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There’s a new Cardcaptor Sakura manga in town—Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Saga—and I practically tripped over myself in excitement to get it. The series is one of my favorite anime and manga of all time, and its charming characters, light yet dramatic story, and cute aesthetic make it a classic of the magical girl genre. But it’s been a long time since we last saw Kinomoto Sakura and the rest of the cast proper (meaning no weird Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle alternates!), and CLAMP, the creators of Cardcaptor Sakura, have also changed a lot since the late 90s when the original manga debuted.
Thus, while reading I had two questions in mind: in what ways does this new iteration try to capture the old CCS charm, and to what extent does it reflect a more contemporary sensibility?
The Story of Cardcaptor Sakura
The original Cardcaptor Sakura follows Kinomoto Sakura, a 10-year-old girl who is tasked with collecting mystical cards known as Clow Cards. As she retrieves them, the cards give her magical abilities such as flight, and command over the elements. Eventually obtaining all of them, Sakura soon discovers that she must also transform them into her very own “Sakura Cards” and become their new master. After much hardship (and a developing romance between her and Chinese rival/friend Li Shaoran), she succeeds, leaving her to be quite possibly the most powerful magician on Earth.
The Clear Card Saga takes place during the same timeframe as the epilogue of the original manga, when Sakura is in middle school and reunites with Shaoran, who has transferred back from Hong Kong so they could attend school together. In this chapter, we see many familiar faces, including Sakura’s family, her best friend (in fact the best friend in all of anime and manga) Tomoyo, and her magical guardians, Kero and Yukito. The first chapter is mainly there to re-introduce the cast and to set up a reason for Sakura to take up her magic wand once more, and in that respect it is a welcome homecoming.
One of the most immediately notable aspects of the new series is that it lacks any signs of current CLAMP’s “noodle people” style that has permeated their works over the past decade and change, wherein characters have unusually long and distended-looking proportions. All aspects of the series seem to be geared towards reviving the original Cardcaptor Sakura look, albeit refined with many more years of experience.
One Card Girl
In one scene, Sakura mentions that she hasn’t had to use magic in a long time, and I find it to be a striking moment for a couple of reasons. First, while it’s impossible forget that Sakura is indeed a magical girl series, I almost didn’t notice that there was little mention of magic prior to her staring fondly at her old wand. Cardcaptor Sakura is well grounded not just in its fantastic elements but also its human relationships (both platonic and otherwise), and the series draws much of its strength from them. Second, while she doesn’t state it herself, she can indeed be argued to be the strongest magician there is, but she still behaves like an innocent young girl with a heart full of love and energy. Would it be strange to compare her to Saitama from One Punch Man?
Tomoyo: Return of the Queen
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that, as fond as I am of Sakura herself, Daidouji Tomoyo is the one I’ve been most looking forward to seeing again. For years, she was my favorite anime and manga character, and it actually wasn’t until I discovered Ogiue that this changed. Even so, Tomoyo is still my #2 because of her warm heart, support of Sakura, and series of minor eccentricities. Her grand return is nothing short of spectacular, and I look forward to seeing more of her and her ridiculous wealth (and bodyguards).
Her role in this first chapter is mainly to get Sakura to blush profusely as she takes candid video of Sakura reuniting with Shaoran. Tomoyo is the kind of person who wouldn’t mind just recording Sakura in her daily life, but I’m confident that she’s going to be the most excited of all that Sakura’s going to have to sling some magic again. I can just picture the inevitable stars in her eyes in the coming chapters.
Another interesting point concerning Tomoyo is that she’s no longer in the same class as Sakura. While most of the old Tomoeda Elementary crew has gone on to Tomoeda Middle School, many of them have been split up into different classes. It’s actually a common technique to try and mix things up in a number of series that take place in school.
This means that Tomoyo will possibly be interacting much more with other characters. While it’s not like Tomoyo only ever showed up when Sakura was around, or didn’t talk to other characters on her own, it’s still a significant shift in the dynamics of interaction in Cardcaptor Sakura.
A Premonition for the Future
I want to mention that I probably won’t be chapter reviewing this new Cardcaptor Sakura just because I’m already doing two different series now (Genshiken and Kimi Nakare), and I think three series starts to be a bit too much. However, I might make a post every month or two as a way to look in and see how everything’s going.
Thus far, it’s a great start, and even if this chapter mostly treads familiar territory it does so in a way that gives me faith that the series will turn out well.
As a final side note, there’s a character poll at the beginning of this issue of Nakayoshi, to vote for who should appear on the cover, and Sakura is #2. While there’s no indication that placement equals popularity, I have to wonder, or perhaps hope. After all, #3 is Momoka, the morally bankrupt protagonist from Sabagebu!
If the young readers of Nakayoshi are fans of Momoka, I am both looking forward to and dreading the future. Sakura might be a safer bet overall, though I wonder if she is still as timeless as she seems.
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Daidouji Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura is one of my favorite characters ever, from one of my favorite anime ever, and if you’re not a fan of Tomoyo… what’s wrong with you? Whereas normally I would hesitate to buy even some of my most beloved heroines, Nendoroid Tomoyo was a no-brainer. Upon seeing it go up for pre-order, I hit purchase and looked back with zero regrets. Sakura merchandise is common, but Tomoyo much less so, and I couldn’t let this sort of thing pass me by.
