Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Episode 1 Review

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I’ll always leave it to Kero.

Warning: Full spoilers for the episode follow.

Reboots and sequel seasons of old, beloved franchise are common these days, but few successfully recapture the tone and character of their predecessors. Twin Peaks: The Return is a recent, fantastic example of a great revival, and it looks like Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card is priming to join that short list.

Exit Theatre Mode

Kero’s peppy “hidey-howdy-ho!” (in Japanese, of course) was the perfect reintroduction to the series, and a smart return of the fun post-episode special, Leave It to Kero-chan. Even if this segment isn’t used for the rest of Clear Card, it shows the care the team at Madhouse put into reviving the Cardcaptor Sakura animation with the callback to the short-lived segment that only aired during the first season. Kero’s recap during the segment isn’t really all that helpful, though, so while old fans may recognize the introduction, some references and characters may not make sense to viewers that didn’t watch through the first three seasons.

Season 3 left Sakura in a rather definitive place with the cards, but Clear Card proposes an interesting conflict, though the introduction of the antagonist could have been a little more flashy. As things go with Sakura, she begins having mysterious dreams of clear cards and an ornately hooded figure. The setting of the dreams is a letdown, though. In past seasons, Sakura’s dreams were in beautiful places like the area around Tokyo Tower. These new dreams are in a dark void that feels a little too sterile, but that could be indicative of the mysterious figure’s power.

sakuradream

The result of Sakura’s dreams are the clear cards, a beautiful new staff, and the image of a massive dragon-like beast at the command of the hooded figure. These mysteries culminate in Sakura facing off against a new force, one that Kero couldn’t even sense. It’s fitting that Sakura’s new adventure starts with a card related to Wind, the first card Sakura captured at the beginning of the series. The whole presentation of this new threat is done well.

The first episode has plenty of great scenes with Sakura, Tomoyo, Kero, and Syaoran (like Tomoyo hiding in the bushes and recording Sakura and Syaoran’s cute reunion), but I especially appreciated that Sakura took a brief moment to naturally explain the whereabouts of other classmates like Rika, Naoko, and Yamazaki. Yamazaki and Naoko teasing Syaoran about the origin of the word “familiar” was a delightful reminder of their mischief in elementary school. They all may be a bit older, but they really haven’t changed all that much. What’s even more impressive is the return of so much of the original cast. Though it’s been nearly 18 years since the end of Season 3 and the second movie, the cast sounds like they haven’t aged a day.

syaoranfamiliar

The softer art style works for Clear Card too; it makes sense with modern anime aesthetics, and Madhouse does a great job of making the most of it. Though there are some awkward facial animations when characters are at a distance, there are also truly beautiful scenes, like the hyper pink reunion between Sakura and Syaoran. Madhouse also makes use of this setting during Sakura’s brief fight against the Gale card. The once beautiful sidewalk is left torn up, which is indicative of how Sakura’s peaceful life once again thrown into disarray.

The Verdict

The fourth season of Cardcaptor Sakura takes on a modern, lighter animation style, but that doesn’t prevent it from feeling like a reunion with old friends. Animation studio Madhouse does a great job bringing back familiar characters, including Sakura’s classmates, in an episode that could have fit in perfectly with the original three seasons. Sakura’s newest foreboding dream doesn’t start with the flashiest introduction, but it ends with a promising challenge.

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