Having joined in Reverse Thieves‘ Secret Santa this year, my Secret Santa graciously reminded me that I had yet to finish Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, the sequel to the classic Cardcaptor Sakura anime. I had gotten about nine episodes in before, like many other shows, it just kind of fell off my watchlist, but now I have finally gotten around to finishing the new 22-episode season.
Before I go into my thoughts, I should explain my history with this franchise. The original Cardcaptor Sakura was pretty much the anime that got me into anime. I had first experienced it as a kid through the English version that aired alongside the Pokemon anime; at the time, I had no idea that this version was changed up so much from the original, and I just liked it as a fun series. However, many years later, after starting college, out of some interest in this bit of my childhood, I looked around and found the original Cardcaptor Sakura anime, in Japanese with English subtitles. It was the first time I sought out an anime knowing it was anime, and the first time I watched an anime in the original Japanese. And boy, was I hooked! On top of experiencing all this unique anime “feel” (that the English version tried to Americanize), the great cast of characters and overall atmosphere that blends magic and everyday life just worked really well for me. While it would be a few more years before I would fully get into anime, Cardcaptor Sakura could very well be considered the kindling for my start as an anime fan.
Going into Clear Card, I was excited to continue this story, though also somewhat wary. After all, the original Cardcaptor Sakura already told a very complete story, and it is not like the story needed to continue. Either way I figured I would at least enjoy spending more time with these beloved characters, but can the show manage to be more than basically post-story filler? How did Clear Card fare for me in the end?
I might as well start with one of the most obvious improvements: visually, the show is a huge step up. This is to be expected, of course; the animation of the original might have been great for the turn of the millenium, but the medium has advanced quite a bit since then, and bringing the visual quality up to current standards makes the show look beautiful.
From here, I should address the biggest issue with Clear Card: the story is incomplete. This makes sense because the original manga is still ongoing, but it is pretty clear that the 22 episodes covered in this season is only the beginning of this new story. Many major story developments and reveals only happen in the last few episodes. Obviously, this is a “problem” that can easily be fixed with additional seasons sometime in the future. For now, though, it makes it hard to fully evaluate Clear Card as a story, when said story is nowhere near complete.
At least what we get is pretty interesting. It is too early to say whether it is a meaningful follow-up to the original story, but at least for now, we have a good setup, with some characters worried about Sakura’s growing magical power, and an “antagonist” who is not outright evil (as is par for the course for the series) but definitely seems to be causing problems for Sakura and her friends for personal reasons.
The characters have been my favorite part of Cardcaptor Sakura, though, so how does Clear Card fare on this end? Overall, I would say in this aspect, Clear Card is every bit as enjoyable as the original. The new character, Akiho, is a nice enough girl who gets along well with Sakura and the rest of the cast; that said, she is not particularly interesting as far as deeper character storylines go at the moment, though a late reveal may bode well for character development in future seasons. Established characters are overall great in their reappearance, with Tomoyo still being as hilariously obsessed with Sakura as ever and thus still one of my favorite characters.
One of my favorite parts of Clear Card, though, is the time during which Meiling returns. In the original Cardcaptor Sakura, Meiling was an anime-only addition who was generally at odds with Sakura, seeing her as a romantic rival,though Sakura does end up befriending her; still, it did feel like she was something of a “third wheel” character who ultimately did not add too much to the story. In Clear Card, though, she has definitely become more mature overall and she gets a very nice storyline that gives her much needed development from the original anime while also supporting the new story.
Of course, if you are familiar with the original Cardcaptor Sakura, you would know there is one critical part of the story I have yet to address: the romance between Sakura and Syaoran. These two had confessed their feelings at the end of the first series, and a prelude episode shows how Syaoran has returned to stay in Japan with Sakura. The two are one of my favorite couples in all of anime, and one major reason I was interested in Clear Card was to see where their relationship would go… so how does that work out?
Overall, I would say it was handled nicely. The two are still only 12 years old, so it is probably fair that they do not get too lovey-dovey. Anyone expecting any sort of physical intimacy beyond hugs will be disappointed, but I say it is too early for these two. Overall, they are still new to this whole “romance” thing and are mainly just trying to figure out what it means to have this sort of more-than-friends relationship. The supernatural happenings obviously make things even more complicated, as the two have to worry about protecting and supporting each other. Overall, though, their relationship is very sweet, showing how close they are and how they are trying to grow closer while keeping things appropriate for their age.
Of course, as the name of the series implies, a big part of Cardcaptor Sakura is, well, capturing cards! With the wide variety of cards with unique effects, card capturing is like a puzzle as Sakura has to figure out the best cards to use against the “wild” card spirits. Clear Card features a whole new set of cards and card spirits, though many of them are just “upgraded” versions of old cards, which on the one hand helps keeps things familiar but also means many of the battles feel like rehashes of those in the original series, so overall they were not quite as enjoyable. There were some interesting, unique cards in there, such as Gravitation, which lets Sakura get drawn to distant places safely. Perhaps more interesting is what the nature of these cards are, which is a late season spoiler, so I will not say anything here.
Overall, I enjoyed Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, though its unfinished nature means I cannot quite see it as its own story yet. It was enjoyable as “more Cardcaptor Sakura“, but I most definitely would need to see more of the story before I can consider it a worthy follow-up. Still, I am very thankful for my Secret Santa for getting me to finish this show as I had a good time with it. If you are a fan of the original Cardcaptor Sakura, I would say it is worth checking out, while those who have yet to get into the series should start with the original series.