It seems to be the year of the reboot—Powerpuff Girls, Digimon, and Ghostbusters all made triumphant (and less than triumphant) returns to geek culture this year, so it seems only expected that other geeky media from our childhoods would follow suit. Even given all this, though, I never expected CLAMP to announce that Cardcaptor Sakura, their successful manga/anime which ended in 2000, would have a new story. Not just an epilogue-y oneshot: an actual new story, set a year after the end of the original series. The series started in June as part of a monthly manga anthology, and now that it finally has three chapters, it’s time to take a look.
Reading manga always seems to throw me into a pit of nostalgia (the last manga I read all the way through was Fullmetal Alchemist, which I speedread nearly six years ago during a particularly boring college internship. Typing that makes me feel unbelievably old). So seeing more of CLAMP’s trademark shoujo artwork made me incredibly emotional. The year’s time jump between the end of the original series and the start of this one means that Syaoran is back from Hong Kong, where he was finishing up some Li clan business, and he and Sakura (and Tomoyo) are starting middle school together. Sakura’s brother Touya and his boyfriend Yukito are together in college, and generally speaking, everything seems fine in Tomoeda. Then Sakura starts having another of her prophetic dreams. These dreams kicked off all the important events in the original series—Syaoran’s arrival into Sakura’s life, the Final Judgement, everything with Eriol—so already we know something’s up. In the dream, Sakura’s confronted by a mysterious masked figure. When she wakes up, she has a new wand key and somehow, all of her cards have turned transparent and useless. It’s the start of Cardcaptor Sakura’s Clear Card Arc.
I’m beyond excited about Sakura’s new card adventure, but as of yet, I’m not sure about how the Clear Card Arc is going to fit into the rest of the story from a thematic standpoint. In the old anime, Season 1 was about Sakura learning how to master another person’s magical system—the Clow Cards. In Season 2, she learned to transform that magical system into her own magical system—the Sakura Cards. Going along with that, Season 1 featured many of Sakura’s mentors, both male and female, helping her and telling her what to do, while Season 2 pushed Sakura to think for herself and make her own decisions and battle plans. Because of this, the whole thing worked tremendously well as a coming-of-age story. Capturing and then transforming all the Clow Cards felt required for character development, not just “let’s make Sakura do something else so we can keep this story going”. How is the Clear Card Arc going to organically grow that story without feeling extraneous? Hopefully that will become more clear as more chapters are released.
Unlike the Digimon reboot, all the characters seem in-character, which is great. However, I wish some of them had been updated for the times. CLAMP still seems obsessed with its adult-kid relationships (why, CLAMP)—Rika and her teacher crush seem to be out of the story for good, but Eriol is still living with the much older Mizuki-sensei. The anime made sure to clarify that Eriol is not actually Clow Reed reincarnated; he’s not Clow Reed in a kid’s body, he’s a kid with Clow Reed’s memories and magical powers, which is an important distinction. As a fourteen-year-old he should not be in a relationship with a teacher, because he is not an adult. Also, Tomoyo still doesn’t seem to have anything to do other than using her immense emotional intelligence to keep Sakura happy, which is what she did for the whole of the original series. It’s more than time for her to have her own motivations and un-Sakura-related things in her life. The manga manages to give Sakura’s father and brother relationships and hobbies outside of Sakura, so I don’t see how they can’t manage it for Tomoyo this many years on.
However, I like that Yukito now seems more comfortable with Yue, and that Eriol finally did something nice for them and gave them Clow Reed’s old house. I’m also looking forward to how Syaoran and Sakura’s relationship develops. They’re now together (for a given value of “together”, as they are fourteen), taking away the unresolved tension that ran throughout the first two seasons of the 2000 story. Sometimes when the leading pair of a story get together, the writers immediately start throwing more external conflict at them, as if just being in a relationship isn’t hard enough. I’m looking forward to how CLAMP is going to make the Syaoran and Sakura relationship more interesting—either through the unexpected Eriol and Syaoran connection or through card-related conflict—without necessarily turning it into a soap opera. They are in middle school, after all—that should be conflict enough!
All my quibbles aside, the new Cardcaptor Sakura arc looks like it’s going to be a thrilling addition to what has always been one of my favorite manga/anime series, and I can’t wait to see what happens next! There’s no word yet on how long CLAMP intends for this new series to be, but I hope it continues for a long time.