Opinions (C-):

So Uhhh… There’s no easy way to say this, so I may as well just be blunt about it… I really did not like Card Captor Sakura: Clear Card-hen’s first episode. This coming from a guy who literally grew up watching Card Captor Sakura (the original series), and even reviewed it so many years ago, giving it a glowing recommendation and basically being an unapologetic fan of the franchise since. Don’t read that review by the way, it was written almost 18 years ago, and needs to be clearly rewritten and updated for the current times.

Which, incidentally, is also I think what the major problem with Card Captor Sakura: Clear Card-hen is. But… Before we get into the episode itself, I think some context of where I’m coming from is pretty needed.

I’ve been waiting, not only for CCS to make its big return, but for Clamp as well, since the brand of the once famed manga studio feels all but dead these days. And as I mentioned before, I love CCS, and thus I went into this premiere expecting, no believing I would love it. I have such fond memories and such a revere for the original series that I couldn’t imagine something less than phenomenal coming in.

Not only were my expectations from my love for the franchise high, but I knew coming in that a lot of people responsible for the original series, were coming back. We had director Asaka Morio coming back, having helmed several episodes of the original series, and directed the two movies. We have Madhouse coming back to animate, which is awesome because Madhouse is one of the best Animation studios in Japan. And we also had the original seiyuu for Sakura, Tomoyo, Kero and Syaoran coming back, along side a lot of the supporting cast as well.

Plus, let me add one more thing to really seal the deal. I had heard, from certain people I respect, that CCS was going to be good. Said people had seen the first two episodes of the series at Anime Expo last year, and had said that it had been exactly like going back to the good old days of CCS. That it was good stuff. High praise from multiple people, which, definitely raised my expectations for this show coming in even more.

So… Imagine my surprise when I not only didn’t like the show, but actually recoiled from everything I was seeing, 13 or so minutes into the episode. Something just felt wrong as I watched the show, and I couldn’t quite place why I was disliking the show as much as I was. Was it because I was watching a Mahou Shoujo show after almost 20 years since the first one debuted? Was I just too old? Were my expectations too high?

Doubts like those, most definitely crossed my mind as I struggled to come to grips with what was happening. And I say all of this because you have to understand, I still can’t believe I didn’t love this series opener. So… I ended up doing the one thing that I knew would put things into perspective; I went and rewatched the first episode of the original series and even the first episode of the spinoff Tsubasa Chronicles… Just to be sure.

If you remember Tsubasa, you’ll remember that that’s when Clamp got really weird with their stories, and got into all kinds of mind bendy stuff. It was also when I think Clamp was at their best, with xxxHolic and Tsubasa Chronicles being some of their best works in my opinion. So watching that series, and Card Captor Sakura, was really eye opening for me.

I discovered that there were a frightening amount of parallels between the first episode of the original series, and what we got here with CCS Clear Card-hen. If there’s one thing that I think this new series nails, almost to a eerily creepy degree, its the tone and feel of the original series (not Tsubasa Chronicles). The premiere comes so darn close, especially with a similar style of music, a similar art style, nice awesome animation, the same chibi depictions for the joke scenes…

Heck, even all the characters are more or less the same, to an almost shocking degree. Which brings us to my major problem with this series. Card Captor Sakura: Clear Card-hen acts as if Card Captor Sakura, the original series, just happened yesterday and not around two decades ago.

Anime has come a long way since Card Captor Sakura originally aired. No place is this more evident than the voice acting. The same voices that I used to find realistic, feel overly cringey and super annoying to me. Sakura and Tomoyo? Man, I can’t stand hearing their voices, even if the voices themselves are super close to what the series used to be all those years ago. And I said super close, because the voices are a bit more unnatural this time around, and feel like the seiyuu are trying a bit too hard to try and sound super cute and young.

