|Last updated May 15, 2005.|
It occurs to me that I have been grossly remiss by not discussing Cardcaptor Sakura, one of the greatest shows ever. First, I'd like to distinguish it from the American Cardcaptors which is an atrocity. Cardcaptors is a textbook example of dubbing gone wrong, with horrible voice acting, episodes broadcast out of order, scenes cut, and dialogue changed. Even the American title is misleading: There are not "cardcaptors," plural, but one Cardcaptor—namely Kinomoto Sakura herself, despite American attempts to turn a supporting cast member, the boy Li Shaoran, into a lead. All of these changes were apparently implemented as attempts to turn a girls' show into a boys' show.
Cardcaptor Sakura is, indeed, a show targeted towards young girls. This CLAMP production is a children's show with engaging characters and wholesome stories. It's rather refreshing that a cartoon made for girls is of such high quality. Perhaps it is an acquired cynicism caused by the years that leads me to say so, but there simply are not enough shows or role models of such high caliber for children these days—particularly girls.
The lead of the show is the eponymous Kinomoto Sakura herself. Sakura (SAH-ker-ah) is a cheerful fourth grade student who discovers a book containing the Clow Cards. These magical cards, each containing a certain attribute, escape from the book. Sakura is then enlisted to track down and capture these cards so they don't cause mischief in the rest of the world.
In a sense, Cardcaptor Sakura is a "collecting" show, like Pokemon, Digimon, or a myriad of other collecting-themed cartoons. However, Cardcaptor Sakura vastly outstrips these other shows in quality. And while it does not match Pokemon/Pocket Monsters in terms of sheer popularity, Cardcaptor Sakura was immensely popular and remains so to this day. This fact further highlights the travesty that is the American Cardcaptors production—it could have been huge with American children as well.
In terms of genre, Cardcaptor Sakura also fits the "magical girl" category. Sakura does have her own magical powers which grow stronger as the series progresses in addition to the powers bestowed upon her through the use of the Clow Cards. However, in addition to these abilities, Sakura is also constantly called upon to muster her bravery, wits, and the help of her friends in order to capture the Clow Cards.
Sakura's best friend is Daidouji Tomoyo, one of Sakura's classmates. Tomoyo comes from a rich family, and her wealth permits her to design and create Sakura's many battle costumes. In addition to the battle costumes, Tomoyo also provides Sakura with a number of gadgets and gizmos, bakes delicious treats, and videotapes Sakura's feats with her camcorder. Tomoyo is a devoted friend and provides Sakura with a lot of support and strength as she tracks down the Clow Cards.
In the grand tradition championed by Walt Disney Studios, Sakura comes from a single parent household. We learn early on that Sakura's mother, Nadeshiko, died years ago. However, a number of stories concerning her background come into play in a series of side plots that supplement the main card-capturing storyline. Rounding out the Kinomoto family are Sakura's father Fujitaka and her brother Touya. Fujitaka is a professor at a local college and Touya is a high school student.
Touya's best friend is his fellow classmate Tsukishiro Yukito. Yukito enjoys eating and has an amazing capacity for food. Oh, yeah, Sakura's also in love with him.
It is through elements like Sakura's crush on Yukito, the characters' interactions, and many surprising plot twists that Cardcaptor Sakura really shines. Despite being a children's show, there are enough sophisticated elements and side-plots to keep older viewers engaged. In fact, the main storyline about capturing the Clow Cards often takes a backseat to the intrigue and developments of the various relationships among the characters. That is, the capture of a Clow Card does not necessarily indicate the climax of an episode.
In fact, on their face, a number of sub-plots may appear decidedly innappropriate for a kids' show. There are student-teacher relationships, rampant homosexuality, love triangles, and lesbians (I guess I already mentioned that part), and Chinese brats. In fact, one sub-plot (explored with much greater depth and certainty in the manga) arguably deals with pedophilia rather matter-of-factly.
In addtion to the very likable characters, engaging storylines, and good role models, the music in Cardcaptor Sakura is also impeccable. It can be comic or serious, majestic or simple. It is grandiose at times, giving the show an air of sophistication and elegance, but it also always sets the mood perfectly.
I should have mentioned him earlier, but I suppose it's somewhat appropriate to leave Kero-chan for the end, seeing as how his epilogues are a great part of the show. Kerberos, the Beast of the Seal, affectionately referred to as Kero-chan, is Sakura's confederate in her attempt to secure all the escaped Clow Cards. It was actually his job to guard the Clow Cards in the book, but they caught him napping. Voiced by the very talented Hisakawa Aya (also the voice of Chloe in Noir) with an Osaka accent, Kero-chan guides Sakura as a mentor, at least when he isn't playing video games or eating desserts. Kero-chan is stuck in his small, cute form because he presently does not have enough magic to return to his large, majestic form.
Kero-chan also provides an epilogue of sort at the end of each episode. The Kero-chan Check usually provides a closer, more detailed look at Sakura's outfits for each episode, but sometimes also gives more information about the supporting characters and what-not.
There are 70 episodes of Cardcaptor Sakura as well as two movies. Cardcaptor Sakura DVDs are available in America wherever anime is sold, but take care not to get the Cardcaptors dub which is also available as a separate release. The Cardcaptors dub should be avoided at all cost, while the original Cardcaptor Sakura is a must buy. It's like an anime Yin-Yang thing in action, I guess.