How Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Managed to Disappoint One of its Biggest Fans

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The title of this blog post makes it sound like I’m feeling a bit betrayed right now, and in a way that is true. Cardcaptor Sakura is one of my all-time favorite series. It’s one that’s been a favorite of mine since early childhood and, because of this series, I was introduced to many more brilliant CLAMP series like xxxHolic and Kobato. It was one of the first magical girl series to really break the mold of what it meant to be a magical girl, doing away with transformation sequences, actually adding characterization to the male leads/love interest, and promoting positive views of single parenthood and same-sex relationships. To say that I was looking forward to this series when it was announced would be an understatement. I knew there was a chance it would turn out to be a sub-par remake, but I honestly had faith that CLAMP wouldn’t let one of their most popular series fail like that.

Back at the end of last season, the middle of the series, I wrote a blog post talking about Clear Card as it stood then and my hopes for where the story may go from there. There were a ton of questions circling around at that time about where the story would go, what kind of reveals we would see later on, and predictions on where the story around Akiho might go. Now, I can definitively say after watching the last episode that I honestly have more questions now than I did then. This review is probably going to end up being pretty spoilery, so if you haven’t caught up on the new series, I suggest you go watch it before reading further.

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Most of my concerns rest with the story, I really don’t have any problem with the art in the anime. If you want to see more of my thoughts on the art, you can check out my mid-season review. One of the things I loved about the original series was how CLAMP handled the balance between Sakura’s duties as a magical girl and her being just another elementary student. The episodes were laid out in such a way that we got to see a good amount of both sides, with each episode’s story revolving around one or more cards. With Clear Card, what we get are episodes skewed more towards Sakura’s time in school and with her friends than on her adventures as a magical girl. Often the episodes will play out with Sakura in school or having picnics with her friends for over half the episode, and after the episode is nearly over, then we’ll get to see a new card. It makes the cards feel like an afterthought and not an integral part of the series.

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And maybe that’s what they were going for with this series, more emphasis on the slice of life and fashion elements of the story and less on the magical parts. But, in doing so, they lost the excitement and the character of the series. One of the main aspects of the series and of Sakura’s character was her interaction with and her care for the cards that she captured. By both getting rid of those cards and sidelining her interaction with the new ones she creates, an integral part of Sakura’s character is being removed from the series. I loved seeing her interaction with the cards and their own subsequent personalities. Mirror, for instance, was really interesting every time she appeared in the series. Just watching the development of her relationship with Touya was enough to make every episode she was featured in interesting. In Clear Card the only real card that we see significant interaction with is Flight. Other than that, the clear cards feel lifeless and devoid of their own personalities.

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I always thought it was a shame that we didn’t get to see an interplay between the cards or more time spent on Sakura figuring out how to use them. I know she has experience with using magic cards now, and everyday her magic is growing, but one of the best things about the original series was watching her struggle. Struggle to figure out how to capture the cards and struggle to figure out how to best use them. That was the whole point of the series in the end, to collect the cards, figure out how to use them, and then beat Yue to prove who should be the true master of the Clow. It sometimes took more than one episode and the assistance of her friends to figure out how to beat them. We also had the added suspense when Syoaran was added to show, and then the plot became a race to see who could capture the card first or who the card would choose as its master.

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So what’s the main story of this series? What is Sakura working towards? At the start I thought it would be how to return her cards back to normal, but then it developed into collecting the Clear Cards and figuring out the identity of the masked person in her dreams. However, after 22 episodes, Clear Card has presented me with more questions than answers. What happened to the Sakura Cards? Was it Kaito’s magic that turned them blank? If he’s such a powerful magician, why does he need Sakura to collect the cards? What’s the dangerous relic that he took from the magic society? The book? What’s his relation to Akiho and how did he come to look after her? What kind of magic is he trying to release by having Sakura collect the cards? And what is up with Eriol and Syaoran that they’re not telling Sakura? The series doesn’t really seem to have a direction except for collecting the cards. It kind of meanders between giving us tid-bits of information and not telling us anything, filling the time with slice-of-life moments.

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We also never got an answer about this giant snake thing. Is it Kaito? Or just another product of Akiho’s dreams?

I also found that Clear Card tended to rely way too heavily on nostalgia to carry the series through, which became a detriment to the story as it never felt like the series found a voice of its own. It was pretty glaringly obvious too, with whole episodes devoted to old references, even copying entire episodes from the last series. I’m specifically talking about the aquarium episode which I talked more about in my mid-season review. All of the references made me think about the reason why CLAMP decided to bring back this series. It’s been almost twenty years since the last series ended, so you could say that they felt they had a new audience to cater to. But there’s also the advancement in technologies, like printing technologies that allow for the creation of Clear Card merch. If the focus was on creating a new series they could create merch for, then that would somewhat explain how the story seems to have been sidelined, becoming almost like an afterthought.

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I still love the characters and still enjoyed watching the series, but I just didn’t get the same amount of enjoyment I got from the last series or from the other CLAMP series of the past. Returning to these characters felt like returning to old friends, but it was still sad to see them not get the kind of care and story they deserved. I’m specifically talking about the characters of Tomoyo and Touya. Both of whom are prominent queer characters, both of whom had great stories based around their queerness in the last series. Now, we barely see Touya and Yukito together, and we certainly don’t see any kind of growth in their relationship. For Tomoyo, she becomes relegated to the sidelines, becoming the film crew and almost background character. She just doesn’t seem to have as much involvement in the series. Everything seems to be focusing around Sakura’s relationship with Syaoran and with Akiho.

