The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie

Title: Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Madhouse
Format: Movie, 81 minutes
Date: 21 Aug 1999

Synopsis: During winter vacation, Kinomoto Sakura wins a trip to Hong Kong, and she takes along her friend, Daidouji Tomoyo, her brother, Touya, and Touya’s friend, Yukito. During the trip, Sakura senses an evil force and learns that she was pulled to Hong Kong by a woman, Madoushi, who seeks revenge against Clow Reed, the creator of the magical Clow Cards.

The Highlights
Visuals: Excellent. Great fight scenes, and Hong Kong makes for a bustling, eclectic setting.
Story: Solid. Like a long episode of the TV series, but in a good way.
Charm: A good example of Cardcaptor‘s mixture of fun, action and heartfelt drama.

Rare is the creatively successful movie adaptation of a TV anime. Some attempt to recast the whole story with far less time available — to occasionally good and frequently bad results — while others opt for original, standalone stories. That doesn’t always work, either, because these often lack a sense of urgency, particularly if they take place before the conclusion of the actual TV series. How can the audience believe that the protagonist is truly in danger if we know they survive to finish the series? Yet Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie takes the second approach and works. Why? Because it takes everything so enjoyable about the main series and scales it appropriately to movie form.

Cardcaptor Sakura is already a visually excellent series. The action scenes are cleanly animated and intelligently conceived and shot, and the general design and detail of its world is appealing. That said, Madhouse goes the extra mile for the movie. The choice of Hong Kong for the movie’s setting is fantastic: The city is large, dense and full of life, a place of wonder where Sakura and friends can get lost and drink in the atmosphere. There’s precious little of consequence to the overall plot that occurs in the movie’s first half-hour, but it’s nonetheless enjoyable because the sheer amount of detail is exciting and adds an extra punch to the scenes of Sakura and company exploring the city and meeting up with old friends and new.

The experience jumps to another level once the story really gets going and the villain reveals herself. There aren’t any new Clow Cards to be discovered in this movie, of course, but Madhouse makes great use of those already in Sakura’s repertoire. One thing about the Cardcaptor action scenes that is done well in the series but executed particularly well in this movie is the sense of spatial awareness. The creative team uses every inch of space possible; the battles feel larger and more expansive because of that. The flow of battle is handled expertly, as well. It’s never difficult to keep track of what’s going on, even though nutty powers and whatnot are flying in left and right.

While great fights are a hallmark of Cardcaptor Sakura, the emotional core is what makes the series stand out. Here, the movie is about as successful as can be for a story that is ultimately of little consequence in the grand scheme of the series. It is exactly like the TV series in that it’s an optimistic show at heart with some rough edges, and situations are often more than they appear.┬áThat is certainly the case in the movie with Madoushi, who desires revenge against Clow Reed. The way Sakura resolves the conflict with Madhoushi, who lures Sakura to Hong Kong in the first place, feels appropriate, if a bit corny. That’s acceptable, however, because the series is about having compassion for people. How often has Sakura found a Clow Card because she was sympathetic toward someone with a problem?

Overall, Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie feels like a long episode of the TV series. Normally that would be an insult, but this film fills its space in all the right ways. There’s never a moment where it fails to capture the charm that makes the TV anime so enjoyable. It’s serious and heartfelt, but never loses its sense of fun and sympathy, and the action is delightfully animated. It’s definitely a worthy addition to the Cardcaptor Sakura world.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Shinmaru

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