11/11/2007

Screw lame dubs, here's the real heart of the cards

What is eternity doing tonight? has become Mega Megane Moé. For the latest posts, please change your links accordingly.

Although, somehow I feel that I am tarnishing the reputation of Cardcaptor Sakura just be alluding to it in the same sentence as a obscurely-ruled, spiky-haired, localization-mauled card game show.

Or at least, I cannot as fondly recall my two years spent watching Americanized Yu-Gi-Oh, which has a comparative lack of hanyaa~n.

Cardcaptor Sakura is one of those strange enigmas of a show, in that unlike Haruhi, Azumanga, Kanon, or any other show widely considered by many people to be 'good', it lacks the haters, the anti-crowd that troll on a show simply because it's popular, or because it's unrealistic, flat, 2D, overly moe, unfunny, or whatever.

Doubly strange when you consider that in the scheme of things, Cardcaptor Sakura is a 'low-level' show, in that many American anime fans can recgonize and go into obsessive mode over just like any hyperactive love interest worth their salt. As with most Clamp titles, it's as good a brand name at times as any of the shonen shows like Naruto or Bleach, or maybe even other romance-style supernaturals like D.N.Angel. Pretty much, if you can find it in a public library, it's probably a 'low-level' show.

Yet, disregarding the fact that many 'low-level' shows can be good (as if this would prove otherwise), Cardcaptor Sakura lacks that kind of internet scorn given upon 'common' shows. It's not looked down upon in that haughty internet way, with nobody scoffing and going "why watch that when you could watch x?"

Cardcaptor Sakura truly is nearly a shining pillar of untouchableness, one show that is nearly universally acclaimed. It really is amazing.

Step aside, miss Suzumiya. This is the kind of reverence which at least I and some other people look with upon our goddess Sakura Kinomoto, and today I'm going to try to explore a bit into this years-old show and see just what makes it a classic.

To be honest, I haven't watched an episode of Cardcaptor Sakura in about a year now, which is probably what is driving my sense of nostalgia for this show. It's a similar yearning as one would have for a significant other of times past, except in my case I can just reach up on the shelf and grab a DVD.

(Incidentally, CCS going out of R1 print leaves me and my cheap region-free boxset in despair.)

It's funny. Rewatches, when you're a relatively new anime fan, seem almost silly when there remains to be so much new stuff out there, and even the other shows I idolize like Kanon I've only watched two times through.

Yet the Cardcaptor Sakura boxset lasted me in my earlier years for three or four watches - granted, there was no other anime at the time, but the fact that it never got old seems astounding nowadays, where shows go in and out the revolving door of obsession with startling speed.

The fact that a show arguably aimed at people half my age would be so captivating for so long, and for such a wide variety of anime fans, really is something.

Maybe I'm waxing poetic a bit too much, but Cardcaptor Sakura is a show that's deeper than it lets on; it's not just one for the preteens, but also for more distinguished romance fans as well.

It's no mindgame thriller, and it's not very unpredictable, but CCS stands out perhaps from other magical girl romances in that it doesn't shy away from what some of us, at least on the American side, would consider 'bad' relationships.

It has the teacher/student relationship (two of them, arguably), the same-sex relationship (definitely two), almost a sort of arranged marriage (hey, when you get engaged to your cousin in the single-digit years?), and more. CCS is a very 'pure love' show in that it almost says that it's not the circumstances that matter, it's not the type of person that matters, the only thing important is that the two love each other.

The romance comes from all walks of life as well. There's the improbable love (Terada-sensei), the unrequited love (Meilin), the passive love (Tomoyo), the fatherly, maybe childish love (Sakura for Yukito), the protective love (Touya), and so on.

While the main relationship perhaps is a little simple, in that 'blushing up a storm' fashion, there are so many other, perhaps more implicit, things to see as well. There are some great moments of raw emotion in the show, like Meilin's recgonition of her defeat (episode 60), or Sakura getting shot down and Syaoran comforting her in the park (episode 65).

