Movie: Anime series are known to spawn feature-length movies on a regular basis. The cynic in me tells me that the reason is to cash in on a popular franchise without the long term commitment required by a full season series while the idealist in me tells me it's to wrap up loose threads a series may leave to do justice for the fans. Whether or not either portrayal is accurate (or fair), the bottom line is that such movies represent an opportunity for companies to provide something extra to fans. In the case of the latest such release, Cardcaptor Sakura The Movie 2: The Sealed Card, I think fans will appreciate the result.
The Cardcaptor Sakura series centered on a young girl, Sakura, and her friends who, after making a mistake, unleash a horde of monsters upon an unsuspecting world. Sakura must retrieve all the spirits, doing battle using her mystical cards. As the series progressed, she faced tougher challenges than a ten year old was ever meant to face but generally prevailed in her encounters, learning some valuable lessons along the way. In this second feature length movie, the folks at Pioneer/Geneon, tie up all the story lines the series left open, making it a must have DVD for fans of the series.
The story centered on Sakura finally readying herself to tell her true love, Shaoran, that she loves him. At the same time, some of her magic cards are missing and this led into the bigger plot, the discovery of a card so powerful that it might be stronger than the whole deck combined. She and her friends find that not only the cards are missing, but more and more of her classmates and town people are no longer in town, having disappeared in the night. The sealed card took over the body of a young girl and seemed intent on gaining back all the original 52 cards from Sakura's deck. Sakura notices that as her cards are captured, so too are more people and with only a handful of cards left to play, can she defeat this nearly undefeatable foe?
Okay, I haven't seen every episode of the original series but the basic premise is that you have to take responsibility for your actions. The usual other themes of loyalty, friendship, cooperation, teamwork and such all took center stage on a regular basis too with the silliness of your typical anime series aimed at children through in for good measure. I liked the movie and thought it was made with more care than most of the episodes I caught over the last year or two. The anime style itself was more developed, the music and vocal arrangement (in both languages) superior, and the story showed a bit more depth. For all those reasons, I'm rating this one as Recommended.
Picture: The picture was presented in the original anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 ratio color. The colors were crisp and clear with none of the problems associated with some of the quickie anime released in recent months. I saw no compression artifacts and if you like the colorful anime generally directed at the younger audience, this will surely appeal to you on a visual basis alone.
Sound: The audio was presented with a choice of either a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround English or Japanese track with optional English subtitles. The subtitles actually broke down into the vocal track and also a separate screen text version (to read the various signs, books, etc). The bass was well developed but the separation was otherwise limited to a few battle sequences. I preferred the Japanese track on this one but the English track had some merit too with the vocals and music well made.
Extras: There were zero extras on the standard edition but the special edition has a number of them for those willing to pay a lot more. Geneon didn't provide a copy of that version to review, sorry, but I'm told the basic movie is the same (if you're wanting to spend more for extras you'll possibly only watch once, go for it).
Final Thoughts: I've never really been a big fan of the Cardcaptor Sakura series since to me it just seemed very limited and designed for a younger audience. That said, I think this movie really was better in technical and creative terms than the series and even those of you who are on the fence about the series might actually like this one. It had a decent amount of stand-alone value but the ones who'll truly get the most out of it will be fans of the series. If you fall into that category, you'll have to get this one to complete your series. Last note: I hate it when a company makes more than one version of a release. In the future, I hope Geneon loses the multi-tiered release schedule and puts out just a special edition.