Adorned with a glorious outfit lovingly crafted by her best friend the Cardcaptor takes her stance in wake of the challenge that lies before her. Illuminated by the pearlescent glow of the moon the card spins frantically before eventually grinding to a halt. Silent. Still. Untouched. Suddenly bursting outwards in a sea of flames consuming the once night sky and claiming it as its own the card reveals its true form and surrounds the young girl in a prison of flames. Unaffected at the fiery blaze before her the Cardcaptor stands her ground readying her staff to tame the beast which threatens her. Its time to add another card to the roster Magical girls Im pretty sure it goes without saying but the magical girl genre is a staple of the medium and certainly has been ever since its inception in the 1960s with Sally the Witch being widely considered to be the first magical girl anime albeit the manga for Akkochans secret predates Sally by a good five years Over the next thirty or so years the magical girl genre would slowly mould and take shape into what we see today in many of the more childrenoriented magical shows with the Sailor Moon franchise often being considered as the show to establish the standard formula that many later shows of its genre would follow during the 90s before seeing an influx of magical girl deconstructions in the early 2000s with Princess Tutu being the most notorious example of such. When looking at the magical girl shows of today and excluding entries of the ever running Precure series and other similar anime marketed towards children many try to adopt and replicate the success and popularity of Meduka Meguca also known as Madoka Magica the former name of which is a far superior title screw you fight me a show that placed their cute and adorable young girls and threw nothing but death and misery in their faces Even if youre not particularly that wellversed in the genre as am I youre probably familiar with the general conventions and the iconography surrounding said genre as its been parodied time and time again in many shows and whenever an anime series creates a fictional anime within its world and gets all meta manyatime do they opt for a magical girl show such as in the case of Puru Puru Pururin from Welcome to the NHK or Stardust Witch Meruru from Oreimo. However for such an influential genre what would be a good gateway show in getting more seriously invested in the various magical girl shows out there? I believe that answer lies in Cardcaptor Sakura which would not only make for a good starting point into the Mahou Shoujo genre but is also in of itself a delightful show one that I have fallen in love with so much so that it has broken into my top ten favourite anime Through its wonderfully charming cast of characters and shining creativity Sakura is a series I wholeheartedly love and after allowing the series to sit with me for a while before starting up this review I can honestly say that Sakura is perhaps one of the best experiences Ive had with not only an anime but with any piece of media But with that all said and done lets dive into the numerous reasons why I adore this show Sakura Kinomoto our protagonist for this tale is an average happygolucky fourth grader who when coming upon a mysterious book in her home accidently breaks the seal of said book causing the contents that being 52 cards referred to as Clow Cards to inexplicably scatter all over Japan. But the cards are not the only thing to be released mind you Awakening from his slumber Keroberos an adorable little lion with wings who just so happens to be the guardian of the cards informs Sakura that she must collect all 52 cards or a catastrophe will occur as each card contains powerful magic. Realising what she has done Sakura takes it upon herself to gather the cards becoming Cardcaptor Sakura and along with her best friend Tomoyo a girl more concerned with filming Sakura in cute outfits and capturing every one of her moments on film than anything else in life begin their journey of finding each and every card Cardcaptor Sakuras narrative is one that is not all too complicated and things progress in ways you can probably expect with the first half of the series seeing Sakura collecting each and every card while the second half of the series sees her transforming each one into Sakura Cards thus claiming them as her own while intermixing a heavier focus on romance. What sells Sakuras narrative is in its simplicity and charisma all the while emitting a wonderful childlike innocence about itself. Sakura is the type of show I can well imagine me enjoying as a child and like Little Witch Academia last year is also a show that is able to evoke these feelings of childlike nostalgia and wonder in me. Its a raw personal kind of feeling I get and is one that I find hard to properly articulate into words. Theres something wonderfully uplifting about Sakuras narrative that with each episode that passed I couldnt help but inadvertently smile. Its that complete sense of optimism and incorruptibility about the show that made Sakura such an enjoyable and relaxing time for me presenting a world filled wonder and excitement in the same way a child growing up looks at the world which for as someone who has become cynical of things in my early years of adulthood helped me remember those feelings I once had about life especially as Sakura is filled with boat loads of heart. Perhaps Im being overly dramatic and melancholic here but thats how I honestly feel and Sakura makes me feel this way in ways I cant quite describe or understand which is why I feel such admiration about the show. Anyway enough with that sentimental crap for I am the manliest man youll ever meet and I dont need no cute and innocent show to make me feel better about my life hmpth Cardcaptor Sakura for the most part is largely episodic following a basic formula of introducing a card Sakura encountering said card figuring out a way to capture it and then using the newly captured card in a later episode to catch another one. However saying that I dont mean to insinuate that just because Sakura follows an episodic Cardoftheweek formula that is it by any means repetitive nor is this a