Sakura Kinomoto is your garden-variety ten-year-old fourth grader, until one day, she stumbles upon a mysterious book containing a set of cards. Unfortunately, she has little time to divine what the cards mean because she accidentally stirs up a magical gust of wind and unintentionally scatters the cards all over the world. Suddenly awakened from the book, the Beast of the Seal, Keroberos (nicknamed Kero-chan), tells Sakura that she has released the mystical Clow Cards created by the sorcerer Clow Reed. The Cards are no ordinary playthings. Each of them possesses incredible powers, and because they like acting independently, Clow sealed all the Cards within a book. Now that the Cards are set free, they pose a grave danger upon the world, and it is up to Sakura to prevent the Cards from causing a catastrophe!
Appointing Sakura the title of "the Cardcaptor" and granting her the Sealed Key, Keroberos tasks her with finding and recapturing all the Cards. Alongside her best friend Tomoyo Daidouji, and with Kero-chan's guidance, Sakura must learn to balance her new secret duty with the everyday troubles of a young girl involving love, family, and school, all while she takes flight on her magical adventures as Sakura the Cardcaptor.
Cardcaptor Sakura is perhaps the best mahou shoujo anime produced. It's more than just a classic or a title that's influential. It's an example of a series that was not afraid to take risks and defy common conventions of the genre in order to maximize quality. And while Cardcaptor Sakura may seem like a standard mahou shoujo anime at first glance, there is a lot more depth here than a cursory glance might reveal.
The premise itself is fairly typical for a mahou shoujo anime. A happy-go-lucky girl suddenly comes across magical power and begins her quest alongside a cute lion-like caricature serving as her
guardian and mentor. Sakura's role as the chief protagonist is to capture the fifty-three magical cards of Clow Reed, each inhabiting a unique power that inconveniences Sakura and the people around her in some way. Some of these cards are immensely powerful, including the ability to manipulate time and dreams, while others are fairly weak or trivial in comparison and encompass smaller abilities like creating flowers or making objects float. After Sakura fights against the power behind the card and then seals it away it becomes a part of her possession that she can then use at will.
At least, this is how the story first seems.
The series is largely changed and complicated with the introduction of the deuteragonist in the eighth episode. Syaoran Li, a boy from Hong Kong, suddenly transfers into Sakura's class and disturbs the situation by antagonizing Sakura and competing for the Clow Cards. This relationship serves as the basis for the central theme of the series as their feelings and relationship change and develop immensely, from rivals to friends and finally to lovers. This is a very gradual change and it's paced well enough that it feels completely natural, a change you might not even notice without retrospect. You contempt Li when he's first introduced and by the end you grow to enjoy his presence almost as much as Sakura herself.
Shoujo series are a bit infamous for their overly-idealized and sudden romances but Cardcaptor Sakura is again an exception. There is certainly idealizing, sparkles and bubbles, but the depth is there. The feelings between Sakura and Li naturally grow and evolve over the course of the series, with no contrived events used to advance their relationship. There is not even a confession by the end of the 70-episode run, yet there is no need for one as the anime has already communicated how strongly the two feel for each other. Character interaction and body language are used to express this-- not conveniences followed by dramatic outcomes. The end result is one of the most natural and endearing romances in anime. As a mahou shoujo it is good, but as a romance it is excellent.
Cardcaptor Sakura is mainly a lighthearted and fun series. Most of the entertainment revolves around Sakura and her interaction with the characters, most notably her guardian Keroberos (endearingly shortened by Sakura to Kero-chan) and her closest friend Tomoyo who often goes along with her to the scene of each card to record footage on her camcorder. Other important characters include Sakura's beleaguering older brother Toya and the object of her affections, Yukito, a friend of Toya whom she holds a large crush towards. Still, the series does eventually take a more serious turn in the second half after the initial card collection draws to a close. Some characters reveal hidden sides that will surprise the audience and certain side characters develop and become integral to the story. At no point does the show ever feel too silly or too serious; it's a perfect blend of the two.
Interestingly, there are several elements that deviate from the conventions of most mahou shoujo anime. There isn't a traditional transformation sequence in the anime nor one unique outfit that Sakura wears when using magic. Instead she wears normal clothing like a regular girl, or rather whatever silly costume her friend Tomoyo decides to dress her up in before the event. This adds a lot of variety to the action sequences and gives the audience a small something to look forward to each episode.
