This recap of Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card contains spoilers for Ep 1 “Sakura and the Clear Cards”
At age six, Toonami dictated what I did and didn’t do with my life. In 2000, what Cartoon Network had in store for me as I returned home from school was a new episode of Cardcaptor Sakura I would watch as I ate lunch by myself. I remember watching Sakura Kinomoto’s adventures religiously, sitting at a red kiddie table I could still fit in. As many CLAMP fans, I watched reruns of Cardcaptor Sakura until I outgrew Cartoon Network altogether. Yet, Cardcaptor Sakura isn’t something you outgrow, which is why I continued to rewatch the show periodically online.
Now, CLAMP has returned with Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, and although it’s been more than 17 years, the characters have barely aged and the show retains the dreamy and mystical essence that made it an anime classic.
Although the first episode is a little slow on the action part, it used its 22-minute runtime to re-introduce us to almost every beloved character from the original series. For die-hard fans, I believe this is certainly enough and even appreciated. We’re in this for the new adventures of Cardcaptor Sakura, but we’ve also missed this fabulous cast and deserved a little one-on-one time with each of them. (Need I remind you how long we’ve been waiting for this?)
“Sakura and the Clear Cards”
Last time we saw Sakura, her life seemed to be pretty much in order. She had made friends with the once elusive Eriol and his cohort of strange individuals, had captured every Clow card and turned them into her own, and apparently graduated from elementary school. (Nevermind you that the girl barely had any time to sleep or attend classes). All that was missing was for Syaoran to return from Hong Kong as he had promised.
But you know how cruel anime producers are and how they drag you through the mud for however many episodes and never give you a single kiss. Not even in the movie (!!). And now, 17 years later, I was not in the mood for doing anymore waiting.
The good thing is CLAMP doesn’t make us wait too much (imagine if Syaoran would’ve popped up mid-season or something??). And while the reunion is not the first scene, we start at a very natural and surely missed place: the eternal sass of one Toya Kinomoto.
The episode opens with Sakura running late for school as always. Toya’s classic jab works as a wink to the fans, assuring us that the mechanics of our beloved show remain the same. Which is good and expected, given that the characters have not aged a day.
After getting a quick wave from the Kinomoto family, Sakura leaves for school, running past sakura trees in bloom and wishing Syaoran was there to see them. Once in school, we are reunited with our costume designer and videographer, Tomoyo Daidouji. Tomoyo and Sakura are happy to find they are in the same class and that most of their friends have enrolled in the same middle school (except for Rika, who we hope isn’t running after Terada-sensei).
We don’t get to see too much of the school other than a quick montage of a school day in which we’re reminded that, while Sakura is an amazing athlete, she’s not the brightest bulb in the tanning bed. It’s on Sakura’s way back home, however, that things get interesting, for the love of my six to 23-year-old self finally comes on screen.
I mean, I wish we had aged him so that this wouldn’t be weird. But okay, imagine me a child again. Syaoran shows up, cradling in his arms the bear Sakura made for him. Our girl immediately jumps into his arms and my life finally comes full circle.
As fun as reunions are, not even Syaoran Li’s return is enough to give us a 26-episode arc. So while the first ten minutes are rose-colored and filled with nostalgic hugs, the real plot reveals itself (as things often do for our girl) through a creepy dream.
In the dream, Sakura faces a strange, clocked figure that remains unnamed. All around her are clear cards (which we know to decipher thanks to the title of the arc, obvs), floating about and seemingly being controlled by the creature. When Sakura tries to interact with them, the cards turn into shards and attack her. Once she wakes up, Sakura runs to her cards to find they have all indeed turned clear.
Kero-chan is as confused as Sakura and can offer her no guidance. In the morning, the duo pays a visit to Yukito to see if Yue can be of any help *squeaaal*. I will note that Yukito had sent Sakura a little charm the night before (in case, you know, this pops up later as stuff often does in this show).
