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Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card Part 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read
Sakura’s growing up and we couldn’t be prouder.

Sakura’s growing up and we couldn’t be prouder.

What They Say:
The power of the Clow is back! As Sakura settles into a normal routine, she prepares to face her newest challenge – junior high! While her classes are challenging, things start looking up when Syaoran reappears and says he’ll be staying for good. But when she has a strange dream about a mysterious figure and wakes to find her Clow Cards completely clear, she must return to her duty as Cardcaptor.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English dub gets a 5.1 boost, both of which are encoded with the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series works a pretty familiar pattern that we saw with the prior series where it handles a lot of basic slice of life stuff well but still essentially sticks to being just that. The dialogue has some nice placement, the incidental sounds and music fill in the rest, and it all comes together pretty well for a solid experience. The action sequences with the magic and cards expands a bit with a fuller and more engaging design, but it really only hits that more fully with the 5.1 mix as it gets to stretch a bit more. It’s solid on both tracks and comes across well with the way it uses the space overall to really make it feel fully realized. Both tracks are clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2018, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The eleven episodes are spread across two discs in an seven/four format while also having an OVA on the first disc. Animated by Madhouse, the series is one that retains the look of the original very well while giving it the glossier sheen of modern animation design and fluidity that you’d expect Madhouse to bring to this project. It’s a beautiful looking show to begin with as it’s just brightly colored in its design and rich with detail before even talking about the costume design. That all gives it a really strong look that you want from this to make it feel fully realized while still being something of a slice of life fairy tail. The encoding captures the color depth well with all of its variety and it handles the fine detail very well with crisp lines and lots of smoothness where needed. The visual design of the show is a big part of its appeal and the encoding here captures it wonderfully, making for a good experience.

The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the Blu-ray discs as no DVDs were produced for this. The set also does not come with an o-card slipcover, which is frustrating since you can imagine it being a really appealing glossy piece. The front cover uses the familiar key visual of Sakura with the cards floating around her of the main cast that looks great with the blue sky and clouds mixed into the background to give it a bit more life. It’s a busy cover but in the right way with the flow of it even if it feels like Sakura should be a bit bigger with her presence on it. The back cover goes for white with some light blue-green framing where we get more cute Sakura artwork and some shots from the show. The summary of the premise captures things well and we get a clean listing of what extras are included with it. The technical breaks down the set accurately and without problems with a cleaner look at how the extras are handled as well. No show related inserts are included but we do get a pretty nice visual on the other side with a small Kero piece and an adorable full panel piece of Sakura in the outfit from the main cover.

The menu design for this release is a bit pared down for my tastes while still working well as we get a static image approach using the same piece for both discs. I do think a really nice clip piece would work better with transformations and magic, but I also like the angelic look of Sakura we get here in all white with some cool blues mixed in – and that crowd. Setting it against the white backdrop works well but it’s the logo with its pinks and greens against the white that’s the most striking and works far, far, better than I thought it would. The navigation is straightforward as we get some of the instrumental music playing along as it has a standard submenu setup for episodes, language selection, and extras for each disc. It loads quickly and easily with no problems navigating it both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu.

The extras for this release are pretty solid all around and touches on a couple of different areas. The big one for many is the inclusion of the OAD that served as the prologue and got the whole thing moving, which is a fun way of bringing past and present together for this and giving fans a taste of what would come before the TV series itself aired. For dub fans, we get a commentary track for the ninth episode while additional extras include the standard but very welcome opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The original Cardcaptor Sakura manga ran for twelve volumes back from 1996 to 2000 and it generated a beautiful 70 episode anime series from 1998 to 2000 along with a couple of movies. It’s had small revivals over the years here with releases but it was also the series that almost was, a property that’s well-loved but never became as huge as many felt it should be. The CLAMP series did get extended life as Tsubasa in a creative way that I loved, but CLAMP came back to the property true in 2016 with the Clear Card series, which has five volumes out now and spawned this two-cour 2018 series that ran for twenty-two episodes – the first half of which is in this set plus the prologue OVA. For those like myself that loved the original and hooked our kids on it, this feels far more seamless than I expected.

What this series does is provide for what many fans had wanted that few sequels or continuations ever seem to do – it moves forward. The kids have now graduated and moved on to middle school and there’s some growing up happening as life gets a bit more serious. Sakura is growing a bit more and feels taller while Syaoran has much the same feeling upon his return to Tomoeda after spending time in Hong Kong. It’s a light reunion overall and one not dragged out, which was very welcome since you want to keep progressing here. What becomes most interesting over the course of the series is seeing some of these small grown-up moments when they connect, such as Syaoran and Sakura out on a date when Touya turns out to be working there. Touya stares him down as he always did but Syaoran has grown and doesn’t wilt and holds his own, which is unsettling for Touya but there’s also that sliver of respect there.

The magical premise for this season is an interesting one as we get Sakura, having gone along without any issues for some time now, having a dream that sets it all in motion. Being accosted by clear cards in her dreams has her waking up to find the Clow Cards she has are now clear cards as well and that they’re difficult ones to deal with. There’s echoes of the past here with her having to deal with a wind card named Gale right from the outside, but that kind of echo feels natural and right in a series like this even if it does bake in some predictability. Much of this first season is focused on Sakura going through these motions where she has to deal with clear cards that are causing problems and with the new key that she has, she has to deal with them. Along with new outfits that Tomoyo is naturally putting together. There are some fun challenges here – and I did enjoy that the aquarium revisit was more of a date than a school trip thing for Sakura and Syaoron – as it’s the kind of show that can manage and tweak revisiting things that it did before in a good way.
The series does play with familiar characters well, such as Chisato being closer to Sakura this time around in school while a certain someone has transferred elsewhere after some of what was going on with a teacher. Meilin is thankfully largely kept out of the country for most of this but they have some fun tweaking her into things well enough since it kind of plays modern day. Yukito’s role is nice as well as they balance the two halves of who he is well. The main new character is a mystery person that Sakura sees in her dreams that’s fully cloaked. We also get a new student at school that Sakura gravitates toward with Akiho, a young woman who has spent a lot of time living overseas before coming to Japan. She has that kind of foreign elegance to her that they like to play up and she connects well with Sakura and the others. You can see where things are going with her well enough, while also expecting a few twists along the way, but it’s engaging to watch someone new come into the group that’s not the kind of brash bull in a China shop that Meilin is.

In Summary:
I have a real love for the original series but I also know exactly what kind of series it is with its structure and how it wants to work the storyline. It’s little surprise that Clear Card is basically the same thing with some changes and I’m delighted by it. The draw is the characters, the costumes, and that unquantifiable magic that you feel while watching it. This series captures it wonderfully well, maybe even a little too well, but it gives it a seamless feeling in moving from the original series to this one and that’s a huge plus in my mind. I loved reconnecting with these characters for new stories and interactions with them a bit older and more experienced and I’m eager to see what’s still in store for them. Funimation’s release is solid with a very fun dub, a great looking encode, and a simple and serviceable package that I can’t complain about much considering how the first series was released almost twenty years ago.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Prologue – Sakura and the Two Bears, Textless Opening, Closing Songs

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

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: February 5th, 2019
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

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.

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