Despite its young demographic and reputation as a family-friendly anime, there are also some surprisingly taboo topics that are covered in the anime. There's the forbidden love between teacher and student and homosexual feelings between two important characters. The anime does not use any of these elements as shock value, though, simply presenting them as-is with no moral connotation. 'Love' is the main theme of CCS and the amount of detail put into the relationships of even periphery character is certainly commendable.
On the other hand, the music here is nothing short of stunning. Some of the songs that play in the series, such as the first opening and the track used when capturing a card, are classics that will stick in your head and be remembered fondly for a very long time. More than simply enhance the experience, these tracks are a large part of what makes the anime what it is. The soundtrack is by far one of most defining and important aspects of the series, and perhaps one of the best in anime.
That being said, Cardcaptor Sakura is definitely not without flaws.
One of the largest complaints can be put on the rather long length of the anime. At 70 episodes it can certainly drag on at some parts in the story. While CLAMP carefully tried to make each episode as engaging and interesting as possible, it’s only natural that some episodes are weaker than others and that some events can become a bit predictable at times. Luckily, this mostly changes in the second half of the anime where the story expands and takes a mostly different direction where more emphasis is put on the characters’ relationships. As fun as each episode is, I can’t help but feel like it would have benefited from a shorter episode count in order for the story to flow better. A 50-episode story would have been a perfect fit, neither too long nor too short.
It should also be mentioned that the changes between the original Japanese version and the English localized "Cardcaptors" are very drastic, and certainly not in a good way. Music and names of the characters are changed, episodes are flipped and mixed together in an odd and sometimes incoherent order, and important backgrounds and plot elements are minimized or removed completely. While certainly not unwatchable, it’s a very toned down and poor imitation of a fantastic anime. You would be doing yourself a huge disservice by watching any version except the original Japanese one.
In a genre where conventions and inspiration form the crux of most stories, Cardcaptor Sakura is a brilliant title that breathes new life into the genre and anime as a whole. While not quite flawless, this is a classic that has acceded its spot as one of the most influential and quality anime titles in recent times. It’s a consistently high-quality, entertaining and sometimes thought-provoking anime that has more than earned its widespread acclaim and influence. This is a title that shows that there is indeed a correlation in storytelling between creativity and quality.
Cardcaptor Sakura has certainly earned its place in history.
Cardcaptor Sakura is a classic. It is one of those anime that everyone could enjoy, regardless of age and gender. While being a typical magical girl anime, the plot is actually intertwined with lots of comedy and romance. There's not a lot of drama (yet), except maybe recurring goofs and difficulties that each characters face. However, that is the true magic of Cardcaptor Sakura. It has such a high enjoyment value that you will often forget that you are watching someone capturing cards, but rather, live through the experiences of a not-so-typical elementary girl whose life was changed in many ways by the cards she
will make her own.
The first and second season, in my opinion, is not most impressive plot-wise. It is pretty much very episodic, with recurring goofs such as Sakura's battle costumes, Tomoyo with her camcorder, Toya always showing up at the right (or wrong) times, Sakura trying to win over Yukito, Kero looking up at the sky saying "Yue" like he's heartbroken, and Syaoran once again tries to compete with Sakura. The impressive part of the first season is its comedy and action, because it was just amazing. For a magical girl anime, the action was just there. Every scene, suspense, effort, luck, desperation, success, it was there. When Sakura is not capturing cards (she approximately captures one per episode), she enters an environment with heartfelt friendship and goes through life very joyfully and often humorously. Even though the only plot is to "capture them all," Cardcaptor Sakura such a variety of enjoyment that you will find yourself staying glued to the screen.
The season offers a change of pace as Sakura embarks on a brand new adventure, meeting a mysterious new rival. This is where the plot starts to change, as the cards are no longer the main emphasis of the plot. It is clear that while the cards changed her destiny (in capturing the cards), it also affected her daily life as well. The third season explores how the cards created a new path for Sakura in friendship and romance. This part of the plot is present in the first two seasons, but it became the main focus of season three. Personally, this is when Cardcaptor Sakura won me over. Until then it was just a very addicting and enjoyable show. Season three gave meaning to the cards and provides a few dramatic moments that fortifies the underlying themes and symbolisms the series tries to convey.
