Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card

Morio Asaka (director), Kunihiko Hamada and Mokona Apapa (animators and designers), Nanase Okawa (writer)
Sakura Tange, Motoko Kumai, Aya Hisakawa, Junko Iwao, Megumi Ogata, Tomokazu Seki (cast)
Adapted from Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card by CLAMP
January 7 , 2018 (Japan)

Cardcaptor Sakura has made its much-anticipated comeback, airing the first episode of its new “Clear Card” arc more than a decade after the final episode of the previous arc. The new anime series follows the storyline of the ongoing manga that was released last year by CLAMP on the 20th anniversary of Cardcaptor Sakura.

Watching the first episode, eloquently titled “Sakura and the Clear Cards,” I felt like I was a child again. With the familiar voice of Maaya Sakamotosinger of “Platinum,” the third opening song for the original seriesopening the episode, I felt like I had been transported back to childhood.

While the art style has changed slightly, I didn’t mind it at all. It seems closer to the style of the manga, with the characters’ eyes smaller and their silhouettes longer, the latter a signature characteristic of CLAMP.

The opening animation featured Sakura in a new outfit, a feathery white dress with a cute little crown on top of her head, reflecting the “clear” feeling of this new series. It also began with the signature water drop that many fans have seen over the years. The opening is nothing new, following the usual anime pattern of showcasing its cast of characters. The song itself is poppy and fun, and compared to the last opening, it seems lighter and faster, with Sakura herself looking more relaxed. The original series did show a more mature Sakura with each new opening, so it is likely that Clear Card will also follow that pattern.

Now onto the episode itself. If I had to sum up the episode in one word it would be “nostalgic.” With the return of the familiar cast of characters, and several call backs to the original series littered throughout the episode, the series certainly hasn’t forgotten its original audience. Although the series does seem to assume that the viewers have watched the original Cardcaptor Sakura previously, with many characters and powers not fully introduced, Clear Card does leave room for a new audience, with a satisfactory introduction of the characters and mechanics of Sakura’s magic powers. Even the cute bit that aired before the series with Keroberos recapping the previous seventy episodes assumes that we’ve watched the previous series and only need a quick reminder of what happened. But it wouldn’t be too hard for a new viewer to jump in this season, as Cardcaptor Sakura as a series is aimed at children and is relatively easy to understand, even if you’re jumping in just that episode.

Like most of the original series, the new season brings us to a new year of school for Sakura. Now entering middle school, Sakura’s morning routine is slightly different. No longer waking up late and having to rush to school, she seems more mature and put together. Middle school also brings a big new change for Sakura, a change that I have mixed feelings on.

Sakura has now abandoned zooming to school in her signature pink rollerblades in lieu of walking! Whether middle school rules don’t allow students to speed to school in rollerblades, or Sakura felt that she was too cool for rollerblades now that she is in middle school, I did miss the scene of her speeding down the cherry blossom pathway to school. Although even with her walking, the scene does serve as a clear reminder of CLAMP’s obsession with cherry blossoms.

During the episode, we see the reintroduction of many familiar faces. Touya and Sakura’s father is obviously there. Sakura’s friends have all entered the same school, Tomoeda Middle Schoolsave for Rika, who the writers sent to a girl’s school, probably to end any mention of the worrying romance between her and their former elementary school teacher. On the magical side, we also see the return of Eriol, Ms. Mizuki and crew living in England, as well as Yuki, who the last series left aware of his existence as Yue. Finally, this new episode brings back Syaoran, who has returned from Hong Kong to join Sakura in the new season.

Syaoran’s return does not come at a surprise to me, as CLAMP has dedicated two series to his and Sakura’s love (the other being Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles) and it was unlikely that they’d leave him out of the series for long. The scene of him and Sakura reuniting features them in a tight embrace while as many cherry blossom petals as the animators could draw surround them, and the tune of “Platinum” swells to a climax around them. They are then interrupted by Tomoyo in her signature fashion, filming from behind a treea familiar and welcome bit.

This episode also brings back Sakura’s dreams as a familiar catalyst for the plot. Within the episode, Sakura has two of her signature foreshadowing dreams. The second dream lays the groundwork for the series, with Sakura waking up and rushing to her book of cards, only to find that her Sakura Cards have turned clear. With this, it’s obvious to anyone who’s watched Cardcaptor Sakura, that Sakura will once again be collecting cards during this series.

Even Sakura’s first fight felt nostalgic to me, with Gale attacking her in a manner I found similar to Fly’s attack in the first episode of the original series. This fight sequence does introduce something new though, with Sakura’s staff once again evolving, this time from its form of a simple five-pointed star staff to a five-pointed star with a star at each end. The animation of Sakura’s magic was amazing, with a new magic circle and clear crystals being manifested, further reinforcing the “Clear Card” theme.

While “Clear Card” will probably follow the same repetitive pattern of Sakura encountering and catching a card each episode, I’m sure fans of the show already understand that going in. If you’re wondering if the “Clear Card” arc will bring anything new to the show, apart from Sakura’s cool new wand and outfit, I say probably yes. Having read the manga, it seems that CLAMP has more than the card of the week trope ready for us. Whether it’ll be thematically groundbreaking or not, I don’t know; but one thing I know for sure is that Cardcaptor Sakura will not fail to show us the determined Sakura that it always has.