Remember when we used to sneak around for everything in this show and how nobody was upfront about what they needed or wanted for fear of revealing secrets? Well, now we just stroll up to Yukito’s house and be like, “Yo, gotta talk with Yue.” I have to say I appreciate the newfound level of chill and complicity these characters have reached. And I’m even more glad Yukito still wears sweater vests.
Once inside the house, Yukito gives way for Yue who is as puzzled as anybody about the clear cards situation. He does ask Sakura a couple of questions, but none of her answers yield any real response from him. Yue and Kero-chan agree that, since Yukito also has to go to school, it’ll be best for Kero to just keep an eye on the situation and for the gang to keep asking around.
Sakura cannot help but mention Syaoran is back, and Yue gets super extra, holding up Sakura’s chin and saying she should tell Syaoran “every little thing.” Because in case you thought this show was going to let you forget the weird arc were both Sakura and Syaoran were madly in love with Yue/Yukito, think again. And it is clear who Yue favors (although Yukito favors Sakura…or Toya, really).
After these kids finally make it to school, we find it’s Syaoran’s first day (but he’s not in the same class as Sakura and Tomoyo). Syaoran doesn’t know anything about the clear cards either, but Tomoyo says she’s ready with a whole new collection of outfits. All the talk about wearing costumes and being recorded sends Sakura running to class, leaving behind Tomoyo and Syaoran who share a little moment of concern/love for Sakura.
Back in class, the girls start feeling bad for Syaoran when they realize he’s stuck in a class with Naoko and Yamazaki. It didn’t immediately click in my brain why they’d be worried that such an iconic duo would be keeping Syaoran company. That quickly changed as soon as their first scene unfolded. I had completely forgotten the Clueless Syaoran dynamic, where Yamazaki feeds him utter nonsense and he ends up completely believing it and Chiharu’s not even there to stop him. This show is so iconic.
Awaiting an e-mail back from Eriol concerning the clear cards, Sakura goes to bed in the hopes that an answer will come through by morning. Instead, Sakura is faced with another strange dream in which the cloacked stranger is now in possession of a dragon-like creature. In the dream, Sakura also receives a new key, and when Kero awakens her, she’s still holding it in real life.
Sakura finds some comfort in the fact that at least her staff works, which according to Yue and Kero means her powers are intact. From this point forward, we know that Sakura will have to face off these “clear cards,” what remains to be seen is if she’ll be re-sealing her old cards or if the show will be introducing new ones.
On her walk to school the next day, Sakura is attacked by a card. The card works like a forceful wind, first lifting the sakura petals to announce its arrival and later slashing Sakura with ferocious gusts of wind. Kero says he can’t detect any presence, so it’s up to Sakura to seal the card before they can get any answers.
By this point, I was kind of expecting this to be the same Wind card (but on crack). However, when the gust is about to hit her, the new key appears before her, holding back the attack. Sakura decides to “release” the key in the hopes that it’ll turn into a staff. Her deductive reasoning proves sound, and an angelic staff emerges. Unfortunately, her old incantation doesn’t work for this one, forcing her to come up with a new one on the spot.
“Force without master, heed the call of my Staff of Dreams and become my power. Secure!” is our new go-to. What the staff secures is a new card called Gale. This means Sakura will be working with a new deck without being able to use her trusted Sakura cards. This is both exciting and sad, because the cards are all characters in themselves, and I have missed them, too. But it’s okay, maybe Sakura will throw a party with all of them when this whole nightmare ends.
In conclusion, while it is true that Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card was off to a slow start, I think it’s fair for a show of this importance (that has been off-air for almost two decades) to take its time re-introducing its characters. The clear card arc sounds promising, and I trust CLAMP wholeheartedly.
It’s also exciting to think about how we haven’t met any new characters yet, but from the intro, we know of at least two new-comers. Because if there’s one thing CLAMP knows how to do is write compelling secondary characters. These two enigmas are bound to make a splash, and I’m here for it. Bring on Sakura and the clear cards!