As Shaoran starts to become more of a fixture, the problems crop up even more.
What They Say:
Sakura, lead with your heart! The Sword card takes control of Sakura’s friend and attacks! Still, Sakura is able to use her head and her heart to save everyone. Next, Sakura discovers her mother was best friends with Tomoyo’s mom, and learns important lessons about friendship. However, none of these lessons prepares Sakura or Li for the challenge of the Time card. How can you battle something that can turn back time?
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 frontal shot of Sakura iin the pink and black rubber suit with the cat ears that’s just perfect. With Sakura making the little cat meow and paw movements, it’s just a big piece of fun. 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 of Sakura with Tomoyo and Tomoyo’s mother 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)
The introduction of Li Shaoran in the previous volume at the end was one of those main game changer pieces. One that had a bit more impact since it wasn’t in the first couple of episodes but rather eight episodes in. Thankfully, while Shaoran has a good sized role in the episodes that follow, he’s not overused in this volume which has the next four episodes of the series. The focus is still very much on Sakura, being the title character, and we get to deal with more of her family past in a circumspect way and some interesting bits about how the dynamic between Shaoran and Sakura will play out for awhile.
The addition of Shaoran to Sakura’s life at school is where things tends to have most of the impact, which is comical to watch since the guys are getting along well with him and there’s some cursory interest from some of the girls. Shaoran’s death stares are comical to say the least but Sakura just can’t figure out what his real problem is overall since even his nature about the Clow Cards doesn’t seem like that’s all there is to it. Thankfully, Sakura has her friends to hang out with and some good time is spent with Rika and Tomoyo. The Rika storyline, considered controversial during the series original release in the US by certain parties, has her having a crush on her male teacher where she has an interest in being with him as she gets older. This is a bit of foreshadowing for elsewhere, but watching how Sakura is kind of oblivious to what Rika’s really into is fun to watch, especially since it gets caught up in a Clow Card that they come into possession of.
Where the show takes a really interesting turn is when the sports day festival arrives and everyone is showing up at the school to cheer on Sakura and her class. The competition is intense and there’s some great rivalry between Sakura and Shaoran that comes into play since both of them see Yukito encouraging them and each thinks its for them. Though there’s a fluffy Clow Card that gets involved, the real meaty material here is when Tomoyo’s mother Sonori shows up and is shocked to discover that her daughter’s friend is actually the daughter of her best friend from her school days. Sakura’s mother Nadeshiko has been touched upon at times but the expansion and tie between the two younger girls is really nicely done. It’s capped off with some great time between their parents as Sakura’s father and Sonori have a good conversation that really makes both of their views clear and quite understandable.
Similar exploration of the past is done when Sakura spends time at Tomoyo’s house with her mother there. Sonori’s a little bit of a one-note character in some ways as she goes on about her best friend was stolen from her, but she’s also quite taken and charmed by Sakura because of who she is. Similar to the previous episode, there’s a fluffy Clow Card involved that’s more about the deeper story with Tomoyo and her mother rather than the whole capture and collect aspect. Which is one of the strengths of the show since it doesn’t go for a whole lot of action each time in order to make the Card aspect such a big piece. Introducing the Shield card here and making it a small and personal element to the story makes you want to get to the heart of the matter rather than the journey of capturing the card.
While Shaoran does have some involvement in parts of the episodes, the fourth episode here is where he gets to shine. The episode spends most of its time at school and does things related to the music exam that they’re going through, but it plays a whole lot of fun Groundhog Day material with it as Sakura and Shaoran are the only ones that truly realize it. They have to actually work together to deal with the card at hand, and to work through Shaoran’s snarky disbelief about how little she knows, and it’s the start of the two really bonding together. It doesn’t all work out in Sakura’s favor, but the core of her mission really is just helping people and doing the right thing rather than trying to capture all the kids for her own personal gain. It’s pretty nicely done and has some good humor throughout it, especially related to the time loop.
Cardcaptor Sakura has four very fun episodes here that expands and enhances the Kinomoto family history while also tying Tomoyo and Sakura closer together than you’d originally think. There are some bigger fights that go on here, particularly in the last episode, but most of it is focused on the character stories themselves while bringing in some light and fluffy Clow Cards to deal with. Shaoran’s growing into a more interesting character and he’s more engaging than many characters who are trying to be cool and aloof while dealing with their rival. He has a certain cockiness about him to be sure, especially when dealing with Toya and Sakura, but there are some very cute softer sides to him as well that are starting to surface. There’s a lot to like here and it continues to build on the foundations well and making them even more intriguing.
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: May 8th, 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.