The search for the Clow Cards continue, but a new challenger enters the ring.
What They Say:
Don’t mess with Jump-zilla! Sakura learns the memories of the past may be haunting or comforting, but they also help people in the face of adversity. However, when Sakura faces off against the Jump, the Illusion, the Silent and the Thunder cards, she discovers that she must bravely face her future, or her new rival, Li Shaoran, will take it from her! Contains episodes 5-8, and a limited edition postcard.
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, yellow and adorable as it gives us a frontal shot of Sakura in her full yellow costume where she has this sort of mellow yet confident look about her as she holds her wand. It’s an overdose of yellow but it manages to work very, very well. 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 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 shot from the ghost story episodes 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.
The only extra this time around is the non-credit ending, which is indeed quite a bright piece of work when you take away the credits. Though it’s rather simple (as a lot of endings are), definitely nice to have this one after getting the opening on the first disc.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After finding it easier than I suspected to get back into the show after not seeing it for over ten years, the second volume reinforces that feeling even more. The opening episodes certainly aren’t bad by any stretch and we get a good bit of material that lays down some of the foundations, the key cards to be used in combination with others later and a look at the relationships as they exist. But as much fun as the show is in the first seven episodes, there’s something that happens with a key introduction in episode eight that’s just ideal. And waiting that long to bring in another player, and such an important one that headlined his own series years later, is just a rarity in storytelling these days where the full cast is often introduced in the first episode and we have to figure them all out across the remainder of the series.
With the second installment of Cardcaptor Sakura, we get a look at four more Clow Cards that Sakura has to deal with, as well as more general issues and some decent character exploration as well. The way the kids interact with each other is certainly innocent and idealized in its own way, even for elementary school kids and I say that having had one go through it all already and another in that same age range as our lead here. The girls here are definitely that, girls, as we see them so excited to check out a new plush animal and trinket store named Twin Bells that opens up. Sakura and Tomoyo love it like the other girls and even help out the owner, Maki, on opening day since she’s a bit of a klutz and it takes time to get it all going. But the store has its own problems as well since the Jump card has made its way into one of the plushies and makes a total mess, not just of the store but of Maki’s reputation as well, which sends Sakura into expected and predictable action.
Another story deals with a different approach to the Cards as she and her friends end up having a ghostly encounter while out one evening on a bit of a dare. Everyone sees different things as they have the encounter in the wooded park area, but for Sakura she sees the image of her mother. While there’s some issue as to whether it’s a ghost or a Card, the important things here are two-fold. We get our first real look at some of the ways that Sakura really misses her mother and gets help from Kero, Tomoyo and even Yukito in a really cute way. But the big takeaway from it is that from Toya we learn that up until middle school, he was able to see ghosts and other supernatural things and told Sakura about them, which is why she has such a fear of ghosts. While we know that Sakura has a strong tie to magic, as Kero notes again in this set of episodes, this is the first nods towards Toya having something more in his resume than we knew previously. And we get a really surprising and sweet moment for him involving the ghost as well.
The show also brings in a fun Card after that story involving Silent, which has Sakura working as a bit of a thief, albeit without a mask which is comical but fits in with the age of the characters. The big story is the final one that has Sakura dealing with a new Card, Lightning, which Tomoyo is ever so helpful about by providing her with a completely rubberized (fetish?) suit made of black and pink with cat ears. It’s cute and adorable but secondary to the arrival of Li Shaoran, a young man who Sakura first encounters as a transfer student in her class. When he’s introduced, he has the most intense stare with Sakura that everyone in the room should be unnerved by it. When he accosts her later, he takes things even further with that but at least reveals that he knows about the Clow Cards and intends to finish the job she’s screwing up in his mind. It’s a great sequence since it lays out his problems with her, his goals and the way he goes about it without thinking of consequences. It also brings Toya into the fight as we see just how intensely he’ll defend family, but it also shows a different side of Shaoran when Yukito arrives and he’s completely unnerved by this overly friendly and affable older student.
With the second installment of episodes, Cardcaptor Sakura lays down a few more pieces to its foundations as we see the relationships expanded and more of the way they interact with each other. There’s sweetness with Yukito, a layer of caring from Toya that gets called out as being more necessary and the arrival of a new rival that could turn into something far more. The show has a lot going for it with strong production values overall and it manages to make the Card of the Week aspect of it fun by layering in all these other reveals along the way while building upon them as part of the new challenges. And it’s all done with a whole lot of style, thanks to Tomoyo and her deep seated need to film Sakura doing all of these and making sure she looks fabulous
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Non-Credit Opening
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Pioneer
Release Date: January 16th, 2001
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
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.