is so Last Century
Get ready for....CARDCAPTORS!
who were late catching on to "Pokemon" have a chance to
get in early on what may be the Next Big Thing; "Cardcaptors."
From Kids' WB!, the network that brought you Ash Ketchum and Pikachu,
comes Sakura and Kero.
Already a hit in its native Japan, "Cardcaptors" debuted
in this country in late June. Our hero is ten-year-old Sakura, who
has accidentally set free the mystical and magical Klow cards from
a sorcerer's book of magic. The cards embody the forces of nature
("Wind, water, fire, earth, clouds, wind, rain, electricity").
Sakura's quest is to catch 'em all--excuse me--collect 'em all.
In the premiere episode, Sakura was compelled to form an uneasy alliance
with Li, a mysterious new exchange student who had been making ominous
appearances in Sakura's dreams, and claims he is the Klow cards' rightful
Comparisons with "Pokemon," which opened the door to mainstream
acceptance of the Japanese style of animation called anime, are inevitable.
Just as there are 150 (and counting) collectible Pokemon, there are
52 Klow cards. Pikachu, the Elmo of Pokemondom, has his counterpart
in Kero, a stuffed toy (very marketing-savvy) who, a la the late,
lamented "Calvin and Hobbes" comic strip, comes to life
in Sakura's presence to offer words of wisdom ("You must expect
things when you least expect them") and motivation.
But there are intriguing differences between the two series. For starters,
Sakura is a girl, and unlike aspiring Pokemon master Ash, questions
her qualifications to be a cardcaptor. Like the original Buffy in
the feature film of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," she doubts
The series will also resonate with Harry Potter fans. But as Kero
tells her, "The cards were in the book. The book had a seal.
You broke the seal, and only a person with specially chosen powers
has that kind of ability...You're destined to have them."
"Sailor Moon's" heroines, Sakura is a hero with cross-over
appeal for boys. The cardcaptor uniform designed for her by her friend
Madison may look like "pink frills," but it's actually "non-conducting
titanium and rubber," which comes in handy when you're doing
battle with the Thunder Beast. And once Sakura does get over her self-doubts,
she proves herself to be a worthy card-captor indeed. And she rollerskates!
fledgling series has what Kids' WB! senior vice president Donna Friedman
calls the "core elements" that made "Pokemon"
such a breakthrough for Japanese anime. "It's a cool, interesting
world," she said in a phone interview. "It has a very different
mythology from 'Pokemon' and a different kind of quest. It has relatable
characters and a mix of adventure and humor that is consistent with
It's too soon to gauge whether "Release the light" has the
same catch-phrase potential or pop culture staying power as, say,
"Pikachu, I choose you." But with the holiday gift season
just months away, can we expect an onslaught of "Cardcaptors"
merchandise, from little stuffed Keros to Klow trading games?
It's in the cards.
Liebenson lives in Highland Park, Illinois and covers entertainment
for national magazines.
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