The episodes of Cardcaptor Sakura may not have subtitles, but the opening and ending theme songs have the lyrics embedded on the video. Here, I’m looking at the first line of the first opening theme song, Catch You Catch Me.
The first word here is a verb repeated twice, but in different conjugations.
会いたいな (あいたいな). The verb 会う (あう) means “meet”. The -tai form is used to express a wish or desire of the speaker. “au + tai” = “aitai”, “want to meet”.
会えないな (あえないな). This time, au takes on a -nai form. Normally the -nai form conjugates as 会わない, but this appears to use the blunt, commanding form, 会え (あえ). If “ai” is used such as “let’s meet somewhere” and “ae” is used such as “let’s meet somewhere!”, then I take it “awanai” is used in the fashion of “I can’t meet you there” and “aenai” as “I can’t meet you there!”
If I’m not way off here, then these first two words can be written more verbosely as “I want to meet you, but I can’t meet you!” The -na ending each word softens them.
The third word is 切ないな (せつないな). This continues the -nai format, but with an adjective this time around. The adjective “setsu” means “eager”, and the -nai form, “setsunai” is “sad”.
Again, the “na” here softens the word.
The final quarter of this first line is この気持ち (このきもち), combining kono (this) with kimochi (feeling).
The context of this song isn’t about meeting someone, but rather seeing them, so I’ll substitute “meet” for see”. Putting these four together, I get “I want to see you, but I can’t see you. This feeling (I have) is sad(ness).”
So, how do I compare with other translators? The bootleg release of Cardcaptor Sakura settings on “Want to see you, but I cannot see you with this heartbreaking feeling.” The licensed English release’s translation tops it with, “I want to see you, but I can’t see you. This feeling I have is so lonely.”
I matched the licensed translation about 70% word-for-word, so I can’t complain too much! But where did I go wrong? My dictionary translates “setsunai” as “sad”, but this translation chooses “lonely”. Not just lonely, but “so lonely”.
Considering who Sakura is as a person, I’d say “so lonely” is a better fit than “sad”. She’s generally an upbeat person. She doesn’t get sad. She’s cheerful. But she’ll still find loneliness. When Sakura can’t be with the one she wants to be with, any sadness stems from her distance from that person, her inability to be with that person, her loneliness of not being able to be with that person.
Or maybe “so lonely” is just an all-around a better translation than “sadness”. I’ve never been accused of under-analysing something, no matter how small.