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Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Series Review: Characters We Love, Magic That Thrills, And A Plot Totally Unfinished

As a child and teen of the 90’s I grew up with Cardcaptor in my life, and even with the terrible English dub and the butchered theme song this anime was close to my heart. How does the reboot/sequel of 2018 match up to nostalgia’s fierce hold?

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Review:

Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing sometimes. As much as I believe Cardcaptor Sakura is a must watch magical girl series, even I have to admit that when I look at it episode by episode, the original is no longer really to my taste as an anime watcher these days. For every truly brilliant moment in the series, it offers a lot of banal day to day activities of cute girls and their friends just going about their lives. And how many times did we watch Sakura prepare her roller blades for school?

What that means is, a lot of the criticisms I have of the new Clear Card series, aren’t really all that valid. Because Clear Card is a genuine successor to the original. The technology is updated with the kids now having smart phones and the equivalent of a go-pro, but this really is a direct follow up of that original series. And in that sense, it could be counted as a success, though I have to wonder if a few opportunities weren’t missed here.

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In 22 episodes, we see Sakura capture a fair number of cards. However, most of these captures take less than a quarter of the episode they appear in. Some of them lasting mere moments before we’re back to cooking, or eating lunch, or flower viewing, or talking, or brushing hair, or any of the hundreds of ‘filler’ activities Cardcaptor finds for the heroine to do. And I get that for those who love the slice of life feel of Sakura living her daily life that there is a real appeal here because the group of friends are always charming and at least it is clear what Sakura is seeking to protect. And yet, for me, these are the moments that are tolerated as a setting, a background and a motive, while waiting for the actual ‘meat’ of the series. And the meat here is very lean.

Part of the problem comes from an as yet unresolved story. We still have so many questions about what is going on and what significance certain things have (such as a gift Sakura receives in the second last episode), and that means that what little there is of the story about magic is completely unfinished. It makes it hard to evaluate the story on its merits when it is served out in tiny increments inbetween activities that don’t really appeal and then the final act is completely absent. The only thing I can really say is that the plot was probably the most disappointing aspect of this anime.

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Even if it had finished, essentially this feels like a third iteration of a story we’ve seen and enjoyed more when those of us who are fans of the original were actually the target audience and when anime options were a little harder to come by. Oh no, the cards have all turned clear and now Sakura has to capture weird powers again to make Clear Cards. How odd. How bizarre. How identical to the capturing of the Clow Cards and then the transition into Sakura Cards.

Speaking of, doesn’t it feel like a step back for her to not have Sakura Cards now?

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However, with so much down time in the plot, it did give the audience ample opportunity to appreciate how much prettier the visuals were this time around. So much attention given to falling flower petals, gusts of wind, and girls’ hair. Don’t get me wrong, it is gorgeous, particularly the magical aspects of the show, but really some of the attention to the aesthetics could have been given to the pacing and story-line and I’d have been doubly impressed.

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The other part of the anime that does shine quite brightly are the characters. Admittedly, they work better when you have nostalgia working in their favour. During Clear Card they do not develop or have any kind of noticeable growth. But if you enjoyed where they ended up at the end of previous seasons, spending some time with Sakura, Syaoran, Tomoyo, Toya, and the short cameo by anime original Meilin is actually pretty fun. And probably the stand out moments of Clear Card are getting to see Sakura and Syaoran in a relationship. Not learning who they are or finding out about the other, but just in an actual relationship. Now if they could just learn to communicate and not keep secrets from one another we’d make anime history.

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New comers to the cast are adequate though their roles become obvious fairly quickly and like the plot in general, not quite enough time is given to developing these. The end result is that you feel like these are great characters who’ve been more or less abandoned by the script and left to their own devices and you feel just a little bit sorry for them. They had so much potential to be memorable and interesting characters but never quite get beyond their introductions. At least Kaito looks fantastic.

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But what it comes down to is that Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card tries to have its cake and eat it too. It wants to appeal to the nostalgia factor and the fans of old. The call backs to the original series and the parallels in many of the stories certainly scream that they want us to recapture the magic of our youth. Whether it is the upside down penguin or the date at the aquarium, the memories are there but the problem is it just makes me want to go and watch the original rather than continue along with this.

