I consider myself fortunate for not being able to watch Card Captor Sakura Clear Card consistently over the past Winter 2018 season; and the only reason why I couldn’t watch it as often as I should have was because I was studying for a board examination. But again, it would appear that I was lucky that that was the case, and for all intents and purposes this “luck” was for all the wrong reasons. Because after binge watching the show, it has become clear to me that Clear Card is a painfully slow show that probably would have been nothing but intolerable if I were to actually watch it as it aired. And I would’ve been fine to have just left it at that, but the truth is I am quite the Card Captor Sakura fan, and I can’t help but feel frustrated in the many missed opportunities that the series had to shine as a pseudo-reboot of sorts. For a franchise that I pretty much grew up with, it is with both love and hate that I tear this season’s offering apart in the first Opinion article for this blog.
It goes without saying that the general thrust for any show that has been revived after years of hiatus is Nostalgia. The generation that watches anime now may not be that privy to the specifics of a show that essentially aired a decade before, but that doesn’t stop people from whipping out that old collection of dusty manga or DVDs and recoup the appreciation for a series that arguably ushered in the era of the modern magical girl genre. Yes, Nostalgia is expected — and the combination of a new original story and updated visuals meant that Card Captor Sakura Clear Card boasted itself as both a sequel to the series as well as a pseudo-reboot, basically resetting the whole world of magic that Sakura inhabits in favor for a new mastermind that undermines the established powers of characters like Li Syaoran.
The idea itself is exciting and refreshing. For one, it meant a new set of cards for Sakura to collect, all while embracing everything that makes the show enjoyable, such as the crazy antics of Kero (Cerberus) and Tomoyo, as well as the thrill of solving the mysteries of cards run amok and the adventure of sealing the cards for wrecking further havoc.
Three episodes in, however, and I began realizing that the formula was pretty much unchanged, if not uninspired, despite having a new shiny veneer of modern animation. The ramblings of Kero seemed incessant; the swooning of Tomoyo predictable; the interactions of Sakura and Li Syaoran seemingly boring due to the mutuality of their relationship at this point. In fact what made Sakura and Li Syaoran so adorable before was their dynamic butting of heads against one another and the eventual turn-around when Li becomes a bit more conscious of himself towards an otherwise oblivious Sakura.
Put into perspective, Clear Card seems devoid of anything to iterate beyond the establish, relying more on nostalgia and a pre-set formula — Sakura has a dream/premonition of the future; shit happens because of a card; shit gets fixed after sealing said card; everyone eats dinner and is happy. But to make things worse, the featured cards, at this point, seem overshadowed by the greater bulk of each episode to depict slice-of-life scenes with Sakura et al. Instead of focusing on plot beats to forward the new story revolving around the Clear Cards, the show keeps veering into pointless scenes that do nothing but pander to fans of the series who have missed watching Sakura for over a decade.
Which brings me to my biggest gripe in the series thus far: a lack of balance. If anything, there seems to be little drive in the current story to make me care for the events surrounding the clear cards. And even when a clear card appears, the journey towards securing it feels trite at best with Sakura basically just whack-a-mole-ing her way to victory. At the very least in the original manga and anime adaptations, Sakura spent a good chunk of the episodes going through trial-and-error to obtain the cards. It was the thrill of watching her fail that made her successes feel all the more rewarding. In Clear Card, however, it’s just a question of when the next Clear card will interrupt her daily activities so that she could just get things over by whacking the card to the middle of next week.
When I reached episode 7, I was nothing short of bored. I wanted my money back. I felt like nostalgia was not enough to justify the poor excuse of storytelling that I was seeing unfold before my eyes. I’m sure the story will turn itself around at some point, but taking half a season to present basically meh seems unacceptable for such a storied series. Card Captor Sakura deserves better than this.
Because at the end of the day, I still love Card Captor Sakura. I still think that Li Syaoran X Sakura is an adorable combination whose dynamic could be served better with less drama and more actual, meaningful dialogue. For example, the current status quo is that Li Syaoran is working on something behind the scenes, outside of Sakura’s knowledge, and yet he still has his own reservations for not having the ability to sense the Clear Cards. The setup is fine, but what’s with all of this blushing and puppy love nonsense that doesn’t do anything but make Li Syaoran x Sakura seem dull and expected? That’s the reason why love stories don’t pander to fans who basically know the two will get hitched. We enjoy seeing the dynamic between these two leads, so please — make them interact in ways that capitalize on their unique individualities! It happened before in the original series — why am I watching shallow fan story turned canon on screen?
And I think that’s where I draw the line between my own personal desires for the series and the direction it’s actually taking. Sure, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Tsubasa Chronicles (an uncommon opinion) that came after it, but I respected it as a reasonable continuation of the franchise as a sort of parallel story arc. But I can’t seem to find the same sentiment watching Clear Card. I can’t seem to watch this without feeling that this isn’t cannon — that it’s a spin off singing to the tune of an updated visual fiasco that doesn’t even seem to understand what made the series so enjoyable to watch in the first place. And and I know it’s a big accusation to say something like this against the franchise, but I can’t help but feel that way. As a fan of the series, I just can’t seem to find it in me to love Clear Card as much as I love Card Captor Sakura as a whole.
So what about you guys? What are your thoughts on what Card Captor Sakura Clear Card has showed us? Is it living up to your expectations as an amazing sequel to an already amazing franchise? Or are you just as confused and frustrated as I am? Do share your comments below — I’d love to hear what you guys think.