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At a Glance: Cardcaptor Sakura

Updated on June 6, 2017

Cardcaptor Sakura is about a magical girl, Sakura, who captures rogue spirits and changes them back into their true forms, Clow Cards. These cards are similar to Tarot cards, only they can house spirits. She is instructed on how to Catch 'Em All by Cute Talking Animal Mascot "Kero" or "Keroberos" (Cerberus), the "beast of the cards". He takes the form of an adorable little winged lion plushie. His job is, with Sakura's help, to collect all the renegade Clow Card spirits and seal them back into card form, and guard the book that contains the cards.Major characters include:

  • Sakura's best friend, Tomoyo, a rich girl who likes to sew outfits for Sakura to wear to her battles, and who likes to videotape Sakura's fights.
  • Syaoran Li, a rival Cardcaptor, basically. He comes from China and is initially mad at Sakura for not knowing enough about the Clow Cards' ancient lore, but he comes around to help her and befriend her over time.
  • Yukitio Tsukishiro, a boy the same age as Sakura's older brother, who is Sakura's main crush.
  • Toya Kinomoto, said older brother, kind of a stereotypical older brother character (if you've seen one anime with an older brother to the girl protagonist character, that is basically him too).

At least, that's it as far as the major characters as far as I've gotten in the anime, which is 14 episodes. The show follows a typical magical girl format. Usually a Clow Card spirit shows up (they represent concepts like Time, Power, Water, Wind, etc.), does some mischief, and then has to be confronted by Sakura and pals before it can seriously hurt or kill anyone. Over time, Sakura learns more about these cards and her role in capturing them.

Cardcaptor Sakura
Source Material:
Manga by CLAMP
Additional Material:
OVA, 2 Movies


How you feel about this show will really depend on your taste when it comes to the Magical Girl anime genre in general, but this is an excellent member of that category. I could spend all night talking about what old, familiar genre tropes there are, but instead I should talk about what makes Cardcaptor Sakura different from other shows like it:

  • There actually aren't magical transformations that change Sakura's outfit. She changes into outfits made by her friend, and there's usually a new outfit in each episode.
  • Sakura is not part of a team, like Sailor Moon. She's more independent, even though she is helped by her best friend and sometimes by her rival.
  • Instead of being the Chosen One due to her past life, like Sailor Moon and all her friends are, or due to some bullshit prophesy like Harry Potter, Sakura is chosen by Cerberus because of being athletically talented and being there to help him. She is basically in the right place at the right time.
  • Sakura captures a "Fly" card pretty early-on, allowing her to fly on her magical rod similarly to the way witches fly on broomsticks. However, she doesn't rely on this power as heavily as magical girl witches do in some other anime. She prefers to get around by rollerblading, in fact.
  • Being based on a CLAMP manga, expect gender bending. In one episode, a boy Tomoyo and Sakura help turns out to have been a girl all along (she was hiding her hair in a hat), and I'm glad I got to episode 14, because in that, Sakura's brother plays Cinderella in a school play, other boys play the ugly stepsisters and fairy godmother (who has a mackerel can on his head?), and a girl plays the prince. It's not necessary to the plot either time, just seems like a kind of fanservice for people who like gender bending.

Love triangles. It's not a magical girl anime without them, and Cardcaptor Sakura has moments that tease almost all possible relationship combinations of characters. My instinct is to root for Tomoyo and Sakura's friendship to become something more.

The main rivalry for Sakura though seems to be between: Cute Older Boy Yukito and Angry Chinese Boy Syaoran Li. The show handles its love triangle in way that is romantic and sweet. But, it strikes me as odd that every Chinese anime character is so combative and usually a Rival type, and they all usually wear stereotypical Chinese clothing and come from some kind of ancient martial artists' clan. Li is basically Shampoo from Ranma 1/2, but a different gender.

I like this show primarily for nostalgic reasons. But I have to admit, it seems like a show that would be great as an after-school cartoon for elementary-age kids, but doesn't offer that much to adults. But sometimes you just get into the mood of wanting to return to that kind of time in your life, but a more idealized version. All I kept asking myself was, why can't my bratty sisters be good kids like Sakura? What parent wouldn't want a child like that! Ha.

Idealism and childhood innocence are the main draws of this show. If you're like me, and your childhood wasn't all that picturesque, Cardcaptor Sakura offers an emotionally uplifting, and much more exciting, alternative experience to your own childhood. I like the action sequences, the friendships between characters, and generally I think this is a positive, entertaining show that still has the power to captivate audiences.

Rating For Cardcaptor Sakura: 8/10


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