Card Captor Sakura
Sakura Kinomoto has a recurring mysterious dream. She's standing on the roof of a tall building, facing Tokyo Tower, and proclaims her readiness for... something.
And then she wakes up, wondering what it all means. She's about to find out, once she accidentally unleashes the Clow Cards, and with some prodding from newly awakened Keroberos (aka Kero-chan), she sets out to recover them all, a task that will put her to her biggest challenges yet.
Seeing as NIS America saw fit to release the show in full on both Bluray and DVD, I could think of no reason not to give this show it's first complete review. To call this show a classic is an almost hilariously large understatement, and is to this day the best example why I'm considering removing "magical girl shows" from my least favorite genres. (Even if "least favorite genres" isn't an indication of quality as much as personal tastes.)
Cardcaptor Sakura isn't the first show based on works by CLAMP I've watched -- Chobits has that honor, later to be followed by Kobato -- but while Chobits wasn't the best of conversions -- too much dumb filler took care of that -- Kobato struck me as the kind of nominally appealing fare CLAMP would be known for. So, when the chance to MST/synchro Cardcaptor Sakura came up, I took it. And their standards reached a whole new level.
Sakura is a young elementary school girl. She's more of the artistic and athletic type; good in sports, music and the arts in general, and bad in math. She's easily excitable and has a rather obvious crush on one of her brother's friends. She's on generally good terms with all her classmates, but her best friend is Tomoyo Daidouji, the daughter of a rich and prominent family. She's a bit of an "all girls would want to be her" icon because of her looks and her social standing, an image she doesn't really care to live up to. She's a very good friend to Sakura, and becomes her biggest supporter once the cards are unleashed. Whether it's a cultural thing remains to be seen, but she does some times come across as a bit overly fixated on Sakura, seeing as she takes it upon herself to design all her costumes and film all her adventures. To the show's credit, it was made at a time where video streaming wasn't as readily available, so you have to take that into account. Tomoyo -- and, by that extent, her Japanese voice actor -- also has an absolutely wonderful singing voice, which the show is not the least bit afraid to show off.
Sakura's brother, Touya, will come across as a bit of a jerk at first. He often calls Sakura a "Kaijuu" (basically a "giant monster" from movies like Godzilla and Gamera) due to her stomping around. The dub does translate this as "monster", which sounds like an odd and overly mean choice of terms, but there is no good English words for movie monsters like this, so it wasn't going to be an easy task to put into context. He's also the catalyst for Sakura's mildly violent side, as he sometimes earns himself a kick to the shin or a stomp on his feet for his efforts. But for all his teasing, he clearly cares far more for his little sister than he wants anyone to see, and he knows a bit more about her secret life as a card captor than she knows.
And then there's Kero-chan, who arguably steals the scene more often than not. He's a magical being in charge of protecting the cards, and also the one who kind of fails at guarding them when Sakura unintentionally unleashes them on an unsuspecting town. Despite his age, he's a bit of a child, though in the form of a small plushie. He's quick to appoint Sakura as the cardcaptor due to her latent magical powers, and for what it's worth, he does do his part to the best of his abilities. He tends to end the first batch of episodes with a quick rundown of various aspects of the show, mostly the costumes, and I never get tired of hearing his Japanese self going "KERO-CHAN CHEEEEEECK!"
Eventually, they'll also meet Xiaolang Li, a young boy from China. He's also in Japan to capture the cards, and eventually becomes Sakura's rival, then friend and partner, and then... well, it's a complicated matter. His main task aside, he eventually becomes the next character to develop a bit of a crush on Yukito Tsukishiro. Much like his cousing Meiling (who appears a little later), he gives the first impression of becoming an antagonist, demanding the cards Sakura has gathered before he arrives and trying to take them by force when she refuses, but he slowly softens up as he joins the girl in her hunt for the cards, snagging a few for himself as they go.
