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.
Sakura Kinomoto never imagined that by opening a book in her father's library, she'd be responsible for releasing wild magic into the world, yet that's exactly what she did. Too powerful to be let loose on the world, the magical Clow cards were sealed away long ago by their creator, Clow Reed. But all is not lost, for the guardian beast, Keroberos, was sealed along with the cards! Can Sakura, with the help of Keroberos, retrieve the cards before they wreak havoc on the town?
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