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Cardcaptor Sakura 02: The Fly Capture

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Capturing Fly: An Overview
Source: TV
Layers: 1
Sketches: 27
Cel Number: A9-A35
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Added 5/2/2012
Updated 3/23/2013

This classic moment in Cardcaptor Sakura’s opening episode has been a favorite of mine since the first time I saw the episode (on VHS fansubs back in 2000). And I’d been picking up cels from the cut since my early days of collecting. However, I got a new and more detailed perspective on the animation involved in the spring of 2012, when the original gengas, accompanied by a complete copy of the timing sheet, became available.

Above is a simple reanimation of the A-level gengas, in which I’ve tried to honor the instructions of the timing sheet. You’ll see that it is a little jerky: that’s because the keys do not come in at a steady rate as in most animation, but practically each one is given a different emphasis. As a result, you can see the powerful Card spirit battling fiercely nearly to the end against Sakura’s magic, until finally it is overpowered and disintegrates into fluid streams of power. This runs a little quicker than the timing sheet directs, since I found that honoring it to the letter looked too stop-and-go to my eyes. However, I have tried to keep the way that some parts of the animation run slower than others, until about halfway through, when Fly melts into the emerging card.

Some details: the entire cut was designed to run nine seconds, and for the first six the animation runs 24-to-a-second. That’s an extraordinary bit of largesse, as even in action moments most studios stuck to a more economical 12 frames per second (and in quiet moments only 8 per second). Some effort was saved by having the first fourteen cels repeat in a bank five times, which filled up the first three seconds.

But when the Fly begins to break up, it then runs continuously at the same pace for more than three seconds, insanely requiring 79 unique cels of the Card breaking up, each appearing once for 1/24 second. Then, after the six-second mark, the pace slows, first to 12/second, then to a saner 8/second, with the final dots of Card debris appearing as cel A109 END.

Meantime there is a lot going on in the other layers:

C1-C33: a cloud of feather-like debris that keeps blowing around between Sakura and the Card. This runs 24/second in a bank that repeats four times until after the 5-second mark.

D1-21: another cloud of debris that crosses the first cloud at irregular moments four times. This also runs 24/second until after the 4 second mark.

E1-12: the “power rings” that pulsate out around Sakura’s wand in a bank that repeats constantly at 24-a-second from beginning to end.

F1-9: Sakura, seen from the back, the flap of her PJs blowing about her. This part, interestingly, is animated 8-to-a-second, and for the first seven seconds only the first three are used over and over. Then toward the end (as the scene settles down), the flapping gets slower and slower. There is also a set of F1’-F16’ images ordered, which are used at the end. From the cels I’ve collected, these seem to be simple black silhouettes, and I’m frankly not sure how they were used, perhaps as a kind of mask.

Total order from the cel-fabrication works: 200 cels, even taking into consideration that many cels were used as many as five times during the cut. And looking at the timing sheet I cannot imagine how the camera team managed to manipulate these five layers to get the 213 unique combinations of cels needed to commit these sheets of plastic into useable animation footage.

I have included the beginning of the timing sheet as a thumbnail, but in truth I’m left astonished by the complexity of the whole cut, which Madhouse must have considered crucial to lavish this amount of labor on it.

Caution! Fussy Notes

I was concerned that the seller honestly reported that the sketch set appeared to be incomplete at the start. In fact, the crucial Fly Card layers start with A9 rather than the expected A1. However, I could see from the scan that the A9 was the first image in this scene, and when I got the timing sheet I confirmed that the A9 key was indeed renumbered at the douga stage as A1.

The solution becomes clear if you screen the scenes leading up to this cut. When The Fly is brought to ground after it is trammeled by Windy, we see it land heavily (amid thick clouds of dust) from the same perspective as this scene.

Screencap courtesy of

The perspective turns to Sakura as she starts the sealing spell, and then we turn back to see the spirit transformed back to its Card form. So in fact the landing and the sealing were planned out as one long cut, and the missing A1-A8 gengas would have animated this first part. (It also explains why there are no B-layer gengas in the part I obtained; they would have depicted the clouds of dust kicked up by Fly’s crash landing.)

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Next: Capturing Fly: The Bank    

Curator: 60something-sensei
Gallery Created: 8/3/2002
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