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.
Many Words: Sakura and her friends are all so adorable and brave, taking on challenges that are way bigger than them. It has a good story that I enjoyed as an adult. Only thing wrong with the story is that is came with a side of cheese every other episode.
There weren't any noticeable flaws in the animation or the sound. I personally think Sakura sounds like an American Dora, but hey that stuff was cool at the time.
As for the characters, they were designed well. The love thing Sakura has going on it makes me feel weird, because of the giant age gap, but nothing happened so its okay. Also the outfit thing, that bugged me. There was no need for Sakura to wear all those adorable clothes, but she did and I am glad, but still she could have worn jeans anda t-shirt and done the job, the pretty dress are not part of her get up.
Cardcaptor Sakura (1998-2000) - Morio Asaka, Madhouse
The only time in my life when I’ve woken up before nine with anything like eagerness was a brief phase in grade school when I fell for Sunday morning anime on channel 11. I came for the Pokemon and stayed for Digimon, Flint the Time Detective, and Cardcaptors. Particularly Cardcaptors. Recently I thought I’d sit down to Cardcaptor Sakura and see how I’d like it through slightly (very slightly) more adult eyes, only to discover that Cardcaptors and Cardcaptor Sakura are two very different things. Imagine, if you will, a Rob Zombie movie with every violent, sexual, vulgar, or otherwise questionable scene deleted. The scant, incomprehensible remains would be the Cardcaptors to Cardcaptor Sakura.
But the confusing part is that Cardcaptor Sakura does not at all a Rob Zombie movie make. It’s more like The Sound of Music. With fluffy magical animals instead of Nazis.
What I’m saying here is “Please watch the original, because the edited version is kind of bull.”
With that point out of the way, on to the review.
Cardcaptor Sakura is a classic of the magical girl genre, and probably the quintessential sample. We’ve got Sakura, the adorable titular protagonist who exacts the type of vigilante justice typical of magical girls. We’ve got the crush, the rival, the doting best friend, the pretty costumes, the episodic Collect All The Random Creatures plot, and the lovable animal mascot. The lovable animal mascot, Kero, is even actually lovable. Despite essentially being a tennis ball with wings and a Kansai accent, I never once wanted to shoot him. Kudos Kero. You are ahead of your time.
Everything from the pacing to the artwork oozes mellow. This is not a show for high drama. It’s more about optimism, cheerfulness, friendship, and other feel-good fare. Don’t jump to assume that CCS is therefore shallow, however. The show does have its tragic moments, but presents them in a quiet, gentle manner. The finale of the first season was so subtly heart-wrenching in places that I almost found myself crying without fully understanding why. It’s a kid’s show through and through, but it does have some refreshing layers to it.
The characters are lovable and their various relationships are a pleasure to watch. At one point in an episode we might enjoy the bickering sibling affection between Sakura and her brother Touya, or the slowly developing camaraderie between Sakura and her rival Syaoran Li. There’s plenty of friendship, family, and puppy love floating about the main characters and every character on the sidelines to keep our hearts warm and fluffy. Humor rears its lovable head as well and brings out some smiles.
The animation is consistently lovely and holds true to its Clamp sticker. I loved everyone’s battle costumes, which says a lot coming from a bona fide tomboy. Unlike many other magical girls, Sakura actually changes her costumes from one episode to the next, which adds a nice bit of variety. The first opening theme has to be one of the most annoyingly catchy songs on the planet, and the rest of the music was similarly chipper and enjoyable. All in all, I really ate this show up. It’s a warm fuzzies kind of story and certainly for girls, but it has charms for the “slightly more adult” viewer as well. Lots of good characters, decent storytelling, and art that‘s easy on the eyes.
I didn’t like the second season as much as the first one, though. Even though the second season did a nice job of expanding on the characters, the plot got a little tedious. Basically, Sakura goes around recapturing all the cards she collected in the first season. Just a smidge redundant. But any longer series drags its feet sometimes, I suppose.
As a whole, CCS is great. It’s a must for any fans of magical girl anime (or anybody gearing to understand more anime pop culture references). I proudly admit that I'm a fan, even if my friends may laugh at me for it. Shut up guys, CCS is beast.