Rising Sun: Cardcaptor Sakura 20th Anniversary Extravaganza (Part One)

Noah Meyer, Blogger

Hey there! It’s time for a special multi-part Rising Sun review!

I didn’t give this any thought until recently, but since 2016 is nearly over, it’s high time for me to review CLAMP’s iconic series Cardcaptor Sakura, which is among the quintessential anime series, and celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. For this review series, which I christen as the Cardcaptor Sakura 20th Anniversary Extravanga, I will review the first six episodes of the anime based on the unedited dub avaliable on Crunchyroll, where the Japanese version is also streaming. Let’s make it clear right now that I have not seen the original Cardcaptors dub and have no intention to do so. With that out of the way, let’s get started with episodes one and two!

Episode One: Sakura and the Strange Magical Book

A good first episode wastes no time introducing us to the characters that are the core of the story. With that in mind, we are very swiftly introduced to our heroine, ten-year-old Sakura and her family. Older brother Toya is primarily here to get on Sakura’s nerves as a running gag, and Sakura’s widowed father is a university professor who I doubt will play a big role in the story. Next, we meet Yukito, Toya’s classmate and Sakura’s crush. He’s a friendly guy with a big appetite, and it’s easy to see why Sakura has a crush on him, despite the age gap.

After school, Sakura stumbles upon a strange book in the basement filled with tarot cards. Upon inspecting one of them (Windy), a burst of the wind scatters the cards all over the city, much to the horror of Kero, the guardian of the cards, which are the magical Clow Cards.

The setup honestly bugs me because it’s rather convenient on CLAMP’s part. Why were the Clow Cards in the basement of Sakura’s house anyway? I’ll let it slide because there’s probably a good in-universe explanation for this setup. Kero knows Sakura has magical powers because she’s the one who activated the Windy Card, so he makes Sakura the Cardcaptor tasked with re-capturing the cards. And conveniently, the Fly Card shows up in the form of a giant bird. In a well-animated sequence, Sakura uses her roller blades to hop on top of the bird, bind it with the Windy Card and seal it away. So ends the pilot episode.

The first episode hits all the notes, giving our heroine and her friends proper characterization, having some great animation (especially by late nineties standards) and establishing the conflict, despite doing so rather conveniently. I’d argue that Cardcaptor Sakura is off to a great start.

Episode Two: Sakura’s Wonderful Friend

Let’s talk about Tomoyo. She is Sakura’s best friend, similar to Sailor Moon‘s Naru Osaka. She’s also a bit of a film buff who proves herself to be very important to the series from this point onward, having caught footage of Sakura’s capturing the Fly Card and getting in on her exploits.

But enough of that, something has been throwing all the desks in the school into big piles! Surely it’s the work of a cantankerous Clow Card! With that analysis, Kero half-drags Sakura to the school at nighttime to investigate the Card. And Tomoyo came along too, with a positive aspect of the show dragged behind her in a trailer.

Since Cardcaptor Sakura was supposed to be a superhero series, CLAMP wanted to give Sakura a costume to wear but were bugged about how preceding shows only gave the heroines a single costume. Inside the trailer is a bunch of costumes Tomoyo made for Sakura’s Clow Card hunts, but each one will only be worn one time. Some are more iconic than others, but you cannot deny the visual variety that comes out of this.

One thing I like about this Clow Card is the buildup. Granted, the buildup makes the card’s identity a tad obvious, but it works. Another thing I like is that while Sakura is having trouble with it, Tomoyo decides to use the setting to their advantage. It’s a kind of pragmatism that I wish I saw more often. With the Clow Card captured, the episode, and the cleaning duty nightmares that came from it, come to an end as Tomoyo reviews her recordings as a “masterpiece of film”. Maybe Studio Madhouse should remake the series as a compilation film. They have a in-universe reason to do so.

From the first two episodes, it’s very easy to see why Cardcaptor Sakura is held in such high regard by anime fans. It’s blend of action, humor and romance makes it a perfect series that children and older viewers will both enjoy. It just baffles me as to why families will watch Pokemon when there’s this perfectly appealing anime on Crunchyroll.