It feels like CCS is trying to appeal to a new demographic with its voices, the one that’s so sought after in Japan. CCS Clear Card-hen felt like it wanted to be one of those “cute girls doing cute things” shows, which I think have gone on to become a bit of a genre in themselves. But CCS isn’t that, and getting voice acting that actually tries to basically go for an audience that the original never really went for, is definitely sad to see.

The voice acting, really does make or break a series these days. As we saw quite aptly from last season’s Black Clover. A show just can’t have bad voice acting in this day and age and not put off viewers. To that end, Sakura’s voice, is too annoying and too cringey for me to handle. It hurts, it really does, and I have to say that I don’t think a Middle schooler would sound like what Sakura sounds like, even in Japanese.

I know this, because I’ve seen many solid anime series about middle school kids in the past few years (most recently Tsuki ga Kirei comes to mind). The immersion is so broken when we have Sakura basically sounding like her ten year old self again, despite the fact that time has clearly passed by.

Now, I totally expect people to say: “Well, why are you knocking them for trying to stay true to the original voices? I mean this show is all about appealing to nostalgia”

We’ll get to the nostalgic element of this premiere soon, but lets talk compare those voices to another series I mentioned earlier. I did also go back and watch Tsubasa Chronichles, and its there that I realized why these voices bothered me so much.

Sakura and Syaoran, in Tsubasa Chronichle, sound a lot more mature, older and real. It makes sense too, because those versions of the characters are actually in high school (or at least teenagers). Its actually those voices, that I think I wanted to hear, more so than the voices from the original 1998-2000 series. The fact of the matter is that I think this new series is a step backwards from Tsubasa Chronichles, which I think pushed the characters of Sakura and Syaoran forward in a very good and likable way.

Yes, the extreme plot twists of that story made for a serious case of head hurt, but overall I think the one thing that series nailed was the next stage of Sakura and Syaoran as older characters and gave them a new dynamic.

So… Getting back to Card Captor Sakura Clear-hen, a show that pretends that Tsubasa Chronichle never existed (and perhaps it doesn’t in this particular universe), I have to say I found the general story of the premiere itself to be lacking as well.

Which, incidentally, gives us a good opportunity to talk about nostalgia. See, Card Captor Sakura: Clear Card-hen does absolutely nothing new. It basically copies and retells a story from the original series. This introduction to the Clear Cards and whatever new threat that Sakura is going to face, seems darn similar to the point in the story when Sakura had to contend with taking ownership over the Clow Cards, after gathering them, in the original series. Its the same old plot devices for setup too.

Sakura has a weird dream, and in that dream, she sees an odd person and sees a bunch of clear cards. Lo and behold, when she wakes up, the Clow Cards are gone and are now replaced by Clear cards instead.

The whole thing is so unoriginal and uninspired that reeks of someone writing a bad fanfiction (emphasis on the bad rather than the fanfiction). I’ve long said that fanfiction can be good, having been a huge consumer and even writer of it back in the day. But this story? It sounds like something someone would quickly chop together in order to give Sakura another reason to have to seal a bunch of cards and use her powers.

Which, speaking of powers, not only does the series use the familiar “dream” device to setup the Clear Cards, but it also gives Sakura a new wand/Key in the same manner. I mean… Really? Just… Really?

I wish this series had done SOMETHING new and different. Gone for some kind of interesting angle that changed up the formulla and added something to the franchise that we hadn’t seen before. I feel like Card Captor Sakura: Clear Card-hen did the same thing that Force Awakens did with Star Wars 2 years ago.

Which basically tells you what Card Captor Sakura: Clear Card-hen actually is. Its a sequel that’s trying to tap into the nostalgia of franchise fans, without actually putting in any real work in terms of storytelling itself. Clamp used to be bold and imaginative in their stories. They used to create things that I just could never have seen or written myself. This premiere? It basically reads like a bad riff on the original series, basically taking all the elements of said series and adding in a few variations to keep things from being EXACTLY the same.

