Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, vol. 1

9781632365378_manga-cardcaptor-sakura-clear-card-volume-1-primary.jpgCardcaptor Sakura is one of my all-time favorite manga series. It’s got beautiful art and has great themes of friendship and self-confidence. Sakura’s mantra of “I’m sure I’ll be all right” contributes to one of the most uplifting stories I’ve ever read. It’s safe to say that the original manga has a special place in my heart.

When I heard CLAMP intended to bring the series back in celebration of its twentieth anniversary, I was cautiously optimistic. I’m certainly happy to give the new arc a shot, but at the same time, I felt the original ending was satisfying. If the new storyline wasn’t up to snuff, it could end up tarnishing the series as a whole. Still, I have not read much of CLAMP’s work outside of the original series (besides Sakura, I have only read Magic Knight Rayearth and Clover), so I decided to give the new arc a chance.

In these opening chapters, Clear Card hasn’t set the world on fire quite like the original did, but it’s still off to a good start.

This arc opens two years after the conclusion of the Master of the Clow story, where Sakura sealed all of the Sakura cards and made amends with Eriol, Spinel, and Ruby Moon. Syaoran returned to Hong Kong and Sakura was left to finish elementary school on her own. On her first day of middle school, Syaoran returns to Tokyo and tells Sakura that he’ll be living their full-time from that day forward. Life is beautiful for Sakura as she’s able to spend time with her friends at school. Things take an uncertain turn as she starts to have strange dreams where she meets a mysterious figure. After she has these dreams enough times, she encounters a new set of phenomena that require her attention. Though they were dormant for a time, it appears her magic powers are due for a comeback.

The art is as gorgeous as it ever was, and the act of reading this book was a pleasure. Visually, it’s like Cardcaptor Sakura never left the scene. And of course, a big component of Cardcaptor Sakura’s charm is its supporting cast. I’m happy to report that nothing has changed here. Tomoyo is just as cheeky as ever, designing new outfits and recording footage of Sakura’s endeavors. Yamazaki is still quirky, offering up ridiculous explanations for very mundane things like candy and raindrops. And of course, Sakura is still as warm as she was in the original story. So much of the original was about her getting acquainted with and accepting affection of various kinds from all of her friends. None of that has disappeared in this new arc. It’s like a warm fireplace in the winter. Clear Card feels like home in this respect.

The plot is moving at a somewhat leisurely pace. Sakura encounters the mysterious figure once in each of the volume’s four chapters, but she’s no closer to understanding the purpose by the end than she was at the beginning. Sakura came to understand the intent of her collecting the clow cards very early in the original series, so this is the main way Clear Card is out of step. This isn’t a major flaw or a serious mark against it for now – the conflict is not clear, but there’s plenty of action going on in these chapters – but I imagine, given my impressions of the first half of Soul Eater, that I’ll grow frustrated if there’s no overarching reason or clear explanation for why Sakura has to collect the new clear cards.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card may well be my manga comfort food. Based just on volume 1, it may not be as transcendent as the original, but it’s still an enjoyable ride. The art is as beautiful as ever, and the characters are just so much fun to be around. If later volumes can establish and expand on a larger plot, Clear Card could very well stand as tall as the original. For now, it has to settle for being pretty good. I’d say that’s a good problem to have.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card is written and illustrated by CLAMP. It has been serialized in Kodansha’s Nakayoshi magazine since July 2016, and its chapters have been collected into three bound volumes as of September 2017. It has been licensed for release in North America by Kodansha Comics, which has released two volumes to date. Check out Kodansha Comics’ page on the manga here.

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