If you are new to Cardcaptor Sakura, then you might not realize that it was made in 1998. For its time, the art was amazingly amazing. From the opening sequence, you can point out minor details such as the movement of Sakura's costume in the wind and the animation of her hair was just so realistic. Voice acting was awesome (and cute), and facial expressions were especially awesome. And then, there are the action scenes themselves. When the cards are released/captured, there's a "wow" moment that you don't expect to see in a typical magical girl series. Even though the action isn't very technical with cool names and gadgets, it features everything from flying, sword fighting, evocations of the elements, and last but not least, Sakura. One thing that cannot be expressed enough is how cute Sakura is portrayed. That may sound stupid, but it's one of the main attractions of the show.
Not only are the opening and ending sequences catchy, the background music was incredible, simply incredible. From the opening scene featuring Sakura on top of a tower, the music was engaging in every aspect. Then it smoothly makes a transition to everyday music when Sakura introduces herself, and finally to the suspenseful and catchy battle theme that everyone loves. One of the main complains about the dub (Cardcaptors) was that the music was changed. The original music was excellent, and it fits the situation it is for very well.
For an anime like this it's tough to be perfect character-wise, but which anime masters character portrayal, right? The anime focuses the most on Sakura, Kero, Tomoyo, Syaoran, and Meilin, as expected, since they're the main characters. Of course Toya and some other characters I don't want to spoil have their roles also, but mostly it centers on the elementary students (and Kero). While a good deal of the supporting characters were developed, it is done mostly through inferences and vague symbolism. In a way this is good, because it gives Cardcaptor Sakura a deeper meaning if you see it, but if you don't, it's still a very enjoyable anime with minor plot holes. So in short, Cardcaptor Sakura is mainly an anime of character development and emotional maturation, and it mostly succeeded, for the main characters only.
From what I said above, this category would definitely have to be a 10/10. In fact, it has one of the best re-watching values of all the anime I've watched. The first time you go through the anime, it's just plain enjoyable. The second time, you tend to pick up symbolism and motifs from here and there. That "ah hah" moment where everything clicks makes the series even more enjoyable, because it connects its episodic attribute to the main plot more closely. Cardcaptor Sakura just enjoyable no matter how you look at it.
An interesting character in Cardcaptor Sakura is Meilin. She is a filler character, meaning, she is not in the original manga. However, her roles are clearly defined and becomes one of the major plot-driven characters at the end of the anime, as well as being a very consistent character. One example is how I regard an episode that dedicated to her as one of the best, even though it is a filler. The addition of Meilin is not for the detriment of the plot, and I applaud the excellent direction it took to incorporate such a character.
Another factor that might affect some viewers is how everything is in rōmaji or English. At the opening sequence, Sakura's name tag says SAKURA, the cards are in English, even how Sakura says them is in English. There's just a lot of convenient things here for English watchers, something curious but gladly accepted.
If you watch this anime, then watch out for some controversial topics. The first one is homosexuality, which is present plainly in one relationship, and very vaguely implied in a couple of others. It would certainly bring up some questions for younger viewers, but in the end, the anime explains it in a very fitting and safe way. Still, it could be a concern but it shouldn't stop you from watching it. It's safe to say that yuri/yaoi isn't a main component of the plot.
Another controversy is incest, the legal kind (in Japan). While a non-Japanese audience might be a bit uncomfortable of a first cousins relationship, it is best to keep in mind that in Japan, it is completely normal. There's no weird things like brother/sister, mother/son, or stuff like that, so don't worry.
And there's a third kind of relationship explored in the anime, which is an innocent student-teacher crush. The anime never really goes anywhere with it, but it's nice just to mention that it's there. The one important thing to keep in mind is that all these three types of relationships do not affect the enjoyment of the series in any way. Relationships, after all, are part of the main plot, and they should be treated in an adult manner.
Lastly, although it's something that not many cares, there is death. Throughout the series, no one really died, but the motif of death, angels, and the afterlife appears frequently. It's listed as a controversy due to the assumed target audience (young females), but in the end, death is one of the aspects that gives more meaning to the plot.
As much as I don't want to bash Cardcaptors, I feel that it is relevant. If you watch Cardcaptors, then my ratings do not apply. These ratings only apply to the Japanese subbed version, as well as what I think is the best version. Get this one if you can!
