Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Cardcaptor Sakura Review


This is another title that I started a very long time ago, but finally got around to finishing it. I used to watch the show when I was a kid and it was certainly a classic along with Sailor Moon. I saw it so many times that some episodes are really stuck in my memory and I remember the animation being pretty good considering how old it was. Unfortunately, the manga is typically not quite as exciting as the anime and overall it was not as enjoyable. The story is good and we do get some solid action from time to time, but subplots hold it down.

Sakura has been chosen to find all of the Clow Cards. They were made by an incredibly powerful sorcerer who died many years ago. Once Sakura has them all, she will have abilities that far outshine those of the other mortals. The problem is that she isn’t the only one collecting the cards as a kid named Li is also hunting them. Sakura must find them fast because most of the cards like to cause terror and destruction. Balancing this out with her school life will be tough, but Sakura is up to the task!

After the main plot is over, the manga has a second arc. A mysterious kid appears who seems to have great magical power and he is causing some trouble. Sakura’s cards have also lost their power so now she must transform all of them into Sakura Cards. What do the villains want and is Sakura prepared to fight the opponents? (She’s a pretty big pacifist so fighting anyone can be difficult for her) Luckily, Li is here to help, but more backup would still be appreciated. Is it time for Cerberus to join in on the action?

The series is a little over 10 volumes although I read it in omnibus format so it was considerably shorter. Each volume was around 500 pages this way and I actually managed to read the final 500 in one sitting because I was ready to see how everything ended. The manga is not without its problems, but the premise still proves to hold up well. I always like the “Gotta Catch Em All” format as it typically works quite well. The manga/anime still has to be careful not to be too repetitive, but that’s usually the only concern with the plot. The first arc doesn’t really have a main villain as a result, but that’s what we have the second arc for.

Sakura is the main character and her life is changed when Cerberus meets her. Sakura is more than happy to catch all of the cards, but she’s not a fighter at heart so she tries to catch them peacefully. It’s why she’s lucky that there were no real villains for quite a while as dealing with cards is less personal. She has a crush on one of the supporting characters for a while, but luckily she manages to get over it by the final volume. That subplot was definitely not great for her. Sakura is fairly generic as far as protagonists go, but not in a good way. I prefer the outgoing, ready to fight, kind of main character. Sakura is more on the timid side. She’s a nice heroine, but a little bland and harder to root for than you would hope from the lead.

Cerberus is Sakura’s animal partner and he’s not bad. Once we find out that he has a true form, things get more fun for his fans. Cerberus can shoot giant energy blasts and he’s a real trooper. From Sakura’s two guardians, Cerberus is easily my favorite member. He’s a very loyal ally to have and it’s safe to say that Sakura wouldn’t have lasted quite as long without him. He’s easily the best hero in the series, which is cool. Yue is Sakura’s other guardian and he’s fairly tough. He has an energy sword at the ready, which he uses to slice away at his foes. He starts off as an antagonist and doesn’t think that Sakura is worthy of the cards, but he eventually comes around. Due to his current predicament of being stuck in someone’s body, Yue’s screen time is considerably less than Cerberus’. His design helps me to believe that he is stronger than Cerberus as he has the speed edge, but Cerberus still wins in terms of personality. Sakura definitely lucked out by having two powerful guardians.

Li is Sakura’s rival who eventually drops down to just being her friend. He’s decently tough, but Sakura is the true chosen warrior so he is left with only a small handful of cards and a sword. He provides her with a good assist during the manga though and he’s not totally helpless. That being said, he spends a great amount of time just arguing with Toya and being insulted by the villains. He’s simply too oblivious at times and the way that he handled his moving situation with Sakura left a lot to be desired. At least he claims that he was going to tell her…but it’s just a claim.

Tomoyo is Sakura’s best friend in the series and she is always making costumes for Sakura to wear. Unfortunately, she’s a pretty bad character. While not nearly as outrageous or insane as Chizuru from Bleach, Tomoyo is basically in love with Sakura and the manga makes sure to mention and hint at this whenever she appears. It’s certainly unnecessary and it’s too bad that they couldn’t just be friends. Tomoyo knows that they will always be just friends because Sakura already has someone that she likes, but it’s still an unnecessary plot development that hurts the series a little since Tomoyo appears a whole lot.

Toya and Yukito’s plot is the other subplot that hurts the series. They were best friends for most of the series. Toya would help his sister, Sakura, out whenever trouble arose and Yukito was just a nice guy who ignored Sakura’s infatuation with him. Then, the manga decides to go the Tomoyo and Sakura route with these two, which was just sad. Toya was the tough character of the series, but that goes away once his magic is taken away and then the plot with him and Yukito stops being veiled. The series definitely had a thing for characters turning out to ultimately be gay, which was regrettable. The series also placed a ton of focus on romance in general, which hurt.

