way better than I expected). Still, I don't have much to say about Symphogear except that it's Symphogear. You either understand the appeal or you don't. It's definitely not something I expect to have any success in describing though text. Not in any way that does it justice, at least.

Shirabe and Prelati
Something something the appeal of a girl made of saws.

No doubt, there are still dubious readers on the fence about the whole thing. To be honest, the famous Symphogear meme chart pretty accurately describes the typical first-time viewing experience, aside from some outliers (like me) who were totally on board ever since Zwei Wing hit the stage in episode one of the first season. As to what you might expect in Symphogear AXZ? More singing while fighting (fighting while singing?), and more solving problems by punching them. The Hell else do you need?

Dated 10 July 2017: Alice to Zouroku is more frabjous than I expected

Sana and the March Hare
Fuck you, rabbit.

There are a lot of tonal shifts in Alice to Zouroku (Alice and Zouroku). The shifts themselves are not jarring. It's just that the show covers a lot more emotional ground than you might expect. There are people getting fucked up in fight scenes, but also scenes of a little girl joyously talking to the plants she's watering. There's also a dramatic arc which abruptly ends midway through the one-cours show. I don't know how closely the anime follows the manga, but I presume that must be at least partially responsible for the somewhat unconventional way everything plays out.

Zouroku and Sanae
You can tell Sanae is a responsible girl because she packed an umbrella.

Ordinarily, these sort of factors result in a disjointed show that's mostly a mess, but Alice to Zouroku is quite good the whole way though. I like that despite having superpowers, Sana is still very much a little kid with all the weaknesses and vulnerabilities that come along with that. It helps that Ohwada Hitomi does a fine job voicing her. I like the way Sana talks and the inflections she uses. I also like that the show is filled with interesting bits, such as its depiction of "Wonderland" and how various superpowers manifest. Naturally, I also like that there's a combat maid who shows up to bail people out from time to time, because of course there's a dependable combat maid. Ultimately, it's not so much that Alice to Zouroku is necessarily capital-G Good, although it is pretty good, but rather mostly that the show is really likeable. I think that's reason enough to give it a try.

Dated 5 June 2017: Re:CREATORS is my favorite show this season

Mamika
Magikal girls have the strongest conviction.

I'm rather pleased Re:CREATORS will be two cours even though it means the pace is somewhat leisurely. Or, at least it seems that way because it happens to be the sort of show where the viewer constantly feels as if something could happen at any minute. "Gunpuku," who we now know is named Altair, seems content to let things unfold without haste, an attitude which gives greater impact to the violence of her actions when she suddenly snaps in response to an emotional trigger. It's a great scene, regardless of how you feel about the outcome, and where your personal loyalties lie.

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Dated 15 May 2017: If you give a Pretty Cure a cookie

Ichika
Fruits Basket Face.

I think it's reasonable to expect a few changes to Pretty Cure now that it's been running for more than 13 years. Its current iteration, Kirakira☆Pretty Cure à la Mode, deviates a bit from typical Precure norms, but not too drastically. For one thing, this is a "furry" Precure in that the transformed forms incorporate a few animal-based cues. We're still talking about the sort of thing children play at, and not lifestyle choices. We also have a couple of high school students as Cures again. There's precedent for this, but they're pretty rare. Nearly all Cures (and there are a shitload of them now) are 14-year-old middle school students.

Cure Custard
That tail is too big.

The biggest change, however, is that they are no longer "legendary warriors," but are "legendary pâtissières" instead. Yes, those of you who remember this entry, baking is back. It works, though. The war has got to end at some point, right? Magikal girls might embody Peace Through Strength, but maybe its okay for them struggle against something other than chaos and destruction. Cure Whip does suck at baking, though. Considering that Peace Through Baking is supposed to be the underlying theme of Kirakira☆Pretty Cure à la Mode, it's a bit sad that she's so terrible at it. Cure Bloom and Cure Rhythm must feel so bad for her. Saki and Kanade can't ever appear in a crossover bake sale with Ichika. They'd stand there baffled by her ruined batch of chocolate chip cookies (some of which are still on fire) and have to pretend people will still buy them.

Dated 8 May 2017: Alice to Zouroku sure has a lot of hairy arms

Sana and Zouroku
Nice hat.

Alice to Zouroku (Alice and Zouroku) is about a little girl with essentially magic abilities who escapes from a secret facility where people with flexible morals study kids with superpowers. She then takes up with a crotchety old man and various cute things happen. Well, between periodic bouts of trauma, that is. It's a neat concept, albeit one that's been done before in various ways, but making the male lead an elderly man instead of a teenage spud is a nice change.

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Dated 12 December 2016: Autumn 2016 mahou shoujo SITREP

Jill and Rinne
You can tell this is a flashback because Rinne has barely any weight on that thing.

I'm following five mahou shoujo anime this season. Arguably, I'm following six if you include Brave Witches, but I'm not counting that one here. Surprisingly, ViVid Strike! is comfortably on top of these five, with Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku (Magical Girl Raising Project) second, and Mahou Tsukai Pretty Cure! (Maho Girls Precure!) bringing up the rear. At least that's how the ranking looks if you count separately the two shorts: Mahou Shoujo Nante Mouiidesukara. Second Season and Nazotokine.

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Dated 31 October 2016: Magikal girls except dark is okay, but it's no magikal girls except brutally violent

Rinne
And she never smiled again.

I think we were all expecting Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku to be this season's magikal girl bloodbath. Indeed, its opening scene features a girl surrounded by bloodied corpses. However, with Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku taking its sweet time getting to the fireworks factory, ViVid Strike! has effectively beaten it to the, uh, punch.

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