negative. To go on a brief tangent Ive never agreed with the sentiment that just because a show employs an episodic narrative structure that it is inherently bad or of any less value than that of a show that has a continuous ongoing story between episodes. While yes an episodic narrative structure can mean that the anime can easily get trapped into a formula and become stale I dont believe that all shows that utilise this form of storytelling fall into the same trap or should be thought of as having less value because they chose to opt for that kind of narrative. Lets take Cowboy Bebop for example. While beloved within the anime community still and often revered as a cult classic one piece of criticism I see quite often hurled its way from those who are not as fond of the show as others is that Bebops episodic narrative structure holds it back and prevents the show from developing its story or cast and to that I completely disagree. All of the episodes in Bebop centre around establishing and building the world presented to us adding layers of complexity and characterisation to the cast and a lot of episodes spend large amounts of time developing each character going through their mental hangups and exploring their past with enough energy and charisma per episode to keep things interesting. Cardcaptor Sakura works in the same way. Like Bebop Sakura uses each episode to slowly build up its cast of characters. Were always learning something new about them and the characters themselves are learning more and more about each other as the show goes on in turn allowing each member of the cast to form relationships between one another in impactful and wellconstructed ways. Every episode builds upon the last adding new layers of characterisation each time and the sheer amount of creativity each card brings allows for that much freedom for the writers to experiment and play around with resulting in a lot of variety and originality each and every episode. It really feels like the people behind this show were having an absolute blast with the production and it truly does show as each episode is oozing with so much love and personality. This is what makes Sakura such an addicting and memorable watch. One episode Sakura will shrink down to the size of a peanut in pursuit of a card as she manoeuvres around her home running from all of the inherent dangers of being that small another shell grow as big as a building and fight off with an immense dragon reminiscent of a giant monster movie Its this constant stream of creativity intermixed with great character interactions and chemistry that really brought the series to life for me and it only grows in personality as the series moves along. And thats not to say that Sakura is void of any emotionally affective drama either. Cardcaptor Sakura can be surprisingly emotive at times and it handles its melodrama with care and maturity and even sometimes in rather beautiful and profound ways. Take for example episode 16 Sakura and the Rainbow of Memories. In this episode Sakura and her family spend a small vacation in a cottage located in the countryside of Japan whereupon after adventuring out is invited to tea by an old man in the area whom she frequents everyday with for the reminder of her stay. The two naturally grow closer and Sakura finds out that this old man has lost his granddaughter after he offers Sakura her clothing to wear. After a teary goodbye Sakura uses her magic to create a rainbow for the man as a thank you to him and to recreate the painting the mans grandchild had made for him whilst she was still alive. The episode ends informing us that indeed this old man was in fact Sakuras greatgrandfather ending the episode with some wonderful cathartic payoff and making the first seemingly unimportant episode in the grand scheme of the narrative have more emotional weight and meaning. And thats just one of the many examples of this Sakura is even faced with several moralistic dilemmas regarding the capturing of the cards. The most prolific example of such is in her pursuit of The Dash an extremely fast card that transforms itself into a small rabbitlike creature. Dash ends up befriending a girl from Sakuras class and the two bond together with Dash helping said girl exceed in her track running which brightens up her life. Sakura is left with a dilemma however: should she capture Dash as she has been quested to do but risk the girl losing the race at the national competition as well as losing her newly gained friend? Or should she just leave Dash as is allowing her to win the race but not from a result of her own abilities but that of the card? This is just one of many examples in the show and many of the cards are intrinsically linked with several characters in the show who relate their own problems and mental hangups giving each episode a greater sense of emotional payoff. And its not like Sakura is just a series of episodic events either. There are several overarching stories happening simultaneously that slowly buildup in the background that result in their own payoffs as is evident in the climax to the first half of the series which actually had a great plottwist that I am sure will be a nice surprise just dont watch the third opening like I did before then otherwise youll ruin it like what happened to me because I am dumb Learn from papa LIQs mistakes However as expected of a show with seventy episodes not every one is as strong as each other and there are some episodes here and there that I didnt quite care for as was the case with episode 55 Sakura in Wonderland a parody of Alice in Wonderland where Sakura gets dragged into the book. While I did get a few smiles here and there seeing the cast portrayed as the characters from the original novel I mainly zoned out for much of the duration as Ive seen this kind of thing done a million times before in countless other shows. However the episodes in which I found to be lacking were definitely the minority and for a show to have perhaps three or four episodes that I didnt feel were bad just meh is quite an achievement. Dependent on your levels of tolerance you may find yourself somewhat irritated at Sakuras level of denseness in regards