Cardcaptor Sakura: 100% Concentrated Joyful Innocence

Let’s get this out of the way right now.

The English dub of this show titled simply “Cardcaptors” is without a doubt, the worst English dub of anime ever, of all time. Yes, even worse than the 4kids One Piece. It completely butchers the show by cutting out VAST swaths of character development, motivations, plotlines, and even full episodes. It is an abomination of the highest form and there is next to nothing redeemable about it. That’s not on the voice actors, that’s on the adaptors. I’ll defend English dubbed anime always, but even I can’t stomach what was done to this show especially considering it’s impact and legacy. You do yourself a massive disservice if you watch anything except the original Japanese.

Now that that’s done, after the cut let’s take at what is quite possibly one of the greatest pieces of Shoujo manga of all time, and manga in general: CLAMP’s Cardcaptor Sakura.

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You will cry. Just accept it.

Cardcaptor Sakura (CCS) is a special piece of entertainment. While not as well known as Dragon Ball, or as memorable as something like Cowboy Bebop or even Naruto. CCS is one of the rare pieces of work that can be enjoyed completely by both adults and children. This is important because for CCS, unlike other shows it influenced within the magical girl genre, is a show built specifically for children.

That means there is no “otaku-ness’ to the show, no pandering fanservice, no sexualization of the characters, no trying to appeal to toy collectors and overall anime fans. Cardcaptor Sakura is meant to be something to be watched by children, and those children to one day watch it with their own kids. There are few shows in both the East and West that are able to be enjoyed by both kids and the parents who often have to throw the show in for the fifth time. (Shows from the west such as Hey Arnold, Recess and the first three seasons of Spongebob Squarepants are notable examples from my experience)

This also plays into the overall theme and atmosphere of Cardcaptor Sakura: it’s complete and total embrace of innocence. The world of Sakura Kinomoto and her friends is one of sheer unironic perfection. Everyone is kind, everyone is nice and everyone seems to respect everyone else. Adults are shown to be loving and respectful members of society. Teachers are trusted and admired, and love is something that is embraced regardless of sex or gender or even age (more on that in a bit).

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Protect this smile, at ALL costs.

In term of story, CCS often follows a ‘monster of the week’ formula where during an event or something in Sakura’s life, she has to confront and capture one of the 52 (19 in the manga) Clow Cards. These are never life-endangering events, and often the bigger crisis comes from more simple and realistic things such as being late for school, or Sakura ruining her father’s work when trying to capture a card. However while this could make the show episodic, and in a sense it is. Things are connected by both of the overall arching plot, and the heavy emphasis on character development and interaction.

Throughout the 75 episode series, we see Sakura interact and develop relationships with a myriad of different characters. From her best friend, and the sidekick who is obsessed with her (and series favorite) Tomoyo, her magical sidekick Kero, her longstanding crush Yukito, her beloved but teasing older brother Touya, and her rival and eventually true love Syaroan Li just to name a few. It is these interactions that make the show what it is, and the plotlines that are carried between each character throughout the overall main story is what gives CCS it’s the greatest strength. Things like Syaoran realizing his feelings for Sakura and vice versa is treated with a reverence and grace that isn’t shown much in Western animation, and in turns is benefited by CCS’s overall tolerance.

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Best Friend? Secret Lesbian? Obsessive SuperFan? All of the Above? We’ll let the fanfics decide.

Like I’ve said before, Japan’s history and relationship with LGTBQ rights and people are…checkered at best, despite being heavily engrained in much of manga and anime. Cardcaptor Sakura is no exception, and the show is famous for it’s very tolerant and accepting view of queer love and queer relationships. This is mostly shown by Sakura herself, as being the innocent child raised in a loving and caring home, she has no bigotry and prejudice in her body, and experiences infatuation and love to both boys and girls throughout the story. It is not just here though, as each of the main characters Tomoyo, Syaoran and Yukito all have an attraction or love to someone of the same sex. While it might be considered “tame’ or a ‘token effort’ by today’s standards, and CCS never endorses or takes a position in LGBTQ rights, it has been seen by many as a standard bearer and trailblazer back when such things were still very much considered taboo (and all mention or implication of any queer relationships was stricken from the original English dub)

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Keep the Coffee coming CCS!

Are there some problems? A few. The tolerant nature of the show does have some rather eyebrow-raising things (there is one relationship that was actually cut from the anime because it was too much even for them), and the monster of the week format CAN get a little tedious at times. It can also be almost “too cute” and sometimes that might get in the way of a scene or an important moment. Kuro’s character is pretty much “eh” and the addition of anime-only character Mei-ling into the cast rubbed some fans the wrong way. However, they are minor when compared to everything CCS does right and well.

Cardcaptor Sakura is a show that wants to wrap you up in a warm blanket, hand you a cup of hot chocolate and take you a loving and fun journey through the world of a magical girl just living her life. It is sweet, it is gentle, it is loving, and it is kind. It is a show that will make you laugh, cheer, cry and make you go ‘just one more episode’ more than once. Anime is often a world of energy that takes you from one high to another. Cardcaptor Sakura is like floating peacefully downstream on a fluffy cloud on a sunny day. If you are feeling down and want something to lighten your mood or put a smile on your face. I highly suggest you check this show out.

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Or you can just NOT have a soul. I mean, if you’re that cruel.

 

7 thoughts on “Cardcaptor Sakura: 100% Concentrated Joyful Innocence

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Cardcaptor Sakura. I’ll admit, I enjoyed the English dub when I was young but when I was an adult and found the original I was surprised by just how much they had altered it (had a similar feeling with Sailor Moon and that one hadn’t been quite as butchered). The show is just sweet to watch and I really enjoyed it and even now it is a show I love.

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    • Cardcaptors is probably the biggest victim of the 4kids age of anime in the west. I understand WHY they did it, but looking back with fresh eyes, it is amazing just how much of a hackjob they did. Thankfully that era is long behind us!

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  2. When it comes to Cardcaptors I’m actually grateful I live in the UK, ’cause it meant I saw the European dub. It had many problems and certain episodes were hacked to pieces or had their subtext completely changed, but at least we got all the episodes dubbed and in the right order. From what the internet has told me of the US dub it truly sounds atrocious. Original Japanese is a thousand times better in either case. My favourite Magical Girl anime of all time.

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    • I find that English Dubs often get a bad rap, and are unfairly judged, but things like Cardcaptors dub is pretty much WHY that is the case. Like I said before, that era is behind us, and Funimation is doing good work on most of their shows, so I hope that people give dubs a fair shake.

      I too am also aware that there is another English dub that as next to no edits, I’ve seen a few clips, but still nothing to write home about I’ve been told.

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      • There’s also a more recent dub of Cardcaptor Sakura that I have yet to check out, mostly because, for all it’s faults, the voices for the dub I saw as a kid are ingrained in my head as THE voices for the characters and I find it hard to listen to anything else. That would most likely change the more I watched of the new dub though.

        With dubs in general if I really like an anime and I’ll get it on DVD and watch the english dub, just because then my eyes get to pay full attention to what’s happening on the screen and I can pick up on any details I’ve missed.

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  3. When it comes to ecchi and harem shows, 90% of the time, a good English dub is far better to watch. Helps jokes land much easier, I’ll be getting into that when I dig into some of those shows later

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