I can't bring myself to give this anime a ten just because it carries no major revelations or any of the sort. You can argue that the ending is pretty dramatic, kind of, but the main purpose of the anime is to let the audience sit back, relax, and enjoy. Of course I am being harsh because I want something out of every anime I watch, but for Cardcaptor Sakura, enjoyment alone is enough to get it to a 9. Once in a while, it's good to just watch a series and and enjoy it wholeheartedly.
Card Captor Sakura is an anime based on CLAMP's manga of the same name. It is a about a girl with magical powers name Sakura, who strives to retrive a set of magic cards that she accidentally sets free.
Story: The anime is "episodic" in nature, usually consisting of single episode stories that most often serve to develop the characters and their relationships with one another, as well as Sakura coming in contact and attempting to "capture" one of the lost cards. Being a long series however, it can begin to feel very repetitive after only a short period of time. Although I think the overall
concept of the story is good, I feel as though it could have been executed better, with more emphasis placed on the cards. In some episodes the cards have a very little role, sometimes being captured very quickly. A few times a card doesn't even show up at all.
Animation: The animation is good overall, a few scenes are reused at times, but I have no major qualms.
Sound: Like with the animation, the sound was done well. There are a few songs I liked, and a few that I didn't. The voice acting was done well, with voices that suited the characters nicely.
Character: I really felt that the characters were developed nicely throughtout the story. The Love triangle involving Sakura, Yukito and Li developed and resolved itself in the end, giving a feeling of closure after so long. The develop of characters and their relationships felt very natural to me as well. Their actions rarely, if ever, felt forced or out of character.
Enjoyment: If you are a fan of shojo or "magical girl" anime, and can stand a little bit of repetitivness, I would say that Card Captor Sakura is a must see for you. I personally enjoyed it thoroughly despite a few lulls hear and there.
Adorned with a glorious outfit, lovingly crafted by her best friend, the Cardcaptor takes her stance in wake of the challenge that lies before her. Illuminated by the pearlescent glow of the moon, the card spins frantically, before eventually grinding to a halt. Silent. Still. Untouched. Suddenly, bursting outwards in a sea of flames, consuming the once night sky and claiming it as its own, the card reveals its true form and surrounds the young girl in a prison of flames. Unaffected at the fiery blaze before her, the Cardcaptor stands her ground, readying her staff to tame the beast which threatens her. It’s time
to add another card to the roster…
Magical girls! I’m pretty sure it goes without saying, but the magical girl genre is a staple of the medium, and certainly has been ever since its inception in the 1960s, with Sally the Witch being widely considered to be the first magical girl anime (albeit the manga for Akko-chan’s secret predates Sally by a good five years!) Over the next thirty or so years, the magical girl genre would slowly mould and take shape into what we see today in many of the more children-oriented magical shows, with the Sailor Moon franchise often being considered as the show to establish the standard formula that many later shows of its genre would follow during the 90s, before seeing an influx of magical girl deconstructions in the early 2000s, with Princess Tutu being the most notorious example of such. When looking at the magical girl shows of today and excluding entries of the ever running Precure series and other similar anime marketed towards children, many try to adopt and replicate the success and popularity of Meduka Meguca (also known as Madoka Magica, the former name of which is a far superior title; screw you, fight me!) a show that placed their cute and adorable young girls and threw nothing but death and misery in their faces! Even if you’re not particularly that well-versed in the genre, as am I, you’re probably familiar with the general conventions and the iconography surrounding said genre, as it’s been parodied time and time again in many shows, and whenever an anime series creates a fictional anime within its world and gets all meta, many-a-time do they opt for a magical girl show, such as in the case of Puru Puru Pururin from Welcome to the NHK or Stardust Witch Meruru from Oreimo. However, for such an influential genre, what would be a good gateway show in getting more seriously invested in the various magical girl shows out there?
I believe that answer lies in Cardcaptor Sakura, which would not only make for a good starting point into the Mahou Shoujo genre but is also in of itself a delightful show; one that I have fallen in love with so much so that it has broken into my top ten favourite anime! Through its wonderfully charming cast of characters and shining creativity, Sakura is a series I wholeheartedly love and after allowing the series to sit with me for a while before starting up this review, I can honestly say that Sakura is perhaps one of the best experiences I’ve had with not only an anime, but with any piece of media! But, with that all said and done, let’s dive into the numerous reasons why I adore this show!