to the premonitions she has nearing the climax of the first half and how long it takes her to put two and two together regarding the identity of the person from her dream even when it is pretty obvious from the getgo. However I can generally excuse it on accounts that she is still a child and because of her good girl personality. Finally one may have an issue regarding the level of suspension of disbelief you have to endure during your watch as Sakura flies throughout the city with nobody seeing her at all which would be pretty difficult and in the episode in which she grows to the size of a building to fight a dragon not a single person sees her at all despite the noise and damage to the area. While these are indeed critism somebody could make against the show I would ultimately argue that they are pretty pedantic and do not take anything away from the show even when you factor them in. If I were pinned down to the floor by a group of thugs in the middle of the night in a dark alleyway and under extremely specific circumstances was told to describe Cardcaptor Sakura in a single word otherwise risk getting shot in the face I would say charming. Charming. I believe that best sums up Sakura in a single word and is certainly the best way for me to describe the characters presented within it. When I am consuming any piece of fiction the most important element to me are indeed the characters as they hold the key if you will into whether I am invested in the piece that I am watching. Characters are what I personally value most in any given circumstance and while I am a guy who likes a good o story to go along with my characters I can generally be more forgiving of a show if the characters have wonderful chemistry. And indeed the characters of Cardcaptor Sakura have wonderful chemistry. This is what I believe Sakura excels at the most and that is crafting emotionally rich and charismatic characters the audience can grow easily attached to and some of my favourite moments in the show and truly the most delightful are when the characters are just goofing around together. My jaw has physically hurt after some episodes due to the sheer number of times the characters and their interactions have made me smile especially Keroberos nicknamed Kerochan. My love for this tiny guy truly knows no bounds and is easily not only my favourite character in the entire show but also one of my favourites in the medium. Hes massive ego insane love of food and strange accent all perfectly worked together to create a character whom made me grin every single time he was on screen but Kero isnt just a mascot character however. Aside from dishing out exposition about the cards and the such theres genuine level of love for Sakura his new master and their relationship actually builds and develops as the series goes on culminating in a beautiful friendship. The relationship that builds between both characters is one that is completely believable and feels sincere as if the two had known each other their entire lives. Kero isnt simply a selfish asshole who sees Sakura as an inconvenience but someone who openly cares for her as a person and her wellbeing. The two even get into arguments as well such as in the case of episode 15 Sakura and Keros big fight where the two argue about petty things for the entire episode but learn to look past them and to appreciate each other for who they truly are adding emotional weight as well as a real sense of maturity to their relationship. While Sakura herself is your typical cheery and optimistic girl you would probably expect from a series such as this she does go through a substantial amount of development both in terms of her actual magical power and in her coming of age and growing to realise whom she truly loves in the latter half of the series eventually concluding that aspect of her character arc in the second movie. However thats not to say that Sakura is solely just a cheery innocent girl with no other characteristics or emotions. Sakura frequently has moments of depression and selfdoubt whereupon she reflects on herself as both a person and as a magical girl adding more complexity and introspection into her character all the while receiving mass amounts of characterisation moulding her into more of an honest human being rather than an expressionless plank of wood with her interactions between her and her brother being the best example of such. Sakura is a strong protagonist for this kind of show so much so that every time she succeeded in whatever task that came her way did I feel a sincere sense of accomplishment as well resulting in my once cynical and cold heart being warmed once again. What sells Sakura is in her simplicity and how this simplicity is delivered with boats loads of heart. Perhaps the thing I was most impressed by with Sakuras cast is how subtlety characters grew together. Perhaps this is a pedantic thing to praise Sakura for but the sheer amount of anime Ive watched that simply have characters deliver internal monologues about the status of their relationships with other characters or what theyre feeling about said relationships is astounding and Sakura does away with such a feature making the relations that do grow and develop feel all the more grounded in a sense of believability. Much like how I became to grow fonder of the characters as the series developed the cast themselves warmed up to each other as well. Take Sharon for example a kid from Hong Kong who locates to Japan in search of the Clow Cards becoming a rival to Sakura in the process. While starting out cold and distant adamant about working together with Sakura and generally putting up a barrier between himself and the people around him through his apprehensive attitude Shaoran eventually begins to warm up to the rest of the cast. He starts to admire Sakura and her abilities and grows to fully understand her as a person and opens up the rest of his classmates in the process to the point that he begins to care for Sakura as a person and her wellbeing all the while doing so in a subtle way. With each passing episode Shaorans demeanour slowly changes and characteristics established in the earlier parts of the series begin to fade