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I’m frustrated too, Sakura

I haven’t caught up on the manga yet, but from what I read so far, it’s fairly similar. I really wanted this series to go somewhere, and the fact that it couldn’t find a direction in the course of 22 episodes, doesn’t really give me much hope for the series overall. I would be very surprised if the anime doesn’t get a second season considering how it ended, but I could be wrong after everything that has happened so far. I think I’ve probably ranted enough, and it’s at the point where I’m not entirely sure if I’m making sense anymore. If you want to see another great review on the series, I would highly suggest checking out Marion. Also let me know in the comments what you thought of Clear Card and where you’d like it to go if it does get another season.

~~Thanks for Reading!~~


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10 thoughts on “How Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Managed to Disappoint One of its Biggest Fans

  1. I’m with you in that I feel kind of disappointed with Cardcaptor. While it looks adorable and the characters are still the lovely characters they should be, there’s no real purpose or drive to the story and even the ongoing dreams aren’t enough to escalate anything. The whole series has just felt stretched out with some great moments dotted along for us to enjoy and bathe in nostalgia vibes.

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  2. I think the way they’re shaping the main story up is slower than normal, but at the same time, it leaves me knowing that something huge is going to come. I just hope when they get to that part its not completely and totally anti-climatic. As for the Sakura Cards, not sure what happened to them, but Syaoran is entangled in that completely. In the manga and the anime he has used Firey, Windy, and Time. Somehow he has the cards or at least the spirits of the cards. I really like the series, especially the Syaoran x Sakura moments, though I really wish they’d get passed the whole embarrassed thing. They’ve made it clear that the second movie happened. Which means they’ve both admitted they love each other. Move on to a real relationship instead of keeping up with the embarrassed stuff they’ve been doing. I’m hoping for a second season that will answer many of the questions left unanswered. I haven’t gotten the chance to read the manga yet and can’t wait to do that.

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  3. A lot of the questions have been answered. Syoaran has the cards. Akiho is the stolen artifact. Sakura is creating the clear cards from her own magic. These were answered after the 22 episode anime. I was very disappointed with the end of the anime but was very hopeful for the future of card captor sakura. I feel like Clamp wanted to gauge the interest in reviving the series, and I think the reaction was so overwhelming that it made them change the initial plan, whatever that was to extend it further. and thats why there is such a delay.

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    • I haven’t caught up on the manga yet, but if there’s ever another season it might change my mind. I’m still not super thrilled with the focus on daily life over magic. The original series had a better balance and more interesting card catching.

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  4. Unfortunately, I totally agree with you. Sakura Card Captor is my ultimate favorite anime series, I even taught my nephew and my niece to watch anime with me and it is also their favorite series.
    I had high hopes for this new season, but all the chapters seemed to be missing something … we are definitely missing the old Tomoyo, and the antics of Kero. I hope they do better for the next season, if there is one.

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  5. I am just speculating. The way that Sakura’s mother is no longer around and Kaito is a magic super-user emphasizing his time abilities leads me to believe that Akiho was taken from the future, being a relative of Sakura and will be granted the use of the clear cards, while Sakura wields the taboo key’s power that ended up taking her mother’s life but she’ll be strong enough to overcome the power, Syaoran will use the Clow-cards-turned-Sakura-cards to combat either D designated magicians or the mysterious council from England. Sakura’s loved ones will have sacrificed almost to the point of death, and since she is like Ultimate Wizard or something she will have the power to combine all 3 sets to defeat either Kaito or a yet-named villain. As far as the storytelling- I think it’s slow cuz they are trying to go for longevity which is difficult to do these days. I do not read manga so Idk how off-base I am but I would be incredibly happy to see if my prediction comes true!

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  6. The thing of it is the series has always been mostly like this. The slice of life stuff, with a bit of action each episode related to the cards, and an over arching plot that usually takes more than a season to conclude. Technically if they had gone for a 26 episode season instead of 22 they could’ve concluded this with more definiteness than they did with just 22, devoting those final 4 episodes to a conclusion. But they’d have had to go with a conclusion that differs greatly from the manga and they seem to want to stay as faithful as possible to it rather than furthering the difference in the manga and the anime (the Clow Card and Sakura Card arcs both had some major changes from the manga when adapted into an anime). A lot of the episodes of the Clear Card arc (which is likely pending a season 2 when there is enough manga to make anywhere from another 13 to another 26 episodes) were so stuffed with slice of life stuff precisely to allow the manga to get far ahead of the anime so they don’t have to eventually create any genuine filler arcs. It took more than 15 episodes for Akiho’s plushie to actually speak you tell me if they were biding time for the manga to get ahead of the anime or not.

    And you exaggerate Tomoyo as a queer character. She may clearly be queer for Sakura, but the series never made a huge deal about it. It’s never come off as “oh look at me I’m lesbian” more like “oh look at me I’m creepily obsessed with using my cousin as my personal barbie doll” Seriously. Touya and Yukito though it’s like this arc is going out of its way to ensure they don’t have any lovey-dovey screentime together, but it makes a semblance of sense. Both of them and Yue are worried about Sakura and they’ve made doing all they can to protect her their first priority. It’s ironic. If Nelvana were to decide to pick this up and continue their adaptation Cardcaptors they’d have very little to worry about homosexual censorship wise. Then again they might not even bother to censor the limited homosexuality we do see from Touya and Yukito in this given that even Children’s Educational Show Arthur has now had an episode with Mr. Ratburn marrying a man.

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  7. I wasn’t too much a cardcaptors fan. I only watched the show when it appeared on WB. Then when I heard a continuation of the show is coming out, I thought to myself; “Oh wow. Where did this come from?” But 2016, 2017 was the years to make new sequels; i.e. digimon tri. But if you say it’s not a great story, I’ll tkae your word. I’m not one to watch continuations of shows that “ended” years prior and then the creator wants to “make something new”. Just like star wars. I am not watching those films too.

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