Sakura Kinomoto, our protagonist for this tale, is an average happy-go-lucky, fourth grader, who, when coming upon a mysterious book in her home, accidently breaks the seal of said book, causing the contents, that being 52 cards referred to as Clow Cards, to inexplicably scatter all over Japan. But the cards are not the only thing to be released mind you! Awakening from his slumber, Keroberos, an adorable little lion with wings who just so happens to be the guardian of the cards, informs Sakura that she must collect all 52 cards, or a catastrophe will occur as each card contains powerful magic. Realising what she has done, Sakura takes it upon herself to gather the cards, becoming Cardcaptor Sakura, and, along with her best friend, Tomoyo, a girl more concerned with filming Sakura in cute outfits and capturing every one of her moments on film than anything else in life, begin their journey of finding each and every card!
Cardcaptor Sakura’s narrative is one that is not all too complicated, and things progress in ways you can probably expect, with the first half of the series seeing Sakura collecting each and every card, while the second half of the series sees her transforming each one into Sakura Cards, thus claiming them as her own, while intermixing a heavier focus on romance. What sells Sakura’s narrative is in its simplicity and charisma, all the while emitting a wonderful childlike innocence about itself. Sakura is the type of show I can well imagine me enjoying as a child, and, like Little Witch Academia last year, is also a show that is able to evoke these feelings of childlike nostalgia and wonder in me. It’s a raw, personal kind of feeling I get, and is one that I find hard to properly articulate into words. There’s something wonderfully uplifting about Sakura’s narrative, that with each episode that passed I couldn’t help but inadvertently smile. It’s that complete sense of optimism and incorruptibility about the show that made Sakura such an enjoyable and relaxing time for me, presenting a world filled wonder and excitement in the same way a child growing up looks at the world, which, for as someone who has become cynical of things in my early years of adulthood, helped me remember those feelings I once had about life, especially as Sakura is filled with boat loads of heart. Perhaps I’m being overly dramatic and melancholic here, but that’s how I honestly feel, and Sakura makes me feel this way in ways I can’t quite describe or understand, which is why I feel such admiration about the show.
Anyway, enough with that sentimental crap (for I am the manliest man you’ll ever meet and I don’t need no cute and innocent show to make me feel better about my life, hmpth!), Cardcaptor Sakura, for the most part, is largely episodic, following a basic formula of introducing a card, Sakura encountering said card, figuring out a way to capture it, and then using the newly captured card in a later episode to catch another one. However, saying that, I don’t mean to insinuate that just because Sakura follows an episodic, “Card-of-the-week” formula, that is it by any means repetitive nor is this a negative. To go on a brief tangent, I’ve never agreed with the sentiment that just because a show employs an episodic narrative structure that it is inherently bad, or of any less value than that of a show that has a continuous on-going story between episodes. While, yes, an episodic narrative structure can mean that the anime can easily get trapped into a formula and become stale, I don’t believe that all shows that utilise this form of story-telling fall into the same trap or should be thought of as having less value because they chose to opt for that kind of narrative. Let’s take Cowboy Bebop for example. While beloved within the anime community still, and often revered as a cult classic, one piece of criticism I see quite often hurled its way from those who are not as fond of the show as others is that Bebop’s episodic narrative structure holds it back and prevents the show from developing its story or cast, and to that I completely disagree. All of the episodes in Bebop centre around establishing and building the world presented to us, adding layers of complexity and characterisation to the cast, and a lot of episodes spend large amounts of time developing each character, going through their mental hang-ups and exploring their past, with enough energy and charisma per episode to keep things interesting. Cardcaptor Sakura works in the same way.
Like Bebop, Sakura uses each episode to slowly build up its cast of characters. We’re always learning something new about them, and the characters themselves are learning more and more about each other as the show goes on in turn, allowing each member of the cast to form relationships between one another in impactful and well-constructed ways. Every episode builds upon the last, adding new layers of characterisation each time, and the sheer amount of creativity each card brings allows for that much freedom for the writers to experiment and play around with, resulting in a lot of variety and originality each and every episode. It really feels like the people behind this show were having an absolute blast with the production, and it truly does show as each episode is oozing with so much love and personality. This is what makes Sakura such an addicting and memorable watch. One episode Sakura will shrink down to the size of a peanut in pursuit of a card as she manoeuvres around her home running from all of the inherent dangers of being that small; another she’ll grow as big as a building and fight off with an immense dragon reminiscent of a giant monster movie! It’s this constant stream of creativity, intermixed with great character interactions and chemistry that really brought the series to life for me, and it only grows in personality as the series moves along.
