The breakout success of the Pokémon anime outside of Japan in 1998 came as a huge surprise to many people. Anime had always been seen as something with a niche audience in the days before Ash and Pikachu.
The popularity of Pokémon led other networks to seek out similar anime series that they could localize, in an attempt to find the show that could potentially become even bigger than Pokémon. This is the main reason why shows like Digimon, Dragon Ball Z, and Yu-Gi-Oh! found an audience outside of Japan.
One of the shows that were brought to North America during this period was Cardcaptors, which was the English name of an anime called Cardcaptor Sakura. This was a series that had a similar "monster catching" element to Pokémon but was more obviously aimed towards girls.
Cardcaptors was a show with an incredibly cutesy design, which had a lot of thought put into the costumes of every cast member. Cardcaptors also had a deeper emphasis on character development and dealing with real feelings, rather than simply being a merchandise-driven fantasy world like its contemporaries at the time.
We are here today to look at the bizarre history of one of the best anime series that was brought to North America in the late '90s.
From the ways that the show was changed outside of Japan in order to find a new audience to its recent revival, here are the 15 Things You Never Knew About Cardcaptor Sakura!
15 The Original English Dub Totally Changed The Show To Try And Attract A Male Audience
All of the big anime series that were brought to North America in the late '90s/early '00s had to be censored to some degree in order to be shown on TV.
Dragon Ball Z had much of its violence toned down and its references to death removed, while Yu-Gi-Oh! had to create the concept of the Shadow Realm in order to cover up the disturbing things that happened on the show.
Cardcaptors might have suffered the most in terms of being changed. One of the biggest edits made to the show involved diminishing Sakura's role as the main character. The order of the episodes was changed in order to make Syaoran a co-lead, in order to make the show appeal more to young boys.
This process involved outright removing many episodes in order to hasten Syaoran's appearance in the show. Syaoran's magical prowess and importance to the story were also increased in the dub.
14 The Cardcaptors Characters Would Return In Another Reality
The story of Cardcaptor Sakura ends with Sakura and Syaoran together at last. This is considered to be a satisfying conclusion by most fans of the series, save for the ones who wanted to see Sakura/Syaoran end up with other characters.
The tale of Sakura and Syaoran did not end with Cardcaptor Sakura. The creators of the series are a group of female mangaka known as Clamp, who are responsible for lots of successful anime/manga franchises. The members of Clamp brought Sakura and Syaoran back in a different form in their later series.
Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE is set in a fantasy world which features alternate versions of Sakura and Syaoran. This series would go on to cross over with xxxHolic, which is another manga produced by Clamp, which establishes that both comics take place in the same universe.
13 The Pokémon Homage
Cardcaptor Sakura has sometimes been referred to as "Pokémon for girls" by people who are only vaguely familiar with the show.
This is due to both shows being about collecting fantastical creatures (Pokémon and Clow Cards) and being on TV around the same time. The truth is a lot more complicated, though there are certainly a few similarities between the two shows.
The Pokémon franchise has referenced Cardcaptor Sakura on a few occasions (as we will see later.) The most obvious of these happened during the seventy-seventh episode of the Diamond & Pearl series when two young girls who greatly resemble Sakura and Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura appeared at the start of the episode.
They are entrants in the Wallace Cup and are wearing the same kind of hat that Wallace wears in the series.
12 The Removal Of The Inappropriate Romance
The English localization team for Cardcaptors had a lot more work on their hands than simply increasing Syaoran's role in the story. Cardcaptor Sakura has a lot of content that would be considered inappropriate for western audiences. Indeed, some of the content from the manga couldn't even make its way into the anime.
One of the most controversial aspects of Cardcaptor Sakura is the relationship between Rika and Terada. Rika is a young school girl who is engaged to her much older teacher.
The two have a romantic (though not overtly sexual) relationship and Terada is allowed to go on dates and spend time alone with his fiance, who isn't old enough to go see a PG-13 movie on her own.
