The toying with the audience continues, but it draws us in oh so easily.
What They Say:
What if…? Would there be an earth-shaking battle if Spinel met Keroberous? If Sakura and Li were trapped alone together in an elevator, could Li confess his feelings to Sakura? How could Keroberous and Yue stay hidden if couldn’t take on their mundane disguise? And what if Tomoyo disappeared? Could Sakura persevere without her best friend? Many trials lie in store for our heroine and her friends – good luck, Sakura!
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 has a really good outfit here with some blues and yellows along with black sleeves that ties it all together well as she takes up a good bit of space with a whole lot of style. 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 broken 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 oblivious to the rivalry that’s shown well here between Shaoran and Eriol 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 extras included in this volume is a brief twelve page line art gallery.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When you know you’re getting closer to the end of a series, you start looking for more meaning in things and hope for some bigger scenes to start happening. With this series, things are moving a bit faster in terms of revelations about what’s going on. Well, nothing like specific revelations, but more of the usual kind for this series where things are revealed in very tiny nuggets, but in a way that you realize we already knew what’s being said. Essentially, Clow as Eriol is still keeping everyone in the dark and messing with them, or testing them if you prefer.
That’s not to say the episodes aren’t enjoyable, it’s just the specific moments where the teasing out of information gets tiresome. A very enjoyable episode starts the disc off where Sakura’s class is having a sweets festival at school. Once the word sweets comes up, you know Kero is going to be involved. Since she knows better, she makes a huge basket of sweets juts for him and sets it in the far off corner of the school grounds where he can just devour it. He knows enough to enjoy that and stay away from the festival itself. What proves his undoing though is when Spinel, in his Kero-like form, ends up bumping right into Kero.
Amusingly, Kero doesn’t recognize Spinel (or so we’re lead to believe?) and ends up believing that he’s just some kind of local monster that speaks Japanese. It’s a great little encounter as Kero treats him like a nice little puppy almost and the ends up forcing a ton of sweets into Spinel’s mouth. This was bound to happen, since we learned earlier in the episode that “something bad” happens when Spinel eats sweets. So things are set up simply and it turns into a fun little episode with Kero really being central, though Sakura and friends get a number of “sweet” moments themselves.
The remaining episodes turn to focus more on the plot of Eriol testing Sakura and Li in various ways, as well as forcing Li’s emotions to be more open. Between Tomoyo tweaking Li over his feelings for Sakura and the things Eriol plots, Li’s definitely getting more confident in what he’s really feeling for her. And it’s just so spot on when he continues to massively blush when he ends up in certain situations. One of the best moments on the disc though takes place after the group spends a good part of the day at a stuff bear event at a department store. When the day is done and they head home, Eriol tweaks things so that Li and Sakura get stuck in the elevator together. Though he does force events again later on in the elevator, a lot of this plays out very well as the two of them deal with things.
And Sakura is one of the most oblivious people out there. I’d complain about it, but I know too many people like that in real life.
Eriol’s later manipulations in the other episodes proves to be amusing as well, such as when he casts a spell on Yue and “giant” Kero so that they can’t transform back to their other identities, which leads to them living with Sakura briefly in their other forms. Tie that in with a cleaning day at the Kinomoto household and you basically have a bull in a china shop with Kero. It works nicely overall though since we get some bits of background on Clow and the relationship between Yue and Kero with Clow, something that ends up surprising Yue.
If there was something I didn’t care for with all of these episodes, its that there were a few more silly moments throughout that just didn’t feel right. Such as Kero in large form, having his eyes bug out like a WB cartoon. Too many elements like that creeped into these episodes. There was a segment where we pan across the classroom and you have Tomoyo going with her “oh ho ho ho” laugh, but they also did it as a word balloon and put a text version of it in there. These elements just felt too out of place and too, well, strong at the time they were done.
Cardcaptor Sakura has a difficult task as it gets towards the end here as it has to work a couple of different things going on while drawing it out enough. The two main plots are quite different but nicely connected as we see how Shaoran is starting to really accept that he has feelings for Sakura and coming to terms with that while Eriol is doing his testing of Sakura to get her to where she needs to be. It was clear early on that he’s not really a threat, no matter what the others working with him are like, so there’s definitely that bit of caring going on with the tweaks and nudges he does. With the episodes here, it’s all progressing well and you can see the pieces coming together, though some of them are a little less enjoyable than others, especially when it comes into silly comedy that feels out of place.
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 13th, 2003
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.