Review of Cardcaptor Sakura (1998)

Moving picture, 29 hours

A ten-year-old in a Japanese suburb accidentally releases a deck of magical cards into the wild. Some of the cards are very mischievous, even dangerous. They must be collected as stealthily as possible by someone with magical powers, like Sakura, the girl who let them out. She hasn’t known about her powers until now. Her older brother, on the other hand, can talk to their mother, who has been an angel since Sakura was three years old.

When she released the cards, Sakura also released their guardian beast, who pretends to be a plushy animal when people are watching. When he’s not eating sweets or playing video games, the guardian beast helps Sakura along, as card after card makes its presence known, adding to her powers when she captures it. It’s as if someone was deliberately sending cards at her, but she’s not the only one who suffers. Arriving from Hong Kong is a trained magician of Sakura’s age, who uses geomancy as her rival. Sakura’s best friend insists on sewing adorable “battle costumes” for her, and tapes her adventures at any cost. Life goes on in elementary school, with occasional interruptions for another magical showdown in the local penguin-themed park.

Like Magical Princess Minky Momo (1982), Sakura supposedly attracted two very different main audiences: Pre-pubescent girls like the heroine, and adults, especially adult men. I suppose adult women tended to dislike the unattainable idealized girlhoods of the series, whereas boys shied away from its cuteness and romanticism.

Cardcaptor Sakura is certainly full of cuteness and romanticism, but it’s also somewhat feminist. Sakura kicks butt using a sword as well as more abstract magic, and many characters are effectively gay or bisexual, including four of the very nice people who are closest to Sakura. There is no sexualization and no truly graphic violence. With these modernizations, Sakura seems to have retained the interest of its original female fans into their adulthood, like Sailor Moon (1992).

Too long (70 episodes) and repetitive, partly as a result of being weaker than the manga—where Tomoyo apparently confesses to a love beyond friendship—but quite consistently entertaining.

References here: Puni Puni Poemi (2001).

moving picture Japanese production animation fiction series magical girl