Sakura Kinomoto is beginning her first year of middle school joined with Tomoyo and Syaoran, who has finally returned from Hong Kong after years away. The Clow Cards have been silent lately, but a recent dream featuring a mysterious robed figure turning all the crystal clear has come true rendering her Clow Cards useless as paperweights. As she begins a new journey to return the life to her cards, she discovers a new key and new magic to be collected in the clear cards.
Before we get into the review, I think I should educate a little on the background of Cardcaptor Sakura since the show did come out when I was only about five years old. It’s been a while since some of us have seen it, and I know that more recent fans of anime have little to no interaction with this series, let alone anything by the CLAMP manga group that created Cardcaptor Sakura.
Cardcaptor Sakura focuses on an elementary school girl, Sakura Kinomoto, who discovers mysterious magical cards in her basement that had been sealed away for years. Sakura accidentally releases all the cards, including Cerberus the guardian of the cards. Cerberus aka Kero, explains that these magical cards are Clow Cards and now that they have been released Sakura must hurry and capture them to prevent them from disrupting society.
The manga was published in 1996 through 2000 with the original anime running from 1998 to 2000. This means it’s been about 18 years since we’ve last seen this little girl serialized. The anime had a few, some major, changes when it was originally brought over the English-speaking world including edits in episode order and content making it 39 episodes in some territories. This wasn’t common practice; however, and in the U.S. we had all 70 untouched episodes. You can actually watch the original series and both movies on Crunchyroll (they have the dubbed versions, too, and it’s a great little dub).
The creators of Cardcaptor Sakura is the wildly popular manga group, CLAMP. They are known for their intricate art style and fascinating stories. CLAMP is also known for tying together many of their manga worlds using Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle and xxxHolic. If you like Cardcaptor Sakura and haven’t read any of CLAMP’s work, I highly suggest you read the manga for Cardcaptor or even check out any number of CLAMP manga that’s out there. These guys are always top tier when they release a new book for a reason. That reason is they are amazing.
Let’s move on the newest arc: Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card!
The start of the show features Kero reminding us, rather quickly, what happened about twenty years ago in the original anime. It’s not comprehensive in anyway, and it breezes over much of the ending arcs of the show with a comedic twist. It’s a cute opening that lets the show introduce itself to new viewers without scaring them away with a cold open that jumps right into the new content.
What pleased me the most about this first episode is Sakura’s new design. She looks more mature with a longer neck and broader shoulders that compliment her signature hairstyle which is just a smidge shorter in the back now. Sakura is actually looking a lot like her Tsubasa-self as she grows older, and thought that’s to be expected since Tsubasa’s Sakura is simply another reality’s Sakura- it’s still pretty cool (if you are confused and want to know more about Tsubasa, please look it up online for a brief overview).
Something sad does happen after we are re-introduced to Sakura’s father and brother, though- Sakura seems to have grown out of her roller blades. That’s pretty interesting, and I’m not sure how to take that. It’s possible that the studio didn’t want to deal with roller blades or that they are still used- just not for this particular day in Sakura’s life. However, since I don’t know if she even still has the roller blades, I wonder what the significance of her dropping the skates is. Sakura was deep affected by her previous card hunt, and it’s possible that she stopped using the skates in an effort to slow down her life a little.
As to be expected, the backgrounds in Clear Card are utterly beautiful. Everything in this episode has a sort of hazy feel to it, but you can still admire the work with that bit of sunshine. I think about the establishing shot of the middle school often, and I don’t think I’ll forget how much I’d love to attend such a picturesque place.
While at school, Sakura and Tomoyo talk about class distribution and the older fans of the series get to see some of the kids that were helped by Sakura’s card hunting. It’s a nice reminder that Sakura didn’t only catch Clow Cards, she also did a lot of good and saved many people.
As we finally get away from grounding Sakura in the world and understanding who she is as a person, our favorite boy, Syaoran makes his return from Hong Kong. Syaoran is Sakura’s fated partner, though these two don’t know that, and they were separated at the end of the first season after Syaoran was forced to return to Hong Kong on business.
It really brought tears to my eyes to see Sakura and Syaoran together again. They are a great team, and the show isn’t complete without that boy.
Our Clear Card arc truly begins after Sakura falls asleep this fated night and has a dream. In this dream are Clow Card-shaped objects that are completely clear, and in the middle of them all is a mysterious robed person. She wakes up to find her Clow Cards are all clear and no longer represent the elements or magic they once did- they have been wiped like data from a flash drive.
Kero and Sakura rush to Yuki’s home, Yuki is a vessel for Yue, a guardian of the Clow Cards. They show him the cards, and Yue confirms that they have no power. Though Sakura doesn’t have the Clow Cards, she does still retain her own magic which can helpful in finding a way to return the cards. Unsure what to do from here, Sakura chooses to continue with her day and tell Syaoran and Tomoyo, as well as Eriol- an old friend in England, about the clear cards.
Syaoran’s return to Japan couldn’t have taken place at a better time because his presence helps put her at some ease; he also offers to look into the clear card problem like the rest of Sakura’s magically inclined friends. Tomoyo, on the other hand, attempts to get Sakura’s mind off the cards with talks of new costumes for card catching, and this seems to work a little.
However, later that night, Sakura has another dream where the robed person attempts to attack her with shattered pieces of the cards. In this dream, a new key (a type of wand Sakura uses to unlock magic in the Clow Cards) is created to shield her from the attack, and the robed person riding a Chinese dragon seems to reach for the new key Sakura now possesses before she snaps awake. Sakura is now in possession of two keys- one that unlocks the now spirited away Clow Cards, and a new mysterious key.
The episode ends with Kero and Sakura on the way to school when a terrible gust of wind attacks them. After transforming her key into a staff, Sakura is able to create a new incantation to use her staff to seal this rampant, invisible magical force. A new card appears, much like when she first captured the Clow, completely clear named “Gale.”
So, did this robed person take the magic from the Clow Cards and elevate them to a more advanced magic and re-release them? If so, for what reason? Sakura was already the designated Clow Card keeper, what would enhancing and releasing these cards accomplish?
Overall this was a solid first episode for new and old fans alike. It’s nice to see the CLAMP-style anime rear it’s head again. Besides the utter beauty of the pilot, there is enough mysteriousness in Sakura’s dreams and her first fight that can fuel interest for the episodes to come. I’m not certain the anime is going to repeat verbatim the first series where Sakura feverishly collects card, but that is obviously going to be a strong aspect. This a great jumping off point for this new arc, and I honestly couldn’t be more interested in what’s to come in Clear Card.