Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card-hen Prologue – Sakura to Futatsu no Kuma (OAV)

There are times when I think it might be more fun to see adaptations and revivals of stuff you’re only mildly a fan of, as opposed to really passionate about.  That way you can enjoy them on their own merits without getting bent out of shape about every change or cut – something either works or it doesn’t, but there’s never a sense of betrayal.

So it it is with me and Cardcaptor Sakura.  Mind you, it does have a rather strong sentimental hold on me, being one of the very first anime I ever saw (though even earlier was stuff like Star Blazers and Speed Racer, to use their English titles), on a bad Saturday morning dub going under the name “Cardcaptors”.  I enjoyed it – it intrigued me, and even in heavily edited (though I didn’t know that at the time) form, I sensed it was way better than most American cartoons.  It didn’t change my life or anything, and I didn’t spend the intervening two decades dreaming of a return – but it was always a part of my anime consciousness at the molecular level.

When I saw the “Sakura to Futatsu no Kuma” prologue (a full series is coming in January 2018) at Anime Expo, I figured it was going to go over pretty well with more emotionally-connected diehard fans than I – indeed, it was sometimes hard to hear the dialogue over the screams.  That hasn’t necessarily been the case, though.  The reception has been pretty good but I’ve seen a fair bit of complaining out there.

Madhouse (who apparently still exist) has reunited the original cast and crew to an astounding degree, including director Asaka Morio (Chihayafuru), which should in theory be a good thing.  But not everyone is pleased with the choices Asaka-sensei has made, starting with taking what was a very bright and vibrant visual palette and given us something soft and pastel-shaded.  But you know, the series (based on a continuation of the original in manga form by CLAMP) is going to take place in middle school – and with Sakura and Syaoran Li being a few years older, I think updating the look to something a little less like a child’s perspective makes a certain sense.  Yes, it’s rather a “shoujo look” – but so what?  Asaka is good at that, and I think “Clear Card-hen” pretty much qualifies as a shoujo anyway.

In terms of content, while I’d be lying if I said I remembered many details about the original series, I felt like Sakura to Futatsu no Kuma jumped back into the swing of things pretty quickly.  It’s always interesting when somebody like Asaka-san returns to a series after such a long absence – he was a newbie director then, and now he’s an industry veteran and the top dog at Madhouse.  Surely he’s bringing a different sensibility to Cardcaptor Sakura now, and the show certainly feels different even though the bulk of the prologue OAV takes place while the main characters are still grade schoolers.  Yet it feels oddly similar to the original, too – all the more in that I’d totally forgotten what it felt like watching Cardcaptor Sakura after a decade-and-a-half of not doing so.  To say it was an odd experience would not be an exaggeration.

I’m going to assume you’ve seen the OAV if you’re reading this (if not – stop) but the headline is, of course, that Li confesses to Sakura. This comes on the cusp of his leaving to go back to Hong Kong of course (cruel boy), and just after the departure of Eriol back to Blighty.  It’s pretty fanservicey to lead with that, I admit, but it’s necessary to set up the story in the TV series, when the leads will be in junior high.  Everyone we know and love gets a scene or two and the overall vibe is familiar yet different in an effective way, but there’s never a question that this story is really about Sakura and Li.  And as a setup for a full series built around them, I think Sakura to Futatsu no Kuma works very well.  It’s a (mind) trip down memory lane, but one I’m happy to take.

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12 comments

  1. D

    The thing is, everything in this episode was already resolved, if in ever-so-slightly different fashion, at the end of the original show. Heck, in the first movie, after the show ends, Sakura even visits Li in Hong Kong!

    The ending to the TV show is, in my opinion, iconic, and the idea of re-doing it here is superfluous at the very least, and frankly sacrilegious to any hardcore fan of the series (or, well, at least to me).

    I certainly didn’t hate this OAV, as it was great to simply see these characters again. But making the plot of the episode a do-over of something that had already been firmly resolved is a curious, and perhaps not very encouraging, choice.

  2. Well, the series is presumably going to be a straight adaptation of the Clear Card-hen manga. Was the OAV material in the manga?

  3. B

    Yes, the OVA material comes from the final volume of the manga (not the Clear Card-hen manga, but the original manga). The TV series and the movie that follows the end of the TV series did something a bit different to resolve the “will they or won’t they” bit between Sakura and Li.

  4. I’m guessing this is a kind of “recap” episode in which people who are familiar with the original but don’t have it in hand to re-watch it can remember where the story left off before kicking off with the Clear Card Arc. And perhaps also a teaser of what’s to come, how it will look, how it will sound, what mood it will have as a show.

  5. W

    You are a hardcore fan that never have read the manga, right? Because this OVA is an adaption of the manga ending.
    May be fans in the US watched the anime before reading the manga, but fans in the east were opposite. And to us the anime original ending had already been kind of sacrilegious to the manga. (not bad ending though, just feeling different.)

  6. D

    I’m just excited to see more CCS… Now that was my jam. Was raised on this, Inuyasha, Nadia, and Ghibli, but I remember being very fond of CCS. A friend of ours would make subs himself and lend us his copies. Most accurate subs to a Ghibli movie I’ve ever seen.

  7. G

    CCS was one of the very 1st anime series I ever watched and it got me hooked on anime.I’m up for more CCS for sure.

  8. s

    CARDCAPTORS…a mystic adventure…CARDCAPTORS…a quest for all time…CARD CAPTORS!!! Yea im so ready for this. I mean, i sort of agree with the complaints about the new visual direction. It’s not just about the old series having more color than this new one; it’s that the old series was more visually striking in its story boarding and art design. This new OAV is a bit of a step down but it’s nothing too serious and honestly, i think it’s just a case of adjusting to these new visuals. Im probably gonna rewatch the whole series before diving into this new one; cardcaptor sakura was my shit

  9. R

    Oh god why did you remind me of the dub song. It’s stuck in my head now D:

  10. r

    Unlike Enzo, this is one anime I quite passionate about. It did change my life, as I started viewing things in a different, more mature way. Kinda ironic since it was targeted as a kid’s show. It’s the only anime ever that I’ve watched 3 times (and a half), which at 72 episodes is quite something. I never knew the infamous edited version, as here we only got the original version dubbed (not a very good dub, mind you, but no content change). I always wondered what would be the future of these characters I loved, even though I was plenty satisfied with the Sealed Card movie ending. It finished things in a wonderful fashion and I had no complain about it whatsoever.
    While getting more Cardcaptor Sakura fills me with glee, at the same time it also makes me sad, since we’re obviously going to stick closely to the manga, which means a ton of content (characters and cards) won’t exist, as well the great ending of the movie. As much as brat as she was the earlier episodes, I’ll miss Meiling.

  11. I’ll miss Meiling too…CCS was the series which made me into an anime fan, as opposed to a casual Ghibli film watcher (Ghibli films are great too, but it took me a while to realize non-Ghibli anime could also be worth watching). I’ll miss all the anime-only cards, but at the same time, I’m really glad CCS is back. I suppose you could say that it changed my life. I wouldn’t have learned Japanese if CCS didn’t exist, and might not have become at anime fan. I watched the fansubbed versions first, and then sat through some of the horribly cut Cardcaptors episodes, read the manga, and then watched a lot of the anime over again dubbed in Portuguese to strengthen my heritage language. I think I grew up to be braver than I would have been, thanks to CCS, and I’m glad that it exists.

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