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.
ART SECTION: 8/10 [You’ll be doing cosplay; I’ll be filming you undressing.]
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.]
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!]
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?]
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.]
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).
Story-. Very heartwarming. Themes of love and friendship pervade the entire story. For the most part, pacing is spot-on, but some points are a tad too slow for my taste. What I mean is some episodes are pure filler and really add little to the story, save cuteness. However, the emotions do balance out most lags.
Animation-. One of the most cohesive pallets I have ever seen in any anime. Almost everything is pretty and pastel. This adds a whimsical flavour to the already fanciful tale. The kids are super cute, and the action sequences are Well-choreographed. My one complaint is "what the hell is with those legs!?!"
Sound-. Music is great and adds to the tone in both English and Japanese. I like most of the voice-acting, but think Yukito/Yue's voice is more expressive and fitting in the English version. On the other hand, Sakura's English voice makes me want to bash my head in. Her voice isn't so bad. The actress just sounds like she's trying way too hard. The Japanese themes are cute, while the English opening is neat shit to an eight year-old kid (as I was when I first saw this anime). It gets the blood pumping!
Characters- very well portrayed. Touya is the protective brother, Tomoyo is the doting bestie, and everyone else is just cute, cute, cute! I even grew to love Meiling and all her complaining.
Overall- cuteness overload with a great storyline that offers plenty of twists and turns.
When searching the many, many creations in the shojo/magical girl genre for series which can come along and take the place of the Pretty Cure juggernaut (and perhaps make one forget that massive exercise in girl power [fat chance!]), one cannot go wrong with Cardcaptor Sakura. Created at the turn of the millennium, CCS preceded the rise of Futari wa Pretty Cure by five years and demonstrated the power of the carefully crafted cast of characters. CCS will have its run of three years, inspire its set of movies and specials, propel the Shonen based Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle which will have its run of two seasons, movies and OVA through the first decade of the new millennium, and will phoenix-like create a new series of CCS after two decades. Compare. Pretty Cure philosophy will recreate teams of precure with each season with its concept, theme, nuances as it pursues an approximate fifty-episode season (creating sparkling to mediocre storylines). Cardcaptor Sakura offers a set of memorable, enduring personalities and weaves new plot schemes, offering new characters and intriguing settings as striking ideas for conflict and resolution skip along the various seasons. One system removes a set of girls as we learn to love/loathe them. The other gives us the thrill of watching beloved characters grow, mature, and become wiser.
Again, the core strength of CCS are the characters, beginning with the title character. A normal girl in a small close-knit family. Sakura’s mother had died shortly after her birth, and her picture remains a central part of the family. Sakura Kinomoto is a warm, friendly girl whose smile is infectious, sure to wear down the reserves of the coolest personality (which is a key part of the over-all plot in these seventy episodes). Her friend, Tomoyo ‘Ms. Hollywood’ Daidouji is the best director-producer-choreographer—cinematographer-costume designer BFF a girl could have. We meet them both as fourth graders. Sakura has a deep crush on Yukito, her older brother Toya’s best friend. Seven or eight years her senior, but Sakura’s feelings are genuine. Then we must meet the magical characters, Kero, one of the guardians of the mystic Clow Cards, a shrimpy little pompous runt of a fur-ball who has the makings of becoming large, ferocious, and very, very dangerous (so cut down on the pompous and furball comments, please). Then there is Yue, who has a strikingly close appearance to Yukito … for the most obvious of reasons. Let’s complicate Sakura’s life. Enter the Chinese exchange students Syaoran and Meiling Li, two cousins of the ‘betrothed’ kind (at least, that is Meiling’s idea). Both Sakura and Syaoran have the same interest in the Clow Cards, and this will make them rivals who over time learn to appreciate each other … and that is good for a start.
The seventy episodes are split unevenly over three separate story arcs. The first deals with the Clow Cards, a set of magical cards which Sakura accidentally unleashes is now obligated to recover. Assisting her will be Kero, who is as helpful as anyone prone to nag their explanations rather than offer them, and Tomoyo, who is as helpful as Cecil B. DeMille directing Batman and Robin in combatting a futuristic super-villain. Enter Syaoran Li, an impressive up-and-coming magic boy wannabe who is after the Clow Cards and is unwilling to recognize the role of Cardcaptor that Sakura is hesitant to perform. But the cards are recovered and placed in Sakura’s care. The second arc deals with a recurring dream Sakura is having. The Clow Cards are not to be just regathered, but put to use, with Sakura as the magic girl. Kero reveals his true form, as does Yukito, who is leading a secret double-life as magical entity. So secret that Yukito doesn’t even know about it … though best friend Toya intuitively knows and holds the secret for saving Yukito. The last arc deals with the arrival of the current emanation of Clow Reed, a new classmate of Sakura who pushes Sakura to become a better magic girl through subtle challenges. This all leads to a showdown between Clow Reed and Sakura. In the meantime, Yukito politely refuses Sakura’s confession of love, but props her to be open to that true love who is out there. Oddly, Syaoran wishes to have enough courage to make such a confession to Sakura. Tomoyo can see the chemistry, and so can Meiling who graciously releases Syaoran from the ‘engagement.’ But will the words come out?
The animation is standard for the time, though one can see improvements in the production quality as the seasons continue. The recent edition of CCS has the benefits of CGI … and seeing the more grown-up Sakura of 2018 staggers the viewer who first meets the sweet Miss Kinomoto in her 1998-2000 form.