Rita and Terada's relationship was significantly toned down in the anime, with their engagement being totally removed. Any hint of romance between the two was totally removed in the English dub of the show.
11 The Official Cardcaptors/Tetris Crossover
Tetris is one of the most financially successful video games of all time. A version of Tetris has appeared on almost every system ever made, due to how simple it is to create. This extends to even the latest video game consoles.
You can't really expand on the concept of Tetris. Once online multiplayer was added to the game, there was little else you could do to improve Tetris.
One attempt was made to spruce up Tetris in the year 2000 when the series officially crossed over with Cardcaptor Sakura on the original PlayStation. Tetris with Cardcaptor Sakura: Eternal Heart told the story of the Clow Cards being transformed into tetrominoes, which could only be captured by clearing them out in rows.
10 The Cardcaptor Albums
It's not unusual for a big cartoon series to receive its own music album. Shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park, and even King of the Hill have their own records, which feature a mixture of tracks from the show and original songs performed by the voice cast.
Music albums for animated characters are even more popular in Japan, with many popular series receiving numerous records over their run. These also included audio dramas that were usually produced by the cast of the anime.
Cardcaptor Sakura had an abundance of audio CDs released over the course of the series. These featured songs from the show and songs performed in-character by the original voice actors from the anime. There were also several drama CDs, including one where Sakura has a dream about her mother and reminisces about their brief time together.
9 The Cardcaptor Bluths
One of the central themes of the Cardcaptor Sakura manga was romantic love that was portrayed in an innocent way. The vast majority of the main cast in the series were under the age of twelve, so the romance was always portrayed in a non-physical context.
It's a common thing for cousins to fall in love with each other and engage in relationships in the world of Cardcaptor Sakura. Meiling is shown to be in love with her cousin Syaroan and claims to be his fiance. We also know that Sakura's mother was also loved in a romantic way by her cousin Sonomi.
The English dub of Cardcaptor Sakura removed all traces of familial connection between characters who showed any interest in each other.
8 The Cardcaptor Sakura Manga & Anime Had Different Endings
The ending of the Cardcaptor Sakura anime actually removed the definitive conclusion from the manga.
In the Cardcaptor Sakura manga, both Sakura and Syaoran confess their love to each other after the final battle takes place. This is complicated by the fact that Syaoran has to return to Hong Kong. We see them reunited two years later after the two had maintained a long-distance relationship.
The Cardcaptor Sakura anime actually ended things earlier, with Sakura seeing Syaoran away at the airport and returning the teddy bear that he had made for her earlier in the show.
The conclusion to the story was actually saved for the second Cardcaptor Sakura movie, though the actual hug between Sakura and Syaoran was saved for a piece of bonus artwork that came with the DVD.
7 Sakura Represented The Series In Magical Battle Arena
Crossovers between different manga series are a lot rarer than the crossover events that happen frequently with the characters owned by Marvel and DC.
This is partly due to the different character ownership rules in Japan, which offers a lot more control to the creators of each manga.
Character crossovers are a lot more frequent in video games, with the line-up of the series featured in Weekly Shonen Jump being thrown into Super Smash Bros. style games on a frequent basis.
Sakura from Cardcaptor Sakura was chosen to represent the series in a third-person shooter called Magical Battle Arena. This was a game that featured characters from series like Slayers and Magic Knight Rayearth, where they were pitted against each other in the combat arena.
6 The Cardcaptors Game Boy (Is Going To Cost You A Lot)
There have been several Cardcaptor Sakura video games released over the years. The first of these was Cardcaptor Sakura: Itsumo Sakura-chan to Issho! for the Game Boy Color.
This was an adventure game that featured numerous minigames and tasks that you needed to complete in order to find the Clow Cards.
Nintendo has been selling limited edition versions of their handheld systems since the days of the Game Boy, one of which was a promotional tie-in with Cardcaptor Sakura.
The Cardcaptor Sakura version of the Game Boy has pink buttons and a picture of Sakura on the system.
