Nothing says trouble like ones cakes being too sweet!
What They Say:
The Sweet Taste of Victory! Sakura’s next challenge! To bake a cake… Easy? Not when the Sweet Card decides to lend a hand. And who knew that Cards could get injured? When Sakura’s friend Rei finds an injured Clow Card, everyone has a lesson in the value of hard work and self-reliance to achieve their victories – and just in time!
Sakura soon finds herself challenged by a monster cat and a fire-breathing dragon in a strange battle of gigantic proportions, and Kero and Li must walk a day in each-other’s shoes no thanks to the Change Card!
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 yellows for the background. Sakura dominates as is expected as she has a cute outfit here with blues and golden yellows that are quite appealing as she provides a profile shot with an almost wistful look to 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 several of the girls in their cheerleaders uniforms 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)
While the show has some sub plot material that’s building towards the larger storyline, there are still a lot of episodes that are just for the fun of it with individual Clow Cards that only bolster Sakura’s collection of them. But these continue to be the secondary aspects of the show, often taking place only in the second half with little mention in the first half. The first half is where a lot of the cool stuff goes down with all the friends and family, the ones that help build this show into a really enjoyable ensemble cast.
The opening episode was quite a bit of fun just in the whole baking aspect. With home economics being an important class, and everyone learning how to bake a cake, we get to see those good moments of her learning from her father how to do the decoration and everything else with it. This eventually leads into an amusing competition that Meilin brings about against Sakura to vie for the affections of Shaoran, who frankly just wants to impress Yukito with his baking. But as would happen, a Clow Card is involved, which ends up causing everyone’s cakes to bake far too sweet.
This is something that ends up happening to several classes and people start getting concerned. Shaoron gets a whiff of the Cards though and he and Sakura go to investigate during a time when they’re baking their own cakes again. This leads to a very amusing segment as the Card for this has an incredible cute faerie like form and a giggle to match. Their resolution for capturing it is just good fun.
My other favorite on this disc is the last one, where Li, Kero and Sakura are all chasing the Change card. Li’s almost got it, but the thing proves to be quite the challenge, so Sakura ends up being in the right place to capture it as Shaoran and Kero both grab it to hold it down. This does the card some good though, as just before its captured it causes Kero and Li to change bodies. Yes, it’s an obvious set up. Yes, it’s an almost standard episode for series like this. But it’s also played out perfectly. Having Li talking with the Osaka accent and having Kero being upset at being Li stuck inside a plush toys body, one he can’t even master for flying, is just dead on. They have to go twenty four hours like this and then embrace at the right time for the card to not become a permanant change to them, which gives us a good day of amusement as the two try to just get by. Kero as Li does a great job in showing off all of his video game skills in class and impressing the other kids, but it’s Li as Kero who has the chance to really learn a lot as he ends up back at Sakura’s house to spend the night.
The variety to the Clow Cards continues to be one of the appealing points of the series and just going through some cute and basic premises, like the baking epsiode with the Sweet card, is simply pleasant. While we do get some nods towards the larger events and continuing glances of distrust between Shaoran and their teacher, we mostly keep to the smaller moments. The use of one of the cards, Dash, to bring a more physical form for awhile and to build a connection with one of the girls is a fun standalone episode and alters the perception of the cards and what’s contained within them a bit, but there’s also the simple enjoyment of a body switch episode that puts Shaoran and Keroro into each others bodies, accents and all. It may not mean much, and it my not be used much after this, but it’s the kind of Card and silliness that leaves you with a smile and enjoying the characters all the more. Now, if only we could actually get one of Sakura’s baked cakes…
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: March 12th, 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.