Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie: Epic buildup to a disappointing end

Quite a while ago I reviewed Cardcaptor Sakura, a magical girl series from Clamp and Madhouse. It was a good anime, albeit not one of the best magical girl series I’ve looked at. The series has gotten two films. Let’s look at the first, made in 1999 and written by Clamp’s Ohkawa Nanase.

Story:

Our tale opens with Sakura capturing the Arrow card with Syaoran’s help, some sidelines commentary from Meiling and Tomoyo filming her the whole time. She and Tomoyo stop by a store to buy school supplies and Sakura wins tickets to Hong Kong through the shopping district’s lottery. Kero questions this because she’s “weak at lotteries” whatever the flying Dutchman that means. She decides to take Tomoyo, her brother and Yukito. I should mention that this takes place roughly halfway through the series before she finds out the truth about Yukito. Sakura starts having ominous dreams about being surrounded by water and a mysterious floating figure.

On the downside, the ending of this film is pretty weak. It has some good ideas, in concept, behind it but the execution doesn’t work well. There’s also Sakura’s role in the whole thing. She barely does anything beyond running away and talking. Because that’s what everyone wants to see the main hero do. We don’t want to see them being competent and showing their strength, that would just be far too obvious. Which is the same reason that Sakura rarely uses a lot of her stronger cards, because it would just be too obvious. Surely, she is a tactical genius.

There are quite a few good aspects to the film. The build up is really well done. The gradual escalation is very effective at creating stakes and tension for the scenario. If it hadn’t led to a letdown then these could have been components of an excellent movie.

Characters:

I will give the film some credit on this aspect, it does give you a strong sense of the character’s personalities and the sibling dynamic between Sakura and Touya is really strong. What doesn’t work so well are the original characters. You meet Syaoran’s four sisters and all they do is fawn over Sakura and Tomoyo before throwing themselves all over Touya and Yukito. Boy are they barking up the wrong tree. They might as well go to Bell Liberty Academy to try to find boyfriends. Either way, they’re non-characters who don’t serve any real purpose. I’m not even sure why they’re here at all, their presence does nothing for the narrative. Then we have our villain who could have been interesting but is just kind of cliché in execution. The same is true for Syaoran’s mother. She’s a strict parent and mystic master. She just comes across as kind of bland and typical.

Art:

The art is pretty similar to the art in the main series. It’s decent enough with character designs and backgrounds that work fine. I will say that the action sequences in the film are kind of weak especially since our heroine decides to spend most of them running away from things.

Sound:

The voice work is done with the same cast as the series proper and they all do well, as they did in the series proper. For the new characters, our main antagonist is voiced by Hayashibara Megumi and she does a superb job. Syaoran’s mum is voiced by Inoue Kikuko and she does do a decent job, albeit a bit emotionless of one. The music is well done.

Ho-yay:

This series certainly doesn’t have as much as the series proper. The homo-eroticism between Yukito and Touya is barely present and Tomoyo’s creepy cousin crush on Sakura is downplayed as well although it’s still pretty obvious.

Final Thoughts:

For all its flaws, this is a good movie. The ending is disappointing and it suffers from some of the same issues as the series proper, but there’s a lot of well done stuff leading up to the ending and it is a fun film to watch overall. If you enjoyed Cardcaptor Sakura, you’ll probably like the movie too. My final rating is going to be a 7/10. Next week it’s finally time for the Gintama review so we’ll see how that goes.

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