And that’s not to say that Sakura is void of any emotionally affective drama either. Cardcaptor Sakura can be surprisingly emotive at times and it handles its melodrama with care and maturity, and even sometimes in rather beautiful and profound ways. Take, for example, episode 16, “Sakura and the Rainbow of Memories”. In this episode, Sakura and her family spend a small vacation in a cottage located in the countryside of Japan, whereupon, after adventuring out, is invited to tea by an old man in the area, whom she frequents everyday with for the reminder of her stay. The two naturally grow closer, and Sakura finds out that this old man has lost his grand-daughter, after he offers Sakura her clothing to wear. After a teary goodbye, Sakura uses her magic to create a rainbow for the man as a thank you to him and to recreate the painting the man’s grandchild had made for him whilst she was still alive. The episode ends informing us that indeed this old man was in fact Sakura’s great-grandfather, ending the episode with some wonderful cathartic pay-off and making the first seemingly unimportant episode in the grand scheme of the narrative have more emotional weight and meaning. And that’s just one of the many examples of this!
Sakura is even faced with several moralistic dilemmas regarding the capturing of the cards. The most prolific example of such is in her pursuit of The Dash; an extremely fast card that transforms itself into a small rabbit-like creature. Dash ends up befriending a girl from Sakura’s class, and the two bond together, with Dash helping said girl exceed in her track running, which brightens up her life. Sakura is left with a dilemma however: should she capture Dash as she has been quested to do, but risk the girl losing the race at the national competition as well as losing her newly gained friend? Or should she just leave Dash as is allowing her to win the race, but not from a result of her own abilities but that of the card? This is just one of many examples in the show, and many of the cards are intrinsically linked with several characters in the show who relate their own problems and mental hang-ups, giving each episode a greater sense of emotional pay-off. And it’s not like Sakura is just a series of episodic events either. There are several overarching stories happening simultaneously that slowly build-up in the background that result in their own pay-offs, as is evident in the climax to the first half of the series, which actually had a great plot-twist that I am sure will be a nice surprise (just don’t watch the third opening like I did before then otherwise you’ll ruin it like what happened to me because I am dumb! Learn from papa LIQ’s mistakes!)
However, as expected of a show with seventy episodes, not every one is as strong as each other, and there are some episodes here and there that I didn’t quite care for, as was the case with episode 55, Sakura in Wonderland; a parody of Alice in Wonderland where Sakura gets dragged into the book. While I did get a few smiles here and there seeing the cast portrayed as the characters from the original novel, I mainly zoned out for much of the duration as I’ve seen this kind of thing done a million times before in countless other shows. However, the episodes in which I found to be lacking were definitely the minority and for a show to have perhaps three or four episodes, that, I didn’t feel were bad, just “meh” is quite an achievement.
Dependent on your levels of tolerance, you may find yourself somewhat irritated at Sakura’s level of denseness in regards to the premonitions she has nearing the climax of the first half and how long it takes her to put two and two together regarding the identity of the person from her dream, even when it is pretty obvious from the get-go. However, I can generally excuse it on accounts that she is still a child, and because of her good girl personality. Finally, one may have an issue regarding the level of suspension of disbelief you have to endure during your watch, as Sakura flies throughout the city with nobody seeing her at all which would be pretty difficult, and in the episode in which she grows to the size of a building to fight a dragon, not a single person sees her at all, despite the noise and damage to the area. While these are indeed critism somebody could make against the show, I would ultimately argue that they are pretty pedantic and do not take anything away from the show even when you factor them in.
If I were pinned down to the floor by a group of thugs in the middle of the night in a dark alleyway and under extremely specific circumstances was told to describe Cardcaptor Sakura in a single word otherwise risk getting shot in the face, I would say “charming”.
