By Rae and EyeSpyAlex
A word of caution: Neither of us has read the Clear Card manga yet. Rae has read the originals (which Alex is currently working on!) and both of us have seen the entirety of the anime. Take some commentary here with a grain of salt – the anime is our first Clear Card experience!
So here we are, at the end of a rather highly-anticipated season (series?). We’ve been reviewing weekly episodes, but with everything finished now, it’s time to look at our overall impressions. We’ve tried to keep low on spoilers, so that this article can be friendly for those considering whether or not to jump right in!
Clear Card is stunningly beautiful, stylistically. The manga always had that lovely, distinctive, CLAMP style. While the original anime kept the art style, it was weak sometimes in terms of animation. Clear Card was able to bring a level of art and animation quality that certainly did the original work justice. The array of outfits – a pretty noticeable feature, considering a lot of shoujo series have uniforms – was lovely and fun. Use of lighting was spot on, with lots of sunny flower shots throughout the show. Opening and ending themes would fit right in on a CCS soundtrack, alongside spot-on voice acting. On the surface, Clear Card is perfect.
The problem is that underneath that surface, the rest of the content is surprisingly shallow.
CardCaptor Sakura was a pretty enjoyable series with a very sizable following, and with plenty of room to grow and do new things. Clear Card works too hard to tap into the original series’ nostalgia, to a point where numerous moments seem to exist only as an excuse to say “remember when….”
You can really see the difference in priorities if you compare episode summaries:
CardCaptor Sakura: “Sakura’s class is on a field trip to the aquarium. During the penguin show, something catches the trainer’s leg and a penguin and pulls them into the water, but they are saved by Sakura’s brother, Toya, who is working part-time there. At school, Tomoyo gives Sakura and Kero mobile phones and on the way home, Sakura bumps into Yukito who invites her on a casual “date” to the aquarium. While they are eating, the Watery Card attempts to drown Sakura. For the first time, Sakura has to formulate a plan to capture a card. Using her wits and an unintentional clue from Yukito, she lures Watery into a freezer to immobilize and capture it.”
Clear Card: “Sakura invites Syaoran out for the day with tickets given to her by her father. She’s worked hard on the rolled omelets for their lunch, and now they make their way to the aquarium Sakura visited when she captured the Clow Card, Watery.”
Of course, these are English-language summaries written by individuals not working on the show or manga… but they’re fairly telling. The focus of Clear Card is essentially Sakura and Friends. Cardcaptor Sakura – especially the anime version – brought us a varied array of Clow cards with different strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes Sakura would find them on her own, or they would appear suddenly, attracted by the magical power nearby. Other times there was a mysterious happening in town that Sakura needed to investigate. Most of the time, she and Kero (and their trusty partners) had to put some real work in to create the chance to investigate and capture the card. A lot of emphasis is put on the cards and how Sakura’s new life as a magical girl juxtaposes with her life as a normal schoolgirl. Alongside the main story, there’s a slow-burn romantic subplot and cute moments of friendship.
Clear Card prioritizes throwbacks to CardCaptor Sakura, Sakura and Syaoran’s developing relationship, and Sakura’s friendships with other people. Oddly enough, we don’t see as much of the other characters as we did in CCS, which occasionally took the time to show off the private lives and emotions of Sakura’s friends. In Clear Card, we only really get to look at Sakura and Akiho, and there could be a lot more balance given how much the show relies on the social aspect of Sakura’s school life. Clear Card did put a lot of focus on Yukito, Yue, and Touya, which was great, though of course there’s still room to explore.
Halfway-through the season, the mystery of Kaito actually became quite interesting. Like Eriol in the original series, Kaito seems distant and mysterious at points, clearly powerful, and even possibly dangerous. In the midst of episodes that seemed to follow a constant pattern, this was a refreshing mystery at times. The final episode deepened the mystery further, but whether or not that’s a good thing depends on whether or not there’s going to be more.
At the time of writing, a second season of Clear Card has not been announced. The final episode that airs not only resolves absolutely nothing, but makes things more mysterious and confusing than ever. As wary as we have been about Clear Card living up to its potential, ending here would be an absolute waste of the whole season. With the manga still ongoing, there’s likely plenty more to include – here’s hoping that they do so.
Clear Card is definitely an interesting continuation to CardCaptor Sakura, sure, but we both found it to be a bit disappointing at times. With a full season under our belts, it seems safe to say that this is primarily worth checking out if a second season is announced. If it ends here, you’re better off getting your nostalgia from the original series, and checking out the manga if you want to go on.