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Cardcaptor Sakura Vol. #01 Anime DVD Review

8 min read

Cardcaptor Sakura Volume 1
Cardcaptor Sakura Volume 1
When Sakura accidentally unleashed Clow Cards, her life turns towards hunting them down before they hurt anyone.

What They Say:
Curiosity is part of any 10-year-old’s life, but Sakura just broke the seal on a magical book and released all of the mischievous spirits imprisoned on the cards inside! Kero, the Guardian of the Clow Cards is horrified to find all of the cards gone and tells Sakura she must become the Cardcaptor and retrieve the spirits before they work their mischief in the world…

Contains Episodes:
#1. Sakura And The Mysterious Magic Book
#2. Sakura’s Wonderful Friend
#3. Sakura’s Heart-Racing First Date
#4. Sakura’s Tiring Sunday

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is straightforward as we get the original Japanese language in stereo but nicely encoded at 384kbps. The series isn’t one with a huge or dynamic range to it considering its origins but it handles the forward soundstage well here with dialogue placed appropriately where needed while the action scenes have a good full flow to them with some minor directionality in a few places. The swirling of music tends to be one of the stronger points for it and that’s something that gives the show a little extra push, especially with the opening and closing sequences. While not a standout mix, it does the job well and we didn’t detect any distortion or dropouts throughout the episodes and overall had no issues with this track. Solid stuff all the way around.

Originally airing from 1998 to 2000, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The series has a strong look to it in general with Madhouse animating it and using the appealing CLAMP character designs along with some very good colors. Traditionally animated for the most part, it has bright colors, smooth animation during the busy scenes and a good sense of detail about it. The release isn’t problem free though, owing to the time of its original release, and we have some cross coloration showing up throughout in small ways here and there and some line noise that creeps in as well. Some of the backgrounds aren’t as solid as they should be either, but the show generally does hold up pretty well considering when it was released and the difference in encoding now and source materials.

The packaging for this release continues to be a highlight after all these years as we get a single sized white keepcase to hold the disc. The front cover is bright, pink and adorable as it gives us a side shot of Sakura in her full costume with her wand where she’s giving a shush moment. It’s full of life, ribbons and appealing curves in the clothing that it just stands out in a great way. The logo along the top is straightforward and easy to read and we get a volume name along the bottom where it also breaks down the format of the release. The back cover has some good soft background images of various scenes from the opening volume, a few shots from the show and a decent if brief premise to the series. The episodes are brown down by name and number and the production credits dominate. The technical side is mild and simple but it brings out the basics needed for this DVD release. The package also comes with an insert where on one side it provides a brighter version of the back cover along with a breakdown of the episodes by name, number and the chapters within each one.

Much like the show and the packaging, it’s cute, colorful and bright as we get a still image from the episode related to this volume without any music or sound effects. The menus are pretty simple, with only a few options on the main menu and most of the others in the extras menu, which is where they curiously placed the “Subtitles Off” selection. Access times are very fast and things look pretty good all around here.

Though a bit on the weak side, the extra that always makes my day is here. The non-credit opening is great to have and gives you the chance to see all the animation uncluttered and to pick up on details one might have otherwise missed. The Kids WB opening goes to show just how different the two are and what kind of market they were shooting for. The character introduction is a little weak as it only deals with one character, but it may be because other characters would contain some spoilers too early.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the CLAMP manga series of the same name that began release in 1996 and completed in 2000, running for twelve volumes, Cardcaptor Sakura is a seventy episode series that was released subtitled only back in 2002 from Pioneer before they changed to Geneon Entertainment. The series was one that didn’t achieve its goals for a lot of reasons, especially since a broadcast version by Nelvana on Kids WB! crashed and burned in a big way. Because of the severe differences in the edits between the dubbed version and the original, Pioneer released separate editions on DVD, so we get just the original Japanese language track here and the at the time standard four episodes per disc. With a bit of a lull in the review schedule, I opted to start sliding some of these in between my regular newer shows to revisit the magic that this series is.

The premise of the show is relatively straightforward in a magical girl kind of way as we’re introduced to ten year old Sakura Kinomoto, a cute and outgoing friendly young girl who is in fourth grade, pretty well liked and is the kind of person that everyone gets along with. She lives with her father, an archaeology professor, and her older brother Toya who is in high school. The family dynamic works well, as they lost the mother several years ago, and though there’s that pang of sadness around parts of it, they all are generally happy and well adjusted. Sibling problems are par for the course, though Toya is mostly a serious guy with lots of part time jobs, and her father seems like he’s just glad that the kids are doing well and is content to let that be the big thing.

Unfortunately for Sakura, things take a bad turn for her when she does a little bit of snooping in her father’s library and comes across a book called the Clow Book, a somewhat locked ornate book that holds within it numerous Clow Cards. When she opens it, she ends up releasing the cards that look like tarot cards and each of them end up going off in their own direction. The cards all have their own unique power and personalities and are enjoying being free after so many decades being sealed in the book. The main reason they get to escape though is that the books guardian, Cerebus, aka Kero-chan, has been asleep at the wheel for the last thirty years and that made it easier for Sakura to get it open. Because of what happened, he nudges her into a deal where she’ll become the Cardcaptor and work with him in returning the cards before they cause too much trouble.

Sakura’s not keen on this, but she ends up taking it on and the episodes mostly focus on each one being a different card. While these are fun to watch and a bit creative, and appropriate for the intended age set overall here, it’s also done with some elements of danger and risk to it. Sakura’s not entirely alone in her venture outside of Kero though as her best friend from school, Tomoyo, gets involved regularly. The daughter of a company president, she’s just a blast to watch because she’s always videotaping what Sakura is doing after she accidentally discovers the truth and then she proceeds to make sure that Sakura has a new costume to wear nearly every episode. And that’s a big plus since it changes the feel of each encounter and gives Sakura something special each time, though sometimes Tomoyo’s adoration of her friend may seem like it goes a little far.

The first episode brings us a few cards to deal with, such as Shadow, Windy, Rain, Water and Wood and the challenges she deals with are simple but effective. Sometimes it’s to be dealt with alone, such as when she has to go against the Shadow card at school at night, which is kind of scary, while the Water card gives her a problem as it sets up residence in the aquarium where her brother is working. And where she ends up going on a “date” with her brothers friend, Yukito, an appealing “safe” young man that she’s totally crushing on who is oblivious (politely) to them but treats her like a proper young lady. Sakura’s life is enjoyable to watch just from the real world character interactions alone, but it’s more fun since she’s starting to hide secrets due to Kero living with her now and the way she has so many other things to deal with.

In Summary:
Cardcaptor Sakura charmed me when I first saw it over a decade ago and revisiting these first four episodes again after not seeing them since that time just brings it all back in a big way. While the animation may not be quite as polished or vibrant as it could be if Madhouse animated it today, it holds up very, very well and looks great in terms of colors and designs. The source materials are a bit problematic, but it could also be the changes in encodings since then. But what matters is the story itself and Sakura Kinomoto is one of the most charming of younger characters. So many of them tend to be so annoying or beyond their years in what they do and achieve that it’s hard to suspend disbelief. Here, you can envision this being a real girl going through all of this and coping with it as best as she can with her friends. There’s a whole lot to like here that’s very much worth spending time with and hunting down.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Non-Credit Opening, Kids WB Opening, Character Introduction

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Pioneer
Release Date: November 14th, 2000
MSRP: $29.99
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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