Charming. I believe that best sums up Sakura in a single word and is certainly the best way for me to describe the characters presented within it. When I am consuming any piece of fiction, the most important element to me are indeed the characters, as they hold the key, if you will, into whether I am invested in the piece that I am watching. Characters are what I personally value most in any given circumstance, and while I am a guy who likes a good o’ story to go along with my characters, I can generally be more forgiving of a show if the characters have wonderful chemistry. And indeed, the characters of Cardcaptor Sakura have wonderful chemistry. This is what I believe Sakura excels at the most, and that is crafting emotionally rich and charismatic characters the audience can grow easily attached to, and some of my favourite moments in the show, and truly the most delightful, are when the characters are just goofing around together. My jaw has physically hurt after some episodes due to the sheer number of times the characters and their interactions have made me smile, especially Keroberos, nicknamed Kero-chan.
My love for this tiny guy truly knows no bounds and is easily not only my favourite character in the entire show, but also one of my favourites in the medium. He’s massive ego, insane love of food and strange accent all perfectly worked together to create a character whom made me grin every single time he was on screen, but Kero isn’t just a mascot character however. Aside from dishing out exposition about the cards and the such, there’s genuine level of love for Sakura, his new master, and their relationship actually builds and develops as the series goes on, culminating in a beautiful friendship. The relationship that builds between both characters is one that is completely believable and feels sincere; as if the two had known each other their entire lives. Kero isn’t simply a selfish asshole who sees Sakura as an inconvenience but someone who openly cares for her as a person and her well-being. The two even get into arguments as well, such as in the case of episode 15, “Sakura and Kero’s big fight” where the two argue about petty things for the entire episode but learn to look past them and to appreciate each other for who they truly are, adding emotional weight as well as a real sense of maturity to their relationship.
While Sakura herself is your typical cheery and optimistic girl you would probably expect from a series such as this, she does go through a substantial amount of development, both in terms of her actual magical power and in her coming of age and growing to realise whom she truly loves in the latter half of the series, eventually concluding that aspect of her character arc in the second movie. However, that’s not to say that Sakura is solely just a cheery innocent girl with no other characteristics or emotions. Sakura frequently has moments of depression and self-doubt whereupon she reflects on herself as both a person and as a magical girl, adding more complexity and introspection into her character, all the while receiving mass amounts of characterisation, moulding her into more of an honest human being rather than an expressionless plank of wood, with her interactions between her and her brother being the best example of such. Sakura is a strong protagonist for this kind of show, so much so that every time she succeeded in whatever task that came her way, did I feel a sincere sense of accomplishment as well, resulting in my once cynical and cold heart being warmed once again. What sells Sakura is in her simplicity and how this simplicity is delivered with boats loads of heart.
Perhaps the thing I was most impressed by with Sakura’s cast is how subtlety characters grew together. Perhaps this is a pedantic thing to praise Sakura for, but the sheer amount of anime I’ve watched that simply have characters deliver internal monologues about the status of their relationships with other characters, or what they’re feeling about said relationships is astounding, and Sakura does away with such a feature, making the relations that do grow and develop feel all the more grounded in a sense of believability. Much like how I became to grow fonder of the characters as the series developed, the cast themselves warmed up to each other as well. Take Sharon for example, a kid from Hong Kong who locates to Japan in search of the Clow Cards, becoming a rival to Sakura in the process. While starting out cold and distant, adamant about working together with Sakura and generally putting up a barrier between himself and the people around him through his apprehensive attitude, Shaoran eventually begins to warm up to the rest of the cast. He starts to admire Sakura and her abilities, and grows to fully understand her as a person, and opens up the rest of his classmates in the process, to the point that he begins to care for Sakura as a person and her well-being, all the while doing so in a subtle way. With each passing episode, Shaoran’s demeanour slowly changes, and characteristics established in the earlier parts of the series begin to fade away and be replaced, all the while never having to resort to exposition or internal monologues to convey his change in attitude regarding Sakura and everyone else, treating the viewer with respect. The same thing can also be said of Sharon’s cousin, Meiling, who, like Sharon, begins her relationship with Sakura and the rest of the cast rather apprehensively, before eventually seeing Meiling grow to care for Sakura, resulting in a heartfelt letter in which Meiling writes, “to my dear friend”, a clear juxtaposition from the start of the series.
