Card Captor Sakura has an indestructible feel-good factor. Being robustly wholesome, it feeds us all the nutritious stuff like great characterisation and plot twists but also adds some surprising treats such as mature themes and exciting battles. It looks like a typical kids show, but just like you might find with any Ghibli production or Western feature like Finding Nemo, it has a lot to offer adults as well.
For much of the time the series really appealed to my inner child; Sakura's perfect life of baking and cheerleading, her quirky friends and action-packed nightlife, were all set up to mirror a young girl's fantasy. It maintained an upbeat tone throughout but stopped short of being mindless fluff by exploring the controversial side of life once in a while (hence it being edited to the point of absurdity for Western television). In truth, the way I see it, nothing was presented here that any 21st century ten-year old could not appreciate, but the show added that extra level of peril and character development to engage also with the mature mind. There was certainly no blood, nor were there any flying limbs, but there was enough threat from drowning, being crushed, being thrown off cliffs, and being stabbed (yes, stabbed) to last anyone a lifetime.
When the conflicts of the series didn't link directly to Sakura's development as a person, they at least provided fun magical battles and an opportunity for mental dexterity on the audience's part. Trying to figure out which cards were most appropriate became half the fun - a bit like Pokemon but with a redeeming dose of, well, competence. Most impressive was the fact that there was no filler - for sure, a handful of episodes were less meaningful than the rest, but none of them were actually pointless or inane. In fact, the length allowed for some well-considered developments. In short, Card Captor Sakura, unlike a lot of other long-running series, is seventy episodes for a good reason.
The plot was presented mainly in two interlinking arcs, whereby the second one felt like a definite step up in intensity. Some of the emotional turmoil, romance, and plot twists that went on in those twenty odd episodes were executed well. Moreover, the series delivered an original ending which drew equally upon the strong characterisation and magical plot elements.
My only complaint here is that, being so many episodes, there is nothing attractive about revisiting the series in its entirety. Card Captor Sakura is that show I watch whenever I want to be left feeling warm and glowing inside, and for that reason I have rewatched several individual episodes, especially those in the last arc, but watching the whole series back to front is unlikely to happen for many, many years.
In terms of world concept and the details within it, Card Captor Sakura has a brilliant grounding; everything from the accessories and utensils in Sakura's house to the imaginative magical battles and the unique looks of the Clow cards (which are sometimes frightening and sometimes beautiful) is a satisfying feast for the eyes. Sakura's battle costumes are different in every episode, making the conflicts just that little bit more entertaining to watch. Then there was the variety of locations for the conflicts - each one helped map the vast landscape of Sakura's world. Movement was smooth enough and, apart from the fact that it looked marginally dated, there was very little to fault here.
I'm not the biggest fan of the first two opening themes or the ending themes and, although the third OP ‘I am a Dreamer' and the material in between were catchy, I would not go as far as buying the soundtrack. All the songs were highly suitable for the show and helped enhance the various moods and scenarios, but in the end, they were mostly synthesised instrumentals you wouldn't tolerate on their own. As for voice acting, everything was perfectly in order, with no notable weaknesses in the cast. Kero's voice, I have to say, cheered me up the most; a lot of his dialogue, which was almost certainly voiced by a woman, was comedy gold.
Considering the seventy episodes this series had to fill, the central cast was relatively modest, meaning the focus remained upon layering their personalities. More than that, each character was realistic in quite serious ways without detracting from the general feel-good factor of the show. Frankly, I could not fault the important characters at all and would not have wished them to be developed in any other way; for they grew, just like the plot, in very intriguing directions.
Sakura is charming, cute, and happy-go-lucky without the saccharine contrivances that usually sink these kinds of protagonists. She feels like a natural complex person with various tastes and normal ambitions, and I was especially captivated by her love-hate relationship with her brother, Toya. She has a surprisingly sad background but the show put such an endearing positive spin on it, that it became a way of encouraging rather than depressing the audience. Moreover, watching her magical battles gave a real sense of her creativity, wit, and spirit, because some of the situations she survived would be challenging even for an adult.
