Magical girls are a genre that gets sadly ill-treated in the English-language world, with big-name mahou shoujo being pretty much doomed to heavy-handed editing in the name of "localisation". Cardcaptor Sakura suffered just that fate at the hands of Nelvana, before Pioneer rode to the rescue with this unedited, subtitles-only release. If you can still find it, get it while you can...
1 - Sakura and the Mysterious Magic Book
Sakura Kinomoto, 4th Grader - a fairly typical young girl. She's generally cheerful, she fights with her big brother Toya, she's got a huge crush on his friend Yukito, and she loves her father. Some subjects at school she's good at, and some not so good - in short, nothing much you could complain about here. That's about to change, though - she's been having dreams lately, of a girl who looks like her, a strange creature, and magical situations. But it couldn't really be her, could it? When she finds a strange book in her father's library, though, it becomes clear that it is - but only after the book's contents (a set of magical cards) are scattered far and wide. Guess who's job it's just become to round them all up again..?
2 - Sakura's Wonderful Friend
Waking up the morning after her first 'mission', the Clow cards seem just like a dream - until she sees Kero hovering above her, and the realisation dawns on her that she's a magical girl. Now she needs to keep her powers, and Kero, a secret, and that's easier said than done. Especially when best friend Tomoyo, in her best stalker fashion, already has videotape evidence of her adventures the night before. The price for her silence? A job as her costume designer. So when Sakura heads out to retrieve her next card, suddenly she has an entourage...
3 - Sakura's Hair-Raising First Date
A trip to the aquarium takes an unexpected twist when a whirlpool somehow forms in the penguin pool, almost killing a penguin one of the keepers. Sakura felt as though there was a Clow card nearby during the incident, which makes Kero think that it's worth paying another visit to the aquarium to investigate. Mixing business with pleasure, Sakura manages to persaude Yukito - a friend of her brother's and someone she has a huge crush on - to go with her, but this Clow card is one that's not going to be captured easily...
4 - Sakura's Tiring Sunday
It's Sunday - Sakura's due to be going on a picnic with Tomoyo, and she's really looking forward to it. Except that she's forgotten she's meant to be doing the housework, so she's forced to cancel. With no-one else at home, she's at least able to rope Kero in to help (he has to earn his keep somehow), but when Sakura finds two Clow cards during her tidying, it soon spells trouble - these cards aren't content to stay in their paper form, and with their power unleashed inside her home, there's soon a lot more than cleaning for Sakura to take care of...
Some shows are just made to relax to, and this is one of them - CCS has such a laid-back feel to it that it's a real feel-good series, and it's helped along by high production values (for the time - it's good old-fashioned cell animation) and a great cast of characters.
Sakura herself is just adorable - the ideal daughter, who just exudes fun even when she's fighting. Best friend Tomoyo is frankly worrying, with her obsession with videotaping Sakura being well into stalker-level behaviour and her dress sense - at least as far as the battle costumes she makes for Sakura go - leaning very much to the impractical. Toya's the man of a thousand part-time jobs, who loves teasing his sister (although never in a mean way), while Yukito is a somewhat neutral character - he's just there, watching, for reasons that will become clear later in the series.
The final cast member here is Kerberos, the Guardian of the Cards, who in his true form is meant to be a terrifying feline beast - but since the cards are scattered he's operating in power-save mode, if you like, and is more in plush toy territory. Much to his annoyance. Kero-chan provides comic relief, and a steady stream of advice for Sakura to help her retrieve the cards. There are more characters yet to be introduced, but that covers the core cast for now - and there isn't a single one of them who isn't likeable in their own way. Yukito is the hardest one to connect to just because of the way he "is", but even he has his charm.
The story is typical magical-girl, monster-of-the-week stuff - the first half of each episode gives us a typical day in Sakura's life, be it at school, cleaning the house, or being out with her friends, before a Clow card makes its presence felt and the second half of the episode shifts focus to Sakura's attempts to seal it away again. All under the eye of Tomoyo's camcorder. The cards themselves aren't inherently violent or dangerous, although their actions may be hazardous as a side-effect - they're just enjoying their freedom and exercising their powers, so even "battle" may be overstating things a bit. That's all part of CCS's generally non-threatening nature - this is a show that could be shown to kids of any age without parents having to worry about them seeing something inappropriate. They just need to be able to read the subtitles.
It's not just for kids, though - the warm & fuzzy glow that comes along with watching these episodes is something that kids of any age (including this 35-year-old one) can appreciate, and the appeal of the show hasn't diminished in the years since I last watched this disc, seven years ago. The only catch is that the discs are now quite hard to find, and can be expensive when you do - CCS was out-of-print even before Geneon's sad demise (it's well-known they took quite a loss on the show) - but if you can possibly get your hands on them, do so. It's an essential series, and well worth getting.