Impressions of Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – A New Season after 18 Years

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The original Cardcaptor Sakura anime series was one of the most popular of its time. We followed Sakura and her friends – Syaoran, Tomoyo, and of course, Kero – as they fought and caught the spirits of the Clow Cards that had run loose. We accompanied Sakura as she made the cards her own and grew into a capable magician in her own right.

And 18 years after the last episode originally aired in Japan, Madhouse has begun airing a new season…

Titled Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, the basic premise is that Sakura wakes from a dream one night to discover that all of her cards have turned transparent and have been rendered unusable. The only clue she has to what might have happened is a mysterious, masked figure that appears in her dream.

Having seen the first episode, here are my first impressions.

Promising Staff and Cast

Watching the episode really was a blast from the past. So much nostalgia.

For Sakura, it’s the first day of middle school (as a side note, I could’ve sworn she was already in middle school during the original series, but apparently, she was only in 4th grade in the first season). Just like always, her brother Touya teases her in the morning, and she meets up with her friend Tomoyo at school.

We get glimpses of familiar characters like Yukito, Yue, Eriol, and Sakura’s annoying classmate who likes to make up random facts. Halfway into the episode, we see the return of Syaoran as well. Apparently, he has conveniently concluded whatever business he had in Hong Kong.

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Syaoran is back because plot demands it he finished what he needed to do in Hong Kong

What really made the nostalgia hit home, though, I think, is that the new season looks, sounds, and feels like the original. It seems like almost everyone that worked on the original series has reprised their roles. Not only is Madhouse still the production company behind it all, but also the original’s director, Asaka Morio, and writer, Ohkawa Nanase have come back as well. Oh, and did I mention that the core voice actors came back, too?

Just another normal new season?

It was almost like the show was never gone. Before the opening song, Kerberos, a.k.a. Kero, starts everything off with a brief recap of the show’s main premise in a “just-in-case-you-forgot-what-happened-last-season” sort of way. And toward the end, Sakura has a new staff and what seems to be a prelude to another monster-of-the-week plot device. It’s all very reminiscent of Season 3’s premise that Sakura needed to change all of the Clow Cards into Sakura Cards.

All of this really raises a question for me:

Are we really going to pretend decades haven’t passed?

I mean, I’m happy that the show’s back. And granted, I watched the anime years after it had already originally aired, so it hasn’t really been 18 years for me. But still, for many fans, a lot of time has gone by, and more importantly, anime has changed and evolved since 1999.

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Sakura may still be in middle school, but her fans probably aren’t

 

I’m hopeful that the new Cardcaptor Sakura arc will be an evolution from its predecessors as well, but I do have a few open questions that I hope will get answered in the next few episodes of this new season.

Open Questions

What I’ll be looking for is the answer to the following two questions:

  • What is the target demographic of this new season?
  • Will this season stand out or differentiate itself from the original series?

The two questions are really a single point of confusion. In my mind, Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card faces pretty much the same challenges as Sailor Moon Crystal did a few years ago. It needs to attract new fans while simultaneously appealing to the fans of the beloved original.

As Sailor Moon Crystal was a complete reboot (a la Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood), it arguably did not need to retain its original fans so long as it does a good job of being a standalone that attracts new viewers. However, given that Clear Card is just a new season that builds upon the already-established Cardcaptors universe, it definitely needs to appeal to the fans of the original series as I doubt that many new viewers will go back and watch the 70 original episodes just to catch up on the context required to understand the new season.

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Hopefully, it will be more than just collecting a new card per episode

If that’s the case, then the new season needs to be a bit more sophisticated than its predecessors. Kids and teens who loved the show in the early 2000s are now adults, and the repetitive monster-of-the-week format that worked so well for Season 1 may not fare as well for this continuation. If this new season successfully evolves to accommodate the more discerning tastes of the original’s fans, then it has the potential to be really amazing.

 

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