Keroberos, a strong candidate for the best mascot in the world, performed excellently, with hilarious expressions and funny habits as well as being a helpful guide to Sakura. Shaoran Li made for an interesting watch as he grew from an arrogant warrior to reticent hero and even attained endearing ‘flaws' like shyness around certain characters. Apart from Toya, Shaoran's interactions with Sakura formed some of the best scenes of the show. Toya and Yuki had the cleverest developments, as their stories remained barely noticed in the background for much of the time, and then became more important as their personalities filled out.
There is a sizable host of supporting characters, including Sakura's best-friend-slash-stalker, Tomoyo, Sakura's classmates, her father, Tomoyo's mother, and Shaoran's cousin, Meilin. Whilst they were not revealed in quite as much detail as the primary characters, each of them was given the chance to reveal their complex motivations. Only a couple of the characters that cropped up very late in the series were not treated with as much consideration; I felt they were more like cardboard plot elements than authentic personalities acting in their own right. This, however, was only a slight let down from all that had come before and did not affect the ultimate value of the series.
If you want heart-warming, uplifting mahou shoujo goodness, then Card Captor Sakura, being at the pinnacle of its genre, should not be missed. It provides some excellent set-pieces and mature themes, takes you on a serious adventure, and leaves you feeling like a thoroughly entertained child - I mean - adult.
A word of warning, dear reader. This is, by far, the anime I will claim to be my favorite. That being said, this review has the potential to be exposed to bias for this anime. That and I'm not a prefessional anime reviewer. So yeah. Review time. :D
Story - 10/10
If there is one thing about this anime that I can say confidently, it's that the story was well thought out. Every thing that happens seems to have some relationship to things going on in the light or behind the scenes. Almost every action has a reason, even if you don't notice it until later. Beyond that, there's action, romance, and a few nice twists along the way. Even watching it again, I always pick up on more that's going on.
Yes, Cardcaptor Sakura is from 1998, so the animation isn't the greatest, but I think the anime looks superb given the time. None of the backgrounds have that much detail to them though, being no more than just an almost painting-like backdrop, but that's where the quality falls short. From the effects of Sakura's magic to the absurdity of Sakura's clothing to the intricate designs of the Clow Cards themselves, I believe this to be a prime example of being at least somewhat detail oriented of the things going on in the foreground. There are even websites with databases on Sakura's battle outfits.
I love the feel of the music in CCS. Every piece of music fits the situation perfectly. There's generic uppy music for those feel-good, walking to school shots; eerie, mellow melodies for more suspenseful scenes; and that epic fanfare of horns for our heroine's grandstand. The music rises and falls appropriately with all situations.
Characters are probably the biggest element of this series by far. You can't help but fall in love with each and every one of them and they play their roles perfectly. Sakura is absolutely adorable. Tomoyo is like the perfect best friend. Kero flips between mature mentor and spastic, sweet-toothed sidekick. And there's a rainbow of other characters with one of the craziest character-mappings you'll ever see. Every character is fully explored aside from a few single episode characters. Watch it once and you'll never forget the characters you met here.
Overall - 9.5/10
Cardcaptor Sakura has stood the test of time for me. Any time I see an episode, I get a sense of nostalgia. It is impossible for me to not be in a good mood while watching it. From the wonderful story to the loveable characters, you'd be hard-pressed to feel negetive towards it. If you've never seen it, I say give it a fair shot. It's cute. It's funny. It's memorable.
I wanted to kick myself when I first began to watch this, but after watching the whole thing, I want to kick myself for actually thinking it was good. For its time it had some pretty good philosophies to offer, still, its a shame that people relied on mediocrity to interpret these meanings. The comic relief in the show helped keep interest, the switch of personalities were what actually drew me in, I especially liked Kiroberos and Spinner's little rivalry. Anyways, being an anime that I never would've guessed would be good, I actually recommend it.
ANIME EVOLUTION SERIES
Full list of the review series can be found on this page, 3rd post from bottom:
ART SECTION: 8/10 [You’ll be doing cosplay; I’ll be filming you undressing.]
