Tension is the name of the game that’s only broken up by a non-annoying Meilin episode.
What They Say:
Meilin is Back! Li decides to confess his feelings to Sakura- but only after he tells Meilin!
Then, Sakura uses the Mirror Card to do her Christmas shopping, but realizes she’s neglected something important… Later, during the New Year celebrations, Yukito begins to fade while Eriol continues to alternate helpful advice with life-threatening trials, such as the huge wave that threatens to drown Sakura’s friend!
With everything in flux, the end must be near?
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 darker pinks for the background. Sakura has a similar outfit to the previous installment in terms of colors, but it works different overall and adds more pinks to it as she looks out from the center with a hard to discern 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 Sakura in her school swimsuit going down a water slide 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)
With the way Cardcaptor Sakura teases out information and changes, it’s not a surprise that even as it starts to wind down in terms fo episode count, it’s still doing largely what it’s done all along. There are enough similar things happening from episode to episode that it really is getting quite repetitive. What manages to make it all work though is the level of creativity in doing this and the cast that continues to be as enjoyable as when we first met them over sixty episodes ago.
Part of the tension in these episodes comes from Shaoran’s attempts at trying to tell Sakura how he feels. Knowing how he feels now, he first sets out to make things clear with Meilin, which brings out favorite little Hong Kong girl back for an episode. Meilin’s return is quite a bit of fun and reminded us of why we do like her as well as why we definitely prefer her as a recurring character as opposed to a regular. There’s just a little something in her that doesn’t fit as smoothly as all the others in the series do. Shaoran’s inability to tell her over the phone that he’s found someone he’s completely in love with brings her to Japan the next day, and the two end up having “that” conversation. Between the way that plays out and how Meilin goes to Tomoyo for comfort, this is a fantastic episode and goes a long way towards reminding adults that kids of this age have some strong feelings as well that need to be recognized.
The other part of the tension in the show comes from the continual attacks and manipulations of Eriol on Sakura and Shaoran. He pretty much gets his fingers into the pie here for each of the four episodes, be it animating small concrete penguins into attacking the group or causing a massive tidal wave inside an indoor pool. His continual pushes at the duo, forcing Sakura to convert her cards or his attempts at being competitive with Shaoran while instilling some wisdom, he’s always got something up his sleeves. But there continues to be some slips in his façade, particularly during the end of the tidal wave episode.
The most heartbreaking area though continues to be the scenes between Yukito and Toya, as Toya continues to watch his friend get worse and worse with his lack of energy. This has caused Yukito to fall asleep in the worst places possible, but it’s getting even worse now and there are times where Toya can see Yukito’s hands starting to fade. He knows what’s going on, but every time he tries to say something, Arizuka is right on the scene and interrupting, making sure that her job for Eriol is going off as planned. The disappearing act though is another signal that the final arc must be told soon, or we’ll start losing cast members, well, members!
One of the best moments on this volume that was with Toya. When Sakura and Shaoran head off to deal with the current issue created by Eriol, she brings out the Mirror card to help her cover and take her place since she has to go Christmas shopping with Toya. When he arrives, he quickly realizes once again that it’s the Mirror girl and goes into a concerned mode, both for Sakura and for her double. Toya’s senses work quite well, but his heart is what really prevails here as he takes the Mirror Sakura out shopping and even buys her a present. His understanding of the situation, and of Mirror Sakura’s concerns and fears, is truly heartwarming. The scenes with the two of them are so tender and touching that it continues to bring a smile to my face.
While part of me does grate a little bit in that there’s not a lot of change going on here but rather small and incremental moments that build to something, there’s simply so much to enjoy with these episodes. The interactions between the characters are spot on as they’re all basically watching Sakura grow and change before their eyes and doing it in a way that’s natural rather than full of pivotal moments that radically alter her life, personality or what she believes in. And it’s still largely age appropriate in a way as she copes with the situation as best as she can by pushing out of her mind the things she can’t deal with yet. It may be a little beyond her years, but it also strikes me as a bit of a coping mechanism.
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: July 8th, 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.