First Look: Cardcaptor Sakura – Clear Card

Manga adaptation by Madhouse
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

After 20 years CLAMP’s much loved magical girl series continues, with Sakura now in middle school and facing new challenges in both her magical and personal lives.

Zigg’s verdict: Crystal Clear

Watching Clear Card is a somewhat bizarre experience, so perfectly have Madhouse recreated the winning formula of the 90’s original. You’ve got all of the voice actors, CLAMP’s iconic hyper-stylised shoujo art style (albeit now in widescreen), and the same wholesome, overwhelming warm atmosphere which so defined the franchise. It’s like watching a ‘lost episode’, so precisely does the production capture the tone and aesthetic. That means of course that, for the most part, I adored this. It’s got the same mix of humour, romance, and magical adventure which captivated me before, and it looks and sounds gorgeous. My only real concern is where they’ll actually take the plot – the original show has a near-perfect ending, and to be honest I’m not necessarily thrilled at the prospect of a third consecutive card hunt. I think whether I’ll be into this or not depends on whether the story can grow the character relationships in a believable way, especially Sakura and Syaoran’s now-confirmed budding romance. Needless to say, I’m excited to find out.

Iro’s verdict: Here We Go Again

My main experience with this franchise was watching some of the old dub on TV as a child, which Zigg informs me was cut to barely resemble the tone of the original show. Apparently proper Cardcaptor Sakura involves way more preteen flirting than card collecting action, and this sure seems to follow that pattern, complete with a good half-dozen characters important to the story that no newcomer could possibly know. Honestly, it’s tough for me to see this as anything other than a nostalgic cash grab –  particularly since the plot setup seems to be another collect-a-thon (with brand new cards and toys!) – but it’s been almost 20 years and as far as I know, fans are thirsty for more CCS, so… might as well, I guess?

Euri’s verdict: Childhood 2.0

It’s a bizarre feeling, knowing that the two shows I’m most looking forward to each week are Pokémon Sun and Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card. I have very fond memories of watching these on TV after school, and it’s wild that some nineteen years later I feel like that kid again. Admittedly I wasn’t entirely convinced by a CCS reboot when news about it showed up last year, mostly due to mixed reactions from shows like Sailor Moon Crystal and Dragon Ball Super, both of which I’m sure you’ll find plenty of people arguing about whether they should even exist. Fortunately, Madhouse nailed this first episode, and it’s obvious that a lot of love has been put into its production. We have all of the returning voice actors from the original series, which is kind of wild in itself, and gorgeous visuals that don’t betray the look we’re already used to. They even explain away Rika, likely due to her voice actor sadly passing away between the two shows. I’m very hopeful for this show as a whole.

Artemis’ verdict: Unashamed Fangirling

Given my huge soft spot for this franchise (Sailor Moon might have been my magical-girl first, but Cardcaptor Sakura has always been my #1), I’m probably incapable of talking about the show with any kind of objectivity. For what it’s worth though, I think we’re off to a very decent start with this premiere. It wasted no time in getting back into the swing of things with flashbacks or drawn-out monologues about past events, yet had enough character call-backs going on throughout that made me as a fan smile nostalgically. I also couldn’t be happier with the visuals; obviously they’ve received an update so that they look fresher and smoother than when we last checked in, but the art style is more or less identical to what we had before, albeit with a few very minor changes to reflect the now slightly older characters. (And hey, we’ve also upgraded to smartphones!)

The romance between Sakura and Syaoran, while an integral aspect of Cardcaptor Sakura, has never been my favourite part of the series – not because I don’t like them together, but simply because I find many of the other relationships, romantic or otherwise, to be far more interesting. That said, I can certainly see why it played a major part in this episode; it’s a direct follow-up to where we left off both in the original show as well as in the Clear Card prologue episode that came out a few days ago, and I expected nothing less. However, I’m glad this didn’t take up the whole of this first proper episode and that enough time was given to introduce the major magical plot point so early on. There are 22 episodes scheduled, which feels like plenty, but I’d love to see ample time given to not only Sakura and Syaoran’s adorabubble romance, but also to the many other, often quite subtle and complex character dynamics that originally made me fall in love with this anime so completely.

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One thought on “First Look: Cardcaptor Sakura – Clear Card

  1. As much as it makes me feel like a negative grump, I have to say that the original Cardcaptor Sakura was innocent and beautiful and also incredibly transgressive in the wide range of relationships it depicted, all as perfectly normal – something that was particularly unusual for the late 1990s.

    This new version just seems so…plastic, I guess.

    Part of that is the sharper digital animation which I suppose I’ll get used to eventually, but more importantly, what was transgressive in 1998 is pretty mainstream now. Moreover, just going by this first episode, it seems like they may be kind of soft-peddling what once made it so compelling and progressive, anyway.

    So, yeah, until proven wrong, I’m voting cash grab.

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