Analysis: General Artwork 2/2, Character Figures 2/2, Backgrounds 1/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 2/2
Studio Madhouse delivers once again with appealing visuals that look nice despite their years. They definitely aren’t super-awesome, yet for a series of this kind they are just fine. Plus, all characters and critters are drawn ultra-kawai, so it is rather hard not to love them on first sight. It is really refreshing to have a mahou shojo, where the heroine wears different cloths in every episode. She doesn’t even need to transform; she does cosplay just to please her friend. The environments are rather simple and repetitive (school grounds and Sakura’s home mostly) but the events that take place there are very different every time, so this is not much of a problem. Still, there are frozen frames and the repetitive release clip that drops the general quality a bit. Thank goodness that all the action scenes while chasing the cards are very different, thus even this can be overlooked.
SOUND SECTION: 8/10 [Hoe!!! I am not good at playing the flute.]
Analysis: Voice Acting 3/3, Music Themes 3/4, Sound Effects 2/3
Voice acting is simply superb for all the characters, with Sakura’s trademark frustration remarks becoming part of you early on. All the rest of the characters also have distinctive voices and demeanors. The music themes are to die for and the sound effects do their work as they should for a series of this kind. Still, the overall acoustics don’t have much artistic overtones, which I am very fond of. Just think of .hack//SIGN or Princess Tutu to get the picture.
STORY SECTION: 4/10 [I will become the best Card Captor in the world!]
Analysis: Premise 1/2, Pacing 1/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 0/2, Conclusion 1/2
The general story is quite simple, just like most of CLAMP works. Sakura goes by her daily routine life and occasionally chases magic cards. There is nothing grand-scaled in it. The story keeps promising you with an upcoming world threat, posed by these magic cards. But in reality, there is no such threat and the cards are hardly dangerous. Heck, Sakura’s romantic frustrations are far more important in the plot than stopping the cards from destroying the world. So, this is practically a slice-of-life anime with a few magical girl overtones for flavor. In fact, I came to dislike the whole card chase. It was getting nowhere, just like the story in general. It was just an excuse for Sakura to keep meeting with Shaoran Li. Of course, there is the plus that most cards need to be captured with some sort of strategy and by using other cards. The usual “pull out my magic staff and beat them all in the same manner” golden rule of mahou shojo did not apply here and it was giving a slight feeling of progress. But not much. The real progress in the story was Sakura’s romantic life.
Still, even the above became stale in the second half of the series, when the cards were gathered and Sakura had to simply use them all over again, just to claim them. The progress of the story and even the slight danger it was giving off dropped to zero and only the last episodes in the series had something new to provide in the finale. This fact effectively makes at least half of the episodes to be unnecessary as they provide nothing more. The scriptwriters simply dragged the story instead of going for the next level (the infamous promised world threat that never came). At least, the conclusion leaves us generally satisfied as the characters admit their true feelings for one another. In romance anime, this rarely happens. Still, this is not the solid end to the story, as you are supposed to watch the second movie that really ends the story. Boy, did they fooled us big time, or what?
I must say that this is not the director’s usual performance. Although Asaka Morio has directed several anime, most of them above average (Chobits, Gunslinger Girl, Nana, Chihayafuru) but in this case I believe he was forced to stretch the story to last a lot more than it needed to. I can forgive him; he is a cool guy with what he has done so far.
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 7/10 [Oh, how I love seeing you wearing the costumes I made for you!]
Although a simple story about simple people, it is not a simply boring series. The way Sakura needs to take care of her shores in the house, do her homework and various other activities, are full of vividness that hardly make you feel bored. Sakura’s silliness and determination provide a lot of comedy and entertainment without ever becoming ridiculous or really lame. Her interaction with her teasing brother, her schoolmates and Shaoran Li are more than enough to really enjoy watching her doing practically nothing overall important. Not to forget to mention all those subtle kinky stuff. Shaoran Li was engaged to his cousin and blushed like hell every time a high school boy was near him; with whom even Sakura was losing her mind over. Tomoyo was going crazy over filming Sakura while doing cosplay. He he, stop denying it you perverted fan-boys and fan-girls; nasty thoughts crossed your minds and made you like the series even more!
IF the story was more solid, IF the episodes were fewer and IF all those kinky innuendos were getting somewhere, the enjoyment would be a 10.
CHARACTER SECTION: 8/10 [Hey Toya, why is Shaoran Li all red like that?]