It's just such a heartwarming show as well. Like most pure magical girl shows (Nanatsuiro Drops was an good recent example), CCS has that power just to give you a ridiculous smile on your face, just because of the way that things turn out.

The interactions between the characters range from amusing to aww-inducing (pretty much anything with the parent Kinomotos is a lock), the whole motto of 'everything's going to be all right' is so bright and radiant that combined with Sakura's (and, to an extent, a lot of the rest of the cast's) upbeat attitude that it's the kind of show that will rot your teeth and melt your heart, and you won't care.

The main storyline isn't horribly shocking, being, yes, a magical girl show of the classic 'monster (card) of the week' fashion, but there are some nice twists and moments in there. The Yue fight was brilliantly executed, if only because it did that science-fiction 'alternate universe' timeline where Sakura was defeated. The Sakura Card arc was strong, with Eriol's excellent shiny-glasses manipulation powers of Sakura and Syaoran, and the focus on converting the cards, which, more than anything, was a facade for the emotional development of Sakura into a strong-willed character.

If there's one big complaint I have about the story, ignoring any highly probable irregularities like Syaoran speaking perfect Japanese, it's that it's very typical romance in that the confession is saved until the very end.

The very end.

Like, last line of the series ever end, on Sakura's part.

It's not completely bad; the buildup to it really does wonders for transforming a simple line into something that makes you thrust your hands in the air like a football fan, but sometimes one wishes that shows like these could deal with the time after the confession as well; the relationship between a new couple is something that's just as entertaining to watch.

(Again, Nanatsuiro Drops for proof. Advertising has no shame.)

Most of the rest of the relationships get 'conclusion' in building up towards the main relationship of Syaoran and Sakura; it was one of the things nicely done in the manga, how pretty much the last chapter or two showed all the couples (Chiharu/Yamazaki, Rika/Terada, Eriol/Kaho, and...well...Tomoyo.) happily together, urging Sakura on with her own relationship struggle. Again, a great buildup, only to end in 'OK, we like each other, all's good with the world.'

Speaking on the manga as a whole, my memory of it is even fuzzier, but I hold the belief that the anime is better on three bases: 1) more of Sakura to love (70 episodes > 12 volumes), 2) I've always enjoyed animation more than stills (since I tend to power through manga too fast), and 3) Meilin. As annoying of a character she can be at times, she has some real moments and really grows on you like any other osananajimi fated to lose. Although she has some questionable entrance/exits (the trouble of inserting an extra character), what's in-between is worth it.

Perhaps one of the more interesting theories for the success of Cardcaptor Sakura comes from it having a natural enemy in the form of its highly-ostracized English dub, Cardcaptors. Since Cardcaptors the dub is unquestionably Bad, the Japanese version is incredibly Good in comparison. This is not to call into question the actual quality of CCS, but rather to say that perhaps its image has been enhanced even more.

Cardcaptor Sakura overall is an anime that I feel is more than what it seems on the surface. The characters do have more to them (i.e. while Tomoyo can be classified as The Stalker Friend, she has some much more appealing and arguably deep characteristics to her) than it originally seems, the romance is more than a straight one-relationship fight, and the emotional maturing of the characters really is something to be seen.

I don't think there are very many people out there, at least considering the audience, who have not seen Cardcaptor Sakura or at least heard of it, and there are probably even less that would condemn it, but Cardcaptor Sakura is really a show that seems like the entry gate to anime fandom; if you haven't seen it, you're missing out on the magic.

And that's not just trying to make a pun.
-CCY

Sakura: Yukito-san, hey, Yukito-san!
Sakura: Are there any Clow Cards left?
Yukito: You captured them all already, didn't you?
Sakura: Hanyaa~n


21 comments:

I've actually never seen it. I probably should but Magical Girl animes aren't really my thing so I've been putting it off for several years.

