Cardcaptor Sakura: Toya

Cardcaptor Sakura: Toya

Toya

When I first started watching Cardcaptor Sakura, there were several things that immediately impressed me. I loved how spunky and brave Sakura was from the start, how interesting the battles were, and how supportive Tomoyo was. But most of all, I loved the relationship between Sakura and her brother Toya. In most magical girl series, the family of the ‘magical girl’ almost never realizes what the girl is up to or her secret identity. Over the course of Cardcaptor Sakura, however, it becomes clear that Toya is very aware of what Sakura is up to whenever she leaves their house at midnight. At first the signs that Toya realizes what Sakura is up to are subtle, and are mostly shown through his ‘staring matches’ with Kero, who has to pretend to be a plush doll whenever Toya stares at him strangely. Yet as the series progresses Toya is shown watching Sakura’s battles from afar, and he eventually admits to Sakura he knew her secret all along. Even though he’s sometimes mean to Sakura (he always teases her by calling her a monster, which ticks her off), it’s clear that Toya is very protective of Sakura. A running joke throughout the series is that Toya works everywhere – in episode three when Sakura and Yukito go to an aquarium, Toya has a job there feeding the penguins, while in episode 35 when Sakura, Yukito, Shaoron and Meilin go to the amusement park Toya is the waiter at a café they visit. Toya also really dislikes Shaoron, and when Yukito asks him why near the end of the series he says it’s because he knows Shaoran is going to take something precious away from him one day. In many ways, Toya is the ideal big brother, which is lampshaded throughout the series. At one point near the beginning of the series when Toya gets mad that Shaoran tried to attack Sakura, Yukito jokes that Toya has a sister complex.

Sakura, Yukito, and Toya

Yet it’s clear that Toya’s kindness isn’t just directed at Sakura alone. One of my favorite episodes is episode seven, which is when the Mirror card is introduced, who takes Sakura’s form. She tricks Toya into finding something she dropped in the woods, which causes Toya to fall of a cliff. However, right after he falls, Toya tells the girl that he will still help her find what she’s looking for, even though he knows that the girl isn’t really Sakura. In episode 39, when Sakura has a fever she uses the Mirror card to pretend to be her so she can capture the Cloud card (and so Toya won’t realize she’s missing). However, Toya tells the girl that he knows she’s not Sakura and he also tells her not to tell Sakura he’s aware of her secret because he knows she wants to keep it a secret. The Mirror card and Toya meet for one last time in episode 61 when Sakura and Toya were supposed to be Christmas shopping, and Toya sweetly gives the card ribbons because he can tell her ‘true form’ has long hair. I actually loved all of the interactions between Toya and the Mirror card, not only because they show how kind Toya is but also because they bring personality to the cards themselves, which I really appreciated.

Yukito and Toya

But what’s interesting is that outside of his relationship with Sakura, we don’t know a lot about Toya himself. This becomes most obvious with the introduction of Kaho Mizuki, Sakura’s teacher. It becomes clear that not only did Toya and Mizuki know each other because she taught at his junior high, but that they loved each other and were a couple until she left town. When Mizuki returns, Toya seems bothered by her presence but it is unclear why. Although it is probably because Toya was aware that Mizuki was somehow connected to Sakura’s mission as a cardcaptor (how, exactly, I won’t spoil), I always felt there was also a tinge of regret and unrequited love on Toya’s part in facing Mizuki. And yet, what makes me doubt this is the later revelation of the depth of Toya’s feelings for Yukito. In the second half of Cardcaptor Sakura, Toya always shows great concern for Yukito, and when Yukito later mentions that Toya is the most important person to him, Sakura tells him that she’s sure Toya feels the same way. While it’s not exactly surprising for CLAMP to create moments that can be romantically interpreted between two male characters, the depth of Yukito and Toya’s feelings for one another never once felt forced or contrived, and I actually ended up really liking the idea of the two of them as a couple. But what’s most important is that although I was expecting Toya to be a flat character, he ended up not only playing  a much bigger role than I thought he would but he also became one of my favorite characters in the series.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

In the spirit of the holidays, I thought I’d rank my favorite Christmas-themed episodes in anime. In Japan, Christmas is typically celebrated among couples as a romantic occassion; many couples get enganged during the holiday. This is also reflected in a lot of anime Christmas episodes, which often contain romantic themes. Some of these episodes are full of holiday cheer while others are more bittersweet, but they all have memorable moments.  