The few variations, of course, are Sakura going to middle school, and her relationship with Syaoran. I’m going to skip over the middle school part, because IMO, the original series actually felt like it was set in middle school itself (and not elementary school). The whole idea of Sakura JUST becoming a middle schooler actually kinda creeped me out, because as a younger viewer, almost 18 years ago now, I had totally shipped her and Syaoran as a couple.

But man, were Sakura and Syaoran super young when they originally fell for one another, and I can’t believe that I was hoping for 10 year olds to basically get together…

To that end, the love/romance that the show plays up between the two is so corny and over the top, that it feels just as cringey as the voices. The show just goes too far with this whole element. It highlights the whole thing with the change in color, the smiles and the framing of shots, the close ups and with cheesy dialogue. And lets not forget how it all happens. The fact that Syaoran basically just comes back in the first episode, after being gone since the last Card Captor movie, reeks of plot convenience.

Oh yeah, the guy that Sakura’s in love with that she wishes was here? He appears the very next minute after she thinks of him and proceeds to hug her carrying the teddy bear that she gave him all those years ago. He doesn’t just meet her at school either? He’s waiting for her on her way back from school, as if this is some kind of cheesy love story from the 80s. I mean… Who writes this stuff? Did anyone reading the script not think: “Uhh… This is a bit much isn’t it?”

Looking back to the original series, one of the things I actually loved about it was how nicely it meshed Sakura’s personal normal life, with her task of having to find and reseal all the Clow cards. The thing that made it all work, however, was the fact that said slice of life segments were believable. They felt natural and real, and seemed to show the sort of life a young kid would be living.

Here? It all just feels oddly dreamy and perfect, to the point of feeling fake and unreal. Sakura goes to middle school, winds up in the same class as her best friend Tomoyo, and then proceeds to have the guy she likes appear soon after, saying he’ll be in town with her “forever”. Oh and he’s also going to the same school as her, by the way…

Uhhh… Okay there, show. I get what you’re doing, but it horribly misses the mark. I feel like the show just rushed into setting things up too quickly here. Maybe if it had held off on bring Syaoran back fir a few episodes, then I would’ve been totally cool with this development. I mean the original series waited a good chunk of episodes before even introducing Syaoran and Mei Ling, so given how much this series has copied the first, why not copy that element too?

The reason the show needed to hold off, is because it not only bring Syaoran back really quickly, but also does some heavy lifting to setup the Clear Card mystery that Sakura’s going to deal with. No, I didn’t care about the fact that Sakura had suddenly lost her cards and now has a new wand and a new threat to deal with. Like I said before, there’s nothing new here, nothing interesting or different. Nothing about this whole scenario excites me, and given that its Card Captor Sakura, that’s a darn shame.

All the show really had to do was just slowly ease me back into the world with this first episode. It should’ve focused on reacquainting me with the characters I care for and maybe could’ve hinted at the more magical mystery that’s brewing. The fact of the matter is that the show just tried to do too much, too quickly, and just didn’t put in the necessary time to develop either of the two pillars that make up CCS; The Slice of life and the magical fantasy.

I’m not sure what else to say. I really hated this episode of CCS Clear card-hen, after expecting to love it all (instead of just the OP). I was fully planning on blogging this series (despite kind of wanting to take a bit of a break from blogging in general), but now I’m not so sure. I guess I’ll give this show another week, and see if it manages to grab me. And if not, then well, maybe I’ve gotten too old for Card Captor Sakura. The very thought of that, makes me feel like I’m dying a bit inside.

But I am curious about what other people thought here. Did you like Card Captor Sakura Clear Card-hen? Was it everything you were hoping for? Or did it disappoint you? Please share your opinions and reactions below as I genuinely want to know if this was really as weird as I thought it was, or if I just didn’t take to it as I was expecting to.

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The Owner, webmaster, designer, coder and writer for the site. Anime Evo is Setsuken’s (Hassan's) proclamation of love for Anime, which he can’t seem to get enough of. He’s a 26 year old male, and current resides in the USA . A writer for a number of years Hassan is also a 3D Artist, a Game Designer, a Web Designer and a Huge Anime Obsessed Enthusiast.

