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Cardcaptor Sakura Vol. #18 Anime DVD Review

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Cardcaptor Sakura Volume 18
Cardcaptor Sakura Volume 18
The series draws to a close with the biggest challenge yet for Sakura – and for Shaoran!

What They Say:
The World of Darkness… Sakura worries that she can’t replace Clow Reed as the master of the cards so she travels to the past to talk to Clow Reed himself for advice. On her return, Eriol reveals himself and unveils his final test. Sakura’s foretelling dream comes true as the entire city is put to sleep and if she doesn’t win, no one will ever wake up! As Li helps Sakura in this final battle, he finally gathers the courage to confess his feelings- now Sakura has to win and figure out what’s truly in her heart! No pressure…

The Review:
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 blues for the background. For the final volume of the series, we get Sakura in a really cute yellow and white outfit with a flash of deep red that works nicely. But what makes it work is her expression as she looks off to the side where it feels hopeful and forward-looking. 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 with Yue and Kero in their transformed modes 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 and some character profile pages.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After eighteen volumes, Cardcaptor Sakura has finally come to a close, though there are still two movies to be dealt with as well. And it is one of those really rare series that you simply don’t want to see end at that. After having a new volume to look forward roughly every other month for so long, it’s going to feel very strange not having that fix coming anymore. This series has become something of a staple in our lives here, one that my three year old daughter has grown up with in her short life and knows quite well. For that alone, this show will always hold a special place in my heart.

With the final volume, the series finishes out with just three episodes that brings pretty much everything to a welcome and solid conclusion. The final three brings the storyline works it as a serial as opposed to the episodic manner that it has for the majority of the series. With as much that has been going on as of late, right up to the point where tiny snowmen are pelting Sakura into submission, she’s decided that she’s fairly well had enough of this and is determined to get some answers.

With everything that’s been happening lately having that tinge of Clow Reed associated with it, she’s made the surprisingly firm decision to use the Return Card and travel back in time to just before Clow’s departure from this world. Her intent is to find out what his presence is all about and why things are going on as they are. Li is very much against this as is Kero, since he’s not sure there’s anything to learn, never mind that the use of the card is dangerous with someone only at Sakura’s power level. But she still carries through with it and we finally get some hands on time with Clow Reed in his better days.

With what she’s gained from her meeting with Clow, her return to the present isn’t all peace and quiet. Almost the moment she returns, Eriol and his guardians have arrived at the same place and he’s going on about putting Sakura through her final test. With the guardians taking on their opposite on Sakura’s side, Eriol brings complete darkness to the city of Tomoeda by covering both the sun and the moon at the same time. With that done, the entire population falls asleep unless they have some amount of magic in them. Eriol tells her that unless she can stop him from doing what he’s done, everyone will remain asleep forever in this city. And so Sakura’s final test gets underway.

With a series like Cardcaptor Sakura, it’s really not hard to imagine how it will end. You can almost guarantee the type of ending based off of the first episode of the series. These final three episodes do a really good job of bringing the main cast members together and giving them their final nod for screen time and companionship with each other. The only one that really seems like he gets slighted is Sakura’s father. Others have gotten their swan song in recent episodes, so it’s natural that as things wind down they focus more on Sakura and Li as well as what Eriol both is and what he is doing.

In Summary:
Cardcaptor Sakura is a series that I had very positive memories of from my first run with it, which was fraught with problems early on in marketing and release as well as the whole debacle with the dubbed made for TV version. Separating from all of that with the passage of time, the show stands up well even though it’s been far, far too many years since it began. Some of the animation may be a bit dated at times and some of the episodic nature of it can be frustrating as well, but as a whole package it tells a really fun and engaging story that involves real growth and changes along the way. There is just such a warm and loving heart at the core of this series that has seeped into just about all of the other characters that has helped elevate it above to something better. This is a series where I believe that there most definitely is some real magic in it. It may be hard to track down and we’re always hoping for a rescue of it, but it’s one of those shows that’s worth hunting down.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Art Gallery, Character Profiles

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Pioneer
Release Date: November 11th, 2003
MSRP: $19.99
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
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.