One of my favorite shows was Cardcaptors, originally a Japanese anime dubbed Carcaptor Sakura. I would often look forward to this show because I have always been attracted to seeing girls, and women, exercise power, much like Princess Mononoke. Like many other Japanese anime that makes it way into American markets, Cardcaptor Sakura lost something. According to Actar’s Reviews article, “The “Americanisation” of Cardcaptor Sakura“:
In today’s globalised world, it is not uncommon to see cultural texts traded between states and nations. Often, these texts undergo some form of adaptation to suit their new local context. Nelvana, the Canadian-based children’s entertainment company in charge of adapting the anime Cardcaptor Sakura for North American consumption in 2000 certainly thought so. Cardcaptor Sakura was originally produced and distributed in Japan by Kodansha Ltd, and first aired in 1997. It chronicles 10 year old Sakura Kinomoto’s quest to re-seal magical cards she had initially set free.
With the failures of earlier attempts to penetrate the U.S. market with Japanese cultural products and former Bandai President Makoto Yamashina’s caution that they were: “too foreign for Americans and needed to be translated for American tastes” in the back of the licensers’ minds, Nelvana worked alongside American broadcasters Kids WB!, subjecting the popular series to a process known as Americanization, or “the altering of the characters and setting of an anime series according to social class and ethnic background of the North American target audience”.
We see that in this process, Nelvana adhered to stereotypical perceptions of the American audience, adding and removing elements in order to appeal to a clearly defined target age and gender demographic. In addition, on top of merely dubbing the series in English, foreign cultural features deemed to risk confusing, alienating (or even offending) the American audience due to historical concerns were removed. In this report, we explore the likely motivations behind Nelvana and Kids WB!’s (which henceforth may occasionally be referred to collectively as the producers or distributors) attempts to culturally streamline Cardcaptor Sakura.
In order to examine the producers’ individual concerns effectively, we have divided the edits applied to Cardcaptor Sakura into three broad categories. First, we examine the producers’ changes to the series’ micro elements, found within episodes, including opening sequences, location names, as well as character names and personalities to better define their assumptions. Next, we discuss edits to the series’ macro elements such as the episodic structure and romantic subplots in order to reveal the producers’ motivations from a business perspective. Lastly, we look at the role censorship played on the adaptation of the series as a whole, noting the producers’ knowledge of America’s distinct historical and cultural context and sensitivities.
EDITS TO MICRO ELEMENTS
Encountering anime in its unedited form for the first time, a non-Asian American respondent of a focus group conducted by Alexander Nghiem Frasier as part of his Master’s thesis revealed that “… we sat here looking at it going oh my gosh, look at this, oh my gosh look at that, and we weren’t really getting the main point. I probably couldn’t really tell you what really happened in all of that, but I could tell you about the things that I wasn’t used to. So, I think I paid more attention to that things that were not normal to me than I did the message.” The distributors of Cardcaptors were probably aware of this disjunction in American viewers. A non-localised product, with the original cultural references in the forms of customs, behaviours, visual features and names could alienate the audience to the point where they were unable to properly identify with the plot. Park Myoungsook observed that American audiences were often stereotyped to be culturally ignorant and indifferent to world history and geography. Nelvana appeared to agree with Park and adopted the following measures as part of the Americanisation of Cardcaptor Sakura to minimise audience discomfort:
Firstly, locations were either anglicised or left ambiguous. The town of Tomoeda, Japan was renamed Reedington. The exact location of the town was left unspecified but was assumed to be in America. References to cultural specific landmarks such as the Tokyo Tower were removed and generically renamed the radio tower. The origins of two characters, Li Shaoran and Li Mei Lin (stated to be from Hong Kong in Cardcaptor Sakura) were also left out. To further remove cultural specificity, all visible writings in Japanese Kanji were removed, and food was changed to those that American audiences are familiar with.
Secondly, Characters’ names were substituted with a western equivalent, as in the case of Rika Sasaki to Rita, or changed entirely to fit western trends. The main character, Sakura, kept her name but had her last name changed to Avalon, while Shaoran’s name was reversed, so that Li became his first name instead. The pronunciation of the names was also changed to resemble western usage. For example, Sakura’s pronunciation was changed from SAH-koo-rah to sah-KOO-rah, with the emphasis shifting from the first syllable to the middle syllable. This was to allow the audience to identify with the characters, as Japanese names were judged to be too difficult to pronounce.
