The Summer of Love with Cardcaptor Sakura Episodes 1-10: Sakura and the Clow Cards

The Summer of Love IV begins! It’s been a long time coming, but we are finally here! It is time to take a look at one of the most beloved and famous magical girl shows in anime. How will it all end up fairing? How do the first few episodes work in introducing us to the world and its characters. Let’s dig into the first ten episodes of Cardcaptor Sakura and find out!

((For the rest of The Summer of Love, I will be sometimes referring to the series as CCS for short.))

Now to get this off the table right away, I am aware that Cardcaptor Sakura, especially the manga source material takes a very…we’ll say ‘innocent’ approach to many of its relationships, especially in terms to some of the secondary characters. While the more ‘icky’ bits have been scrubbed away from the anime, it is still present and I would be amiss to not acknowledge it. I am not a big fan of it, but I also am aware that they represent in some way, the world CLAMP is trying to present here. This is a well I will return to many times throughout this event, but Cardcaptor Sakura aims to show you a world of pure honest innocence. A world where everyone is safe, children can wander a city with no fear and where adults and strangers are trusted and respected figures. The biggest problems would seem mundane in our lives, and in fact the biggest crisis the series faces isn’t even from the Clow Cards, as you will see later. This contributes to the wholesome nature of the story, but it can also lead to some whiplash for some viewers, especially those who might have had difficult childhoods of their own.

Some of CLAMP’s romances in CCS can stretch the limit of some viewers tolerance.

I would not besmirch anyone who looked at CCS or its source material and raised an eyebrow or two. I do myself at times, but we must also understand the world being presented here is not our own, and a suspension of disbelief is required. To expect a piece of fiction to wrap itself around one’s personal or political beliefs is, in my view, foolhardy and can only lead to disappointment or in some cases anger. I do not plan on harping on this issue unless it directly affects the anime, but like with my other event post, I won’t turn a blind eye to it either. It is there, I acknowledge how it would put people at unease, now deal with it how you will.

Syaoran Li takes his time to show up in the story, giving Sakura and the other cast room to breathe.

Anyway, after watching these ten episodes I found myself remembering that this is a magical girl show designed and aimed purely at younger viewers. There is no cynicism or ironic commentary. No attempt to run away from the genre like Madoka Magica, or Spec-Ops Asuka, and neither is it the poking fun or indulgence of Fate/Illya. This is a pure magical girl show through and through, and it knows that the people who are most going to be affected by it are, in effect, those young viewers.

CCS never forgets its core viewership and doesn’t try to cynically tear it down, or overly indulge.

But like the best types of children’s entertainment, CCS remembers that many of the people watching will be adults as well. Whether it is on in the background or they are sharing the experience with their children, grown-ups will be watching it and they too need to be entertained. Even putting aside my own nostalgia, I can admire many of the cartoons of my youth for being smart and funny enough to humor an adult. Shows like Hey Arnold! Recess, The Weekenders and the first three seasons of Spongebob Squarepants remain excellent pieces of work that any can enjoy. Cardcaptor Sakura takes a page out of their book and it pays off in spades.

CCS’s humor is cute, funny and grounded. There are no major gags that derail the story.

In the first ten episodes we are of course brought up to speed very quickly. I was impressed at how well the pilot episode is able to go from ‘zero to full’  in a simple twenty-four minutes. By the end of the first episode we know who Sakura Kinomoto is, her home life, relationship with older brother Touya, her crush on Yukito and her friendship with Tomoyo. We know about the Clow cards, how they are used and what you need to do to bring them back. Despite being robbed of her mother Nadeshiko at a young age, we get to see how comfortable and loving Sakura’s world is. To show that much and still maintain good pacing is impressive, and CCS if anything is able to balance it’s respectable level of worldbuilding with the normal hijinks of everyday life.

The pilot is a masterclass in introducing the world, characters and ideas.

I’ll leave the episode thoughts to the bullet points below, but right now I will say that the first ten episodes of Cardcaptor Sakura were an absolute treat. I thought I knew how wholesome it was, but I was floored at how cosy and loving it really was. Normally I would drift in and out during shows like this, but I found myself glued to the screen. Hell when it was finally over all I wanted to do was start up the next episode, but I held myself back. A beautiful and loving world, fantastic music, and an animation style that while showing its age, has a lot of love and care around it. I expect things to go up and down due to the episodic nature of the anime, but if CCS maintains this level of quality, then damn am I in for a treat. Join me next week as we discuss the next ten episodes!

Assorted Thoughts

  • I was pleased to see that despite her innocent and loving nature, Sakura still gets angry and frustrated, especially when teased by her brother Touya. Even Kero annoys her and while it only brief moments, it does a bit to humanize her character.
  • Furthermore it was great to see Touya, despite teasing her to high heaven, literally jump a fence and get ready to throw down when Syaoran confronts her. That is a mark of a true brother.
  • I run hot and cold on Kero as a character. He’s alright, often serving as the walking pokedex of the series, but honestly if he wasn’t around I wouldn’t mind that much. We’ll see if that changes.
  • Tomoyo is a fucking delight, she is always in Sakura’s corner and clearly enjoys putting her in costumes and filming her. Again I am aware of the implications (see the start of this post), but anyone would love to have a friend like her.
  • But really, why does the daughter of the CEO of a toy company have like four bodyguards? Why are they all dressed like they are about to enter the matrix?
  • I was surprised that Syaoran was introduced quite late in these ten episodes, but I think it works. Letting Sakura have the sole spotlight in the beginning helps establish what the show is about before Syaoran changes up the dynamic.
  • Syaoran himself right now is a real brat, but his character arc is going to be great from what I remember.
  • Tomoyo’s mom was a treat to see, she shows up again in episode 11, but I love her relationship with Sakura’s dad and how she cared so much for her Nadeshiko. Rocks that hairstyle too.
  • I was also glad to see that the show doesn’t spend time on the fact that Sakura doesn’t have a mom. She’s accepted her death, misses her, but isn’t drowning in the grief. But every time Nadeshiko shows up, like at the end of the Illusion episode…man that hits.
  • The costumes in the series have been great so far, and it helps make the recycled animation (that so far has been used very lightly) differ a bit. I like that. My favorite so far probably has to be the one from the second episode. Worst is probably the one from episode 7.
  • Hoe count: At least 20.
This is your Tomoyo moment, embrace them.

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