I always enjoy a good "nostalgic feeling"-inducing post on Cardcaptor Sakura. As nice as 70 episodes and 2 movie can be, it's a bit difficult to rewatch the whole series when one is on a busy schedule (compared with, say, a 26 episode series one can rewatch in under 12 hours on a Saturday).

Only last night, I was talking with someone about relationships and endings. We were talking about Disney movies, but the same applies. Most Disney movies end either with a kiss or a marriage.

I haven't seen Nanatsuiro Drops, but Saint Tail continues after Meimi and Asuka Jr. become a couple. It isn't more than a few episodes until the end, but it does show for about an episode or two what being a couple with one another is like for each of the two. Also, it allows more build-up with the characters, as Asuka Jr. has to deal with Meimi giving him a "familiar" feel to be around as he gets from the thief he can't capture, Saint Tail. Likewise, while Meimi is with Asuka Jr., she continues to hide her identity as Saint Tail, not revealing that she fell in love with Asuka Jr. during all the times he chased her as a young detective after a thief. Aw, now that's a second series I want to sit and watch, and it's already Sunday afternoon... I need to write some "nostalgic feeling"-inducing posts of my own to re-read myself to satisfy feelings of nostalgia.

I'm not sure how I'd feel about a continuation of episodes with Li and Sakura as a couple. Obviously they do become a couple, so things do happen. Actually, I imagine they would be a couple similar to Meimi and Asuka Jr., the latter loving the former but having difficulty showing it.

Back when I first saw a scene from Cardcaptors, I wasn't interested. It was simply "that show with the rollerblading girl". I don't know why Sailor Moon interested me when Cardcaptors did not, but eventually I watched a whole episode of Cardcaptors. It was the one with the Mirror Card. It still failed to interest me, though.

Fast-forward a number of years, and I see an episode of Card Captor Sakura. Japanese version. Winter episode. Very "hanyaa~n" with Sakura dreamy over her teacher (Kaho, was that the name?) The characters I remembered from Card Captor Sakura went from "eh" to "totally adorable" in Cardcaptor Sakura. (Okay, so really, it went the other way around.) Unfortunately, by the time I had a job and could afford the series, it was out of print. I was lucky enough to buy the whole set, I believe from Anime Corner Store. I think I paid less than the price is now, but I definitely don't regret what I paid.

Hopefully Nelvana or another company will license the remastered DVDs and Nelvana's subtitles for US release, as well as UK and Australia. At about US$900 for the remastered collection, I have no idea how the Japanese afford it. I don't see how such a re-release of the subtitles on a remastered release wouldn't be essentially a license to print money, for all companies involved.

More recently, I have tried to find a way to obtain the Animax episodes, as they boast sticking to the original script. I recently did find an episode of this dub and checked it out, but the acting was flat and emotionless, or really just plain bad acting, and this was one of the last ten episodes, at that! All the more reason for a subtitled re-release using the remastered copies, for all English-language countries.

griever: To be honest this is one of two magical girl anime I've seen (in Japanese, at least) in my life. Still, I'm surprised you've managed to put it off for so long; maybe it's been hard to acquire due to licensing (not to mention, buying a series blind) but I actually got started on this series by borrowing it from the library. Maybe you will be as lucky too should you choose to give it a shot.

chris: As you may guess from the above, I've never seen Saint Tail (although I've seen the name thrown around a lot). Maybe I'll check out the manga next time I'm at the library.

Props on purchasing the whole R1 boxset - hopefully sometime you can do a quality check post so that I can see whether it's worth forking out for R1 releases? (Read you were snapping up some of the less official releases, like my 8-disc set.)

Haven't heard about the remastered version before so that's definitely interesting, if not obscenely pricey. I've always been amazed as well by how much the Japanese fork out for their anime (the DVDs, I think, were more expensive, yet usually only have 1-2 episodes).

Never given the other English versions a shot since I'm at a loss at how to acquire them - then again back then I couldn't even stand the dub for the Sealed Card movie (which was pretty faithful, I think).

