A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there are occasional tidbits regarding Japanese culture; one episode concerns a field trip to an ancient shrine cave that is reputed to be haunted. Sakura seems timid and often seems to need the help of an arrogant male cardcaptor. The show looks attractive, with occasional use of impressive effects animation. The characters are appealing, but slow-moving stories may put off viewers looking for more action. Ten-year-old Sakura is an appealing heroine for preteens; though insecure about her skills, she rises to the occasion when necessary. Teens find the adventures of Sakura and friends a little too sedate.
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What's the story?
In CARDCAPTOR: TEST OF COURAGE, ten-year-old Sakura accidentally releases the spirits of the Clow when she opens a Clow card book. With the help of Kero, the Clow card guardian, she becomes a Cardcaptor, assigned to the task of recapturing the Clow cards and returning them to the book. In "Sakura's Rival," Sakura encounters Li, a new exchange student whom she discovers is a fellow Cardcaptor. Despite their mutual dislike, Sakura eventually needs his help to capture Reiju, the thunder beast. "Time and Again" finds Sakura reliving the same day and having to take a despised music test over and over again. She discovers that a Clow card is affecting time's passage. In "The Cave," Sakura's class goes on a field trip to a nearby cave that's reputed to be haunted. Sakura overcomes her fear of ghosts, only to have the rest of her classmates disappear! Could it be -- a Clow card?
Is it any good?
Despite the theme song's modest claim that Cardcaptors is "a quest for all time," this latest animated series from Japan is considerably more sedate than previous imports like Pokémon or Digimon. The show spends a lot more time examining the daily life of its 10-year-old heroine -- her school travails, her crush on her older brother's best friend -- than epic mystical battles. When the battles do come, they're less about physical confrontations between creatures than about dueling forms of energy -- which gives the animators ample opportunity to dazzle the audience with various forms of effects animation. The character of Sakura is very likable, as is Madison, her best friend. An amusing footnote to each episode has Madison enthusiastically videotaping Sakura's battles and providing her with a new homemade superhero costume for each one -- costumes that Sakura is unimpressed with, but obligingly wears anyway.
Strangely, this first volume doesn't include the episode in which Sakura first encounters the Clow cards. The American distributors wanted to start the series with the introduction of Li, Sakura's male Cardcaptor rival, in an attempt to draw in young boys. Unfortunately, Li isn't a particularly likable character, at least as he's portrayed in these three episodes. He does little more than glower at Sakura and express skepticism at her Cardcaptor abilities, while continually extolling his own skills. This makes it somewhat frustrating when Sakura must ask for his help in order to capture more Clow cards. Still, these episodes are charming enough, and their emphasis on the more mundane aspects of the characters' lives sets them apart from typical anime fare.
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