Original Japanese version
What a way to start the day, not only does Sakura have a recurring dream about Tokyo Tower, but she also gets teased by brother Touya about being noisy and in front of Yukito at that. However, more than that is the advent of a new transfer student from Hong Kong to her class in school. The rivalry that is introduced with Li Syaoran makes for some interesting tension in the series as well as making Sakura even more uncertain as her lack of knowledge is made abundantly clear to her. Syaoran's antagonistic and somewhat contemptuous attitude towards Sakura is well portrayed by Kumai Motoko helping to quickly establish the rivalry between Syaoran and Sakura.
The story itself is not particularly deep nor involved, concentrating more on introducing Li's character as well as the antagonism between him and Sakura. Also, the introduction of antagonism between Syaoran and Touya illustrates just how protective Touya is of Sakura. More importantly however, is the introduction of the rivalry between Syaoran and Sakura and another hurdle for Sakura to overcome when it comes to the Clow Cards. The rivalry itself as we will see in later episodes will help Sakura to gain the strength and determination to collect the cards of her own will as well as to gain confidence in her own abilities.
The animation itself while good re-uses some footage from the first episode in which Sakura, Touya and Yukito are on their way to school. While it's in keeping with the script, I was a bit surprised to see the footage being recycled like that so soon. Still, I suppose there's not much use in re-doing the trek to school too many times over.
Nelvana dub version
I have to admit that I wasn't entirely looking forward to the North American release of Card Captor Sakura, and when there was a lot of negativity on the newsgroups about the series after the US premier... needless to say it was with great trepidation that I awaited the Canadian premier. The episode being aired as the first for Cardcaptors was in fact episode 8 from the original series, but with some additional footage during the opening credits, and a bit of additional background dialog, they tried to cover at least the primary concept that Sakura broke the seal on the Clow book and accidentally scattered the cards.
Because of the material addition as well as the change in story line, certain scenes had to be touched up or changed. This was accomplished through using some CGI. Likewise, the opening animation was completely re-done through CGI and was quite smoothly executed focussing more on the cards themselves. Also, the opening theme song had also been changed from a sweet and gentle song to a rap style chant of the different Clow cards. While different, the opening song is catchy and may well encourage kids to memorise the different cards in the deck.
While much of the actual animation footage itself is intact, there are some places where you are left thinking something is a touch strange. Point in fact is when Sakura is off to school with older brother Tori and his friend Julian. Julian is seen in a sparkly scene as Sakura talks to him and sees him for the first time that day, and yet there is no reason for this to be the case unless there's a lot of sun out that day. There is no explanation for the sparkly effect and as such it seemed a touch odd.
Interestingly, the dialogue itself is fairly well done and idiomatic although the voice actors aren't always taking advantage of the natural dialogue in their lines. Occasionally a touch too clearly enunciated, viewers are a touch too aware of the hip talk between Sakura and Madison as well as Kero. What did strike me as rather odd however is that the voices of the various characters sounded very old. Sakura and friends are supposed to be 10 years old and in fourth grade; not 14 and in eighth. This is particularly noticeable in the classroom at the beginning of the school day when the various incidental characters all say hello as they come in and the teacher sounds younger than Rita! Definitely odd.
As for the voice actors/actresses, Maggie Blue O'Hara actually does a good job as a rather hip and technologically with it Madison. While quite a different personality from the original, this depiction works quite well and will undoubtedly appeal to North American viewers. Li is likewise fairly well done and while he doesn't really add much to the overall feel for this episode neither does he really detract from it for voice acting quality. Many of the negative comments on the newsgroups regarding voice actors was regarding Kero. However, considering his Kansai roots and the rough and aggressive tone it has for Japanese folks, Kero's voice and attitude was actually quite well suited to that original concept. Portraying him as a cute stuffed toy won't come off well here, but overall the voice isn't all bad. Perhaps my biggest annoyance was with Sakura. While I realise that kids often want to be hip and cool with friends and show no weaknesses, Sakura comes across more as a brat with an attitude than someone who can take care of herself. For example, after Li tried to take away the Clow cards Sakura had thus far collected from her, Madison asked if she was alright. However, Sakura's response was one where "It's nothing I couldn't handle". It just did not come across well and instead made her sound like a conceited, bratty snob.
Likewise, when Tori faces off against Li after he jumps the fence, the dialogue again struck me as unnecessarily antagonistic. Also, since Tori is in 11th grade, being antagonistic towards a fourth grader makes more for a high school bully rather than a brother who is concerned for a baby sister. This is one place where they should have stuck to the original analysis of Li's fighting style as being Chinese kenpo. Afterall, Tori has learnt some martial arts.
Unfortunately, the music track from the original series was completely redone and replaced by background music which does nothing to add to the overall viewing experience. Where before the music score helped to augment the overall viewing experience through enhancing the mood of the story, the new background music is just that; background. The music is neither enhancing the mood, nor does it add excitement. It's just there almost as though it were simply filler. The other very noticeable part to this first episode was the sound effects. Very noticeable, I almost felt like I was watching Loony Tunes instead of a new anime. While okay, it was overdone and too obvious and ended up detracting from the overall viewing experience.
Despite being quite different from the original and rather sweet story line of Card Captor Sakura, Cardcaptors is showing some promise to be an interesting series. I'll withhold judgement for a bit...
- JN, 2000.08.31