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At the same time, the anime seems to have wanted to reach out to new viewers but it doesn’t offer them anything really to go on. Sakura is who she is because of everything we’ve seen her go through. And as mentioned before, none of the characters really learn anything or grow during this season. So for new viewers you are seeing an already fully developed character go through the motions of her daily life and for the most part it isn’t very compelling. If there was a decent enough threat or villain, you can get away with it. Not ever story needs to be an origin or coming into power story. But if you have an already developed hero you have to give the audience something to anticipate and in this case the only thing that could be is Sakura learning something as she would strive to overcome this latest challenge, and yet there’s nothing. She simply goes about her business and collects the cards when she needs to.

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It makes it difficult to recommend this series. While I didn’t dislike it, looking back I wonder if my time would have been better spent on a retro viewing of the original series as I still haven’t actually reviewed it and I’d probably have enjoyed that more. As cool as Syaoran is in his handful of scenes that he gets, I don’t know that it provides enough mileage to make up for everything else this series seems to lack.

But I’ll turn it over to the readers and ask you how you felt about Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card.

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Karandi James

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Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Episode 22: It’s a Final Episode, Let’s Spend Half Of It At School

Quite literally there is nothing final about this final episode. Other than the reveal that the cloaked figure is in fact, well the person we all knew it was, nothing is revealed and nothing is actually finalised. And yet, that is the end of this season with no announcement for when a follow up might occur.

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Anime that don’t end are a dime a dozen, but Cardcaptor had previously given us some fairly epic endings even when the story was ongoing. Clear Card throws that trend to the wayside leaving us completely without satisfaction. Unless you are satisfied by watching yet another lunch with friends, some pensive musing, and then a fight sequence that gets time reversed out of existence.

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Of all the things that could have happened in this final episode, leaving me feeling like we were totally cheated out of an ending wasn’t one of them. I hadn’t expected everything to be tied up neatly knowing there was no chance of that after last week, but I expected something more than this. Instead Eriol is still out of contact, Syaoran still hasn’t actually had a conversation with Sakura or substance, Kuro and Yue are keeping secrets from Sakura, we still don’t know what Toya is up to, and other than the villain wanting to activate some taboo magic (something we already knew) nothing is confirmed in this episode at all.

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Considering they froze time on this image, I’m thinking they could have made it a little bit prettier. 

I guess we get a pretty light show at least.

Anyway, series review will be up next week and maybe we’ll find out if there’s more of this to come.

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Karandi James

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Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Episode 21: Only One Episode Left

With a 22 episode count (according to MAL), this is the second last episode. And while it certainly seems things have gotten climactic, there seems to be far too much left for this to all fit into one more episode.

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The villain has been established, and help from Eriol firmly cut off. We’ve done the standard steps leading up to a final confrontation with the protagonist holding something the villain wants. And while we still don’t know exactly why he wants the cards or why he wants to use the thing he stole from the magicians, we all know it is clearly tied to Akiho and that it is likely he’ll turn out to not be that bad a guy after all. Besides, it has been a firmly established truth that villains don’t make good tea (there’s a compelling argument for you).

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Meanwhile, this episode finally answers the question of whether Sakura’s father has a clue what his children get up to and it does it in a slightly adorable way. In fact, its so cute the conversation between the father and Toya, that you almost forget that Sakura’s father decided his daughter could handle whatever it was when she was in grade four and left her to her own devices. There’s parenting with style for you. While it might have worked out due to the magic of sweet protagonist plot armour, there are so many ways this approach could have backfired.

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We also get a super adorable moment with Sakura and Syaoran. And that by itself could make this whole season worth watching because who hasn’t wanted to see Syaoran with butterfly wings?

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Karandi James

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Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Episode 20: Getting Closer

While Sakura goes to meet someone from the past, the rest of the gang get together to figure out what is going on in the present. Things are looking grim (or exciting depending on your perspective).

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This week Sakura is about to go on a date with Syaoran when a phone call gives her an unexpected interruption in the form of her great-grand-father wanting a meeting to give her something (which the giving her something doesn’t actually happen this episode unless the tea was the prize). However, while visiting Sakura wanders into her mother’s old room and uses Record to look back at the room’s past. What I don’t get is why every image had her mother in it given the room would have been empty more often than having her in it (maybe the card was editing out the boring bits).

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Meanwhile, the guardians are getting together because there are plots afoot and it is almost time for the reveal of the season so everyone needs to be super ambiguous with their words. It is pretty standard Cardcaptor without a capture this week, and yet it is fairly solid set-up for a final hurrah.

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Karandi James

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