Analysis: Presence 2/2, Personality 2/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 1/2, Catharsis 2/2
Heck, I liked Sakura. She is good-hearted, klutz, orphan by her mother (living mothers are an endangered species in anime) and has no way of admitting her feelings, like the majority of mahou shojo leads. Yet, she is dynamic, athletic, and doesn’t need magic transformations in order to fight. Her perky personality and hilarious reactions to almost everything make her lovable… Oh, and her kawai factor is over 9000. I also liked Shaoran Li for steadily turning from an emotionless badass gay, to a sensitive straight guy with Sakura. Even that stuck up bitch, Mei Lin, steadily smoothers and becomes bearable while talking to her. Tomoyo remains an otaku and I wonder how much she now envies Shaoran Li for taking Sakura away from her. Kerberos is funny for a fluffy mascot animal. Eriol can go hang himself. He existed just for pointlessly dragging the story towards nothingness. Still, most of the cast did not evolve or made that much of an impact. There are series that take their time developing even the secondary characters, instead of shoveling us 30 episodes of plotless anime.
VALUE SECTION: 7/10 [How much for that stuffed animal? -Kerberos: I am not stuffed; I just eat a lot.]
Historical Value 3/3: Amongst the most famous mahou shojo.
Rewatchability 1/3: Nah, too storyless to pay much attention again.
Memorability 3/4: Not the best in the field as some think but generally very good.
What do you mean you don’t have an alibi for not having a story? Why, I’ll just give you a GUILTY verdict for being so shallow… But since you are so adorable, I will let you go free. Ah, how cute! <3
Looking for the Full Moon
Other CLAMP works; especially Chobits, X-tv and RG-Veda (the manga).
I give a lot of credit where credit is due, the one thing I can say about Card Captor Sakura is that it had a lot of charm and unique qualities about it that no other Maho Shoujo anime had before or since so far.
I was a bit generous on this end simply because it actually had a story to tell, it wasn't completely monster of the week and there was a definite beginning and ending to that story. The main problem here was the fact that it was very much for kids way under my age group. Half the time I was so sickened by the density of the characters, particularly Sakura herself, that I wanted to drop the anime all together. However, if I were to take it (if I had such an ability) from the viewpoint of a 10 year old or around that age, perhaps I'd really enjoy this show, really like the characters all over and truly identify with their plight. So, I gave this a generous rating that I'd usually not give otherwise.
Again, due to it's age and another unusual/unique factor, I gave this a generously higher rating than I would have otherwise. As a rule, 90's anime was generally poorly done at best, there are of course several exceptions to the rule but for some reason anime had a serious slump at that time. CCS was above the cut in that regard though just barely a lot of the time. For it's time I'd say it had a lot going for it, one such thing would be the complete and utter lack of a standardized Maho Shoujo uniform. Something you'd find in just about any -other- title is a highly stylized and very much unchanged episode to episode outfit. CCS never had anything like that, as a matter of fact she almost never had the same outfit on at any given time other than her school uniform, and almost every single outfit she wore while in the process of capturing cards was quite unique and interesting. So, extra points for that alone, plus it's better than the average animation for it's era.
I don't particularly care much about sounds, they very rarely impress me, even less of a chance of that the older the anime is. Actually the reverse is true the older the anime is the more annoying the music and sound effects tend to get. I guess the craft just hadn't been perfected enough yet. In any case this show managed to not annoy me, and as such got a passing grade. Kudos for that at least :P
As I stated before I couldn't identify with the main host of characters mainly do to the age gap. I did give it a passable score mostly because they didn't totally annoy me, they did work hard, and did grow and develop as the anime progressed. I tried my best to ignore the fact that I'm way too old for this show to truly appreciate the characters themselves and give an objective opinion here, sadly I still had to adjust in the end.
You'll notice that my Overall score isn't the same as the 4 others before it. It is one area that I cannot and will not adjust my personal opinion to suit the target age of the anime. For someone my age to watch this show seriously would require serious brain trauma first and for most. Due to some very unique points for it's genre, the outfits and unique style in which they introduced several cards without actually capturing them like many other "power acquisition" style shows do, I gave it a slightly below passing grade. As a Maho Shoujo title, this would probably rate in the top 5 if not the top 3 or even the #1 of all time right now. It has charm, style, and a unique flare that you can't and won't find anywhere else. It was a bit long being that in my opinion the second season was totally unnecessary but that's debatable.