A Few Thoughts On...Cardcaptor Sakura


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Cardcaptor Sakura is, to put it mildly, not the kind of show that I'd normally be watching. But the show and I go back a little bit, to when I was on holiday in Canada as a kid and caught the English dub on TV. Any of you who have seen it know that this is hardly a promising start. But there was something in it which piqued my curiosity, and all these years later, when trying to pick something to watch, I decided I'd give it a go in its original format.

I'm very glad I did, as there's an absolute ton to love about this show. First thing that meets your eyes is Madhouse's gorgeous animation. Bright, splashed liberally with colour and stuffed with detail, it's a true joy to watch, though your mileage may vary on CLAMP's trademark 'noodle people' style (I'm personally quite fond of it). Stock footage reuse is kept to a merciful minimum, the detail is generally sharp and there are one or two standout sequences that really show fantastic care and attention. It's complemented by excellent voicework, with every character speaking naturally and sounding perfectly cast.
It wouldn't be much to look at if it weren't enjoyable to watch however, and it's here where Cardcaptor Sakura really earns its stripes. 

The plot is basically magical girl 101 and nothing to write home about (TVTropes accurately describes it as '52 Pickup: The anime') but it's the characters which inhabit this world that make it so special. Sakura herself is simply utterly adorable, a bundle of good intentions, super cute costumes and charming naïveté. She's moe, but also actually has substance to her character, leaving her as a protagonist you genuinely root for. She's aided and abetted by a great supporting cast, including her camera and cosplay obsessed best friend Tomoyo (who's the subject of a few self aware stalker jokes as the series goes on), rival and jerkass tsundere with a heart of gold Syoaran Li (done much better than the clichéd role suggests), overprotective big brother Toya and hopeless crush Yukito. Stealing every scene in which he appears is the obligatory fairy companion Kero, who proclaims himself to be the mighty guardian of the Clow cards but is quickly revealed as a greedy, videogame obsessed sugar junkie with an infatuation for sweets. 

Another strength of the show is that it isn't afraid to stray away from its main plot at time, often taking several episodes out from the continuing card hunt and focusing instead on fleshing out the protagonists and their world. Sakura's ongoing crush on Yukito is a particularly fine example of a series long plot thread, which considering the subject matter is very delicately handled and has a very touching conclusion. The series (and CLAMP in general) is somewhat infamous for its rather liberal take on relationships, but it keeps everything light and never spills over into genuinely creepy territory. Rather than the magical shenanigans, the relationship between the characters provides the true draw. In fact, for me at least the show actually becomes better once it completes its primary plot arc and instead basically becomes an elementary school soap opera for the final third of the run.

Inevitably there are a few problems. At 70 episodes it's arguably a bit too long and certainly a fair amount of filler makes it in. There also tends to be a certain overreliance on particular plot elements, especially noticeable in the third arc with Toya and Syaoran being constantly interrupted. Finally, the lack of any real villain for basically the entire length of the show (Eriol barely counts as it's obvious he's only ambiguously evil from the very beginning) means tension can sometimes be lacking at key points, but to be fair this is genuinely averted by the danger the cards themselves often present.

Ultimately, Cardcaptor Sakura isn't going to reinvent the wheel of the Magical Girl show, but it does tweak the formula in clever and important ways. More importantly, it's simply an utter joy to watch. Every second spent in this adorable world and with these likeable characters feels like a good investment. This isn't the superficial cutesy-ness you'll find in so many moeblob shows these days, it's something much deeper and harder to achieve - genuine charm and warmth. All I can say is I'm glad I overcame my reservations and gave this one a chance, as otherwise I would have missed an absolute gem.

The only good thing about the dub? Badass New York Kero! As always, comments and feedback much appreciated.

Next time...Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion

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Dragonzigg   gamer profile



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