Setting the stage for the first theatrical movie, Cardcaptor Sakura brings its first season to a close with a few more hints of what’s to come – and more fun with the cast.
What They Say:
Fire & Ice! Learning how to ice-skate can be a lot of fun. However, the lesson turns into a crash course when the Freeze Card appears. Later, Sakura and Yukito team up in a city-wide search for clues to a hidden prize that ends up in a death-defying drop!
Then the Firey Card attacks and Sakura must learn a new technique with her Clow Cards in order to pull her friends out of the fire!
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 pinks for the background. Sakura takes the center stage once again and she returns to one of her more familiar outfits with her school uniform with the skating gear on as well as holding her staff. It’s bright, colorful and filled with a great smile that’s very inviting. 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 very cute pairing of Sakura and Yukito together with big smiles 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)
Bringing the first season to a close, much like the ninth volume did in the original Japanese release, which had four episodes though, things go out with some hints of what’s to come and the feeling of the innocence coming to an end is very subtle. The series had been doing quite well in Japan at the time and is just around the halfway mark of its run and it was also getting to time things with the first theatrical movie arriving. While the DVD releases haven’t been strong looking due to the cross coloration, it’s hard not to imagine the thrill of seeing this cast and the strong designs and overall quality of a theatrical presentation for characters that you love and enjoy so much.
Throughout the three episodes that we get here, we get extended segments of one of Sakura’s dreams, where we see her in an outfit from Tomoyo, staring at the Tokyo Tower. On the tower is someone obscured in shadows, but obviously menacing in some way. With each dream we see more and more of the person, usually followed later on with a segment showing Kero-chan looking up into the sky with a pensive look. There’s something afoot to be sure.
But there’s plenty of regular things going on while the big evil lurks. A rather good episode ends up with the entire class going to learn how to ice skate at an indoor rink. One of the nastier cards, Freeze, has taken over the rink and after sensing the abilities of Sakura and Shaoran, it freezes everyone and tries to take them down. This is visually a good episode since it takes place in a very bright area and the ice animation looks good and is pretty creative as well. The relationship between Sakura and Yukito heats up here as well, when he agrees to be her partner in a special retailer event that involves finding clues and solving puzzles. The two play off of each other nicely. There’s some fun when Meilin and Shaoran participate as well, with Meilin being the butt of many jokes, especially when she runs up against Sakura’s brother. But the moments with Shaoran and Yukito are priceless.
The last episode, the obligatory Christmas episode, is probably the best in general though. With Christmas also doubling as Yukito’s birthday, Sakura spends some time with him and the two end up going out and having a good time together, though of course they come across the Li’s again, who continue to act like an old married couple. There’s a lot of good character moments throughout this episode, and with a major card causing trouble, there’s some good action sequences as well.
Cardcaptor Sakura has introduced a lot of stuff over the first thirty five episodes with a whole lot of Cards, a lot of characters and plenty of interactions between all of them. I continue to enjoy the way that it manages to build up a good supporting cast that doesn’t comes across as forced or anything. But it also knows how to reconnect with the core characters on a regular basis while building the friendships and bonds there, especially with the very cute way that Shaoran continues to blush when it comes to Yukito. The three epsiodes here once again have a few signs and portents to it, and it does build up some decent material with what they do, including a fun Christmas episode, but it’s still not hitting its full stride just yet. But it is giving us some good fun and enjoyable moments.
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: May 14th, 2002
Running Time: 75 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.