Sakura, is just a girl-ah, the opening theme of Cardcaptors (the series) is probably the most apt at describing what this show is about. However, for those of you that are unfamiliar with that song, Cardcaptors, or Cardcaptor Sakura in Japanese, is about a girl named Sakura that has been chosen by the plucky Keroberos for a mystical role involving the capturing and command of the powerful Clow Cards. The cards themselves once belonged to the powerful Clow Reed who has since passed from this world. Cardcaptors is set in the 90s era Japan and is based on the Manga by the famous CLAMP group. Cardcaptors is one of those series that growing Anime fans in the 90s and 00s will remember fondly.
In Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie, Sakura heads over to Hong Kong after winning a prize at her local book store. Alongside her is her best friend, her brother, her brothers friend/ her crush and, of course, Keroberos (Kero). However, things seem a little strange as Sakura is having these reoccurring nightmares about a room full of water. Of course, each time this happens, more and more hints are added to the dream. While over in Hong Kong, Sakura is drawn to strange happenings involving birds and wells (with water in them) that seem to be linked to a mysterious woman.
The film takes place immediately after Sakura get the powerful Arrow Clow Card, which gives her the ability to summon a creature that can use arrows. We’re pretty sure that this happened in an episode during the series’, but we can’t say for certain. All that we can tell is that this movie is a sidestory, more than something that is a part of the main story. The storyline progresses enough to be interesting, and you learn some interesting things about the Clow Reed, but other than that, it’s not really part of the expanded lore. It’s all really self contained.
What we really enjoyed about this one is it was a full feature-length Cardcaptors adventure. It felt like a really long episode of the series, while also feeling a lot like a movie. This was incredibly fun to watch as a result. It had all the hallmarks of a Cardcaptors adventure: Sakura doing Sakura things with her group, some new Clow Card appearing, teaming up with her deck to take it down, Lee jumping in to help, Sakura winning (usually, sometimes Lee does) and everything being fine and awesome again.
It was also really enjoyable how we got to see a bit into Lee’s life during this movie. He is from Hong Kong originally, and so we get to meet his family and gain a bit of insight into his families relation to the great Clow Reed. This doesn’t serve as some kind of excuse to shoehorn Lee’s life into the film either, or give an excuse for the character to appear and act as a challenge to Sakura, but instead it integrates well into the entire plot and storyline of the film. We also get to see Lee’s insane sisters too. They just seem to be *too* easily excitable, by cute things, girls and boys both. That was entertaining.
One of the strangest things we’ve seen to date is watching Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie in both the localised version and the Japanese version (which can be done by switching languages). We have to say that doing this is like watching two entirely different movies. They’re not even small changes. As an example, when Tory is talking to Sakura in the Kitchen, in the English version he says that he will lose 5 shifts at his job (?!?) by going with her to Hong Kong, but he can do it still. This is entirely different to the Japanese version where he says that it will cost Sakura 5 chores for him to go on the trip with her. This change has so many wider implications on the series’ lore as it is. But even further along, now we’re at the airport scene, in the English version, there’s this catchy pop song playing while they’re waiting for their plane. This wasn’t some kind of replacement for background music, this song seems like it was composed for the movie as it is used elsewhere. This is in contrast to the Japanese version which has normal incidental music playing. They use this change again later on in the film towards the final conflict of the story too. In fact, there are so many places where dialogue was cut or swapped with something entirely different. It really is like watching two different, but very similar, films.
One thing that impresses us is that Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie is so fluid for a movie that was made in the 2000s or so. It’s amazing that Anime that is done on cells, and probably some computer work, can look so good. This is in contrast to some shoddy CGI that is becoming more and more prevalent in Anime today, particularly in the Mecha genre. Even if the fight-scenes weren’t as action packed as we’d expect from a strong shonen series, we shouldn’t really expect them from here. This is because, primarily, Cardcaptor Sakura is a shojo series, aimed at girls, and even though the action elements can be appealing to boys, the resolution in this particular film is one of feels. A sad end to a very powerful enemy.
Overall the Cardcaptor Sakrua: The Movie was incredibly fun to watch. It was also really fun to watch a second time in Japanese. Seriously. Two nearly different films in one package. The movie is self-contained enough to enjoy it without having seen anything in the Cardcaptors, or Cardcaptor Sakura, line, but it is definitely best enjoyed with a background knowledge in the series. It holds up, even against the old nostalgia glasses.
Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie is released by Madman here in Australia. It retails for around ~$30 and is available on their site in DVD. This review is of the DVD release. It doesn’t look like there is a BD version.