What Do Cardcaptor Sakura and Elfen Lied Have In Common?

</bait title>. The answer is Kanbe Mamoru, who directed Elfen Lied and was an episode director and storyboarder on 14 episodes of Cardcaptor Sakura. I’ve got a number of posts planned regarding Kanbe because his career fascinates me, but for now I want to talk about his influence on those episodes.

Kanbe worked as episode director on episodes 5, 9, 12, 16, 19, 21, 25, 28, 30, 33, 37, 41, 44, and 48, and he storyboarded all of those except for forty-eight. He performed those two jobs on more episodes than any of the other episode directors (of which there are 24) or storyboarders (of which there are 23) across the 70-episode series.

I can’t say for sure how much influence Kanbe had on the episodes he did, nor how important he was to the show in general, because I don’t have the means to find out. Kanbe’s work, while somewhat prolific, lacks enough consistency (and I lack enough experience with it) for me to easily say what things might be his doing. However, within the context of the series, I can look at what things were similar between the episodes he worked on—in fact, I got the idea for this post after noticing those trends in his episodes.

Thing is, most of these aspects aren’t unique to Kanbe’s episodes. There may be one or two other episodes in the series that contain any of these qualities. These are just ones that happened to occur in multiple episodes that he worked on.

First, allow me to give brief summaries of the episodes he worked on (copied from Wikipedia, edited by me for style. I apologize that some of these were written by idiots, some of whom apparently watched the dub). You do not need to read these to understand this post, so skip to the end if you just want the point:

Episode Five: Sakura, a Panda, and a Cute Shop – On the way to school, Sakura meets Matsumoto Maki, who’s opening a stuffed doll shop called Twin Bells. Sakura and her friends visit the shop after school to find most of the merchandise unpacked, so they offer to help put it on display. Mihara Chiharu, who has a fondness for stuffed animals, buys a stuffed panda, but it disappears shortly after she takes it home. Sakura discovers the panda back in Twin Bells and Maki explain the reason for moving her shop to this town—her business has been plagued by mysterious happenings that almost forced her to close down. While Tomoyo distracts Maki in the back room, Sakura and Kero search the shop to find The Jump, which escapes with all the stuffed dolls. At Penguin Park, The Jump grows into a kaiju by absorbing the stuffed dolls, but it knocks itself out after it trips and falls, allowing Sakura to capture it.

Episode Nine: Sakura and the Mysterious Brooch – Sakura, usually cheerful, is forlorn by Shaoran’s confidence and obviously superior skill. Rika and Tomoyo take Sakura to a shop to try to cheer her up. The three each buy a brooch and return to Sakura’s house for tea and pudding. When Rika puts on her brooch, which turns out to be The Sword, it takes control of her and attacks Sakura with a sword. Shaoran saves Sakura who refuses to attack Rika and stops him from attacking her as well. Using The Illusion to distract Rika, Sakura is given the chance to capture Sword. The next day, Shaoran is dismayed when he sees Sakura offer a gift of chocolate to Yukito and quickly gives sweets of his own. Tomoyo has to explain to Sakura that Shaoran is “interested” in Yukito just like Sakura is.

Episode Twelve: Sakura’s Never-Ending Day – Fujitaka is invited to Sakura’s school to talk about his occupation and discuss archeology. Shaoran is entranced and becomes an instant fan until he discovers that Fujitaka is Sakura’s father. The next day, Sakura has a recorder test, but fails to hit a couple of notes. She falls asleep disappointed but is awakened by the elementary school’s clock tower bell at midnight. Sakura is confused the next day when everything from the previous day happens again. This time, she’s approached by Shaoran who explains it might be the work of a card. After a failed attempt to capture the card and repeating the same day once again, Sakura manages to chase the Time card out of the tower and into Shaoran’s thunder ward trap. Since it was Shaoran who changed the card into its original shape, the Clow Card belongs to him.

