Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card is a chance to re-meet some old friends and relive some classic magic. But how much has Sakura’s world changed?
There are some anime in this world that resonate with us long after their premiere and conclusion. These are the classics, the titles that withstand the test of time, the titles you rattle off to a friend who is looking to see what anime is all about but just isn’t sure where to start. There’s a special place in our hearts for shows like Dragon Ball Z, Pokémon, Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Digimon, and Sailor Moon. They resonate with us so well that when sequel anime to these classics are announced, the nostalgia of it all can hit you like a hurricane.
Cardcaptor Sakura is a simple but entertaining tale weaved together by the manga group CLAMP, with its anime adaptation—the animation of which was done by Madhouse—airing between 1998 and 2000. It’s the story of an ordinary fourth-grader who comes across a mysterious book and accidentally unleashes a collection of magical and mysterious forces into the world. Now it’s up to her, along with her friends, to get them all back in one place before they bring havoc upon their peaceful world.
The entire series—12 manga volumes, 70 animated episodes, and two feature-length films, to be exact—has made an impact on the world that’s simply too big to ignore. The series has won a ton of awards, and the show is generally regarded as being a major codifier of the magical girl genre. What’s more, at the time of this writing, the 2018 winter season has brought with it the animated adaptation of Cardcaptor Sakura’s direct sequel—the Clear Card arc! The fact that this new adaptation exists in the first place should be enough proof that a period of more than 15 years has not once slowed down this series’ immense popularity.
A MYSTIC ADVENTURE
While the hype surrounding Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card is richly deserved, considering that it’s
a direct continuation, it is extremely advisable to watch the original series in order to understand who’s who and what’s what in the new series. Cardcaptor Sakura introduces audiences to Sakura Kinomoto, a 10-year-old fourth-grader who resides in the fictional city of Tomoeda, where she lives with her father and older brother and goes to school with her close friend Tomoyo Daidouji.
But her life suddenly changes when she discovers a mysterious book in her father’s library. She opens it up to find a full deck of strange-looking cards, the Clow Cards. In doing so, though, she accidentally scatters them all across her hometown. Each Clow Card—there are 52 in all—has a mind of its own and unique abilities ranging from mischievous and playful to surprisingly intimidating. Now it’s her responsibility, according to Keroberos, the (video game-obsessed) Guardian of the Clow Cards, to capture every card and bring them all together again before they unleash havoc. Thus, Sakura becomes the first “cardcaptor.” Of course, she won’t be alone in this endeavor; she’s joined by Keroberos, her friend Tomoyo, who personally designs her friend’s card-capturing costumes and films her exploits, and later, Syaoran Li, a descendant of the very magician who created the Clow Cards in the first place.
Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, meanwhile, takes place sometime after the events of the first series have wrapped up, the main difference being that now the characters are in junior high. The point still sticks that Sakura successfully captured all of the Clow Cards and transformed them into her personal Sakura Cards. But one prophetic dream later and she soon discovers that all of her Sakura Cards have turned completely blank and transparent, and thus rendered completely powerless! Now it’s up to Sakura and her friends to find out what happened to her old cards and recapture the new cards at the same time. Here we go again!
NEW EDITION OF AN OLD BOOK?
From the very beginning, Cardcaptor Sakura puts together a pretty straightforward formula: It’s a swell day for Sakura and company, and then a problem emerges, and it turns out a Clow Card is behind said problem, so Sakura steps up and in one way or another successfully captures said card. This is a textbook case of “wash, rinse, and repeat,” but what’s interesting about the Clow Cards is that there’s no “great evil” controlling the Clow Cards, and the Clow Cards themselves are never really considered villainous beings. In fact, there’s hardly a presence in the Cardcaptor world that can really be considered “villainous.” Similarly, there’s very rarely a scenario involving good old-fashioned fisticuffs, and Sakura doesn’t even have a transformation sequence (because Tomoyo’s the one providing all the costumes).
So how does a series with such odd quirks and such a simple premise attract such a huge fan base? Well, once you look past the premise, a lot of things suddenly start to stick out. First, every episode displays a lot of fun and imagination, not just in the design of the cards, but also how each card is ultimately captured. Second, the show’s visuals have a lot of life to them, and energetic directing enhances the peaceful atmosphere of Sakura’s life.
Third, and most importantly, Cardcaptor Sakura truly shines when it comes to the most important spells in its magical arsenal—the characters themselves. Ironically, capturing the cards often takes a backseat to more character-driven events, and the narrative itself puts the spotlight on the various relationships and emotional bonds that occupy the series, whether they are platonic, romantic, family, or something in between. A genuine feeling of warmth and tenderness is present, and the message of acceptance can be found on every corner. CLAMP writer Nanase Ohkawa has even stated that, with the series, she wanted to “create something that minorities would feel comfortable with.”
Clear Card—at the time of this writing, only three episodes in—is like stepping back in time. All the characters you remember are there, but it’s clear things haven’t stayed still forever. Gone are Sakura’s iconic rollerblades, you can see modem cellphones here and there, some of her friends have gone to a different school, and Kero’s gaming console has been given a modern-day upgrade. And now she’s back to capturing cards. Nothing here is really that mindblowing. It’s the sequel that doesn’t feel like a sequel, but it doesn’t really feel like a reboot either. Despite this, the warmth and bonds shared among the characters we all grew up with are still there; the art just happens to be prettier. Seriously, see it for yourself—the visual execution is simply gorgeous to look at. You almost think you’re watching a different show.
A QUEST FOR ALL TIME
As a sequel, so far Clear Card appears to be doing a good job of keeping the legacy of its prequel series intact. Plenty has changed, but at the same time, nothing really has. It helps that most of the staff and voice actors that brought the original anime together are back. It cannot be emphasized how big a deal that is; the whole gang has gotten back together to keep the spirit of their show alive. It’s literally like someone used the Return Card …
If you really want to understand the significance behind Clear Card, now would be a good time to catch up on the original series, which can currently be streamed on Crunchyroll. Cardcaptor Sakura as a whole is a shining example of how you don’t need a complex mythology or massive explosions to tell an enchanting story.
Cardcaptor Sakura is available from Crunchyroll and Funimation.