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Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – Part One (UK Blu-Ray)

11 min read
The nostalgia kicks in but that’s not a bad thing…

The nostalgia kicks in but that’s not a bad thing…

What They Say:
The power of the Clow is back with a brand-new adventure! Join Cardcaptor Sakura as she faces a new power, new friends, and reunites with some familiar faces. As Sakura settles into a normal routine, she prepares to face her newest challenge junior high! While her classes are challenging, things start looking up when Syaoran reappears and says he’ll be staying for good. But when she has a strange dream about a mysterious figure and wakes to find her Clow Cards completely clear, she must return to her duty as Cardcaptor. Ready to take on these cards with a new key and new wand, Sakura will face this mystery with the help of her friends and seriously cute outfits! The Review:

Audio:
The audio has a HD Dolby Surround 5.1 release in English and a 2.0 in Japanese for the series– I watched the first disc in English and the second disc in Japanese to compare, despite not saying 5.1 the Japanese release was high quality to the point there was no adjustment to the volume, there were no other issues regarding sound quality, echoing, synching with subtitles, etc – the quality is high overall. It is interesting that the dub uses many actors from Tsubasa, whilst the Japanese actually uses a lot of the original voice actors/actresses from the original series – and 15 years later Sakura, Syaoran and Tomoyo sound exactly the same  Both language tracks do emphasize the characters well (though Syaoran and some of the kids might sound a bit older in English) and there was no slow down or issues with synching either way so a general good release.

Video:
Originally airing in January 2018 (so just under a year ago, ironic considering no original CCS media ever got to the UK in DVD format not including the Cardcaptors dub) – the video is a full screen showing which has no issues synching with the audio or subtitles when watching in Japanese – it is bright and colourful reminiscent from the original Card Captor Sakura but incorporates more modern animation and CGI – creating its own magic you could say – it’s flows beautifully and does feel it is back in the early 2000s but more colourful – it feels a bit more basic in that regard but that doesn’t make the visuals any less appealing and easy on the eye.

Packaging:
There was no packing for this test release.

Menu:
The menu is pretty standard – we see clips of the show intertwined with a peaceful song in the background as below the scenes we get the selections of Play, Episodes, Settings and Extras. Easily selectable and like most Blu-Rays gives you the option to choose via a pop-up menu whilst in show some else (bar extras). Fast, quick, efficient and nice looking.

Extras:
Along with the traditional clean opening and ending we get in disc 2, we get a couple of nice extras – in Disc 1 we get what is basically the prologue and helpful for those who haven’t seen the original series called Sakura & the Two Bears. As am familiar with the series, it basically details the end of the series after battling with Eriol, he is going back to England now that Sakura has proved herself as the master of the Clow Cards, now called Sakura cards. However, Syaoran is also leaving and basically confesses his love to Sakura before he leaves. The animation is part back to the original series and back with updated animation (also follows the manga rather than the original anime as Syaoran’s confession was very different in the anime) which leads to the significance of the teddy bears. I will say that if you haven’t seen the original series it does help a little in setting up Clear Card but because so much happens before that, it can still be a bit confusing for new people. That said, is a pleasant show.

The other main extra is an episode 9 commentary featuring Jason Liebrecht (Syaoran), Monica Rial (Sakura), Mikaela Krantz (Kero-chan) and Natalie Hoover (Tomoyo). The commentary is more of a Q&A Twitter with the cast answering questions from fans – quite a variety as in particular of Monica and Jason, their roles from Tsubasa are mentioned quite a bit and how in transits to Cardcaptor Sakura in a different universe (interesting it’s clear Natalie was a fan of the original series considering how she talks about the old cards compared to the other cast who weren’t as familiar compared to Tsubasa). Other questions include what card would they want to have (both from the show or just created for them), what they want for their characters, Sakura’s relationship with Touya, Kero’s accent, their favourite battle costume (frog for the win), food from the show, etc. It’s nice and varied and you just hope there are some bloopers floating about to be released in the 2nd set.

