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Review: Cardcaptor Sakura Complete Series (DVD)

Once upon a time, somewhere around the year 2000 in the burgeoning days of the anime DVD market Australians could only dream of the possibility of a full, unedited, sub-only release of Cardcaptor Sakura. The market couldn’t support such a niche-within-a-niche release, we were told. Instead we got the mangled dub-only Cardcaptors edit, but… We don’t talk about Cardcaptors here. Thus, I scraped together money from my casual job at Woolies and paid through the nose for the Pioneer region 1 DVDs to get my mahou shoujo fix. Thankfully, times change and the scene matured. Come 2012 the two seasons of this classic finally hit Australian shores in separate releases, and now Madman have bundled them both together in a full pack of all 70 episodes of the anime based on Clamp’s finest work.

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When ten-year-old Sakura Kinomoto releases the Clow Cards, a set of powerful magical cards created by a sorcerer named Clow Reed,  from a book in her father’s basement office and awakens the guardian of the cards, Cerberus aka Kero-chan, she is tasked with becoming the Cardcaptor, and collecting back the cards which can take alternate forms and wreak havoc, starting with the ‘Windy’ card. At the base it’s all pretty standard Magical Girl fare with the plucky but initially unwilling heroine, the cute animal mascot sidekick and a healthy mix of slice of life interspersed with the fantastical, but the story and characters pushed Cardcaptor Sakura straight into ‘Instant Classic’ territory. Sakura is immediately likeable, Kero-chan is an absolute dude and Sakura’s best friend Tomoyo immediately subverts magical girl convention upon finding out Sakura’s new secret and insists on making her cute, elaborate costumes for her card-capturing exploits. We all know a magical girl needs a fancy costume, after all!

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We also have Sakura’s father, her brother Toya and his best friend/Sakura’s crush Yukito and the stubborn Syaoran Li who comes to Tomoeda from Hong Kong to collect the cards himself along with his bratty cousin Meiling. At 70 episodes worth, there are a lot of characters introduced that I won’t get to here, but it’s safe to say not everyone is what they first seem.

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It’s not just the characters and writing that see Cardcaptor Sakura hold up to this day. The animation by Madhouse still looks as fantastic today as it did back in 1998. A lot of effort and polish went into this series, and the work that was put into the colours, backgrounds and animations shines through. The music is also fantastic, and it only took the first few seconds of the opening song ‘Catch You Catch Me’ for the nostalgia to come flooding back. Cardcaptor Sakura is to me as Sailor Moon is to Mangaman, an absolute classic of the mahou shoujo genre, and from beginning to end the series is still utterly charming.

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On top of the great episodes, we also have the ‘Leave it to Kero-chan!’ end-of-episode segments which absolutely deserve a mention! They’re some gold I tells ya!

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With a new Cardcaptor Sakura series, the Clear Card arc, set to start in 2018 (with Madhouse animating and the original cast returning, no less!) there’s no better time to revisit what is without a doubt one of the all-time anime greats.

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A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.