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  • Miro

    Hey ! It’s been a while 😛
    I felt the same frustration as you not during this episode but when I read the first chapter. Because i was following another series from Clamp (Gate7) I was frustrated to see that after Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles and XXXHolic, Clamp decided to pursue another one of their manga, Card Captor Sakura and oh god that I love this anime.
    However, the end of the manga felt like a real end, it didn’t need another arc and I would have prefer to see their unfinished works finished for once and like you i’ve felt like this first chapter (episode for you) was unoriginal.
    So I don’t know if you read the manga but if not, what’s following next is more interesting than a pale copy of the first two arcs. It takes time but i’m finding myself enjoying reading each month a new chapter (I don’t know how they did to have an anime that fast with a monthly manga but well)

    And finally, because I know what’s next, I could enjoy this first episode and feel this nostalgia like something positive. I didn’t like the short action even if it’s the same as the manga, but well, maybe in the future it’ll better.

    (Again sorry for my english that’s not that good D:)

    • That’s reassuring to hear, mostly because I was hoping to hear that it gets better as time goes on. I like the fact that its at least not a copy in the same way I was thinking. We’ll have to see how it goes on next week.

      As for how Clamp got this series made earlier, it makes sense. There’s such a nostalgia and love for this franchise, that the people funding it saw it as not much of a risk. I mean, just the fact that nearly everyone I know seems to love even this first episode, points to the fact that CCS has a lot of staying power.

  • ruicarlov

    I must say I loved it. It’s CCS just like I remember it (hell, I watched the all the original show’s 70 episodes 3 times, the last one finnaly in its original language).
    I have no idea what’s in store next (never read any manga), but I’m confident I’ll enjoy things. Yes, this feels like a jump back in time, but to a good time, mind you. It was an anime that left a deep impression on me and I love to see some more of it, even if it had a good ending point. I often tried to imagine what would Sakura and Syaoran be as a couple, and it seems like I’m finnaly about to find out. Their relationship hasn’t lost its charm at all.

    • See that’s really fascinating (and great) to hear. I’ve done the exact same thing you have. I’ve rewatched Card Captor Sakura multiple times over the years. Its actually one of the few series that I’m able to watch and enjoy, all 70 episodes or so.

      Having said that, I guess it has been a few years since I saw the series last, and I think there were always some things that I just ignored or forgot about. I think I had a much better image of the series than maybe even the reality of it all.

      Finally, I guess I always liked Sakura and Syoaran as a couple but… I dunno the almost soap opera-ey way the anime handled them reuniting, plus the fact that the two kids are super young, has me a bit puzzled over it all.

  • Random Wanderer

    Personally I felt that the original Card Captor Sakura anime ended in a fashion that’s as close to perfect as one could get. As a result, not only do I think there’s no NEED for a sequel, I would say there is a very significant need for there to NOT be a sequel: sequels to popular things that worked well and ended well almost always end up becoming disappointments in comparison to the original. I do not need or want a new series trying to tarnish my perception of what Card Captor Sakura is.

    Also, supposedly Clear Card Hen is coming based off the CCS manga, not the CCS anime, so… remember Meiling? A jealous girl who became a good friend once she grew out of her issues? She was an anime-only character, so don’t expect to see her.

    Basically, I thought making this series was a bad idea from the moment I heard about it.

    • elior1

      i actully enjoyed the first episode since i knew the ova been the end of the manga

    • I have to agree with you. I think at the end of it all, this was a sequel that just didn’t need to exist, and I don’t think this first episode does a good job of arguing against that particular notion.

      I really DID notice the absence of Mei Ling, as I thought she really added A LOT to the original series, both as a character and as the whole third element of the love triangle between her Li and Sakura. And I wish the show would just integrate her back in, because I honestly believe that the original 70 episode series (with its longer length, and extra stuff) was better than the original manga for CCS.