5. Maison Ikkoku episodes 39&40:

An epic two-parter, Kyoko discovers a rock that was given to her by her late husband and asks Godai to find out what type of stone it is. Mayhem ensues when Godai’s friend loses the rock on the train and Godai spends Christmas Eve searching for it in lieu of going to the Christmas party being hosted by his neighbors. Both episodes have an undercurrent of melancholy, but romance ultimately wins out when Kyoko realizes the anxiety she felt wasn’t because she wanted to find out information on the rock – it was because she was waiting for Godai. 

Sakura sleeping with her adorable Yukito plushie

4. Cardcaptor Sakura episode 35:

This episode features Sakura, Yukito and Shaoran at an amusement park (with Tomoyo and Kero-chan following them and Toya ‘coincidentally’ working there). Although Shaoran has a crush on Yukito, this episode is one of the first times that he expresses romantic interest in Sakura. But aside from the ever-shifting love triangle, this episode has a really memorable battle where Sakura and Shaoran work together to capture the elusive ‘Fiery’ card. I love the end of the episode when Sakura and Yukito are on the ferris wheel. And the plushie Sakura gives Yukito is adorable.

3. Kimagure Orange Road episode 38

Another romantic Christmas episode, this one revolves around a couples-only Christmas party and combines the typical ‘day that never ends’ set-up with Kyosuke’s supernatural powers to solve Kyosuke’s eternal dilemma: Hikaru or Madoka? In the first scenario, Kyosuke decides to go to the Christmas party with Hikaru, then he gets a do-over and goes with Madoka. Finally, he goes to the Christmas party with both girls after realizing how much he cares about them and doesn’t want to hurt either of them – even if it makes him look like a two-timer. The supernatural weirdness doesn’t end there, though – Kyosuke’s grandfather decides to dress in a Santa suit and spread joy (in the form of snow) around Tokyo.

A festive holiday celebration with the Azumanga gang

2. Azumanga Daioh episode 17

Probably the funniest Christmas episode there is – when Tomo asks Chiyo-chan if she still believes in Santa, Kagura ends up defending Santa’s existence by proclaiming that he’s paid by the government to deliver presents for everyone, and that he can fly at Mach 500. I love that when Tomo asks Chiyo-chan what she’d want for Christmas if she could have anything, Chiyo-chan says the star atop the big Christmas tree. The girls also decide to have some fun on Christmas Eve by singing karaoke. Yet in true Azumanga fashion, much of the episode has nothing to do with Christmas as we’re drawn into the girls’ random conversations – including Osaka’s infamous horror story about smelling a fart that wasn’t hers when she was alone in her bedroom. Priceless.

1. Kodocha episode 38

My all time favorite Christmas episode ever (not to mention my favorite episode of Kodocha). It’s got a middle birthday party, Naozumi singing a Christmas carol, Akito freaking out because he can’t decide what to get Sana, and a toy dinosaur Akito ‘doesn’t hate.’ And of course, it wouldn’t be Kodocha without over-the-top wackiness (in the form of Mama’s life-size Christmas tree hat). But the best part of the episode is definitely after the party has ended and Akito tries to tell Sana he loves her – and gives her a special Christmas kiss instead. Awww… Even better, when this episode came out on volume 10 of the U.S DVD release of Kodocha, it was two weeks before Christmas, so watching it always helps put me in the holiday spirit.