While there are many other characters in the show, speaking about each one individually would be rather redundant, and would take away from their magic (pun intended) in the show. However, there are some personality quirks and reoccurring gags that you may find to be somewhat lacking. While it is somewhat entertaining, and especially cute when Sakura and Shaoran keep falling for them, Yamazaki’s lies and the gag surrounding that can become somewhat tiering and unfunny for me the more it goes along, and the same thing can be said regarding Tomoyo’s obsessive recording of Sakura (albeit, nowhere near as bad as the former piece of comedy I just mentioned). I can easily see Meiling’s character being rather annoying and hard to put up with for some people, especially with how clingy and whiney she can be at times around Shaoran, even if I didn’t personally find her that grating personally. While I did have maybe one or two slight problems here and there with elements of some character quirks, that’s all they are when you break it down: slight; and don’t really do much to take away from the overall experience and are small things that can be overlooked.
Cardcaptor’s animation as well has aged pretty well for being twenty-years-old, and there are genuinely some great animation cuts here, with one of my favourites being a moment in which Meling is punching a bunch of penguin statues (I swear, it looks a lot better than how I am describing it here!). The animation and art are damn amiable at times too, with a lot of cartoony pull and stretch as well as a multitude of various reaction shots, adding to the charm of already charming characters and locals, although the art can get somewhat “CLAMP-Y” at times, with Toya and Yukito in some shots appearing as massive NBA players with the thickness of a pencil! Every time Sakura used the cards, it was an absolute treat for the eyes with swooping special effect work and animation, combined with rather attractive and unique designs for the physical forms of each card, with Firey and Watey perhaps being my favourite out of the bunch. Likewise, the soundtrack is handled with just as much care and love as every other element, with every piece being more or less burned into my mind, with the music used to accompany Sakura using a card being my favourite of the series. It’s magical, yet exciting arrangements always managed to make me fervent whenever she would bust out a card. Similarly, the openings and the endings are also a treat, with each one being incredibly memorable and wonderful pieces of music in their own right, with the first ending, one featuring Kero running endlessly across a hill, being one I could watch on repeat forever.
Moreover, Cardcaptor Sakura also has two movies, both of which I believe are worth checking out. The first of which, taking place at roughly episode 35 of the TV series, sees Sakura win a trip to Hong Kong before running into both Meiling and Shaoron. The film is essentially like watching an extended version of a regular TV episode and contains just the same amount of charm and likeability about itself, so much so that I was smiling the entire time whilst watching it. While this film can be skipped as it doesn’t add anything to the overall canon, I’d ultimately recommend it, not because it’s a good time in of itself, but just because we get to see Shaoran’s family, and can fully understand why he is so adamant about collecting all of the cards and impressing his strict mother.
The second film however is definitely the one you should prioritise and watch as it is a direct continuation of the TV series, picking up exactly were the last one left off. To put it bluntly, I adore this film! It’s a perfect summarisation of everything I loved about the show, compacted into ninety minutes, and my jaw actually hurt by the time I had finished watching the film as I was doing nothing but smiling during the entire runtime. It wraps up nicely a certain releationship and character arc that I don’t want to specify as I wish to avoid spoilers as much as possible for those who have not watched the show yet, ending the concurrent story on an incredibly satisfying note!
There exists some other supplementary Sakura material out there, that can be ignored if you so wish, but if you decide to watch them, shouldn’t really take up no more than twenty minutes of your time. There’s a short directed by the same dude who directed Monster, called “Leave it to Kero-chan” which is a fun little ten minute special, as well as a mini three part series in which Tomoyo films various things in Sakura’s life, which I’d recommend checking out the first episode of which at least as it goes all meta as Tomoyo films Sakura recreating the first opening, and even ends with her voice actress, Sakura Tange, performing “Catch You Catch Me”.
To finally conclude, as if it was not already evident enough, I adore Cardcaptor Sakura. It’s a show that appeals to me on a very raw personal level and is the perfect balance of everything I look for and admire in a show, exceling in the area that matters the most to me: the characters. Sakura is not only a shining example of what the magical girl genre is capable of, but also a shining example of what anime at large is capable of as well. Sakura is just another example of why I stick around in this medium because, every so often, a gem comes along like this one, and profoundly connects with me. Before I die from sucking this show’s dick for over 4,300 words, I think I best resign here! Thanks for taking the time to read what is effectively a fanboy harping on about how much he loves a show about an innocent magical girl that warms his once cold heart!