      So yeah, I kind of agree with you a lot more than I honestly even expected to, coming into this premiere. I suppose we’ll see how it plays out.

      Are you planning on watching/following the series regardless?

      • Random Wanderer

        I honestly haven’t made up my mind yet if I’m going to watch it or not. The arguments I made above are telling me just to stay away, but the call of nostalgia and the fact that it seems like most of the anime-watching community across the internet is watching and discussing this series may end up pulling me in anyway.

  • elior1

    the reason it feels like clear card feels like not happend long ago is since it happens few months after the original ends

    • I agree, and there is a part of that for sure in play with this first episode but… I honestly meant that whole thing with regards to the production, voice acting and general style of storytelling.

      Plus, to me it does feel a bit off quilter since this new anime series is going off the manga cannon, and basically ignoring bits of the original anime series that were IMO pretty darn great.

      • elior1

        i guess they doing a mix here of clear manga and the clear original anime scences

  • FlareKnight

    I thought that was a solid start. Maybe part of it is that I didn’t really love xxxHolic and Tsubasa Chronicles. They were alright, but they did tend to go a bit too far. Plus it wasn’t really the characters from this show. I know the overall explanation and how things basically fit together, but it rarely felt right.

    I can’t judge the voice cast on this one too much. I mostly grew up on the dub, so they were never going to sound quite right to me XD. But I agree voice work can make or break a show. It killed Black Clover. Have seen it work and fail in different ways. D.Gray-man Hallow, was dead on arrival for me because they changed the voices. They didn’t sound right and I was never going to be able to get into the show with them sounding so darn wrong. But can say the same for the Sailor Moon Crystal in keeping familiar voices. It didn’t work. The MC didn’t even sound close to right. She couldn’t recapture the original voice after that time gap.

    In this case, I’m ok with the voice work so far. Sakura sounds fine at least to me. Thought the VA did a nice job and seemed to grab the voice of a kid just out of elementary school. But if it doesn’t sound right to someone….it’s going to sound wrong.

    Story wise? It’s what I expected. Didn’t expect or want something in the vein of Tsubasa Chronicles. In terms of things being a bit ideal, it seemed within reason. What show isn’t going to put the MC and her best friend in the same class? They didn’t go as far as putting everyone in that class which would have been silly. And of course Syaoran is going to be going to her school. There’s no way he didn’t know what school Sakura is attending considering they have been in contact. And if he’s coming back he woudn’t choose to go to any other school. He’s not coming back purely for the educational value XD.

    The series always seemed to have a repetitive streak as well. Cards get scattered/lost/unusable/etc, Sakura needs to gather them up and get them back under her command. I wouldn’t have minded within reason changing things up. But when the show is called card captor sakura, you kind of have to work within some boundaries. If we’re not capturing some cards, I’m wondering what is up XD.

    It wasn’t some mindblowing first episode. Instead, it was just solid. At least on my side of things. Easing back into things, introducing the new problem, and getting the ball rolling again. Will it be great? Will it be good? I don’t know.

    • What I get out of that is I think a difference of expectations.

      And What I’d say is that you clearly had the right expectations going into the show, the kind that allowed you to enjoy this premiere. I guess there’s a special place I have for Card Captor Sakura, and this show didn’t go far enough in wowing me to convince me that we needed this sequel to begin with.

      A part of it also has to be that I think I would’ve enjoyed this story if it were set in high school rather than middle school. I think maybe some distance from the events of the first series would’ve helped, but eh, it is what it is.

      Also, I wanted to point out that you raised some REALLY excellent points regarding Syaoran and his suddenly moving to her school. It makes a lot of sense, but that’s sense that you put into the show, rather than it even hinting at those things.

      Either way, I guess I may have been a bit too hard on this premiere. WE’ll have to wait and see if that was the case, starting with next week’s episode.