I think we should stop talking though before we both go out and hurt our wallets too much. XD

Sealed Card was decent as Card Captor dubs go, at least. But that's not saying much. If you haven't seen the first movie dubbed, then don't. Especially if you watch it in Japanese with English subtitles the day before. It's just too awful, every way around. Censorships (dialogue changes) are one thing, but the voices are too old, don't carry any emotion from the original, if any at all, and you'd hear "Sakoora" said all the time. And then there's Madison (dub Tomoyo).

Seriously, that dub is as traumatizing to a viewer as a ride in the Yukari-mobile is for Chiyo-chan in Azumanga Daioh.

I've actually met people who refused to watch CCS at first because they thought that it was a card-game-based show. I Am Not Making This Up; it took a lot of careful explanations to convince them that they were way off.

I've also been looked at funny for liking a show aimed at a target audience half my age (well, two-fifths, to be precise) on the opposite side of the gender divide. Weirdly, I've tried watching some other magical girl shows (Ojamajo Doremi, Fushigiboshi no Futago-hime), and they just didn't grab me the way CCS did from the first episode.

... you know, I probably should write yet another blog entry praising CCS to the heavens as it richly deserves.

I'll also mention that I cannot think of any anime with a Moment as powerful as episode 60 of CCS. It did not cement my love for the show, since that had happened long before, but it reaffirmed it in great letters of fire and stone one hundred meters tall, as a monument to all who would witness it that this was how to write a character giving up her love for another.

chris: Yeah, I remember listening to the dub for the first movie...for about 30 seconds. Then Kero opened his mouth. (First line of the movie, I think? XD)

DKellis: A card game show, eh? That's impressive.

I'd definitely put Ep. 60 up there in the powerful moments category but my heavy background in visual novel adaptations kind would probably force me to pick something else for #1. I'm a sucker for anime that say 'cry now kthx'.

CCY: Following up on your suggestion, I found the "Clow Book" set and the two movies for (relatively) cheap, and now have a little over half the series to share with my daughter when she's old enough to read the subtitles - or, at least, that's what I tell people when they ask.

(...he said, going all hanyaan.)

CCY:

Now that the R1 DVDs are out of print, would you recommend getting the "cheap" 8-disc region-free boxset (still going at about $100 at discountanimedvd)? I really want to get it for Christmas, but am kinda worried about the video quality. On the other hand, what are the chances of getting another re-release?

misha: Congrats! (Afraid to ask the price.) I'm a little jealour since I still only have the region-free set, and one R1 DVD. >_>

asuka: But that means you're in luck, since the one I own is the same one that's on that site.

Uh, comparing to the R1, I'm not really sure. I tried to compare them both recently, and there didn't seem to be a huge difference video-wise. I'm sure if you're discerning, there might be a difference, but either way the series is still 10 years old.

Of course, there are other changes; the region-free doesn't contain any extras - not even the Kero omake! - and the subtitles are typical region-free quality (i.e. a bit shoddy; I haven't watched it in a bit, so this is all from memory)

It's still watchable though, and it seems like it'll be your only option outside of paying quite a bit for the R1 copy (through Ebay, random sites, etc. I think some places are selling it for upwards of $200).

I would love to hope that there would be an R1 re-release, as the license for CCS is expired, so theoretically any company could pick it up. Somehow, I doubt it though.

I don't claim to be a master of the industry, but I would say outside of the rumored remastering that Chris Fritz brought up, I don't see a CCS re-release. I'm not sure how well magical girl shows sell nowadays.

Best of luck in your CCS quest.

Hm, Google changed how the login works for Blogger, so I can't log in anymore. Bah.

I've been working on some writeups of the CCS bootlegs, but nothing to be up in time for Christmas for Asuka, I'm afraid. However, I can help a little here.