You can buy these online on Japanese auction sites, but you best be prepared to shell out a few hundred dollars, considering the rarity of the system, especially one that comes in the original box.
5 The Love That Dares Not Speak Its Name
It's a wonder that anyone attempted to create an English dub of Cardcaptor Sakura that was intended to be shown on a network meant for kids in North America. After changing all of the hints of attraction between cousins, the localizers then severely toned down all hints of a romantic relationship between two school girls.
Tomoyo Daidouji is Sakura's best friend and is almost like a stalker in terms of her obsession. Tomoyo outright states that she is in love with Sakura in the Cardcaptor Sakura manga and only wants what will make her happy, even it means letting Sakura end up with someone else who will make her even more happy than Tomoyo can.
The English dub of Cardcaptor Sakura removed any hint of Tomoyo's feelings, as well as the revelation that Sakura and Tomoyo are actually second cousins.
4 The Granblue Crossover
The mobile game market is huge in Japan, to the point where smartphones were presenting a legitimate threat to the handheld and home console market. Games like Puzzle & Dragons frequently pull in millions of dollars across the world.
It is due to this level of exposure that a lot of the games that are popular in Japan will feature crossovers with prominent anime and video game franchises.
Granblue Fantasy is one of the most popular mobile games in Japan, with a userbase of over ten million players. Granblue Fantasy was propelled to stardom with the aid of several prominent figures that worked on the Final Fantasy series.
In 2017, there was a crossover event in Granblue Fantasy that brought the characters from Cardcaptor Sakura into the game. It was possible to team up with Sakura during the Cardcaptor Sakura missions and even keep her as a character once the event ended.
3 The Controversial Taco Bell Promotion
It's strange to think that the cheap plastic toys that were given away as part of fast food promotions (like the ones that came with Happy Meals) have gone on to become desired collector's items.
The Cardcaptors toys might also be worth money, due to the fact that they were the subject of controversy.
Taco Bell released four Cardcaptors toys at the start of 2002. These toys became the subject of scrutiny by the American Family Association, who complained in droves in order to get the promotion shut down. This was because the AFA believed that the Clow Cards resembled Tarot cards and were therefore associated with witchcraft.
The AFA's complaints happened around the same time that the promotion was due to end anyway, so no one is sure if their actions had much of an effect.
2 The Dash/Espeon Connection
Fans of both Cardcaptor Sakura and Pokémon have noticed the striking similarities between one of the Clow Cards and one of the Pokémon that was introduced in the second generation of games.
The Dash card grants its user the ability to move at an incredibly fast speed. It manifests as a fox-like animal with purple fur and a gemstone embedded into its forehead. The Dash card debuted in the 30th episode of Cardcaptor Sakura, which was first broadcast in 1998.
Pokémon Gold & Silver featured a new Eeveelution called Espeon, which was also a fox-like creature with purple fur and a gemstone in its head. It's possible that the Dash card inspired Espeon's design. The reason we say this is because an Espeon is used by one of the Kimono Sisters in Pokémon Gold & Silver and the anime, who also happens to be named Sakura.
1 Cardcaptor Sakura Has Returned!
The story of Cardcaptor Sakura concluded with Sakura and Syaoran finally reuniting as a couple. A lot of fans thought that this was the end of their story, with the exception of the other versions of the characters that appeared in Clamp's other work.
It seems that trouble is once again brewing in the world of Cardcaptor Sakura, as a new set of magical cards has been unleashed and it is up to Sakura and her friends to capture them all once more.
Cardcaptor Sakura has returned in a sequel series called Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, which is an adaptation of a manga of the same name. Sakura and Syaoran are entering junior high together, just in time for a mysterious new set of magical cards, known as the Clear Cards, to arrive and cause mischief.
The Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card anime debuted in Japan on January 7th. The new episodes are subbed and uploaded to Crunchyroll on the same day they are shown in Japan.
Can you think of any other interesting facts about Cardcaptor Sakura? Sound off in the comments!