What They Say:
As the plot of this popular series escalates, Kero notes that Sakura’s magical powers are increasing–and that she may need them in an upcoming conflict.
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 whites and greens for the background. Sakura dominates as is expected as she has a quasi-maid outfit going on here with whites and blues as she leans forward on her staff with a restful look about her. 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 Mizuki up close with an interesting expression 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 another art gallery.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As we saw in the previous episode, tensions are starting to settle down some when it comes to the problems between Mei Lin and… well, the world. With her view of mostly everyone and everything coming between her and Shaoran, she’s pretty much always on the attack and sees threats everywhere, but nowhere more so than with Sakura. That, thankfully, has begun to calm down some as they all work together in different circumstances and she’s starting to understand that Sakura isn’t going after Shaoran in the way that she’s been doing for so long, so she views her as less of a threat. What a lot of this has done though is to reduce Shaoran’s role overall, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it shows that once again he can’t dealt with every situation that gets thrown his way.
With this set of episodes, changes are starting to filter in the cast and the larger storyline just a bit more and it’s coming at a welcome time. The first episode has a lot of fun in general as doppelganger shows up in the series that looks like Sakura and is being very, very playful, much to the chagrin of everyone else that comes across her. While it’s obviously a Clow Card and Sakura has to figure out which one and how to deal with it, which is nicely done, it’s the larger impact that’s engaging to watch. With Toya getting involved, tricked by the double, he quickly realizes that she isn’t who he thought she was and his seeing through it starts to clue him in more to what Sakura’s going through. His level of knowledge continues to be hazy, but his involvement here helps to paint a picture that he’s more aware than Sakura certainly believes and likely to a good degree more than the viewer as well.
That episode also brings in a new character as we get a young woman named Mizuki showing up who has a good deal of magical presence and can hide it. It turns out she’s the new substitute teacher at the school and that has both Shaoran and Sakura worried because she’s a complete unknown. This becomes even more problematic when the two, along with Mei Lin and Tomoyo, get caught up in the Maze card that’s causing a lot of trouble at a shrine. There’s a lot of good adventure type stuff in this particular episode as we see the group trying to figure out how to get out, but again, it’s seeing what Mizuki is up to when she inserts herself into things and the way Toya reacts when he comes to find Sakura and discovers here there, producing a connection that the two have that Sakura wasn’t aware of that speaks of larger things to come.
Because of Mizuki’s presence, which does get expanded a bit through Sakura’s father and paints a sort of second generation teacher/student deal going on, the show has her as a part of the undercurrent in a big way now and you can’t help but to feel that she’s watching over everything from a distance. This becomes full on foreground material though when Sakura gets sucked into the Return card, which takes her into the past to see how the two were during Toya’s time in middle school. It’s really interesting to see how the two were then, and the almost cold way she pushed away Toya, but also because of how Sakura is observing everything while being seen herself, at least by Mizuki. It just adds to the way so many things are interconnected here without it being a full on blunt push.
While we do have a couple of episodes of decent character building, the show also knows to pull back a bit and give us just some quiet time with the kids themselves. Hence the last episode here that has Sakura and Tomoyo searching to find who may have gotten a special card from the Twin Tails shop. Believing that a Clow Card inserted itself in there, they have to figure out who is using its ability and track them down before it makes things worse. While they initially think it’s one type of card, it’s actually a pretty deadly attack card with Shot, which has Mei Lin getting involved and nearly killing Shaoran because of her lack of thinking. Seeing Sakura having to deal with a dangerous situation like this is cute, since there’s still a sense of restraint and caution on her part, but she does what’s needed to save him.
With a good mix of episodes here, especially with Toya becoming more involved in things as his past is explored and his understanding of events in the present is made clearer, Cardcaptor Sakura continues to be the kind of series that builds upon its foundations continually, even surprising you with foundations you didn’t know existed. Toya’s gotten some decent time previously in the series but his expansion in these episodes, first with what he can know and understand and second with his connection to Mizuki, makes him one of the more interesting pillars in Sakura’s life. Sakura isn’t left out in all of this storytelling though and she has some good bits, sometimes with Yukito as she manages to spend more time with him and sometimes with others as she works through more card capturing. There’s a good balance to the cast that helps to smooth out the ruffled areas, such as Mei Lin and her interactions, because it always manages to return to what matters while expanding on it. Very fun stuff here.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Art Gallery
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Pioneer
Release Date: January 15th, 2002
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.