It’s one of the main reasons why I found the anime to be more exciting although they certainly did include many of the plots, it was always very subtle. Of course, I saw the dub and that was a long time ago so perhaps the subs just decide to let loose as well. This is the big reason as to why the franchise could never be as good as Sailor Moon. While Sailor Moon’s fight scenes were often anti-climactic, the series as a whole was just a lot more fun. Less romance and more action is typically a recipe for success.

Eriol is the big villain of the final arc and he’s definitely not a great bad guy. He’s constantly talking a good game and saying vague things, but I can’t take him seriously. He has strong abilities that rival Clow Reed’s and he could have easily defeated Sakura at any time. It simply wasn’t part of the plan though so he holds back a lot. This is definitely the kind of villain who should never be the final boss. He’s just a smug kid when it all boils down to it and the sooner he was off screen the better.

Eriol’s two minions are Ruby Moon and Spinel Sun. They are essentially copies of Cerberus and Yue and were created to be slightly stronger than the originals. Ruby Moon likes to mess around with the guys in the series, but she is still a strong fighter when she gets serious. Her energy sword packs a punch and she was defeating Yue for most of their fight. Spinel Sun is essentially a dark Cerberus and he seems like a nice guy even though he acts tough. They don’t get a whole lot to do in the series, but Eriol definitely needed them since he would have certainly been outnumbered otherwise.

This is Clamp so the art is good as you would expect. It can get very convoluted like with Tsubasa at times, but this is very rare due to the lack of action scenes. Typically, the series just has a lot of large panels, which makes it easy to see what is happening and just blast through the chapters. It’s why you can read the volumes so quickly for this series. Everything is very clear and the style reminds me of Bleach. It’s certainly tough to beat.

As I mentioned, we do get some fight scenes though, which is always cool. The final battle has Sakura’s two guardians fight the fakes while Sakura takes on Eriol. It’s one of the only full fledged fights in the series so it was a good one to watch. In Arc 1, it was more of a test for the final showdown so while there was action, it wasn’t quite as real. More action scenes would have definitely been a lot of fun for this series.

The lack of action may not have been quite a bad thing either if the characters had been more likable. It’s hard to put my thumb on it besides the gay themes in the background, but none of the characters were interesting or likable. It felt like a very old series, but not in a fun and campy way. For example, Kitchen Princess and Pandora Hearts are two series where there isn’t a lot of action all of the time, but the characters are still interesting and relatable. In Cardcaptor Sakura, we don’t really have anyone like that. I don’t think that I really ended up liking a single one of the human characters and for a 12 volume series, that’s not a good thing. The only characters who ended up being good were the guardians for me and they could fight so that was an added bonus.

This series may be a classic, but it’s safe to say that it’s be dethroned by series like Sailor Moon, Angelic Layer, (Not exactly Shojo, but close enough) and Magic Knight Rayearth. Those titles had a lot more action and better main characters to stay up there. While Sakura has better artwork than Sailor Moon and mayyyyyybe Rayearth, (Not Angelic Layer, but not many things can beat that one) it’s not enough to bridge the gap.

A reboot could actually help Cardcaptor Sakura. As I mentioned, one of the problems is that the series feels really dated in a bad way. A modern reboot could help to address this and I’m confident that more action would be included as well. The series is old enough where it would be nostalgic for a lot of people so I can see this working. As for whether it will actually get a reboot, the odds are certainly slim to say the least, but you never know.

Despite its flaws, the series was still pleasant enough to read. The calm art style and slice of life aspects made for an easy read. It’s easy to just pick up and read because of how simple it can be and I’m always happy to have another series around. In the end, the negatives ensured that I couldn’t end up calling it a good title, but it still wasn’t actually boring. It was just hard to relate to any of the characters and sometimes it felt like the series wasn’t really going anywhere.

Overall, Cardcaptor Sakura is a title that many people will likely remember right away. I enjoyed the TV show back when I used to watch it, but the manga couldn’t quite live up to the anime’s memory. The character cast just isn’t good and the gay themes between some of the characters were simply not needed. The art is good and the fight scenes are great when they actually happen, but there really aren’t enough battles to keep the series up. If you’re in the mood for a good Shojo title, I’d recommend reading Sailor Moon instead. The stakes actually do get very high over there towards the end of the series and the Sailor Scouts are more interesting heroines than Sakura. As with Fire Emblem, I have now finished another series that I began several years ago. It always feels good to complete another series and I’m one step closer to finally getting my Naruto manga review up.
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Overall 4/10

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