Slow and steady may win the race, but it isn’t always interesting to watch. Cardcaptor Sakura proves that it can be, and with ease.
What They Say:
The Dream Card pulls Sakura into a prophetic dream where she meets another Sakura who tells her “Everything’s going to be just fine.” Of course, that only makes her nervous. However, not quite as nervous as Li gets after he is cast as the princess in Sleeping Beauty! With Sakura cast as the Prince, they resolve to do their best, but they certainly couldn’t have expected the Clow Cards to attack them on stage. Still, their troubles are only beginning. The Light and Dark Cards warn Sakura about the arrival of Yue the Judge, just as Mei Lin is forced to return to Hong Kong!
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 pink and black outfit with some swirl to it that’s only made better by her bright and cheerful expression. 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 Meilin in her “battle gear” in action 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 sim-ple, 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.
Two extras made it onto this release, with the first being the standard issue of production artwork. With a new ending sequence on this disc, we get the textless version of it here, which is definitely a plus considering how gorgeous it looks.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As the series progresses past the overall halfway mark and into the forty-plus range, we’re starting to see more of the larger plot come to life. Or at least some part of it, with the heavy emphasis on Sakura’s dream being the main focus. Each episode teases out a little bit more of it while other things go on, as there’s always a new Card to deal with.
There’s actually a fair amount of things going on throughout these episodes. The dealings with the Dream card alone brings to the forefront a number of things for the characters, as we initially start off by following Sakura, Meilin, Shaoran and Tomoyo all going out shopping and to the movies together. The Dream card manages to latch onto them and starts bringing their dreams to reality, but only so that they can see. While this provides some greater clarity for Sakura and her foretelling, it does provide an extremely humorous moment when Shaoran finds himself and Sakura taking over part of the movie they were seeing.
And in showing that things go in circles, one episode deals with the class putting on a play for the Arts Festival. In an opportunity to give everyone a shot at any role, a ladder is brought out. I can’t imagine how those things work, but you know there was some tweaking by Mizuki as Shaoran and Sakura wind up as the leads in Sleeping Beauty. Of course, much like things seem to go in the Kinomoto family, Sakura lands the role of the prince and Shaoran as the princess. There’s some great moments throughout here as the two practice and Meilin gets jealous. Watching Shaoran perform this role while you have Yukito egging on Toya about his own acting roles was just too perfect and is just the kind of comedy that makes this show so enjoyable to me. This episode also provides two of the best looking and most interesting Cards of the series so far, particularly in their hiding places.
The best episode here though is the final one, which deals with Meilin being called home by her mother. Naturally she doesn’t want to go and wants Shaoran to do something, but his upbringing won’t allow him to do it and you just know deep down he’s ready to see her go back and go be her own person. The one who takes this the worst is Sakura, who understands just how upset Meilin is about it and tries to get her and Shaoran to talk about it. She brings Meilin home with her for a sleepover, since there’s barely a week before she has to go back. This provides the two a chance to really talk, and like all girls, it circles around boys. The look into her past and the time with Shaoran there is very illuminating on why both of them are they way they are and adds quite a bit to the characters.
Even as events really start to move forward more at a slower pace, there’s a lot going on but it doesn’t always feel that way, which can be a problem sometimes. The series works really well in building single episode stories with larger themes across them and nestling in smaller bits along the way to allow the bigger picture to unfold well. Throughout all four episodes, I pretty much just smiled like I do with all of these discs. While the plot with Mizuki and the dream at Tokyo Tower continues to proceed slowly, I’m enjoying how they tease out the bits of it and are getting the others aware of it. I feel like I could watch this series like this forever even though I already know how it’s all going to end.
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: September 10th, 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.