Mike wonders aloud which anime would be a good fit for the prestigious Criterion Collection.
Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Jan 21st 2004
DVD 18: Revelations
The final test is about to begin! Sakura, having collected all of the Sakura cards, isn't quite ready to take over as master of the cards. Traveling back in time, she consults Clow Reed, the all-powerful creator of the Clow Cards. Upon her return, Eriol has laid a trap to test her; the entire city has been put to sleep! Just when the spell is broken, Sakura and Li have to come to terms with how they feel for each other.
70 episodes, 18 DVDs, two movies, 12 manga volumes and a metric ton of fan hoopla later, Card Captor Sakura is finally drawing a close. Geneon has released the final episodes of the groundbreaking, smash-hit TV series on DVD, and with that, the saga is finally over. Although the series seems to already be fading in to memory among today's anime fans, this final volume reminds us what a fantastic journey it's been. Card Captor Sakura took what had become an incredibly stale and repetitive genre and turned it on its ear, providing something fun, clever, beautifully animated, touching and exciting all at once.
The three episodes included on this disc round out the television series nicely. They play out in a serial fashion, eschewing the episodic flavor of the show's earlier episodes. Enigmatic, pint-sized magician Eriol has been causing trouble for Sakura for a long time now without revealing who he actually is, so Sakura takes matters into her own hands and uses the ‘Reverse’ card to visit the real Clow Reed and ask for his advice. Keroberos and Yue's memories of their one-time master and creator slowly return to them, and Eriol's true identity is finally revealed. Once Sakura returns to the present, it turns out that Eriol has put the entire town to sleep, so naturally it's up to her to break the spell. Waking up the entire city proves to be an easy task compared to admitting her feelings for Shaoran Li, who winds up on the slow boat back to Hong Kong when his mother finds out that his Card-acquiring job in Japan is at an end. Of course, this is an anime, so neither of them really say what they mean in the end.
Some may find the ending completely satisfying, but the fact of the matter is, the screenwriter held his cards since obviously the production staff knew that a second and final movie (Cardcaptor Sakura: The Sealed Card, also available on DVD) would follow the last broadcast episode. Sakura and Li don't really admit their feelings. They do the typical ‘stilted and awkward’ Japanese love confession thing where nobody actually says the word ‘love’ and they basically talk about how much they admire each other. It's all very sweet, but it's also highly unsatisfying, since Li takes off back to the mother country and leaves Sakura with little more than a smile, a teddy bear and the promise of a sequel. They conclude the main story arc but it isn't really an ending, not in the true sense of the word.
Of course, the whole thing is lovingly rendered by Mad House. Card Captor Sakura set a new standard in high quality television animation, and these final three episodes are no slouch. The character designs are top-notch and never off model. They maintain a consistent and impressive level of detail, even during action scenes. The animation is incredibly fluid; there's very little in the way of static. There are almost no corners cut. It's been a while since anything like this has been on the air, so people with discerning taste in animation should cherish the work Mad House did on this series. The music and voice work are excellent, as well. The disc doesn't include an English dub, since the decidedly small demographic interested in uncut, subtitled DVDs of this series probably wouldn't appreciate one, so Geneon opted to save the money. It's no matter, really; the Japanese voices are fine and the dialogue is simple and elegant enough so that anyone with even a rudimentary command of the Japanese language could get through an episode sans subtitles if need be.
The DVD itself is totally barebones. There's a static menu with no animation or music, a scene select option, and no extra content to speak of. This release started out as a goodwill gesture to hardcore Sakura fans following the disastrous debut of Cardcaptors. One can speculate that Geneon probably thought Nelvana's carved up version of the series would generate enough money to cover the loss they'd take on the subtitled version, but as it happened, people didn't take to the edits, so the subtitled DVDs outsold the dubbed version by a fairly large margin. It's a point of contention why Geneon didn't start including extras on the discs once they discovered the sales numbers, but the point of buying the show is the show itself, not creditless openings or character profiles. Hardcore fans got what they wanted, so they really can't complain.
If you've been buying this show all along (meaning you've spent a total of 540.00 on the TV series alone, so I salute you), you obviously won't want to miss the final volume. It isn't so much an ending as it is an overture to the final movie, but that's okay. Oftentimes, when a show ends like this one did, there won't be a second movie or OVA series, so you're stuck with your own assumptions about what the characters were feeling or what they should have said. You'll have to buy another Sakura DVD to get real satisfaction, but the end of the TV series shouldn't be overlooked. It's a fitting and reasonable finale to the best magical girl show ever produced and one of the finest and most entertaining anime series in recent memory.
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A
Animation : A+
Art : A+
Music : A
+ Great animation, great characters, great everything.
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