Cardcaptor Sakura is a sneaky, sneaky show. The reason I initially dismissed it is because of the frilly nature of its designs, which is a bit of a speciality of CLAMP, who tend to design their characters to the point of overdesigning them. And, impressively enough, I don't think Sakura at any point captures two cards wearing the same getup unless they belong together somehow, which speaks volumes of the designer's dedication... not to mention Tomoyo's. But the way the show has grown on me is not entirely unlike how Aria did the same; it wasn't an instant worship, but rather a slow acclimation that ended with me realizing just how much I had enjoyed it when everything was said and done.
But even outside of that, the show is just wonderfully animated. There is a really beautiful sequence near the beginning where Sakura, on the way to school, blades down a pedestrian street among the white brick walls on one side and the sakura trees on the other, turning in a slalom-y motion. And the show never really lets up either; most of her capturing the cards look amazing, especially if the beings hiding inside of the cards are giant creatures or have amazing magical powers. Sakura, and most of the other children in the show, are drawn both consistently and nicely, while the adults in the show are... mostly well drawn. They tend to lean towards CLAMP's unfortunate habit of come across as disturbingly thin, though the effect is fortunately less severe as in their manga. Occasionally, you will also see Terada-sensei with a hilariously tiny head on his otherwise large frame. Weirdly enough, this only happens to male characters, as adult females are generally drawn normally too.
Mildening the effect of the whole "villain of the week" aspect is the fact that none of the cards are evil. Some of them are all too happy to be recaptured, while others want her to prove herself before they'll allow themselves to be gathered up. Some of them have animal spirits too, which turns Sakura's challenges into more of a situation where she has to avoid frightening them. There are a few of them who are a bit too mischievous for their own good, which becomes somewhat dangerous as their powers can cause a lot of damage, but there isn't anything particularly malicious about it. Furthering that cause is the fact that her capturing the cards isn't just a matter of beating them into submission. She has to take into account which kind of card it is, and what it wants. Some times, force has to be used, but those are usually limited to the cards that are dangerous.
But the show isn't just about the recapturing of the cards either. Given that the target audience are children, Sakura and her friends are allowed to have a lot of fun inbetween her task as a cardcaptor, be that a trip to the aquarium or visiting an old relative. There is a gentle slice-of-life feel to all the magical shenanigans, which certainly plays no small part in why I'm liking this show as much as I do. Sakura's crush on Yukito is completely adorable and not the least bit unrealistic, as children will sometimes crush heavily on teenagers and younger adults. It helps that Yukito acts like a gentleman and never really takes advantage of her feelings. This does technically extend to the relationship between one of Sakura's teachers, Yoshiyuki Terada, and his "relationship" with one of his students (and Sakura's classmate), Rika Sasaki. According to my sources, she's actually engaged to her teacher, possibly an arranged one, which is a bit of a plot point in the manga I haven't read. The anime tones this down, but still shows her to have a heavy crush on her teacher, which he does reprociate somewhat, though thankfully not in a way that crosses a border I would not be comfortable watching. That said, I'm not entirely sure what I feel about it, and possibly counts as the only potentially negative thing I can mention about this show. Well... more the manga than the show, really, but the show still hints at it, so keep this in mind. There is also allusions to homosexual relationships in Cardcaptor Sakura, which I'm sure will offend some people out there.
When it first came out, Cardcaptor Sakura was thought of as a fantastic show, and time has done nothing to lessen that luster. With its fantastic animation and great music (and sometimes adorable opening and ending themes), Cardcaptor Sakura is a real treat. Its Bluray set absolutely destroyed the previous record of "the most money I've spent on a single show", but given that you get the whole show of 70 episodes in one go, I've never doubted its value-for-money. Granted, as an adult man, I will probably always feel a bit self-conscious about having this show on my shelves, but I will never regret buying it.
This show was great when it came out in 1998, it is still great in 2015, and I can't imagine that there'll be a time when that changes. The best part: anyone can watch this, children and adults alike. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: 5 and up. All ages, especially teenage girls and their little sisters, will adore it. As well as a lot more guys than most will care to admit (and you know who you are out there ^_~)
Version(s) Viewed: Region A Bluray, bilingual
Review Status: Full (70/70)
Card Captor Sakura © 1998 CLAMP / Kodansha / NHK / NEP21
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