Cardcaptor Sakura – 01 – The Start of Something Beautiful

My entry into the gorgeous, charming, feel-good world of Cardcaptor Sakura was the Clear Card arc of Winter 2018, twenty years before the original. Now that Netflix has notified me that the original is mine to watch in all its 4:3 late-nineties glory, I simply couldn’t resist.

That’s not to underestimate the scale of such an undertaking: the original series runs a cool 70 episodes split unevenly across two major arcs (compared to just 22 for Clear Card), but you’ll note that I didn’t say when I’d complete this task; just that I’d plan to. It will certainly take a while.

In a show hailed as quintessential Maho Shoujo anime for everyone, Kinomoto Sakura holds the same position among mahou shoujo heroines. If you don’t know her, know that what she lacks in academic ability she makes up for with athleticism, cheerfulness, and just generally being one of the most goshdarn adorable characters in all of anime, both in design and Tange Sakura’s fabulous voice.

It’s honestly pretty thrilling to watch Sakura’s origin story unfold in this first episode. It’s a tale simply and confidently told, and there’s a refreshing quality to the late-90s animation style—not to mention Sakura’s totally bodacious habit of rollerblading to school (something she’d sadly given up by high school). CCS’s production quality in its day was a large part of its wide appeal, and it holds up extremely well.

Sakura’s mom died when she was three, but she has a kind, loving archaeologist father and a big brother who, while a little antagonistic at times, clearly cares for her as well (he also has a best friend in Yukito, on whom Sakura has an innocent crush). She also has a best friend in the super-rich but kind videophile, Daidouji Tomoyo, who will get a more detailed intro next week.

What Sakura categorically wasn’t prior to this episode was involved in anything remotely magical. That changes in a hurry when she hears strange animal noises coming from her dad’s basement study, and encounters a glowing book full of cards. One of them is called “Windy”, and when she says the name, a gust of wind blows all of the other cards out of the house and into the vast outdoors.

While I’d hardly label Sakura an überklutz, it’s somehow appropriate that the genesis of her magical girl status was an innocent moment of clumsiness. When the magical creature who was making the noises presents himself to her as the tiny yellow creature Kerberus, we learn that he too was asleep at the switch, making this card-losing screw-up both their faults.

Kero-chan’s Osaka accent and general cozy casualness about this whole situation makes him as instantly endearing as Sakura herself. But now that Sakura has woken Kero up, her duty is clear: take up the mantle of Cardcaptor and, well, capture the Clow Cards.

It’s a wonderfully elegant premise that promises a vast and deep collection of clever monster-of-the-week stories that all coalesce around that central goal to re-complete the collection. The first card Sakura captures is “Fly”, which takes the form of an ornery bird she must both flee from and chase on her rollerblades…in her pajamas. That’s right, no fancy magical girl battle costumes as yet!

This process, like the next few capture missions surely will be, involves quite a bit of trial-and-error, which is to be expected, but Sakura’s pluck, determination, and heart means once she sets herself to the task, she doesn’t stop until she’s unleashed Windy, restrained and sealed Fly back into the card.

She then learns she can use Fly to…fly, which she does in a beautiful closing sequence that Kero-chan suggests is the beginning of a beautiful working relationship. Sakura on the other hand insists she hasn’t told Kero she’s not necessarily her girl for card-capturing going forward…bless her heart!

After a super-upbeat ED with what sounds like music from a Genesis-era Sonic game (not a bad thing!) we get Kero’s post-credit omake segment, in which he makes keen observations about Sakura’s wardrobe in the episode, among other things. I may have watched Bleach and met its small yellow mascot Kon first, but Kero-chan beats him in the head-to-head matchup every time.

The more cards Sakura collects, the more abilities she’ll have in her repertoire to capture still more cards. The dynamic of Sakura figuring out the best way to utilize those abilities with Kero’s help, as well as the inevitable Daidouji wardrobe supervision and clashes with the villain seeking the same cards, all figure to make this a yachtload of fun to watch.

Hamefura – 08 – Pages of Desire

All Mary Hunt wants is to study alone with her one true love Catarina. Unfortunately, the object of her affection is also the object of everyone else’s, so the study group in the library consists of…everyone. Alas, while taking a break Catarina notices a flashing book on the shelf, and when she opens it, she and everyone except Mary and Maria are sucked inside!

It’s a high concept Hamefura this week, as one by one everyone in the book lives out their deepest desire, as interpreted and amplified by the magic of the book itself. Gerald, for one, reveals some of his sadist qualities in his wedding night desire, or Keith revealing his steamier side in his. Before anything can “happen” between Catarina or anyone, Mary slams the book shut in disgust.

The desire I enjoyed most was Catarina in Sophia’s private library, in which Sophia delivers an epic wall slam to Catarina like she’s the guy in a shoujo manga and declares her love. It’s just a shame nothing more comes of our discovery that Sophia may be the reincarnation of Acchan.

Mary and Maria endure all these desires until they finally come to Catarina, which involves finding an entire house made of sweets, only because the sweets are fictional no matter how much she eats she’s never satisfied. This seems to break the logic of the book, which explodes in a cloud of sweets and the trapped people. All’s well that ends well!

We end with a post-credits scene I found a bit puzzling: Catarina, with no inner monologue at all, ends up barefoot and up a tree with Alan during a gorgeous sunset. Mary spots them and moves to intercept. It’s a pretty scene, but Catarina feels out of character here; certainly have an inner council meeting or two before getting so friendly with Alan…