away and be replaced all the while never having to resort to exposition or internal monologues to convey his change in attitude regarding Sakura and everyone else treating the viewer with respect. The same thing can also be said of Sharons cousin Meiling who like Sharon begins her relationship with Sakura and the rest of the cast rather apprehensively before eventually seeing Meiling grow to care for Sakura resulting in a heartfelt letter in which Meiling writes to my dear friend a clear juxtaposition from the start of the series. While there are many other characters in the show speaking about each one individually would be rather redundant and would take away from their magic pun intended in the show. However there are some personality quirks and reoccurring gags that you may find to be somewhat lacking. While it is somewhat entertaining and especially cute when Sakura and Shaoran keep falling for them Yamazakis lies and the gag surrounding that can become somewhat tiering and unfunny for me the more it goes along and the same thing can be said regarding Tomoyos obsessive recording of Sakura albeit nowhere near as bad as the former piece of comedy I just mentioned. I can easily see Meilings character being rather annoying and hard to put up with for some people especially with how clingy and whiney she can be at times around Shaoran even if I didnt personally find her that grating personally. While I did have maybe one or two slight problems here and there with elements of some character quirks thats all they are when you break it down: slight and dont really do much to take away from the overall experience and are small things that can be overlooked. Cardcaptors animation as well has aged pretty well for being twentyyearsold and there are genuinely some great animation cuts here with one of my favourites being a moment in which Meling is punching a bunch of penguin statues I swear it looks a lot better than how I am describing it here. The animation and art are damn amiable at times too with a lot of cartoony pull and stretch as well as a multitude of various reaction shots adding to the charm of already charming characters and locals although the art can get somewhat CLAMPY at times with Toya and Yukito in some shots appearing as massive NBA players with the thickness of a pencil Every time Sakura used the cards it was an absolute treat for the eyes with swooping special effect work and animation combined with rather attractive and unique designs for the physical forms of each card with Firey and Watey perhaps being my favourite out of the bunch. Likewise the soundtrack is handled with just as much care and love as every other element with every piece being more or less burned into my mind with the music used to accompany Sakura using a card being my favourite of the series. Its magical yet exciting arrangements always managed to make me fervent whenever she would bust out a card. Similarly the openings and the endings are also a treat with each one being incredibly memorable and wonderful pieces of music in their own right with the first ending one featuring Kero running endlessly across a hill being one I could watch on repeat forever. Moreover Cardcaptor Sakura also has two movies both of which I believe are worth checking out. The first of which taking place at roughly episode 35 of the TV series sees Sakura win a trip to Hong Kong before running into both Meiling and Shaoron. The film is essentially like watching an extended version of a regular TV episode and contains just the same amount of charm and likeability about itself so much so that I was smiling the entire time whilst watching it. While this film can be skipped as it doesnt add anything to the overall canon Id ultimately recommend it not because its a good time in of itself but just because we get to see Shaorans family and can fully understand why he is so adamant about collecting all of the cards and impressing his strict mother. The second film however is definitely the one you should prioritise and watch as it is a direct continuation of the TV series picking up exactly were the last one left off. To put it bluntly I adore this film Its a perfect summarisation of everything I loved about the show compacted into ninety minutes and my jaw actually hurt by the time I had finished watching the film as I was doing nothing but smiling during the entire runtime. It wraps up nicely a certain releationship and character arc that I dont want to specify as I wish to avoid spoilers as much as possible for those who have not watched the show yet ending the concurrent story on an incredibly satisfying note There exists some other supplementary Sakura material out there that can be ignored if you so wish but if you decide to watch them shouldnt really take up no more than twenty minutes of your time. Theres a short directed by the same dude who directed Monster called Leave it to Kerochan which is a fun little ten minute special as well as a mini three part series in which Tomoyo films various things in Sakuras life which Id recommend checking out the first episode of which at least as it goes all meta as Tomoyo films Sakura recreating the first opening and even ends with her voice actress Sakura Tange performing Catch You Catch Me. To finally conclude as if it was not already evident enough I adore Cardcaptor Sakura. Its a show that appeals to me on a very raw personal level and is the perfect balance of everything I look for and admire in a show exceling in the area that matters the most to me: the characters. Sakura is not only a shining example of what the magical girl genre is capable of but also a shining example of what anime at large is capable of as well. Sakura is just another example of why I stick around in this medium because every so often a gem comes along like this one and profoundly connects with me. Before I die from sucking this shows dick for over 4300 words I think I best resign here Thanks for taking the time to read what is effectively a fanboy harping on about how much he loves a show about an innocent magical girl that warms his once cold heart And now onwards to Clear Card
95 /100
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