Thirdly, several character personalities were altered to suit the American context. While Cardcaptor Sakura mostly polite, soft-spoken and reserved Japanese children, Cardcaptors portrayed them in a manner closer to what the target audience expected. In the dub, the characters became much more outspoken. Most drastically, Sakura’s best friend, the wealthy and refined Tomoyo Daidoji’s elegant speech pattern was changed to “valley girl” speech along with her “new” name, Madison Taylor, deemed to have greater resonance with the American viewer.
At this point, it is important to note that Nelvana had retitled Cardcaptor Sakura (emphasizing the female lead) Cardcaptors (plural and non-gender specific) with the goal of a demographic shift in mind. Originally intended for girls of the same age as its heroine, Cardcaptor Sakura would have been described as very “cute” and “girly.” The changes to Sakura, the main character’s personality en route to the U.S. reflect both cultural streamlining and audience stereotyping. Her naivety, insecurities, and fear of ghosts were removed in the dub and replaced with bravado and an aura of a ‘strong’ female lead. Sakura was a more considerate character in the original, much more in line with Japanese stereotypes of schoolgirls. In the English dub, however, she is much more assertive and brash in her speech. For example, in one episode, she tells her rival Shaoran to ‘Stay out of this!’
The aesthetic differences between their respective opening sequences support this assessment. The Japanese opening sequence features a very upbeat, cheerful tune, sung in a sweet high-pitched voice, with suitably accompanying visuals of the main characters prancing around cheerfully. The Cardcaptors opening however, is sung by a male vocalist in an excited, almost aggressive tone, while images of flashing lights and swords and animals baring teeth speed across the screen. There are also obvious lyrical differences between the two openings. While Cardcaptor Sakura’s tells a romance story of unrequited love and longing, Cardcaptors’ emphasises intrigue and adventure, with a repetitive chorus.
The above changes to the opening sequence, the lead character’s personality, and the anime’s new American title, all suggest a deliberate shift in target gender demographic made by the U.S. distributors; towards young American boys instead of young Japanese girls. The implications of this shift will feature prominently in our discussion of the distributors’ changes to Cardcaptor Sakura’s episode structure and plot.
EDITS TO MACRO ELEMENTS
So far, we have established that Nelvana and Kids WB edited specific elements within Cardcaptor Sakura episodes to fit their perceptions of the U.S. market. We shall now examine the impact of gender demographics on the producers’ editing decisions regarding the structure of Cardcaptor Sakura’s episodes and subplots.
Prior to the advent of animation blocks aimed at older viewers established in the latter half of the 2000s, the primary American animation audience was largely considered to be young boys. This must be taken into account along with the fact that in America, children often made stark distinctions between masculine and feminine elements in animation. Historically, it was expected that boys like masculine things – action, adventure, sci-fi, etc., and thus cartoons, comics, and video games featuring wish-fulfilling male characters that act within these themes are what they like. Meanwhile, girls were expected to like feminine things – prettiness and cuteness, romance with handsome “princes,” etc., and thus they’d like cartoons and games that feature wish-fulfilling female characters within these themes.
Beyond that, elements which were deemed to increase the series appeal to six to nine year old boys were added, while elements that may have detracted from that demographic were removed. The following edits to Cardcaptor Sakura’s narrative are illustrative of Nelvana and Kids WBs’ intentions to attract and sustain the attention of their new target audience: elimination of episodes that would not appeal to boys, the reordering of remaining episodes (thereby placing more exciting card captures early in the series), and the removal of the subtly blossoming romance between the main characters.
In Cardcaptor Sakura’s eighth episode, Li Shaoran, Sakura’s male rival through the series, also seeking to capture the cards and take advantage of their power, is introduced. The demographic shift to include an audience of boys for Cardcaptors prompted Kids WB to raise Shaoran’s status within the narrative through several moves, most notably the elimination of all seven prior original episodes which preceded his entry into the story. Cardcaptors proceeded to run in the U.S. for 39 episodes (as compared to Cardcaptor Sakura’s 70). This resulted from other episodes later in the series which did not sufficiently feature Shaoran either being eliminated or edited in such a way that scenes in question were replaced by those from the following episode, in the end essentially “creating” one Cardcaptors episode out of 2 original Cardcaptor Sakura episodes.
Nelvana also took liberties in changing the original’s episode order. Nelvana’s official Cardcaptors website explained that “the character of Li Showron (Shaoran) was more prominent in later episodes. Nelvana and Kids WB evaluated kids’ preferences and learned that kids wanted to see Li featured along with Sakura as a lead character. We are therefore airing the episodes in an order that makes this possible.” and declined to commit as to whether the first seven episodes would ever be broadcast. Unsurprisingly, if the distributors went with their original plans to maximise the series’ action and excitement, only 13 edited episodes would ever have made it on air.
