Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card–Anime Early Impressions

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It’s too early to judge how the new season of Cardcaptor Sakura (Crunchyroll) will turn out but so far it has neither confirmed my worst fears nor fulfilled my highest hopes.

The worst case would be if they turned this into something like Tsubasa Chronicle. There’s no sign of that so far, but it would be almost as bad if they diminished the brilliant original series by giving us an uninspired sequel that was unworthy of it. The jury is still out here.

In order to discuss this further I need to give some spoilers for the original series. So if you haven’t seen the original series, go watch it right now (Crunchyroll.) It’s long but well worth your time. Anyway I don’t think there’s much point in watching the sequel if you haven’t seen the original.

The brilliance of the original Cardcaptor Sakura lay not so much in the originality of the material but in the perfection of the execution–so perfect that (as far as I know) no one has tried since to do another show of this type. There have been parodies and deconstructions and there have been lots of action-adventure shows in which magical girls fight the forces of evil. But CCS was the last of an earlier and more innocent type of magical girl show which was not about fighting evil but a comedy about growing up.

Sakura did fight monsters but there was nothing evil about them. In fact it ultimately turned out that the whole thing was a training program (devised by Clow Reed and ultimately carried out by Eriol) to develop her magical powers. This actually gave the series some dark undertones for a thoughtful viewer considering it in retrospect.

  • Sakura neither asked nor wanted to be trained.
  • Kerobos got her to participate by deceiving her. He didn’t tell any literal lies but his statements were misleading and he routinely withheld important information.
  • The training repeatedly placed Sakura at risk of physical or emotional harm.
  • It also endangered innocent bystanders in order to motivate Sakura to level up and save them.
  • The backstory about the estrangement between Sakura and Tomoyo’s sides of the family seems pretty grim, with lifelong relationships destroyed over petty jealousy and backstabbing. (The reconciliation that began with Sakura and Tomoyo’s friendship was incomplete and notably did not include Touya.)

Of course in the end everything mostly worked out and Sakura was happy with the outcome. And I suppose if you take the whole story as a metaphor for growing up then maybe it’s OK since nobody really gives informed consent to that.

The new series begins almost a year after the original series ended. Sakura hasn’t been using her powers much. (Which confirms that she never really wanted to be a magical girl. She hasn’t, for example, been going out looking for people to save.) But now her cards turn transparent, her key once again changes shape, and she is attacked by a new set of dangerous cards. (Or else the existing transparent cards are transformed and she has to resubjugate them. It’s not entirely clear.)

In other words, so far it looks like a remake of the second arc of the original series. Maybe there’s nothing more to this than a desire to go back to the well and milk some more money from a story that doesn’t need a sequel. If so it will be a big disappointment.

On the other hand, this is a story from CLAMP. Whatever you may think of them, they aren’t known for being conventional or unimaginative. So I’m still hopeful.

Sakura is now a teenager in middle school. If they want to extend the “growing up” aspect of the story they have plenty of room to do so. This also puts her in the usual age range for a modern action-adventure magical girl story if they want to go in that direction.

Come to think of it, they never really explained why Sakura was being trained. (Unless it was just that that Clow Reed wanted a suitable guardian for his cards, which would be a rather selfish reason to upend her life.) Maybe she really is some sort of Chosen One. Who knows?