Original Japanese version
The story continues on a gentle line about Sakura's friendship with Tomoyo and also builds a bit more on Rika's character as well. A quiet girl, Rika's always watching Terada-sensei. Rika giving Sakura a flower in class illustrates the good friendship she has with Sakura and her concern for Sakura. While much of the focus of the stories have since moved towards the capture of a new Clow Card every episode, there is still good character development and the advancement of interpersonal relationships between the various characters keeps viewers interested and involved in the series.
The music continues to be quite good and while there is definite recycling of key pieces, they still work well towards building the mood and enhancing the viewing experience overall. While the main feel is a gentle, melody, the music when a Clow Card manifests itself as well as when Sakura calls upon her magic builds a strong sense of excitement and tension. While there is also some comic relief when Kero first shows after the Clow Card manifests itself in this episode, it strikes viewers as rather typical for Kero and does not really detract from the story at hand but does help relieve a touch of the excitement thus keeping things from getting too intense for younger viewers.
Perhaps most important to this episode is the continued character development and the growing rivalry between Sakura and Syaoran. Because of the near disastrous results in the previous episode, Sakura gains more determination to work towards capturing the Clow Cards rather than giving in to her uncertainties. Also, the rivalry between Touya and Syaoran is also growing which proves to be rather interesting, but more than that are the hints of how Syaoran feels about Yukito. More than anything, I'm finding this series very enjoyable for the friendships and the character interactions. While the Clow Cards and their capture is part of the story, more important is the gentle story of life as an elementary student and the process of growing up.
Nelvana dub version
Oy, what happened here? The promise that was being seen in the previous episode just took a major nosedive. While the voice acting still isn't the greatest, it isn't all that bad either, and I'm actually rather enjoying Madison's character. However, one character cannot make up for inconsistencies between the script and characters' reactions. Likewise the story itself has suddenly become decidedly holey. While the dialogue itself was decent, Sakura and Li's exchange at the beginning of class simply did not match the mood of the characters and their reactions. Why the folks at Nelvana decided against leaving the talk about Sakura's dream showing Li's robes in the dialogue is something of a mystery as it clearly illustrates Sakura's magical abilities. Likewise, it would help to make that clear to Li as well.
More importantly however, is the whole story concept for this episode. While I have nothing against the idea of changing the story concept to one where there is a class test the next day in order to get Sakura, Madison and Rita together, the idea of a teacher stating clearly in public "Rita, you need to pass this one" is rather unthinkable. The effects this would have on a student and their motivation, let alone the total lack of professionalism it shows are profound. While a child may not know how to respond to such, I sincerely doubt that the effects would be in any way positive or productive. Likewise, the fallout which would result should a parent here of such an incident would also be quite striking.
Character interactions between Tori and Sakura, Tori and Li, Li and Julian, Julian and Sakura as well as Rita and Mr. Terada are all decidedly lacking and makes me wonder how Nelvana will deal with upcoming aspects of the story, or if they will be cut out instead. Thus far, anything between Rita and Mr. Terada have been quite scrupulously cut. The relationship between Tori and Sakura is much more that of an uninterested elder brother with a bratty baby sister rather than the teasing of an overprotective brother with a clueless young sister. A shame since I quite enjoyed that depiction of family life for the Kinomoto's. How it will end up however is something to be seen for later episodes. Likewise, character development is somewhat lacking although Tori is decidedly showing himself to be little more than a high school bully in his attitude towards Li and Sakura. Where in the original he's clearly the overprotective brother, here he's an uncaring antagonistic bully. Is that really supposed to reflect what Nelvana wanted to portray for his character?
I think however, my main peeve is the inconsistencies in the scripting in this episode. At the end of the episode, we see Sakura giving Yukito a gift to say thank you for helping with Rita after the sword card had been dealt with. However, Li responds with "but, I..." as though he's the one who'd done anything. However, from the end of the scene with the sealing away of the card, Li took off right away when Julian commented about his outfit. (Why did he run away in the first place??) Li couldn't have done anything in any case since he'd run away. These inconsistencies in scripting made for a rather confusing episode and left a rather bad feel overall.
Combine this with a decidedly lacklustre background music which does nothing to enhance the overall viewing experience, this is one viewer who is starting to lose interest in the Nelvana dub rather quickly. While I'll probably keep watching out of morbid curiosity, Nelvana's going to have to do something to improve on scripting to regain this viewer's interest in the series overall.
- JN, 2000.08.31