Episode Sixteen: Sakura and the Rainbow of Memories – Sakura’s family and Yukito take a vacation to the countryside. Sakura meets the old owner of a country mansion near their rented cottage. He invites her over for tea and tennis, and they become good friends. He shows her the room of his granddaughter, now deceased, and gives Sakura clothes that once belonged to her. The next day, Fujitaka gives Sakura cookies to give to the old man. When she brings them out to eat, the old man asks her about her father. On the last day of her vacation, Sakura asks the old man to stand in the balcony of his granddaughter’s room. From a distance, Sakura uses the Rain card to give the old man a rainbow as a goodbye gift. Sonomi comes out of hiding to speak with the old man to reveal the he’s the grandfather of both Sonomi and Nadeshiko, and Sakura’s great-grandfather.

Episode Nineteen: Sakura and the Summer Holiday Homework – The summer holidays are coming to an end and Sakura still has a lot of homework to do. Making a deal with her brother and Kero to help her, Sakura is left with only a book report to do and meets with Tomoyo at the library. There, they meet Shaoran who refuses to share a library cubicle with them because his fortune predicted bad luck with women. The book Sakura needs for her report is missing, so Sakura and Tomoyo search the library, but notice the book disappearing and reappearing in different places. The book eventually appears outside the library where they meet Shaoran, who’s also after it. Kero reveals it’s the work of the Move card and for the first time, thanks to Move’s unpredictable actions, Sakura is forced to rely solely upon her magical senses to catch a card. Sakura is rewarded with the book and a new card, but accidentally plunges into the river, taking Shaoran with her. Shaoran invites the girls over to his place so Sakura can change into dry clothes, but to everybody’s surprise, a Chinese girl enters the apartment and leaps on Shaoran with a hug.

Episode Twenty-One: Sakura’s Long Marathon Race – During a school race, Meiling is determined to win with Shaoran in the usual “One-Two Finish” they were known for in their previous school. During the race, both Shaoran and Sakura take off at top speed after seeing that Yukito is watching. As they run, the Loop card traps Sakura and Shaoran, causing them to unknowingly run in circles. After they realize what’s happened, Sakura is able to use the Sword card to cut the loop. Shaoran carries Meiling, who hurt her ankle, the rest of the way to the finish line, joined by Sakura.

Episode Twenty-Five: Sakura and Another Sakura – Many people have seen Sakura causing problems along the streets, but Sakura says that she has nothing to do with it. Later, it’s revealed that a card is impersonating Sakura and that it’s after her brother. The Mirror card leads Touya into the woods, asking him to help her find something. Touya falls off of a cliff and is briefly knocked unconscious. He reveals that he knew she wasn’t the real Sakura and the card is sorrowful. Sakura finds the Mirror card with the help of Shaoran’s Lasin Board. She changes it to its true form by speaking its name after thinking back to when Kero used the cards to show her the three cards Mirror was most like. Before it’s sealed away, Mirror apologizes to Touya.

Episode Twenty-Eight: Sakura and the Enchanted Cards – One of Sakura’s friends makes a jump and passes a P.E. test, but she and her other friends all think it was because she made a wish on the “Jump” card. Sakura becomes worried and asks to see it. She’s relieved to see that it’s not the real Jump card and goes to Twin Bells to make sure the other cards they sell aren’t real. After seeing that one card is missing, she asks who bought it and what it was. When she discovers that it’s a real Clow Card she goes looking for whoever bought it. After running into Shaoran, he and Sakura find Meiling. She refuses at first to give the card back, but when she releases the Shot card’s power accidentally and Shaoran is hurt, Sakura comes up with a plan to capture it and does so.

Episode Thirty: Sakura and the Injured Card – When an attempt at capturing the Dash card fails, Sakura’s upperclassman Rei, a girl from the track club, finds it and takes it home. After the Dash enchants Rei to become faster as thanks for her kindness, Sakura has a hard time capturing it because she feels bad, but Shaoran doesn’t and one day he finds and lures it to the woods. After Kero and Shaoran tell her that it’d be worse if Rei won her races through “cheating,” Sakura captures it. However, it goes to Shaoran, since he weakened it. During an upcoming tournament, Rei is sad upon the loss of her friend, but Shaoran casts an illusion of the Dash card at the race fields; encouraged, Rei wins without the power of magic.

