Sakura Kinomoto would blush and
stammer in disbelief if anyone told her she’d become a fan favorite in Japan,
America and Europe. When Cardcaptor
Sakura begins, she’s a cheerful 4th grader who lives with her older brother
Toya and her widowed father Fujitaka, a professor of archeology. Her best
classes are gym and music; she dislikes math, ghost stories and the way Toya
teases her. She shares secrets with her pretty best friend Tomoyo, especially
the crush she nurtures on Toya’s best friend, Yukito.
began as a manga from the four-woman artists’ group Clamp in 1996, followed by an
animated broadcast series and two theatrical features. The original release on
18 subtitled DVD’s was a big hit for Geneon/Pioneer in the US.
When she opens an odd-looking book
in her father’s study, strange lights fly out and disappear. Kerberos, who
looks like a plushy of the winged lion on the book’s cover, awakens and
explains that she’s released a deck of magical cards created by the great
sorcerer, Clow Reed. Despite her protests that’s she just an ordinary little
girl, Kero insists that Sakura must become a Cardcaptor and retrieve the Clow
Cards before they work mischief on the world.
During the course of her
adventures, Sakura discovers untapped reserves of courage and resourcefulness.
She aids Tomoyo when the Voice Card leaves her mute, prevents Sweet from spoiling
a cooking lesson, and rescues Toya when Mist destroys the set of his class
play. When Shaoran Li, a descendant of Clow Reed, arrives from Hong Kong, he begins
as Sakura’s rival for the Cards, but soon becomes her friend and ally. Although
many American series talk about empowering girls, the viewer sees Sakura grow
stronger and more confident as she learns to master the magical Cards.
Near the end of the series, Sakura
confesses her love to Yukito. He treats her declaration seriously, but gently explains
that she loves him as a family member, not a boyfriend. She guesses correctly
he loves someone else: her brother Toya. Yuki admits that’s the case, but
assures her that she will find her special person. Sakura soon realizes her
true feelings are for Shaoran, and the story concludes with them becoming a
couple at the end of junior high. The artists and filmmakers handle these
romantic complications with a warmth and gentleness few American series can
Although both the manga and
animated versions of Cardcaptor Sakura
concluded years ago, the series and the character remain popular. On a typical
day, eBay may lists three thousand videos, toys and cels, with even more stuff available
on Rinkya, Madarake and other Japanese sites. Clamp brought back the cast in
altered form in the manga Tsubasa
Reservoir Chronicle (2003), which was animated two years later.
Sadly, Sakura and her friends
haven’t fared well in English. The series was cut from 70 episodes to 39 and
reworked by Nelvana as Cardcaptors,
which aired on The Kids’ WB during the 2000-2002 seasons. Angry fans complained
about major changes to both the characters and the story, and about the stiff
English vocal cast. There really isn’t a Western equivalent of the
high-pitched, childish voices Japanese audiences find adorable in young
heroines, but the American Sakura came off as a bratty junior Valley Girl, reminiscent
of Angelica in Rugrats.
The new dub from NIS was eagerly anticipated. Sadly, it’s
also not satisfying. The vocal cast isn’t listed, apparently due to contractual
questions, but the actress playing Sakura sounds whispery and a bit nasal; her
performance is adequate at best. Toya, a role any number of anime actors could
bring to life, sounds like he was sleepwalking through the recording sessions,
while Yukito is too obviously performed by a woman. Shaoran has the slightly
raspy inflection of a minor league Edward Elric.