This box set has nice DVDs (although they're single layer), and the quality is fair. It has the low quality subtitles, and the animation is compressed more than the official DVDs (8 DVDs rather than 18). However, the color and cropping differs from the official R1's. Compare this one and this one. Offical R1 on the right, bootleg on the left. The Tomoyo one shows a wider face in one screenshot compared to the other, but that's because the R1 release has black borders that my screenshot collage generator removes, causing the screenshot to "stretch" to fill the area.

The other item you'll see is this one, with lower-quality looking DVDs, but they're dual layer. Being dual layer doesn't help the quality much compared to the other. These are the same Japanese version bootlegs as the above. Due to quality issues, I say avoid this one.

Finally, there's the R1 bootleg, which has decent, but unconsistent DVD designs , which seem to be decent DVDs. Single layer.

I've experienced errors in various releases which made parts of the DVDs unplayable on my laptop. I don't have my list of which available at the moment, I'm afraid, nor did I try these portions on a standard DVD player.

Actually, there is a two-DVD bootleg of the same release as the first two above. Avoid it, but at least enjoy the series description from the back of it. This one's hard to find, thankfully, as you would not want to end up with this release. I think this one even lacks the subtitles to fit every episode onto two DVDs!

By they way, these are the remastered covers, and they sell in total for about Y90,000 (US$900), give or take. I have my own plan to save up for and buy them, so I can review them alongside the R1's and bootlegs.

@ CCY: Thanks for your help! The only ebay listing for the complete R1 DVDs (used) is currently going at $150-ish , although with 2 days left the price is sure to rise even more. Amazon I do not even want to look at. The only other website with the boxset in stock is Robert's Anime Corner Store, for about $300.

(At times like these I really, really regret not picking up the $75 boxset from animenation last year, before the license expired.)

@ Chris: Thank you so much for writing up the semi-review! I was actually eyeing the lower-quality DVDs you said to avoid. But why would the quality be inferior if these DVDs are the same Japanese version bootlegs as the "better quality" DVDs?

The series description from the 2-DVD bootleg made my day. It's even worse than Babelfish translations! It's like a mixture of Ja-Chin-glish under alcohol influences.

Finally, if you're ever selling those R1 DVDs (assuming you still have them and would possibly want to get rid them), let me know. =)

When I say "lower quality", I mean the DVDs themselves. Even though they're dual-layer, and they're recorded dual-layer, using twice the data as the first one I wrote about, the video/audio quality is the same. The DVDs are comparable in quality I suppose, but the packaging is by far inferior, and I don't trust the DVDs to last as long as any of the other options. It's hard to convey without you standing next to me and my handing you a DVD from each set.

If you would be interested in just the first half of the series (R1 box set), I'd have that ready to go for a hopefully decent price, but that's just half the series when you can get an eight DVD set of the whole series for the same price. It wouldn't be economically wise to put so much money into half the set when the whole set (albeit bootleg) would be about the same price. And if you're watching on TV, the bootleg I recommend out of them should be decent enough quality, even a widescreen hi def TV. At least I think that's the photo I took from that set. With so many bootlegs, and two being AnimeCartoon bootlegs (and one a bootleg of the AnimeCartoon bootleg!), it's hard to keep them all straight!

Of course, I'm looking to spend $1,000 on Cardcaptor Sakura this year, aside from what I spent on the R1 DVDs (the first half as a box set, then the 18 DVDs together), and all the bootlegs for writing quality reviews of to post in the first quarter or two in 2008. Who am I to talk about "economically wise"? =P

Chris,

Let me know how much you're selling the 1st R1 boxset, as well as the high-quality bootleg (if you are willing to part with it). My e-mail is featherdust[at]gmail[dot]com. Thanks! =D

You, sir, are so precise! Not only do you recognise the brilliance of the work in question but you're the only one aside from myself that I've ever known to refer to Sakura as a goddess in her own right.

Regarding your unease with the Region 1 issue. I'm in Region 2 and I've been trying to obtain the series but every time I try to buy I'm told that it can't be shipped. You're the lucky one in that you already have the boxset.

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