animefringe july 2003 / reviews

Cardcaptor Sakura Vol.14: Powers Awry
Format: bilingual DVD, 4 eps., 100 min.
Production: Pioneer / Nelvana / CLAMP / Madhouse
Comments: Eriol tests Sakura in a number of exciting adventures.
Animefringe Reviews:
Cardcaptor Sakura Vol.14: Powers Awry

Eriol continues to test Sakura in the fourteenth volume of Cardcaptor Sakura. For the uninitiated, Cardcaptor Sakura is a magical girl series, along the lines of Sailor Moon. It centers on fifth grader Sakura Kinimoto, who is collecting magical Clow Cards that have escaped from the magical Clow Book and are creating havoc throughout town. Unlike other magical girls, Sakura has to keep her magical powers a secret. However, Sakura does some have help collecting the cards: she is joined by the descendent of the Clow Book's creator, Li, her best friend Tomoyo, and the magical guardian of the Clow Book, Kereberos.

In the second season of the series, Sakura has collected all the cards and imagines her job to be over. Unfortunately, she is put to the ultimate test when Clow Reed, the creator of the Clow Cards, tests her. Shortly thereafter, a mysterious young boy from England, Eriol, transfers to her school. Despite having collected all the cards, magical disturbances continue to happen around town. Additionally, Sakura's Clow Cards refuse to grant her their magical powers, until she reincarnates them as "Sakura Cards," cards that are bonded to her magic spirit. However, making the Clow Cards her own is physically taxing on poor Sakura and the end result is that she's falling asleep everywhere.

Sounds a bit like Sailor Moon meets Yu Gi Oh!, no? This particular disc of the series offers a mix of "Card" of the week type episodes and episodes dealing with Sakura's life outside the cards. Episode 52, "Sakura's Sheep Warning?!" finds Sakura falling asleep in a class reading of a book about sheep. However, when she investigates a magical disturbance, caused by Eriol, in the park, she gets a rude awakening. In the next episode, "Sakura and the Panicky Bike," Sakura attempts to convert many Clow Cards to Sakura Cards at once. However, in the process Sakura distresses the DASH card, which takes to a bike enchanted by Eriol. Sakura, Kero, and Li must chase both the bike and the card, to recapture them. Both episodes are the type of episode featuring a new card of the week and both adventures are instigated by Eriol.

In episode 54, "Sakura and the Calendar of Memories," Sakura finds a calendar belonging to her late mother. It has her father's, brother's, and her own birthdays marked in it. It also has the birthday of Sakura's great-grandfather marked - and it's today! Sakura hurries to make a present for her estranged great-grandfather to show him how happy their family is. The episode certainly has both touching and funny moments, but the ending is overwhelmingly clichéd and melodramatic. The final episode, "Sakura, and Sakura from Wonderland," starts off with Sakura reading Alice in Wonderland, for a class project. However, an enchanted bookmark from Eriol sucks Sakura into the book. However, the cast of Alice in Wonderland is replaced by Sakura's friends. It's a colorful episode, but it is very similar to episodes in Cardcaptor Sakura's first season (which are actually alluded to in the first part of the episode).

The animation is what one would expect from a long running series from the late 90s: it's colorful and vibrant, but a little stiff. It is understandable, since a long running TV series doesn't have the budget to throw at animation. It's especially noticeable in the "Wonderland" episode, when Eriol, playing the Chesire Cat, disappears. For the most part, however, Cardcaptor Sakura/i> doesn't look bad at all. The character design is classic CLAMP, with very realistic human forms and anime style faces. The music is okay. The opening and ending songs ("Platinum" and "Fruits and Candy," respectively) are extremely cute and very catchy, while the background music serves its purpose, but is not overly memorable.

Pioneer began releasing these Cardcaptor Sakura discs in response to Nelvana's release of Cardcaptors, a highly edited English language dub. The Pioneer discs have no English language tracks (no major loss to me). These are the uncut Japanese episodes. While I laud Pioneer for releasing the series, I do have a few beefs with the release. The discs lack any sort of real extras. Most discs have a character art (as does this one) and some discs have textless opening and endings (this one has "Fruits and Candy"), but that hardly seems like enough, especially for such a recent series. However, it is common for long running series not to have much in the way of extras. Secondly, the last several volumes Pioneer has released have had extremely similar packing (pastel pinks with Sakura on the front cover). Combine that with the DVDs themselves, which have monochrome graphics and text on the cover, and its easy to get them confused.

However, Pioneer does a lot of things right on this disc. Four episodes per disc, while becoming more normal in anime distribution here in the U.S., is still a practice that needs to be encouraged. And while the extras are light, the disc menus are functional. Again, Pioneer should be lauded for bringing this series over to the U.S., uncut and in Japanese.

Overall, only the most diehard CSS fans will be buying every disc of the series. However, even for the fans that only buy discs here and there, this is a fun disc to pick up (though the next episode previews tend to suggest that the next disc will be even more exciting).