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OPINION: CardCaptors Analysis

posted on 2000-06-17 13:31 EDT
Disclaimer: This article and all opinions within it are of the personal opinion of George Phillips, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Anime News Network.

Dear Readers,
I apologize for not making this as unbiased as possible. I was caught in the heat of the moment, torn between my feelings for the series and my duty to inform everyone of the differences. I'm very sorry, to Nelvana and Kids WB, as well as the readers of ANN. Please accept my humble apology.

Revised: 6/17/00 at 6:45pm EST

Yeah, this is my first editorial, kinda. This is an informal walkthrough of the differences between the first Japanese episode and the first English episode. To understand everything in this article, you need to have viewed the Japanese "Card Captor Sakura" Episode #8, or the English "Cardcaptors" Episode #1. It is not a replacement for watching the series. Also, this is not an editorial, it is an opinionated essay.

Before I begin my discussion of the episode itself, first let me point out that Nelvana has opened up their Cardcaptors website.

You may find it here. It contains a number of interesting links, including "Kero's Corner", which I can only conclude is the English version of the "Kero-chan Check" found at the end of each Japanese episode.

Unfortunately, the site requires Macromedia Flash and the design isn't too impressive, but it does contain tidbits of useful information. Hopefully this will change in the near future as Cardcaptors becomes more popular.

Visiting Nelvana's site made me feel better, after having watched what I consider the worst adaptation of an anime series I have ever seen.

So, let's just take a stroll through the episode, shall we?

The very beginning contained the first cut. Nelvana removed a brief clip of the camera staring at Tokyo Tower before Sakura's outline could be seen.

Before the dream ends, Sakura speaks several times. This was added into the English episode, but helps establish the backstory which would otherwise be missing.

Sakura wakes up from her dream, and we're introduced to... Tori. Sakura's brother (originally named Toya) peeks in the room and comments he's leaving in 10 minutes.. A minor dialogue change occurs -- from "monsterous moaning" to "talking with someone" -- which is still a fair translation, as the meaning of the scene is left intact. There weren't any other significant differences between the Japanese and English scripts for this scene, although one may argue the Japanese wording was more direct than the English wording.

By now, you may have noticed that the background music is a constant "sinister" drone. There is no orchestra, there is no happy music, and there certainly isn't "Catch You, Catch Me". Instead, as Sakura races out the door, we hear a faint background vocal piece which is as close to "girl" music as the show gets. Unfortunately, it's too soft to hear the words, so the importance of the piece is lost.. and then the sinister background music returns.

While discussing dreams, Yukito (now known as Julian) mentions he dreamt of french toast for breakfast. To their credit, Nelvana would have alienated more viewers if they left the line unaltered, because Yukito ate fish for breakfast in the Japanese version.

As they part ways in the Japanese version, Yukito tosses Sakura a candy. Once inside the school room, Tomoyo discusses the significance of the candy with Sakura. This scene was cut entirely. Instead, they introduce Madison (Tomoyo) and her love of cameras. This would've been simpler to do if they had started by airing the Japanese Episode #1 .. but considering this is Japanese Episode #8, it needs to be introduced somewhere. It was best for the series to introduce Madison's hobbies as quickly as possible, and so Nelvana did that.

Interestingly enough, right at this moment, the quality of the broadcast dropped to something that looked MPEG'ed. At first, I thought the dialogue about the cameras was used to cover up the fact it looked poor. Some people on rec.arts.anime.misc think it's sunspots, however. I'm not so certain, but it sounds reasonable. It's not Nelvana's fault the sun is reaching a Solar Maximum.

Anyways, continuing: After class starts, there's a brief scene with Rika staring lovingly at the teacher, and his startled reaction. This was removed.

The teacher turns to write something on the board, but nothing appears. He was writing "Shaoran Li" on the board in the Japanese version, but the text was removed for the English dub. Also, in the English dub, Sakura instantly notices that Li is looking at her. In the Japanese, it takes her a second or two to notice. This slight pause was cut out.

Nelvana moved Cardcaptors from Japan, to America, much like what Sailor Moon had done during its early days. Sakura's school is now called "Readington Elementary".

If you have viewed the Japanese version, you'll see an additional classroom scene where Sakura continues to think about Li.

The school bell is different, but with all the changes that have been mentioned already, it shouldn't be too unsuspected.

A brief clip of Li grabbing Sakura's shoulder in the hallway was removed to make their confrontation after school more dramatic. At any rate, right before Li's assult on Sakura to get her Clow cards he pulls out a Chinese device. It rotates for a bit before pointing towards Sakura. This device was painted over to remove a dozen or so kanji that floated above it.

As Rika walks home way with Sakura, she leaves to buy a present for their teacher. This, again, was removed from the English release.

Madison and Sakura continue walking home as Sakura comments that "Kero is probably at home right now, making plans." or something to that effect.. and then we see Kero at home, asleep. It's not quite the same thing Sakura said in the Japanese version, but it's entertaining nonetheless, and I think Nelvana did the right thing, making the line into a joke.

When Sakura goes home and talks with Kero about Li, the scene was rewritten so that we don't know that Li is a descendant of Clow Reed until after Kero takes a sip of tea, keeping the suspense up for another minute or so. In the Japanese version it's something that they mention towards the beginning of the scene (but it wasn't stated as matter-of-fact like the English version says). The discussion about magic was pruned so only the fact that Clow Reed made the Clow cards was used.. They modify the dialogue a bit, and it makes the scene a bit more suspenseful.. but for the added suspense, we lose some of the history behind the Clow Cards.

Sakura seems _MUCH_ more uncomfortable with the cat outfit in the English version than the Japanese version.. also, Madison says that the suit was "Cyber Rose", not "Pink"... she's going to become a valley girl, it seems.

Interestingly enough, for all of Nelvana's faults, they ADD other interesting dialogue that the younger viewers might not understand. Li mentions the card is known as "Raishu", which wasn't mentioned in the Japanese version.

At the very end of the episode, as Li is walking away from the scene of the battle, Madison walks past Li, turns and says "Whatever!". I think that last line speaks for itself.

Finally, we see two CG cards (Thunder and Shadow) appear on the screen, and the first episode of Cardcaptors fades to black. The cards look good, actually, and they do help draw the show to its conclusion.

The english "Cardcaptors" beat out all of the "cuteness" and "fun" the Japanese series contained, to the point that it can no longer be objectively compared to "Card Captor Sakura". For a "serious and somber" series, however, Cardcaptors does well, having effectively removed things that would turn away much of the potential audience.

-George "Cookie" Phillips

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