Episode Thirty-Three: Sakura’s Ice-Cold Ice-Skating – Sakura’s class takes a trip to the town’s ice skating rink. There, the students begin to notice freezing temperatures due to the Freeze card. Eventually, the Freeze card freezes everyone by covering them with ice, except those with magical powers, which include Sakura, Shaoran, and Mizuki-sensei, who was hiding near the back of the rink during Freeze’s appearance. With the help of Shaoran’s distractions, Sakura is able to capture the Freeze card into a Clow Card and ultimately, Shaoran became the master of the Freeze card due to his idea of getting Freeze to appear out of the ice rink.

Episode Thirty-Seven: Sakura and Tomoyo’s Lost Voice – Sakura and her friends are at a picnic with a portable karaoke device Tomoyo got from her mother’s company. The next day at school, Sakura and Tomoyo talk about the song that Tomoyo will sing in choir. At cheerleading practice, Sakura, Chiharu, and Naoko talk about Tomoyo’s singing and decide to go listen after practice. However, Tomoyo’s voice is stolen by a Clow Card. Later that night at Sakura’s house, Kero tells Sakura that the Voice card caused this. Sakura and Shaoran go to Tomoyo’s house to try to seal away the card. After a comment by Sakura about the Song card, Shaoran comes up with the idea of using the Song card to sing with Tomoyo’s voice to draw out the Voice card. It works and the Voice card comes into Tomoyo’s house. Syaoran seals the exits so that it can’t escape and Sakura seals it. Tomoyo’s voice is returned, and she’s able to sing in the choir. Sakura and her friends go to the concert.

Episode Forty-One: Sakura, Shaoran, and the Sea of Sand – Mizuki-sensei announces that the class will by doing a play for the school arts festival. Sakura realizes that the woman she sees in her recurring dream is Mizuki-sensei. Roles are assigned by amida drawing and Sakura gets the role of the prince, while Shaoran is the princess. The two have lunch with Yukito, who asks about the play. Sakura and Shaoran are too embarrassed to tell him what roles they’re playing. They agree to practice their lines together in the morning at school. They practice outside and almost get to the kissing scene, when the Sand card forms a vortex around them. They get away using Fly, but Shaoran gets caught in the vortex again. Sakura uses Watery and Shaoran uses Freeze to turn the mud into ice. Sakura seals the card and it comes to both of them, but she lets Shaoran have it.

Episode Forty-Four: Sakura, Kero, and the Mysterious Teacher – Sakura once again has the dream in which she’s facing the Tokyo Tower. She clearly sees Mizuki-sensei, but this time Mizuki is accompanied by another figure with long hair and wings. She wakes up early to see Yukito compete in an archery competition, where she meets up with Shaoran and Tomoyo. Mizuki-sensei is one of the challengers and ends up in the finals alongside Yukito. During the fierce match, Kero pokes his head out of Sakura’s bag upon sensing tremendous magical power, shooting a piercing glare at Mizuki-sensei. Sensing his gaze, Mizuki-sensei loses her focus and the tournament. Later, Sakura discovers that Kero is missing from her bag, and finds him in the middle of a private conversation with Mizuki-sensei. Afterward there’s an earthquake, likely caused by the final Clow Card.

Episode Forty-Eight: Sakura and the Awakened Star Key – As the mysterious downpour continues over Tomoeda, Shaoran becomes jealous when Eriol makes advances on Sakura, while Nakuru begins interrupting Touya every time he tries to tell Yukito something important. Kero consults with Yue about the freak weather, explaining that he’s felt a familiar presence. While investigating again with Kero, Yue, and Tomoyo, Sakura is once again unable to summon the Star Wand or use the Clow Cards, and the four are imprisoned in torrents of water. Sakura creates a new incantation based on her power of the stars, not only allowing her to use her wand, but also transforming the Fiery card and amplifying its power. Sakura frees herself and her friends, though the entire experience causes her to collapse from fatigue.

[That took way more editing than it should’ve. There were such brilliant statements as “Shaoran sealed the exits with seals.” Jesus.]

Art by Kinomoto Sakura

So, let’s look at the trends now.

1. All of Kanbe’s episodes are paced very slowly and carefully. This I am nearly positive is part of his influence because it’s so true for all of his episodes.

