Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
4K UHD
International DVDs
In Theaters
Reviews by Studio
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
DVD Savant
Horror DVDs
The M.O.D. Squad
Art House
HD Talk
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum

Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

Columns




Cardcaptor Sakura - Complete Collection (Premium Edition)

NIS America, Inc. // PG-13 // August 5, 2014
List Price: $249.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted August 26, 2014 | E-mail the Author


http-equiv="content-type">
Cardcaptor Sakura Complete Series Premium Edition Blu-ray


Cardcaptor Sakura
is one of the most successful shojo anime
(and manga) series ever created. Based upon the popular serialized
manga
created by the popular all-girl manga group Clamp, Cardcaptor
Sakura
became a huge success that spawned the creation
of this equally beloved series, two feature films connected to the
series,
books and video games. Following the fun adventures of Sakura Kinomoto,
the
series is a fantasy magical-girl show that is smart and adventurous in
equal
measure.


The story begins
with introducing the lead character, Sakura. One day while searching
for a
strange nose emitting from her basement, 10 year old Sakura Kinomoto
discovers
a hidden magical book on the shelf. She open's it and accidentally
unleashes
the book's Clow Cards, magical cards which contained spirits that leave
the
book and spread out across her city of Tomoeda. Sakura soon meets the
Guardian
of the Cards, Cerberus,  who arrives in
the odd appearance of a yellow cat-like creature (with wings).
Apparently, Cerberus
took a nap for several centuries while protecting the cards and now
it's up to
Sakura to become a hero and Cardcaptor to retrieve all of the cards and
put
them back in the magical Clow Book. Over the course of a day, Sakura
Kinomoto
goes from average kid to a protector of magic, and her new adventures
with Cerberus
(quickly nicknamed on the show as Kero-chan) begin (though she is
someone who still
finds time for her older brother Toya and her father). Sakura's mother
passed
away at an early age when Sakura was just three years old. Despite
this, Sakura
has a strong and brave spirit and manages to find joy in her life while
going
on her magical journey.


Sakura is also
often accompanied on her missions by her best friend Tomoyo, who is
always
finding ways to appear on the scene of her cardcaptor quests, filming
her best
moments and creating a myriad of costumes for Sakura to wear while on
her
action-packed adventures. As things progress in the series, a new
cardcaptor
character named Syaoran Li is introduced. Li directly descends from the
Clow
family and is initially opposed to Sakura as a cardcaptor, although
over the
course of the series the initially negative Li becomes more fond of
Sakura,
becoming her classmate, and eventually joining Sakura on her quests.
Opposition
turns to friendship and the relationship between Sakura and Li develops
over
the storyline.


The series is
famous for being one of the more unique and surprising shojo anime and
manga
creations. The plot-line initially seems simplistic but has a
lighthearted and joyful
tone which makes it so enjoyable to behold. As the storyline
progresses, Cardcaptor Sakura became a story with a
bunch of surprises in store for fans. This series is actually known for
its
plot revelations and twists and turns so one can enjoy it on a number
of levels
storytelling wise. The story was also highlighted by greater emphasis
on the
characters and their friendships, which makes it a much more enjoyable
series.
Rather than some productions (which only focus on the quest or journey
like
aspect), Cardcaptor Sakura is far
from being just about capturing magical cards. Rather, Cardcaptor
Sakura
is a series which dramatically emphasizes journeys
and character development. Though often quite fun and filled with
action-adventure, the series never does simply forget to focus on the
emotional
moments.


One of the things
that truly sets the series apart from many other productions is the
wonderful
animation created for the series. Produced by animation powerhouse
Madhouse,  a studio that involves a lot of
great creative
talent in the anime world, the series started under the direction from
acclaimed director Morio Asaka (who helmed the pilot episode). Some of
the best
anime has come from Madhouse. The animation team responsible for
creating Cardcaptor Sakura was hugely talented
and the hand-drawn cell based animation has stood the test of time with
delicate, richly woven tapestries of artwork that make the show more
imaginative, creative, and exciting. Modern computer-based productions
just aren't
the same as cell-based anime and this classic is certainly a good
example of
how wonderful animation can be when it is done traditionally. It's
classic in
every sense of the word. From the ingeniously designed clow cards to
the
details in background art, everything comes together for a seamlessly
creative
presentation.  


