Cardcaptor Sakura may be Clamp’s best known work and stand alongside Sailor Moon as one of the most influential magical girl anime out there. The manga ran for four years and inspired several spin offs including two movies, some drama CDs, ten video games and a seventy episode anime which is what I’ll be talking about today.
Cardcaptor Sakura is a highly episodic anime. The framing device is that young Kinomoto Sakura finds a strange book in her basement. When she opens it a large number of cards escape in a flash of light. Keroberos, who looks like a plush bear with a lion tail and wings, explains that Sakura has just unleashed a set of magic cards and this could have dire consequences if she doesn’t catch them. For that end he grants her the power to seal the cards. Things get complicated when a transfer student from Hong Kong shows up with his sights set on gaining the cards himself. The storyline does change halfway through, but I can’t give away how it changes without spoiling some major plot points. The story is very simplistic, but it’s not bad. The premise is very creative and the cards come in a nice variety which keeps things interesting. It’s very light-hearted and even fun.
That being said, it does have some issues. The first is the ending, which is incredibly weak. The second is that some of the cards seem really random and have no practical use. Such as the card that makes things taste far too sweet or the card that sings. The biggest issue is the romance subplot. There’s a lot of emphasis on romance in Cardcaptor Sakua. The issue with this is that Clamp is either incapable of or unwilling to write healthy romantic relationships. Most of the characters who experience romantic tension are either related or teacher and student. I’m not kidding. I’m not suggesting that no one should ever write romance that’s screwed up. The issue is that it’s portrayed as being perfectly normal. Syaoran and his cousin being engaged? Perfectly normal. Sakura’s parents starting out as teacher and student? Perfectly normal. Clamp, this is not okay. There are many levels on which this is screwed up. Not the least of which are the moral and ethical issues. There’s only one romance that’s healthy and it’s between Touya and Yukito.
There’s a nice variety of supporting characters and they all interact well both with each other and with Sakura. Even though the story is for younger audiences the major characters get some nice development. Particularly Sakura, Tomoyo and Touya. The only real issue with the characters is that a lot of the secondary characters are pretty two-dimensional.
The art is decent. The cards have really nice designs and a lot of work clearly went into Sakura’s costumes. Unlike a lot of other magical girl anime she actually wears different costumes into battle instead of having one outfit that she wears all the time. The characters do all look thin, but after watching xxxHolic the proportions in this look pretty close to normal.
The voice work is pretty well done. None of the voice actors really stand out but they all do their job capably. The music is very high energy and dynamic. It suits the series very well.
The yuri factor is a 5/10. Sakura and Tomoyo share some incredibly homoerotic moments and it’s very obvious that Tomoyo looks at Sakura as more than a friend. Flashbacks of their mothers reveal the same kind of dynamic from them. Unfortunately, they’re cousins so it’s pretty screwed up. Sakura also develops an obvious crush on a female teacher.
My final rating for Cardcaptor Sakura is a 7/10. If you like magical girl anime and you can excuse the poorly written romance subplots it’s a good series and well worth watching. If you don’t like magical girl anime you should skip it. It certainly isn’t going to change your mind about them. If you like magical girl anime but the romance sub plots are really going to bother you you should probably try Sailor Moon, Tokyo Mew Mew or Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha instead.