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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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