In addition to edits made to the episodic structure of the series, Cardcaptors drastically reduced the original’s cuteness content. The girlish interplay that dominated the original was written out almost entirely and every ounce of romantic subtext was excised from the show – not simply relationships that might have been considered inappropriate for an American children’s show (which will be touched upon later in our discussion of censorship), but the heterosexual relationship between Sakura and Shaoran as well. Fans of Cardcaptor Sakura have noted that Shaoran’s love confession to Sakura at the end of the series is removed in the dub, Shaoran never makes or gives her his teddy bear, and the emotional airport scene where he leaves for Hong Kong is never shown (All he does in Cardcaptors is tell her that he’s going back home the next day). As discussed earlier, this could partly be due to Nelvana’s conscious censorship of the characters’ origins to adequately Americanise the series.
Part of Cardcaptor Sakura’s appeal to American distributors involved “superheroic” elements. Sakura to some extent did acquire and possess superhuman powers and was portrayed as a force for good. However, these elements would have been predictably edited as well given our present understanding of Nelvana and Kids WBs’ target demographic. In Anne Ellison’s article “Sailor Moon – Japanese Superheroes for Global Girls”,a Mattel executive quoted: “under these marketing decisions is the idea that, in America, girls will watch male-oriented programming but boys won’t watch female-oriented shows; this makes a male superhero a better bet.”
In order to understand the Mattel executive’s point of view, we must first note that the presence of females as featured heroes in manga, animation, and live action shows has been much stronger in Japan than in the United States, particularly since the 1980s. Some commentators note that in America, a girl’s cartoon is considered sissy stuff, and faces a difficult fight for broadcast or distribution. Female superheroes as a whole and Sailor Moon in particular, have not achieved the same level of success in the United States as they have in Japan.
The role of superhero has traditionally been reserved for males, and targeted at a predominantly male audience. In Allison’s article, a number of younger American children, in the 7-to-12 age range the both Sailor Moon and Cardcaptors targets, commented that Sailor Moon seemed too “Girly” to be taken seriously as a superhero. The American distributors of Cardcaptors probably realised that the preferred model for superheroism remained strongly masculine in the United States and strongly biased against a female hero, particularly one who behaved in a feminine or girly manner as Sakura often exhibited in the original, and factored that into their changes prior to Cardcaptors’ broadcast Stateside.
Since Cardcaptors’ release, some have argued that the source of Cardcaptors’ changes in targeted gender demographics could be narrowed down to a simple fear. The producers were painted by some fans as “cowards, creating animation fodder for children’s television… to satisfy producers’ assumptions about what North American children and parents would accept.” Others have suggested that Kids WB! and Nelvana were merely afraid of deterring viewers and that a girls’ series would achieve suspect popularity in the U.S., which would in turn lead to lower ratings and reduced profit for them. However, it is important to also examine Cardcaptors’ gender demographic adjustments as a business decision.
It is almost certain that beyond “fear,” producers were also attempting to use the broadcast of Cardcaptors to create more revenue for themselves through advertising and merchandising. According to Laurie Cubbison, associate professor of English and Director of Writing at Radford University, young boys were considered to be the principal cartoon audience in the United States because of the toy market, and TV programs were targeted at this audience in order to lure advertisers.
Cubbison’s analysis bore some resemblance to Shiraishi’s notion of Japanese image alliances, where “producers of… television… and character merchandise work together to expand artistic creativity and innovation in one popular medium into other media”. Mutual beneficial relationships among these “divisions” of Japan’s cultural industries not only work to increase the size and earnings of those industries.
Michael Hirsh, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Nelvana at the time ofCardcaptors’ first broadcast in the U.S. supported Cubbison’s view: “Cardcaptors is one of Nelvana’s most promising new properties. Its increasingly strong television performance is driving demand for merchandise and we are optimistic this brand will have substantial marketing legs.” Hirsh was referring to Nelvana’s master toy and timepiece licensing agreement with North American merchandise licensing company Trendmasters to market Cardcaptors plush toys, dolls, collectible figurines, dress-up and role play toys, as well as other novelties. In January 2002, the producers also collaborated with the restaurant chain Taco Bell for a month long promotion in which four Cardcaptors toys were available in their kids meals.
