Clamp are often regarded as mistresses of their craft. The group’s impeccable artwork and strong storytelling skills have led to the creation of countless treasured classics over the years, including Magic Knight Rayearth, Chobits, and XxxHOLIC. Their skills seem to know no bounds, and their ability to craft a compelling narrative in any genre is simply amazing.
Cardcaptor Sakura is a 1998 series based on the group’s manga of the same name. It’s a magical girl series that revolves around Sakura Kinomoto: an elementary school student that’s thrust into the role of a protector. One day, she accidentally unleashes a gaggle of mystical tarot cards, known as the Clow, upon the earth. These aren’t normal cards, though. Each card represents a great power, and has a will of its own.
So, basically, this innocent girl needs to re-capture the cards, before they tear the world apart. Sound easy? One could only wish. It’s a dangerous job fraught with magic, danger, and an annoying grandson of the Clow Cards’ creator.
But that’s okay! Because Sakura’s not alone. Together with the adorable guardian Kero and her stalker-y best friend Tomoyo, Sakura has the power to take on anything that stands in her way! Maybe!
The series was previously released in the west in two forms. The series was edited for broadcast on TV networks under the title CardCaptors. This edition of the series saw many dialogue and name changes, a toning down of content, and the removal of entire episodes.
Geneon Animation would release the uncut version of the show on DVD in 2002. The series spanned 18 volumes, and offered the uncut edition of the show in subtitled format.
Sadly, both of these editions of the show are long out of print. Prices climbed to absurd levels, and acquiring legitimate copies became a chore that just increased in difficulty as time went on.
In April, NIS America announced that they would release Cardcaptor Sakura on DVD and Blu-ray. The set finally hit stores four months later, on August 5. I received my copy of the release earlier this week, and felt that the package absolutely warranted a teardown.
Cardcaptor Sakura‘s premium release consists of a Blu-Ray set (presented in a book-style case) and a hard-cover book, which are bundled together in a chipboard box. The front of the box features a shot of Sakura in her uniform, holding the Clow Key. The background of the scene is a “star shot” scene, with the magical circle of the Clow set in white.
The back cover uses a picture of Sakura in one of her magical girl outfits. In this scene, she stands before a yellow-toned starshot background, which features the magic circle of the Clow in white.
The front of the Blu-Ray case contains a second shot of Sakura in her white and red Magical Girl outfit. This time, Sakura’s pose is a bit more active as she stands before a blue sky and falling sakura petals. The back of the cover features a wrap-around of the sakura and blue skies. The show’s description, a listing of bonus features, and a few screens from the show proper are overlaid on the scene.
Each of the three show’s nine discs contains the magical circle of the Clow, set on a differently coloured background. The hues progress from a bold yellow, to a deep blue as the discs increase in number. The show’s logo, disc number, and episodes contained are overlaid in the center of each disc.
The companion book is a hardcover tome, which features a shot of a pink-clad Sakura posing before a light green background. The first 70 pages episode summaries for each of the show’s episodes. They’re written in the style of a journal by Sakura’s friend Tomoyo. Each summary contains a listing of which Clow spirits appear in the episodes, as well as a number of shots from the episode.
The final few pages feature key art for several of Sakura’s costumes.
Note: We have received reports of users receiving packages where discs were knocked loose in transit. Similarly, we have received reports of disc hubs that don’t release the disc without a great deal of force. While we haven’t seen this problem, we ask that you please take care when removing discs from the case to avoid breakage.
Note: Since the release has a consistent look & feel across the discs, I will only be covering the first disc of each edition. Further dissections would be redundant.
To be honest, the menus for CardCaptor Sakura‘s Blu-Ray set are possibly the simplest I’ve seen to date. They consist of a colored background with a white Magic Circle of the Clow spinning. Main menu choices are presented on a pane set on the left half of the screen. The pane is fashioned to look like a Clow Card, and uses brown text on a black background. Upon selecting a main option, the sub-menu opens in a new pane, which mimics the style of the main menu, though set on the right half of the screen.
There is no sound, no music, and no distraction. It’s clean, it’s simple, and it works wonderfully.
(Note: Due to a lack of a Blu-Ray drive, we will be using a camera shot to illustrate. I apologize for the inconvenience)
NIS America’s Blu-Ray release of Cardcaptor Sakura is, hands down, the best way to experience this show. The colors are crisp and clean, and the overall presentation is simply gorgeous. The book is a wonderful touch. The format gives a lot of flavor and personality to what would normally be a bland episode guide, and the screens chosen are just gorgeous.
The English dub is the Animax dub, which is sub-par on a good day. It’s stilted and a bit clunky, but it does what it needs to. Still, it’s a pleasant addition that is worth a look.
If there were one complaint, it would be that the audio is presented in 2.0 format, as opposed to 5.1 surround. Given the age of the show, though, I’m willing to give this factor a pass.