“Cardcaptor Sakura” is an incredibly odd television series coming from a western perspective. The basic premise is that a young girl discovers a book containing magical cards which she accidentally releases, which she is eventually tasked with collecting. The series is bright and “girly”, pink with exuberant costumes and filled with flowers to the absolute brim. It seems to be aiming at a female audience but the show itself is rather thoroughly comedic and most interestingly, contains a tonne of action sequences per episode.
To give some context as to why I chose to watch Cardcaptor Sakura it is useful to know that I had previously watched it as a child, as it had aired on Cheese TV. This version I saw ten years ago was the english dub, something I only recently learned is meant to be the most terrible example of which know in the realm of Japanese anime receiving usually subpar translations into english. The Japanese version I’m watching contains many different aspects that were cut out or lobotomised in the english version, like for example same sex relationship subplots and entire episodes.
“Cardcaptor Sakura” has many things that are very readily recognizable as Japanese. For example, Sakura contains tropes of dopey young female school student, always running late for class and sleeping through her alarm going off in the morning. I’ve seen this in various other anime’s such as “The Cat Returns”, “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” and “Sailor Moon”. Other aspects include the the school system which is very Japanese, complete with spring festivals with gymnastics, and decadent costumes which switch each episode. There is even an episode entirely about an evil plush doll hiding in a toy store.
What is immediately recognisable as a difference to the Japanese version is that the relationships are so much more complex, almost comically. My brain hurts with the very idea of trying to explain it but so you don’t have to watch it I will try my best, however futile this may be.
So Sakura has a crush on her brothers best friend, Yukito. Yukito has a crush on Sakura’s brother, Touya, who was previously in a relationship with Sakura’s teacher. Tomoyo, Sakura’s best friend has a crush on Sakura and Sakura’s rival, Syaoran has a crush on the same person as Sakura, Yukito. Yukito is actually half of the reincarnation of the person who invented the Clow Cards, the other half of which is her father, Fujitaka. Tomoyo’s mum was in love with Sakura’s mum before she died and as such Tomoyo’s and Sakura’s parents don’t get along. Syaoran eventually comes to have a crush on Sakura which becomes even more complicated by the fact that he is meant to marry Mailin from his hometown in China. If you are still following this I applaud you.
The complexity of this whole situation is absolutely baffling. All of this sounds as if it must take up a large part of the series but it is surprisingly understated and is only mentioned once or twice from crush to crush.
Overall “Cardcaptor Sakura” is a really rather unique series that is definingly Japanese but contains elements that make it more than just a regular anime.