To maximise potential revenue from advertising and merchandise, Kids WB! also adopted the following strategies: Firstly, much like how the episodes themselves were edited, Cardcaptors was advertised mainly to a younger male audience, airing commercials which featured Shaoran as the prominent character and Sakura a secondary character. Secondly, the show was broadcast alongside Pokémon (another popular Japanese import) in the middle of kids’ “prime time”: Saturday mornings at 9.30am.
Like the changes in micro elements such as character names and personalities, Nelvana and Kids WB!’s decisions to edit macro elements the structure of Cardcaptor Sakura along gender lines played a role in aiding the series’ assimilation to the American culture based on generalisations of viewership. Beyond that however, the macro changes we have just discussed revealed some of the producers’ business savvy, using the broadcast of the series to avail themselves to additional sources of potential revenue by setting up an image alliance with merchandising firms.
We have so far explored why producers found it necessary to Americanise anime brought over to America to be shown on television. However, as Cardcaptors was broadcast in the States, it soon became apparent that numerous other changes had been made to it outside the realm of names, locations, or episode order as has been discussed in the previous sections. These changes served to remove any material throughout the series that was deemed inappropriate for a young American audience.
Material censored from the show included relationships between characters with lesbian or homosexual undertones, such as the ones between pre-teen female characters Tomoyo and Sakura, and teenage male characters Toya and Yukito. Homosexual relationships in anime have rarely gone down well with American censors. In the 1990s, the homosexual relationship between Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune on Sailor Moon was completely edited out.
Insinuated relationships between minors and older males were also censored, such as the one between Sakura and Yukito, as were student – teacher relationships like the one between 10 year old Rika and her significantly older teacher, Tereda Yoshiyuki. Why were these relationships cut from the American television broadcast of Cardcaptors when it was acceptable for them to be shown on Japanese television? Why was there a need to censor the mature themes that were present in the anime?
The straightforward answer to that would be because apart from their concern over gender demographics, Nelvana aimed Cardcaptors at a decidedly young audience, namely American children between 7 and 12 years of age.
To understand the need for Cardcaptors to be censored in America given this target audience, we have to first look at the perception of cartoons (and anime by association) in America. As stated by Dorothy Ann Phoenix, “in some Western countries such as the United States, comic books and cartoons have traditionally been relegated to the realm of childhood, while in Japan, some anime and manga are targeted at child and adult audiences”. Susan Napier added that American adults may have perceived “fantastical animation as childish”. In Japan however, Anime was not restricted to one particular audience and could appeal to a much broader audience, literally “from pre-school to adult.”
Besides opinions on unedited anime (as discussed earlier), Frasier’s focus group findings also revealed that most Americans viewed cartoons as harmless children’s entertainment. When confronted with Anime that dealt with complex and mature themes, most of the participants reacted with surprise, shock and disgust and found them “extremely weird and unentertaining… And when you see a cartoon you’re not prepared to see that and there is the shock value. You are not expecting to see that.”
As Phoenix, Napier, and Frasier have shown, cartoons in America have traditionally been seen as mainly for children. Thus, when anime were brought over to America, they were viewed in the same light as traditional American cartoons, simply due to the fact that anime was animated. Along with these perceptions that cartoons were traditionally for children, there was a general consensus amongst Americans that children’s cartoons should not deal with mature themes like death, violence and of course, sexuality and especially homosexuality. This relationship partially explained why the producers found it necessary to censor certain mature themes in Cardcaptor Sakura.
Frasier’s results proceeded to argue strongly that one of the main contributors to the different perceptions of animation by Japanese and American consumers lay in their upbringing. Generally, Frasier’s American respondents, who were brought up almost exclusively on Disney, perceived that all cartoons were supposed to be like Disney, child-friendly and safe. The majority of Japanese respondents however were brought up on anime and therefore used to the mature themes present in it.
In 1997, Princess Mononoke, an Anime film by Studio Ghibli, was screened in U.S. theatres to little acclaim. It was “considered a failure in the U.S. market, because it had too much violence, sexuality and was unsuitable for family audiences”. Susan Napier predicted that Princess Mononoke would have had to have undergone edits if it were to be shown on television in America.
Frasier’s findings and the poor performance of unedited anime like Princess Mononoke were likely to have influenced the perceptions of anime held by not just consumers at large but by the producers of Cardcaptors as well. Nelvana’s censorship of Cardcaptor Sakura would likely have been an attempt to fit the series into traditional notions of cartoons held by the majority of Americans so as to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, thereby increasing their chances for garnering advertising and merchandising revenue.
