A lot of material is covered and some big reveals are made just in time to segue into the third season and a new storyline – and new characters.
What They Say:
Mysteries Revealed! Kero confronts Sakura’s teacher, Kaho Mizuki, to discover that the final judgement is upon them and the fate of the world is in balance!
Then the earth splits open introducing the final card, the Earth Card. If Sakura can capture it, she will have captured all of the Clow Cards and Kero will regain his true form. However, will Sakura be ready for the final judgement? Will Sakura be ready to face the judge, Yue, when he appears? How will she be able to fight someone she loves?
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 dominates as is expected as she has a outfit that in some ways almost feels like a jesters outfit with some of the design elements, which is why she almost – almost – looks a little sad here. 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 and Shaoran with Kero in his normal and fierce mode 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 included in this volume is a brief eight page line art gallery
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the series having a larger first season/arc to it, the conclusion here to the second season feels a little underwhelming in some way considering what it actually reveals. So many things that were glimpsed at around the edges are made clear and a final fight with real meaning takes place that allows Sakura to really stand firm, but it’s done with a quiet to it that’s almost disconcerting. In fact, it’s almost predictable in some ways, if you were paying enough attention. Me? I’ve just been enjoying the show and trying to avoid looking for deeper meanings along the way.
Things feel like they’re coming to a close in general here, and this becomes readily apparent when during one evening while walking back together, Sakura, Li, Tomoyo and Ms. Mizuki end up facing the final Clow Card. The battle with the Earthy card puts several of them in danger, but it’s mostly Sakura dealing with the problem and trying to rectify what she started way back in the first episode. There’s a lot of underlying stuff going on here as well, as it’s amusing to note Ms. Mizuki is the calmest of the group.
Of course, she also got something of a talking to by Kero in the previous episode. She had been participating in an archery competition for adults, where Yukito was representing his school as something of an honor. It looked like it was coming down to the two of them being the main skilled archers, which lead to some very nicely done scenes between them. But it was the time later when Kero senses something and heads off to sit down in front of her and just start talking about what’s going on.
Kero knows it’s about to hit the fan.
And that’s indeed what comes up. With the last card captured, Sakura feels relieved that the catastrophe that was mentioned is no longer going to happen. But that’s not the actual deal, it turns out. Once all the cards are captured, Yue the Judge will arrive and see if the owner of the cards is worthy of them. With the cards divided up between Li and Sakura, Yue’s human form takes each of them on individually. It’s really surprising how the first battle goes, so much so that it’s almost not even shown for the most part. Sakura’s battle against Yue is much more revealing, both in how she does it with her cards as well as the consequences of the failure. And while I hate the “out” that Ms. Mizuki gave her, it’s something I do expect from a show where the age level of the target audience is close to Sakura and younger.
With all this said and done, the inclusion of the first episode of the third season is very welcome here. While the Japanese release had only three episodes on this volume, Pioneer’s included the next and I found that having the moving on of the plot and life of the characters to serve as a good epilogue to what’s past and a prologue of what’s to come. We’re mostly introduced to a new transfer student in Sakura’s class, one who has an eye for Sakura already and is causing Li to become very concerned. Even Toya gets some trouble, as there’s a new girl in his class who’s apparently decided he’s the one for her, though he barely gets a word in edgewise.
We’re well past the halfway mark of the series now and firmly entering the third season with the one episode we do get of it here. With the overall plot from the first two seasons down, I’m enjoying it just as much as I was the first four episodes, which isn’t always the case with longer running shows since a lot never really feel like they have a larger plan in mind. There’s very few series that can pull that off after forty-seven episodes, so I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how season three shapes up. It’s off to a solid start with what we do get here as you can see the tendrils snaking in already and how other aspects will soften as the new arc opens up more.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Art Gallery
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Pioneer
Release Date: November 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.