Content:
Cardcaptor Sakura is one of the gateway anime of the early 2000s as well as being one of the quintessential magical girl anime and probably CLAMPs most famous work – being the focus of the two main characters from it in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle and being one of the early anime that did get a release on prime time TV in both the US and UK in the form of Cardcaptors. Now, the sequel comes out 15 years after the original series and the first time an uncut CCS series has been released in the UK, the nostalgia is big on this one – a lot of the original Japanese voice actors were back for this whilst the dub brought a lot of the cast from Tsubasa (not the original dub nor the one from the Sealed Card movie). The series originally was a classic but very charming magical girl series with one of the most beloved heroines of all time, and whilst there were some controversies about it (mainly due to cultural differences) it is still considered and rightly so a classic and one of the best, if not the best, magical girl series of all time. Charming, everyone getting along, action packed, likable and developed characters, and an ending which prepped you for Syaoran and Sakura returning.

So whilst the 2nd movie did close things out, this was before a sequel manga finally came out in July 2016 which is currently ongoing. So with that in mind, this series follows the new manga mostly closely but does it recreate the charm that the original series has?

Of course, it should go without mentioning that if you haven’t seen the original series or read the original manga, it is hard to recommend as it goes straight into Sakura reuniting with Syaoran. At the end of the series (at least the manga) Syaoran had returned to Hong Kong for business but returned in the final chapter of the manga. The show starts this (with a classic Tomoyo moment who was always my favourite character) with Sakura now in junior high with her best friend Tomoyo, as whilst as her friend Chiharu in the same class, with Yamazaki and Naoko in another class, with Rika at another school (most likely written out due to the controversial nature of her relationship with a teacher in the original series). Syaoran returns to Tomoeda who ends up in the same class as Yamazaki and Naoko, but outside of returning to Tomoeda, we find out the Sakura cards have turned blank. No answer from friends (including Eriol who has returned back to England), Sakura still has her prophetic dreams which this time, become more real as a key in her dream ends up in her hand. This starts a new cardcaptor journey when she senses magic and captures a new card very similar to Windy (called Gale) which begins the story.

So right off the bat, you can see that the premise is very similar to the original series, but new cards. This can be both a good or bad thing – the good being the nostalgia factor, the bad being retreading the original series. That said, it is very hard to be too disappointed because the charm is still there, the characters are still fun (in 2018 of course as well Tomoyo has access to more technology for her recordings, Kero using new video game consoles and playing online games with Spinel Sun, etc) and there actually is an intriguing mystery which will get to…

The show goes through a combination of Sakura at school and then Sakura dealing with new cards – she rejoins the cheerleading club of course as she’s still a gymnast in an 11-year-old body, Tomoyo is in the chorus club and Syaoran…isn’t doing anything but seems to be looking at something from the sidelines, contacting Eriol on occasion…

So Sakura gets new cards like Siege, Aqua and Reflect (they later notice the similarities with some of the original Clow/Sakura cards) whilst seeing a recurring figure in a dream who keeps wanting to steal her key. I have some theories on this person which will come clear when the next episodes come through…

…the big one is get a new character – a transfer student named Akiho Shinomoto, who is a total sweetheart and yet another charming character to the roster, who is just as dense as Sakura and Syaoran to Yamazaki’s stories (another thing from the past which still is hilarious today)…but is also clearly added that she may be a new antagonist or at least potentially the person in Sakuras’ dreams. That said, she and Sakura become fast friends and combined with Sakura’s ongoing relationship with Syaoran (they are super cute together but neither wants to make the first move outside of Sakura wanting to make lunch for him) makes this a show that you just smile throughout. However, interestingly enough Syaoran always seems to be late whenever Sakura gets a card or for lunch almost like he’s doing something else…hmmm….