Interestingly, despite Cardcaptor Sakura being able to appeal to audiences of all ages, it was mainly targeted towards a similar age group in Japan as well. In light of this, several censorship decisions would also have been attributed to the difference of moral values which exist in mainstream America and Japan. This would mainly have been affected by what people deemed suitable for children’s programming as a result of their upbringing, religion and parents’ parenting styles.
Different parenting styles present in America and Japan and could explain why the producers felt it was necessary to make the changes to Card Captor Sakura when they adapted it for an American audience. American parents were not receptive to the idea that cartoons should contain mature themes as unlike the Japanese, they saw cartoons as “feel good and happy” and “simply there to entertain”. The Japanese on the other hand, used anime to a certain extent as a teaching tool to introduce mature themes to their children. Using anime to introduce said mature themes, the Japanese were then able to discuss them with their children. This would not have been common in America, where the predominant view was that “cultural issues such as sex, violence, and religion should be explained by the parent (directly).” American parents often deemed cartoons as “a fantasy world” that was “used for escaping from reality for an hour and a half. Americans did not use anime and animated movies to educate children about cultural, adult, and mature themes.”
Religious concerns are likely to have played a part in encouraging producers to censor Cardcaptor Sakura. Most Americans have been raised in traditional western Christian family and household, and are likely to have believed that “the cultural issues found in anime were inappropriate.” Unlike Americans, the Japanese, primarily of Shinto and Buddhist faith, were more likely to have adopted the Buddhist monks focus on spirituality, mediation and rituality and were therefore receptive of homosexuality, a stark contrast to Christian missionaries.
The differences in the upbringing and religion discussed above may explain why many more Americans than Japanese were unreceptive to alternative sexualities such as those portrayed in Cardcaptor Sakura. Producers probably played it safe by assuming that all Americans were conservative and hence took liberties cutting out anything which may have been unacceptable to their imagined clientele. It is also remotely possible that Nelvana or Kids WB! executives themselves might have been raised with a conservative Christian ideology, which in turn subconsciously affected their decisions regarding censorship.
It is important to remember that like all businesses, one of Nelvana goals would have been to maximize profits while simultaneously straying away from anything that could result in a loss of profit. “If a network feels that certain violent or sexual content will be bad for business, then those scenes will be cut”. With this in mind, it would be possible to conjecture more reasons for the censorship of mature content in the production of Cardcaptors.
In Japan, the popularity of filmmakers like Osamu Tezuka and Hayao Miyazaki made it alright for people of all ages to read manga and watch anime that dealt with mature themes and issues.However, censorship in America particularly for Children’s content had been dictated by various laws and regulations for some time. The reasons that cartoons are the way they are could be traced back decades to when American laws such as the Production Code of 1934, the Federal Communications Code and the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA’s) rating system first began enforcing the censorship of mature themes in cartoons.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stated that any “material that fails to conform to ‘accepted standards of morality’” was indecent and subject to regulation. Interestingly, the rules were ambiguous and did not have clear guidelines as to what failed to meet “accepted standards of morality”. The fine for violating these guidelines, however, was a decidedly unambiguous $10,000. The Producers who were subjected to such arbitrary regulations could have been tempted to remove almost anything that may have resulted in a large fine as an added precaution.
Some Asian countries “did not (and have never) use(d) a rating system”. If a ratings system was present, “it was not heavily enforced” unlike countries such as the United States. In America, the V-Chip rating system, developed in 1996 due to the Telecommunications Act, designed to “block viewers from accessing programs above a certain rating. The rating system was intended to rate programs according to target age groups, and eventually additional ratings for types of content were included.” Nelvana could have censored Cardcaptor Sakura just to get a lower rating, TV-Y7, for Cardcaptors to reach their target audience (aged 7 to 12). Nelvana has since released an uncensored edition of Cardcaptor Sakura directly to DVD which received a 13 and up rating, showing that the additional content was only deemed appropriate for an older audience by the MPAA, clearly above Nelvana’s targeted age range. This helps us make a little more sense of Nelvana and Kids WB!’s edits back in 2000 when Cardcaptors was broadcast in the U.S.
Throughout history, producers and networks have occasionally attacked by Christian groups and gay-rights political groups if they portrayed any form of alternative sexuality or gay stereotypes in television programming (especially children’s programming), leading to show cancellations or law suits, as in the case where Reverend Jerry Falwell, a powerful religious and political figure in the States accused a Teletubby of being gay. It would not be a stretch to assume that Nelvana wished to avoid such a backlash. The producers could have made censorship decisions just to avoid possible controversies and the resulting impact on their profits.
