Sakura Kinomoto was an ordinary 4th grader until the day she opened a strange book and let dozens of powerful magic cards loose on the world. Keroberos, the Guardian of the Clow Cards, informs Sakura that it is now her responsibility to find and capture the freed cards. However, much to the reluctant Sakura’s dismay, things aren’t going to be easy for her; simply saying magic words and waving her wand around isn’t good enough. Each card is a living, thinking, extremely powerful being. She’ll have to learn to cope with her new responsibilities, as well as ordinary troubles involving love, school, family, and friends. With the support of her friend Tomoyo and a young boy with powers of his own, she must learn how to use her newly awakened magical abilities to collect each card and prevent the disaster that will befall the world if she doesn’t.
A gateway anime, the moe before moe, CLAMP’s most iconic title, and an unconventional mahou shoujo. It’s a unique piece as the use of cards -a shounen element- gets combined with the more traditional girly traits of magical girls like cute ribbons and accessories. Additionally, we see the heroine in a different outfit, made by Tomoyo, her friend; not by magic. Moreover, Sakura has magic powers on her own: the wand is only the activator of magic rather than its producer, and it doesn’t function as a transformative or healing device.
Its themes also set it apart from the rest of its kind, because love is shown in all its colors: filial love, siblings’ love, love between friends, romantic love between peers or with an age gap, of the same sex, heterosexual or with a being of undefined gender. It’s not very often we see the distinction between a crush and love, much more the heroine getting rejected, dealing with it, moving on with her life, and then building a new, stronger relationship. Besides, being positive and trying your best is hardly new a message, but it’s an exception to the majority of CLAMP works, which are usually darker and/or more doleful.
Cardcaptor Sakura of course has a manga format, which counts 12 volumes or 4 omnibi if you go by Dark Horse’s latest release. The 70-episode anime series and the 2 movies are naturally based on it. The manga has gentler and more flowing lines, more details explaining certain situations , as well as a better end than the anime, but the latter is better in the long run due to its casing with music and its expanded episodes that allow a smooth and satisfactory character development. Thus one gets more excited and involved in Sakura’s adventures. Be sure to choose subs over (American) dub, since in the dub the tone of the series was changed and many critical dialogues and scenes were cut. Even the order in which the episodes aired was different.
The plot has only a few twists here and there, but overall it’s pretty simplistic and follows the monster-of-the-week formula with some exclusively slice-of-life episodes. The goal of the first season is clear from the start, while the second’s isn’t revealed till later; both though have anticlimatic endings. Going through 70 episodes without much tension can become tedious the more one prolongs the series’ viewing, therefore marathoning is recommended. Despite that, the series is emotionally appealing, so it makes up for the lack of intrigue, especially when you are an adult.
The cast is big, but unlike X, it’s not equally well-developed. The side characters are one-dimensional (eg. Naoko loves scary stories, Yamazaki lies a lot) and exist to surround Sakura with a variety of relationships as well as give Sakura a social life beyond her card- capturing and Tomoyo. But Sakura’s father has to be my favorite one: he not only understands his children, but supports them all the way through. The fact that he brings his daughter near her greatgrandfather without telling much and despite any previous disagreements; the fact that his daughter destroyed his pc with the completed paper which was due next day but didn’t yell at her; the fact he actually accepts Yukito as his son’s boyfriend and his hints for official acquaintance with his family, make Fujitaka above admirable. Maybe he’s too much of a perfect parent, yet I adore him.
The main five, meaning Sakura, Tomoyo, Shaoran, Meilin and debateably Eriol, do show signs of complexity and character development. Meilin, an anime-only character, must be the one that had the biggest change. A rival in love and cards at the beginning, Meilin, a girl without magical powers but with strong will and martial arts, became a precious friend and a great supporter to the main couple. Shaoran comes afterwards, in that his feelings not only changed but he also got stronger and more mature. Sakura’s development mirrors that of Shaoran’s and at the same time it’s distinct. Sakura remains clueless and too trusting  while her power, intelligence and emotions evolve. Tomoyo and Eriol are both kind and little devils , but remain very much the same. And everyone is adorable!
The relationships between the main 5 characters and the ones developed in Sakura’s family are those that feel like a warm, fluffy scarf around your heart. That’s why, in my humble opinion, this show is worth watching. Sakura and Shaoran make a precious little couple; Meilin and Shaoran have a strong bond as friends, much like Tomoyo with Sakura; Tomoyo and Meilin are mishievious matchmaking darlings; Eriol respects Sakura and gives Shaoran courage and advice; Touya is a caring if tad overprotective and mean brother to Sakura; and as I already mentioned Fujitaka is an awesome parent.
What’s not so awesome though is the unrequited love the lesbian characters find themselves in and how the gay relationship in the story was handled. What is more, love between students and teachers is shown equally acceptable with all the other kinds of love. In the anime, Terada x Rika, which was the most outrageous of these relationships with minors, was thankfully less visible. It’s totally not ok to idealize pedophilia and encourage your young audience’s dangerous fantasies. I’ve talked about all these in the past, when rambling about CLAMP.
There are 2 movies, Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie and Cardcaptor Sakura Movie 2: The Sealed Card, meant to compliment and conclude the anime series respectively. The first gave us a tour to Hong Kong, Shaoran’s hometown, and an insight to the mysterious personality of Clow Reed. The second is clearly the result of not being able to wrap up well the series or an indication someone thought they could milk more money out of the series. Both were quite atmospheric and a nice watch that’ll touch your heart if not move you to tears.
All in all, Cardcaptor Sakura is an enjoyable title, but that also depends on what holds you attached to a series. There are some flaws but the series does offer other things that balance the flaws out. Although it could be a bit shorter as an anime series, it did leave plenty sweet memories.
 Spoilers: In the anime it’s never explained why Shaoran went ‘hanyan’ only with Yue in contrast to Sakura; or Fujitaka and his relationship to Eriol/Clow Reed is never mentioned. Eriol also doesn’t request from Sakura to transfer part of his power to Fujitaka as to be relieved of the responsibility and burden too much power brings.
 I found it redundant how Yamazaki kept lying about ‘historical facts’ yet Sakura was always fooled.
 Tomoyo is our cute lesbian baby, but her stalking syndrome is not cute at all. Am I the only one thinking about her obsession with Sakura this way? On another note, I am not sure that I like that we never learn about her dad. Does she even have one? Do CLAMP imply lesbianism is the outcome of lack of a father figure? :S
For more of my CLAMP series reviews, visit the Down the Clamphole! post.