The story continues to build with strong character development concentrating on the relationship between Sakura and Yukito and her definite feelings of infatuation with her brother's best friend. We had a decent idea of how much Sakura likes Yukito in the last episode when she made a sidetrip to visit Yukito before going to school, however, it's made blatantly obvious here through both the animation and the voice acting. Solid script writing and voice acting really makes this episode and series a great series for kids so far. The strong concentration on relationships and growing up is something that adults and kids both can relate to and thus enjoy.
Animation continues to be a mixed bag with a lower frame rate but with good attention to detail on Sakura's outfits as well as the Clow cards physical manifestations. Often however, there is heavy use of limited shots for example only of Sakura's feet when roller blading. The music on the other hand is quite nice and helps enhance the overall viewing experience. Thankfully, they aren't too catchy as to forever be going through one's head (unlike certain other theme songs and incidental music scores...) Some viewers might find the high pitched voices of Sakura and Tomoyo a bit too sweet and saccharine to get into the series, however, the voices are very well suited to the characters personalities and are somewhat representative of vocal pitch in Japan; or at least how people pitch their voices in the country.
Kids will find that there is enough action in the episode to keep their attention as well as some interesting character development on Sakura's part in figuring out on her own how to capture the water elemental. Young girls especially may be able to relate with Sakura and her crush on Yukito although they may not melt quite so literally. Still, poor Sakura's feelings for Yukito might be a bit too blatant in the animation. Never mind the use of big flowers to accentuate emotion, (while they used lilies at least they didn't use white lilies...) but also Sakura's expression is rather priceless and will have many older (than target) viewers either laughing or cringing slightly at her inability to hide her feelings a bit better rather than being completely and utterly blatant in her emotions. On the otherhand though, she is only 10 so she is more likely to be quite open in showing her feelings in that sense.
Key to this episode however, is the idea of Sakura wanting to capture the card of her own volition to help protect the penguins, and more importantly, in figuring out on her own how to capture the card despite being told by Kero-chan that it's currently beyond her ability. This underlying message to the story line here is what truly makes this a good episode for kids. How many kids have been told not to do something or been told that they can't do something because they aren't old enough, don't have the skills etc., rather than being encouraged to try, or at least being supported in their efforts and offered encouragement. While letting Sakura charge in without coming up with some sort of battle plan would probably have been too dangerous, Kero's outright dismissal of Sakura's chances is representative of what kids often encounter when facing bad odds. Sakura's imagination and initiative is a quiet but good role for kids to follow; to come up with a plan first on how to tackle an obstacle (on one's own or otherwise) and then to carry out the plan (with help).
Another facet to the overall story that is slowly being revealed to viewers, is the home life of the Kinomoto family itself and the interpersonal relationships of the various family members and friends. From Touya's teasing of Sakura to Sakura's friendship with Tomoyo and her major crush on Yukito, the development of Sakura's character as she grows up is what really makes this series so special for viewers. Sakura's ablility to cook (regardless of what Touya thinks of her skill), and her attempt to win Yukito over through that skill is very typical of Japanese girls who often try baking cookies for their boyfriends; although this is usually true at a slightly older age than Sakura is currently. Also, how many people's older brother's best friends take the younger sister out for an afternoon without their friend along? Thus far, in this series, we find that the characters are all extremely nice and almost saccharine sweet in their relationship with one another. How long this will continue and to what degree may well cause some people to lose interest because of its sugariness; others will come to love it simply because it is so sweet and the solid family relations and story underlying the idea of capturing the cards will catch their imaginations and hearts.
- JN, 2000.06.28