Akiho joins the chorus club, we get a record card (much to Tomoyo’s delight so they test it out at Tomoyo’s house…which brings us another return as Tomoyo’s mother Sonomi who ADORES Sakura is quite happy) and then visit Akiho where it is revealed she lives in Eriol’s former mansion. Coincidence? Especially as we are introduced to her butler Yuna D. Kaito. We later learn the D is a sign of high ranking magicians back in England so again, curiouser and curiouser…especially as a book in the library of Akiho’s place is quite familiar to Sakura…

We do get a cute date episode between Sakura and Syaoran similar to when she went out with Yukito (side note: Yukito and Touya are not in it as much but Touya still teases/cares for Sakura, and it seems like he may be getting some of his magic back so…) and similarly there is a card they capture here. Later, Akiho visits Sakura’s house but is put to sleep by a card which leads to Sakura capturing two more cards, and the fact Akiho was affected by magic again pulls the theory that Kaito may be involved but you wonder….

….the show seems to focus that Kaito and/or Akiho is the mystery person in her dream, but I do suspect it could also be Syaoran because of the fact he isn’t at most of the card captures. Combined with him chatting to Eriol a lot as well means he may more than he appears but isn’t telling Sakura. I feel that this build up is going to be explained well as the original series did this a lot as well – that, and combined with the whole relationship of Sakura and Syaoran, there may be some twists to say the least.

I cannot find fault with the series – it is a blast from the past, it is cute, charming, the characters are just as wonderful as I remember and the addition of Akiho adds even more charm to it. That said, it does feel the adage of if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it, which maybe the one problem some people might have with it. Some of the cards and even episodes are very similar to the original (the one with the Spiral card is nearly identical to the watery card, just Tomoyo gets to put Syaoran in a costume and Sakura is on a date with Syaoran instead of Yukito) and whilst the characters are older, there isn’t too much development apart from small things like the technology, Sakura getting better at math, etc. That said, the fact they DIDN’T forget about Meiling makes me VERY happy (Meiling was an anime only character so isn’t in the manga but I really liked her so happy she is still talking with Sakura and Syaoran on the phone and was hinted she will visit). Sure, I feel like Tomoyo is just there to be Sakura’s cheerleader but she is so amusing that I can’t really moan about it, Kero has his moments as well especially now he has access to smart phones and online gaming, and the little things like Yamazaki and Chiharu’s relationship, Naoko now in the drama club (as a throwback to the 2nd movie and her fondness for scary stories), the fact Akiho can be added now to Sakura and Syaoran falling for Yamazaki’s lies, they even have a phone call from Rika which suggests she will still be in it at least and haven’t forgot about her, it hits all the nostalgia buttons.

Which I think is the best way to look at this series. If you haven’t seen the original, it is hard to recommend though I can say you could watch it without knowledge as it becomes a classic monster of the week series in that regard, but the relationships you would have to know beforehand. Those who have seen it can fall into two camps – 1) you love it because of the similarities of the original series with a bit of evolution or 2) – you like it but because it is very similar to the original you wish more could be done.

I am more in camp one, but this is why it isn’t perfect because I can’t deny it is very similar. That said, it is still as likeable as ever, Sakura still has the charm and fun I remember, Syaoran has definitely become more interesting (I have theories about him), Tomoyo still is amusing and the series visually is still splendour. Plus there is an ongoing plot with a hint of mystery on, and with Kaito/Akiho as new characters coming as this is happening, it seems obvious but yet not so which means there is still plenty to come from this. Nostalgic or not, I love it.

Summary:
Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card is the lovable sequel to the original series which whilst you can argue may be too similar to the original series, there is just enough difference that gives it more of an edge and doesn’t make it any less enjoyable or charming. Granted, it isn’t perfect because of that and I would recommend you reading the original manga or watching the original series first, but it is still incredibly fun and does have some development and story ongoing making you wonder who the mysterious figure is – Akiho? Kaito? Maybe even Syaoran? Add the added bonus of the cute Sakura/Syaoran relationship and it is definitely a very sweet piece of pie that will give you eye diabetes.

Features:
OVA, Episode Commentary, Cleaning Opening/Ending

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: February 11th, 2019
MSRP: £29.99
Running Time: 275 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
PlayStation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.


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