In this report, we have discussed the motivations behind Nelvana and Kids WB!’s edits to the anime Cardcaptor Sakura.
First, the changes to micro elements ironed out possibly confusing cultural differences allowed the producers to shift the series’ target gender demographic towards young boys instead of girls due to American viewership statistics and stereotypes.
Next, the edits made to macro elements added to the demographic shift and allowed the producers to capitalise on an image alliance with merchandising firms, thereby potentially earning them more profit.
Finally, to maintain the corporation’s financial as well as reputational standing, producers made the decisions to censor the series as a whole to fit anime into the traditional notion of cartoons that Americans were used to, as well as to avoid themes deemed “inappropriate” for an American audience by law or political and religious implication.
According to the FunBlog review, “Cardcaptor Sakura–Anime Review“:
This is little gem of a show: small but flawless, perfectly formed and expertly cut.
Superficially this seems to be a very simple children’s story. On closer examination it is not written entirely for children. It is a story told on multiple levels, put together with exquisite craftsmanship, with subtle symbolism and wonderful characters. It is a remarkable piece of work–every time I rewatch an episode I am impressed again by how well it is done.
Most magical girl stories follow a common pattern: a young girl gains some magic powers, defeats some monsters, saves the world and learns some Important Lessons. This one is no different, but it is the gold standard against which the others must be measured, and compared to which most will fall short.
The most remarkable thing about this series is that the writers clearly knew when they wrote the first episode exactly how they intended to end it, and exactly what steps they would have to go though to get to that ending. Such careful planning is common in a short 13-episode series, and somewhat less common in a full-season 24-episode series. To see it in a series that spans three years and 70 episodes is very rare.
Usually a multi-year series is a sprawling mess that the writers make up as they go along, featuring numerous inconsistencies, forgotten characters, dangling plot threads, and finally a hastily thrown-together ending. This one is different. Everything fits together into a seamless whole. To make it one episode shorter or one episode longer would have diminished it.
BEWARE OF THE DUB
Sometimes bad things happen to good anime. For proof we need only look at what happened to it when it was first licensed for the North American region. A re-edited version was created and broadcast on the WB Kids network, dubbed in English with a rewritten script.
The show was cut and re-edited to reduce Sakura’s role; the characters were given Anglo names and standard American sitcom personalities; much of the distinctively Japanese material was removed and the writing was dumbed down to conform to the standards of American television. (Some of the cut material was later restored when the show was broadcast in other countries.) The setting was changed to a mythical town in America, apparently one where the signs are written in Japanese.
The reasons for doing this may to some extent have involved cultural differences about what is appropriate to include in a television show watched by children. However it seems clear that the changes were mainly made for marketing reasons: the producers wanted to market the program to boys, and they were afraid that American audiences would not like being exposed to a foreign culture.
The dubbed version is available on DVD under the name Cardcaptors. I recommend avoiding it at all costs. Even if you don’t believe that it is reprehensible to butcher a work of art in the hope of making more money from it, the dubbed version is not worth your time. Everything that makes the original version great has been lost.
Fortunately Geneon has released the real Japanese version with English subtitles under the name Cardcaptor Sakura. Show your appreciation by renting or buying the DVDs. (The boxed sets are among the best bargains in anime, especially if you wait for a sale.)
Usually with anime DVDs you have the choice of watching with subtitles or putting up with generally inferior American voice acting. In this case there really is no choice. It’s subtitles or nothing.
(UPDATE: There is a rumor that Geneon’s license is about to expire and that they may not renew it. If that happens the DVDs may quickly become hard to find.)
The release of the dubbed version had an unfortunate side effect. The fans of the original series greeted it with outrage. The people responsible for the dub defended themselves by claiming that they made the changes to protect American children from unsuitable content. This helped give the original series an undeserved lurid reputation.
The truth is that most of the cut material is totally innocuous and nothing in the remainder is even slightly indecent. The series may contain a few things that Americans are not used to seeing in cartoons, but there is nothing nearly as shocking as some of the things that are broadcast every evening on American television.
If you go through the series with a fine-toothed comb, decoding all the hidden meanings and interpreting everything in the most negative possible way, you will doubtless find something to offend you. However anyone who does that must surely be offended by most popular culture (either American or Japanese) and really shouldn’t be watching anime anyway.