Thirty seconds into Card Captor Sakura: The Movie, and I already felt I had never actually stopped watching the series. This instalment is fundamentally an ‘extended episode' type of sequel that continues all the good work established beforehand. Once again, Sakura embarks upon a magical adventure involving transformations, acute peril, and lots of card-throwing.
In true CCS tradition, as soon as Sakura & Co arrive in Hong Kong, some time is devoted to building the atmosphere; a quarter of the movie is made up of strange recurring dreams and spooky false alarms. After that, the story gets moving relatively quickly by delivering plenty of great action sequences. Incidentally, there's even more comedy here than in the series, my favourite of which is actually unintentional. A moment just before the final battle, Sakura turns to Tomoyo in full regalia, a massive bow strapped to her back that would give an engineer a headache, and speaks those fateful words: ‘These clothes are really easy to move in!' Ah, Sakura - ever the optimist.
Somehow, despite all these good elements, the overall product still ends up feeling somewhat whimsical. Everything is undeniably good fun and well presented, but just like the bulk of episodes from the series, I can't see myself revisiting this lightweight movie in my lifetime. It works well once, but the substance is such that it is unlikely to draw you back again.
Clearly, not one yen was spared to create CCS: The Movie; it improves upon the visuals of the series, with the backgrounds beautifully detailed and generally gorgeous to look at. As usual, the magical battles are the high point, and they really do deliver in terms of inventive, fast-paced combat sequences. I have no complaints at all and am impressed that CCS: The Movie is aging so well.
All the voice actors continue their superb work here: they are still charming to listen to and perform the script with commendable gusto.
I was hoping that the soundtrack would also catch up with the quality of the voice acting; however, it remains almost completely what it was in the series, namely nondescript background music that is forgettable as soon as you stop watching. However, I do like the new ending theme, which has a pretty melody and a pleasant vocal performance.
Sakura takes the whole gang along with her to Hong Kong, including her brother, Yukito, Tomoyo, Shaoran, and Meilin. I can't think of a better cast to revisit in a sequel; despite the lack of development, they still manage to avoid coming across as one-dimensional and remain just as loveable as I remember them.
The most significant new protagonist is Shaoran's mother, who is beautiful, mysterious, and possesses some nifty powers of her own. The flustering effect she has on Shaoran is incredibly funny, although her role is ultimately small. I actually wish she had been a part of the series as well since her mystery makes such engaging viewing. As for the antagonist, she is probably the weakest part of the movie; although there is an attempt made to give her role an emotional appeal, I'm not sure I bought it.
I don't recommend CCS: The Movie as an introduction to the franchise since it just assumes that the viewer knows all there is to know and can follow the developments easily. For established fans, however, this is vital viewing; sure, CCS: The Movie doesn't quite pull off as memorable a plot, but it captures all the best elements of the series and condenses it into a better-looking feature.
Sakura and Tomoyo have won a trip to Hong Kong – a place full of magic and mystery! But little do they know that winning the trip was the result of an evil power beckoning the Cardcaptor into its grasp! Joining the duo in Hong Kong are Syaoran and Meiling, as well as Syaoran's mother, who warns Sakura to stay clear of water due to a mysterious impending danger. Yet all the caution in the world can't stop Sakura's intense dreams of a lady in the water from occurring. Mysterious forces are at work; can the restless evil be put to rest, or will it swallow the entire city beneath a thunderous flow of water?
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