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By Darren Chia

Guess what's the most popular anime in Japan right now. Pokemon? Digimon? Cowboy Bebop? Nope. The honor belongs to Cardcaptor Sakura, a 2 year old series based on the manga of the same name by CLAMP, the same group which brought you Magic Knight Rayearth and X.

Don't be fooled by the cute flowery artwork. Cardcaptor Sakura has been winning fans of all ages with its interesting characters and non-repetitive storylines that do not insult the viewer's intelligence (unlike most other magical girl anime). Not only has Cardcaptor Sakura taken Japan by storm, but the show is getting ready to invade North America as well. An English adaptation of the series premiered on June 17th on the Kids WB network in the U.S., and will begin airing in September on Teletoon in Canada.

So you've seen the show, read the manga, and now you want the toys? The bulk of merchandise you're going to find is, unfortunately, available only in Japan - although most can be found, with a little effort, from various importers of Japanese toys. Most of the affordable items come from:

Candy Premiums
Priced from 200-400yen ($2-$4) each, these boxes of candy (available at sweet shops and supermarkets) contain anything from mini-figures, keychains, pins, stamps and assorted knick-knacks. Many different varieties exist from companies such as Bandai, Furuta and Morinaga candies.
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Put 100-200yen ($1-$2) into these machines, and out pops a small plastic ball containing a random item.

Claw Catcher Machines (game arcades)
Japanese claw catcher machines (also known as UFO catchers) house really neat stuff! The majority of Cardcaptor items are really adorable super deformed plushes manufactured by Banpresto. Figures have also been available from time to time.
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CCS4.jpg - 39096 Bytes Note: there is a subset of plushies that are NOT UFO catcher prizes. They were only available if you managed to get a winning ticket in a raffle / lucky draw game machine. The largest plush measures a huge 14" (35cm) from top to bottom!!

Cardcaptors Toys, Pt 2

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