The overall
production of Cardcaptor Sakura had a
lot of impressive elements. For one, the fine directing was consistent
and
helped to keep the series entertaining with each episode. The core
group of
directors involved did a solid job bringing these stories to animated
life.
Then there's the fact that Clamp head-writer Nanase Okawa actually
scripted or
co-scripted a huge percent: participating in the creation and
storytelling of
the anime adaptation every step of the way. It's rare to see this
happen with
anime adaptation's and I strongly feel this was a huge factor in the
success
and legacy of the Cardcaptor Sakura
anime.  With scripts that maintain the
storytelling authenticity of the manga while exploring that universe in
some
new ways at the same time, this is a highly notable aspect of the
production.
Ultimately, it's the combination of great storytelling from the page,
the
excellent direction, and the enormously talented animation staff that
made this
series succeed so very well. Cardcaptor
Sakura
is often heralded as a masterpiece of anime and it is
something that
comes with good reason. This is one of the most inventive and well made
series
around, and it is one that all anime fans owe it to themselves to check
out. Classics
of Japanese anime don't get much better than this.


The Blu-ray:





Video:


Cardcaptor Sakura arrives
on Blu-ray in North America from NIS
America. The first thing that should be stated is that this Blu-ray
edition is
one that closely mirrors the Japanese releases, so viewers should feel
confident that this is the best edition one will ever see stateside
that is
also English friendly. While I have not owned the JP editions (the cost
and
lack of English subtitles was of course in the way), I am glad to
report that
the series averages bit-rates around a decent 25mbps mark which is most
likely only
a few mbps lower than the original editions put out in Japan (as there
was a
slightly higher disc count).


The transfers that
were used for these encodes are identical source-wise, and as the JP
releases
had some issues it hardly seems to feel like a major deal if the
encodes are
slightly different. I was impressed by NIS America issuing the series
across 9
Blu-ray discs and putting together what is a generally high quality
release. It
is one that will satisfy most fans of the series.


The series has
never looked better before for fans outside of Japan. The Blu-ray
quality isn't
technically without some flaws, but it's easily the best the show has
ever looked
to date. The earlier DVD editions released by Geneon/Pioneer in the US
are not
a match for the level of clarity and beauty to these high definition
presentations of the episodes. Colors are strong: artwork retains a
generally
clean and impressive texture and the traditional cell-animated
production work
shines triumphantly.


The drawbacks to
the video are mostly source related, as the JP Blu-ray's also contained
the
series with some DNR (digital noise reduction) applied, which affected
line
detail and some grain structure in scenes. There is still a trace of
film grain
to be found and the degree of the digital noise reduction applied is
less
severe compared to some other anime releases, but it's nonetheless a
video deficiency.
It is worth pointing out, however, that NIS America presents these
transfers as
they were in Japan and none of these issues are due to a poor job by
NIS in authoring
or releasing the show on Blu-ray stateside. I am pleased with the
quality of the
port completed for the series to be released on Blu-ray in HD.


Audio:


Cardcaptor Sakura has two audio options on
this
Blu-ray set: Japanese 2.0 Uncompressed PCM and English Mono
Uncompressed PCM. In
my opinion, the original Japanese language version clearly bests the
poor
quality of the English dubbing presented here. The original audio is
quite
successful in virtually all regards: solid voice-acting, great music
clarity,
and decent 2.0 stereo surround effects. The English dub is not the
version
previously released in North America as aired on KidsWB (in a highly
edited
version).  It's a more complete
experience and it's a dub which was done for television broadcast in
foreign
English-speaking territories (and it was generally broadcast in parts
of Asia).


Viewers should be aware that while this is the
most complete
English dub version produced, there are a handful of episodes in which
it
wasn't entirely completed. In these few spots, NIS America presents
un-dubbed
portions with Japanese audio and English subtitles. The level of
clarity and
immersion on the mono dub presentation is also noticeably inferior to
the Japanese
audio and those looking for the most impressive sonic qualities will be
more pleased
with the original audio out of the two options.


