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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