As much as Sakura has to deal with, she can still be just a scared little girl.
What They Say:
Romantic rivals?! Summer is nearly over, but Sakura’s tests never end! Sakura’s school stages a test of courage in some scary caves, but when the Erase Card makes her friends disappear, Sakura and Li rise to the challenge! Then, the Glow Card creates a romantic mood with Yukito, only to have it spoiled by Li, Toya and her undone homework… If only the Move Card would leave her books alone! Finally, Li’s cousin, Mei-Lin, arrives from Hong Kong to help Li capture the Clow Cards, but she thinks Sakura likes Li! No way!
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 piece but with some good soft pinks and whites for the background. Sakura dominates in a school girl uniform that’s her normal attire, but with the addition of her wand as she smiles while some of the cherry blossoms float by. 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 in small form while Mei Lin dominates 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 sequence.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As the series gets through its first twenty episodes, it’s done a good job of slowly introducing new elements and blending them in. Sakura and Kero were our starting point along with immediate friends and family, which then gave way to a bit of extended family and more kids at school. The introduction of Shaoran added a new element to it as it was someone else who knew about the Clow Cards and could capture them, giving Sakura some competition. But not just in that department as he idolizes Yukito and wants to spend time with him. Blending him into the show was a slow but steady process as he wasn’t in each episode and sometimes just had a small role. And even through this one, you can easily say that he and Sakura are not friends.
Though it doesn’t happen until later in this set of episodes, the series introduces us to a new and very difficult character that definitely doesn’t win you over like Shaoran does at the start. Because of circumstances, Tomoyo and Sakura are at Shaoran’s and we get to meet his guardian in the form of Wei there, but it’s the arrival of Mei Lin from Hong Kong that sets it all off. She’s feisty, possessive and outgoing in an angry way as she’s Shaoran’s fiancee and doesn’t want anyone else to get close to him. And she knows what he’s up to there but can’t believe he’s still there working on it and she gets instantly jealous over the way Sakura is not really introduced, and for good reason considering what she’s wearing. What Mei Lin brings to the table is someone who, while they will change as the show goes on, is just someone who has a chip on her shoulder and an attitude that leaves me cold.
It’s something that makes the fourth episode here problematic as Sakura is dealing with a card, the Fight card no less, that’s causing problems at night by challenging various people that it thinks are strong in order to show them who’s boss. Sakura’s obviously working to investigate it, but it’s Mei Lin who shows up and pushes her way into it, showing off a bit before realizing there’s a real challenge to be had with this Card. To make matters worse, Shaoran arrives and is just kind of regretting everything about Mei Lin and her involvement, making for what Tomoyo calls a very comical relationship chart that has to be developed. Sakura and Mei Lin are going to be rubbing up against each other in a rough way for quite awhile and because of what Shaoran has learned about what Sakura is capable of, he’s not pleased by what Mei Lin is doing.
Thankfully, we get a couple of very fun Sakura-centric episodes before Mei Lin arrives and that helps to soften the blow a bit. The opening episode has the gang on a beach trip for the class where there’s fun and serious stuff going on as the girls and boys learn different things. But it also has some good summer fun where they do things like the test of courage and telling ghost stories at night. Those are things that really does freak out Sakura, most of which we know is based on the stories her brother used to tell her about the things that he could see because of his spiritual connection that faded. There’s a simple Clow Card brought into it for a bit of fun that doesn’t impact things, leaving us to mostly enjoy things like her scary test of courage that she goes through with Tomoyo. It gets scary but knowing what it really is helps her to deal with it.
The other episode with Sakura that I really enjoyed involved how she was dealing with the end of summer break coming up and getting into a pretty intense run to finish up all her homework. Considering her generally decent grades and mostly proactive approach, it’s comical to see her racing around like this and having to strike a number of deals in order to get everything accomplished with a bit of help from friends and family. The time is mostly spent with this, but it gets a bit Clow Card oriented when she’s in the library and trying to get a book that Shaoran wants as well, but the book keeps disappearing. It’s very enjoyable seeing the two dealing with each other in this way as they’re competitive, but you can trace the way they’re getting friendlier and more at ease with each other as well.
Cardcaptor Sakura has a good bit of fun here for most of the first three episodes as we see Sakura struggle with ghost stories, festivals and the end of summer rush to finish all of her homework. And she manages to look cute throughout all of it, which is a big plus. There’s just a sense of fun and ease about it, while never reaching a level where it feels absurd or keystone cops like with the physical side of it, that you can smile along and enjoy the realistic challenges she has and wonder at the supernatural side with the Clow Cards since they require a different approach. I really like the way Shaoran is figuring into things more and more, but never dominating or even getting equal time, but the introduction of Mei Lin that left me defensive the first time I saw her and has me feeling the same way now. I’m curious to see how this second viewing a decade after originally seeing it will have me feel about her as time goes on.
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: September 11th, 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.