2. Ookawa Nanase of CLAMP wrote fifty-three of the seventy episodes. Yet, of the fourteen episodes Kanbe worked on, eight were not written by her. (5, 12, 19, 21, 25, 28, 30, and 33). Accordingly, those episodes have the least bearing on the overall plot of the series, and also have the most in common with each-other stylistically.

3. Most of Kanbe’s episodes contain at least one visually/directorially interesting segment, which I tried to represent in my screenshot selection. The cropped shots from episode five aren’t used in any other episode, for instance. Episode twelve has one of the most fun moments in the show, when Sakura and Kero first get pushed through time and everything slows down, their voices included, to hilarious effects.

4. Kanbe worked on almost all of the most intense and dangerous fight scenes in the series. Most notable among these are episode nine’s The Sword and episode twenty-eight’s The Shot, them representing the two primary forms of weaponry. Episode five’s nuigurumi-kaiju, episode thirty-three’s ice rink fight, and episode forty-one’s giant sand pool were among the most destructive monsters in the series, with the ice rink fight having been particularly deadly. In episode twenty-five, the mirror-Sakura nearly leads Touya to his death after dropping him from a cliff-side. Episode forty-eight had possibly the most frightening battle scene in the series, wherein Yue, Kerberos, and Tomoyo spend several minutes visibly drowning in giant typhoons.

5. Several of his episodes deal with the Clow Cards directly effecting Sakura’s friends. In episode nine, Rika is possessed by The Sword. In episode thirty, The Dash tries to help Rei win a race by powering her up. In episode thirty-seven, Tomoyo’s voice is stolen by The Voice.

6. Several episodes also deal with the nature and feelings of the Clow Cards themselves. Episodes twenty-five and thirty deal with the two most emotional cards, The Mirror and The Dash, respectively. Episode twenty-eight deals with possible fake Clow Cards. Episode forty-eight features the emergence of the Sakura Cards (if I’m not mistaken).

7. Both episodes twelve and twenty-one deal with spacial repetition, first in the form of The Time resetting the same day over and over, and then in the form of The Loop causing Sakura, Shaoran, and Meiling to run through the same area over and over again.

8. Episodes five, nine, and twenty-eight all deal with the shopping habits of Sakura and her friends. Five and twenty-eight revolve around the Twin Bells store, and nine features an unnamed brooch shop. Other episodes feature the girls shopping, but if I’m not mistaken, these are the only three wherein the things they buy are important to the episode’s plot.

9. On that note, most of Kanbe’s episodes heavily involve all of Sakura’s friends. This is true for enough other episodes that I don’t really see the need to attribute it to him, but it also happens in enough of his episodes to be noteworthy.

What does all of this mean? How much am I completely overthinking? I don’t know and don’t know how to find out, so for now, these are just my speculative theories as a creator-observer with an interest in Kanbe Mamoru.

Now, an aside. I found episode sixteen to be totally unsettling and creepy up until its mushy, heartwarming end. During that episode, Sakura seemed to act more childish and cute than ever, and was given dresses that made her look particularly young. The whole episode was measured with a brutally slow pace and very strange foreshadowing surrounding the old man. I had a strong suspicion that he was either a ghost (it sounds less insane when you see the weird-ass foreshadowing) or one of Sakura’s relatives, but they couldn’t possibly have crammed more pedophilia clichés into this episode. Creepy old guy in the middle of nowhere, says how cute the little girl is and invites her literally to “play with him,” takes her to a perfectly preserved kid’s room in his house and tells her literally to “play in there” all she wants, and even gets her to dress up for him. Look, I know this is my fault. My mind is poisoned. At my age, it’s amazing that I have the lack of cynicism it takes to enjoy this series. But that episode was just plain creepy.

And now, another aside, related to another creator. Matsuo Kou, who directed and wrote Kure-nai and Red Garden (and directed other shows that I don’t care about and aren’t as good), storyboarded episode sixty-three. It didn’t particularly “feel” like him, since I best know his writing style over his storyboarding style, but it did have a lot of visually interesting moments and was a great episode, so that was cool.

All images in this post come courtesy of Cheerio!, a CCS fansite with over 56,000 images related to the series, all of which superbly organized.

3 thoughts on “What Do Cardcaptor Sakura and Elfen Lied Have In Common?

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