Some fans have already noticed that the US release
does not
contain the Uncompressed PCM 5.1 surround sound presentations contained
on the
JP releases. This is a bit surprising news at first, but in considering
the
fact that NIS America has included a lossless English dub option and
it's fewer
discs on the US release, the lack of the 5.1 audio seems
understandable. It's
also not even clear if the 5.1 mix presented on the JP editions is a
simple
upmix (a common trend with a number of older television productions).
There is
no doubt that the 2.0 audio presented on this release is the original
sound
design given to the series and that this presentation sounds solid
throughout
this release.


While I would have preferred NIS drop the English
dub in
favor of including the 5.1 Japanese audio (especially if there is even
a slight
possibility of it being a native 5.1 sound mix), the 2.0 audio is
certainly a
good option and with the use of a Dolby Pro Logic encoder system found
in many
receivers, listeners can do a comparable upmix to 5.1 if they want to
listen to
it that way. I understand the decision to include the English dub audio
and for
those interested in that aspect of the release NIS America has included
something certain listeners will enjoy getting to have as an option.


The subtitles are mostly good quality and are
closely following
the Japanese version. However, these subtitles are not as perfect as
some may
want, and these subtitles do have some issues. In Japan, it is
sometimes common
to be called by one's last name. In many scenes, one character is
commonly
referred to in the subtitles by their given name and not by the name
spoken
on-screen. This is a common translation decision to make the
translation feel
more Western-friendly, but is certainly not as accurate. It also causes
an
error in how a few scenes play out because of one of the names in these
subtitles.
It might sound like a minor issue to some viewers, but it's worth
pointing out.


The subtitles also occasionally use common Western
slang terminology
to replace common Japanese sayings in the translation. This isn't so
much
incorrect as it is a specific translation decision. It's not the same
as it was
on the previous DVD editions, and while I found it to be occasionally
distracting having viewed episodes with minor translation differences
before, I
don't think these issues will bother most viewers. Overall, I found the
subtitles to be pretty strong (if a wee bit imperfect) and think that
most
audiences will find them to be satisfactory.





Extras:


The only on-disc extras are clean opening and
ending
animation for all three seasons of the series. While the lack of any
substantial extras is disappointing it's certainly not really that
uncommon and
the set still closely mirrors the JP Blu-ray release in this regard.


src="http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/images/reviews/275/full/1409038236_1.jpg"
height="626" width="1000">


NIS America has created another excellent Premium
Edition Blu-ray
set, which is housed in an interesting 9 disc DVD case with a rounded
design, a
beautiful art-box housing the set and a 76 page long hardcover Episode
Guide
and Artbook for the series. While the amount of art that is included is
limited, what is included is quite nice. I appreciated the episode
guide and
like that each episode listing includes pictures from the episode,
including
info about which spirit of the Clow Cards was featured in the episode
highlighted. I also liked the inclusion of information on who wrote and
directed each episode of the series.


Final Thoughts:


Cardcaptor Sakura
has been one of the most discussed titles regarding
the question of whether or not the series would ever get to receive a
domestic
Blu-ray release. NIS America has done fans of this classic series a
solid with
the license rescue and release of the entire show in high definition in
one
swoop with this deluxe premium edition set. I once dreamed that a
complete
Blu-ray set of Cardcaptor Sakura
would be released -- and that it would be released stateside from NIS
America, as
one of the best anime companies around -- and I am thrilled that this
dream
came true.


While it's not a
set that's absolutely perfect in every regard, this is still undeniably
one of
the best releases of the entire year. Even having this beloved classic
anime
series license rescued is great news and a huge deal. It's wonderful
that NIS
America has made such a strong effort to bring to North America the
Japanese
Blu-ray presentation of Cardcaptor Sakura.
With all 70 episodes of the series (with its three season run), the
best
presentation of Cardcaptor Sakura to
date, a solid lossless Japanese audio presentation, the most complete
English
dub made, and a gorgeously designed art-box and artbook containing a
complete
episode guide to the entire series, NIS America's Cardcaptor
Sakura
- Complete
Series (Premium Edition)
set is a must own for dedicated anime
collector's
and fans of the show.  


Highly Recommended.



Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

Buy from Amazon.com

C O N T E N T

V I D E O

A U D I O

E X T R A S

R E P L A Y

A D V I C E
Highly Recommended

E - M A I L
this review to a friend
Popular Reviews

Sponsored Links
Sponsored Links