I don’t own a lot of Nendoroids. In fact, my first one was a Kinomoto Sakura (seen above) that I received as a birthday present. Quite smartly, my friend purchased it because he (correctly) expected that I would not hesitate to pick up Tomoyo. Thus, I don’t have a lot to compare to, and I’m extremely biased, so I’ll call this less a review and more of a celebration.
Nendoroid Tomoyo is mostly based on her anime design, as opposed to the softer shoujo look of the Cardcaptor Sakura manga. However, one thing that they did bring from the manga was a hint of Tomoyo’s lavender hair; in the anime it’s more of a gray. When I think about it, rarely do figures try to replicate the look of shoujo manga, likely due to how complicated and not designed for 3-D they are. At least with anime, you can rely on more solid colors.
Tomoyo comes in a standard Tomoeda Elementary school uniform, and has a choice between a hat or a hairband, as well as smiling and ecstatic faces. I’ve gone with the hat + sparkly eyes combo for these photos in order to achieve maximum radness, but what really takes this figure over the top is the inclusion of her signature camcorder.
Remember kids, this anime was made in the early 2000s, before mobile phones could take HD-quality video. Back in her day, Tomoyo would have to walk 20 miles uphill both ways in the snow in order to film her lovely Sakura-chan and add to her massive archive of Cardcaptor Sakura footage in her private viewing room inside of her mansion, under watch by her squad of lady bodyguards.
It’s supposed to have a swing-out screen, but a small missing part makes it impossible to attach. I’m not sure if it was defective or if I had simply lost it while taking it out, that’s how tiny the connecting piece. The other flaw is that the giant head is rather unwieldy, especially with the hat, and sometimes moving it around can cause Tomoyo’s noggin to fall off.
Overall, it’s a fine addition to the collection, and when I think about it, I am fortunate that the characters I like tend not to get a ton of merchandise. That’s what I would say…if I didn’t get into Love Live. That’s for next time.
There’s two new shows this season where the apparent premise is that the main characters do not strive to be the very best, like no one ever was. One of these is the moe-powered 25-minute mahjong commercial Saki, and the other is the latest Kyoto Animation cute girls fest about a high school band K-ON! While the titular Miyanaga Saki is simply a mahjong genius who has found a way to merely seem mediocre, and K-ON!‘s Hirasawa Yui is simply a no-talent clumsy girl who’s trying to find something she can sort-of kind-of do, both girls are clearly going for the same goal, which is to be okay.
While both shows are clearly aimed at otaku with their ensembles of adorable girls with relatively harmless personalities, I don’t think it’s necessarily a case of “otaku are afraid to succeed and that’s why these girls aren’t striving to be the very best!” How I personally feel about it is that it’s actually kind of refreshing to not have characters who are entirely about toppling their opposition in a given field. Even if the story turns out that way eventually (a likely scenario for Saki), the fact that it started out that way is pretty nice.
Also, Saki is basically Takumi from Initial D only with mahjong tiles instead of a AE-86 Sprinter Trueno.
Dave Merrill recently posted a survey and history of the seedy, unwashed, giant underbelly of anime fandom in the US. In it, he gives examples, taken from various anonymous contributers, of the people who are often referred to as “that person.” Each anecdote leads me to be grateful that I did not turn out to be the one to take others down through ill personality or whatever, but at the same time I find myself reflecting upon each description. I can see a bit of myself in pretty much every person described, but I also realize that it’s because of the fact that I can only see “a bit” of myself in them that makes all of the difference.
I can relate to the guy who carries his video game consoles with him to every meeting. I can see a person bringing his precious consoles along constantly, hoping for someone to say, “Wow, is that a Neo-Geo?” And then the person would gladly pull it out and a good time would be had by all, and they’d think that console-carrying guy is pretty swell. But then if console carrier never has the initiative to simply propose that they play some of his games, then he’ll still be waiting passively. When presented with someone like this, we’d probably say something like, “Get some confidence, chum.” Lack of confidence and drive is a hallmark of dorks everywhere, after all. It’s dangerous advice, however, when you consider the example of the guy who gives out his own Inspector Gadget porn to everyone.
Inspector Gadget Porn Distributor is what can happen when you tell someone with deep shame that it’s okay to be shameless, that it’s okay to be confident in what they do. The problem isn’t that he draws the images, it’s that it becomes the singular focus of his interaction with fellow anime fans. I believe that not only fans but people in general should not be defined by a singular purpose, as no person is that devoid of depth. And yet, are fans not defined by their obsessions, their ability to take things further than others? How far is too far? It’s a strange dilemma in that we have to learn to constantly set and then break our own limits.
I know that it sounds weird for the person who writes Ogiue Maniax, a blog with obsession in its very title, to be talking about things like tact and reservation, but I think it’s the combination of obsession/devotion and desire for variety in me that has brought me to this place. And while I don’t have the confidence to say that I have the patience or ability to help those fans who are truly in need of an awakening, what I can say is that I hope we can all help to moderate each other.
Otaku obsess over characters, and I am certainly no different. Hell, I named my blog after obsession #1. I’ve often been asked though, how is it I could maintain what is now an almost 3-year-long interest in the character of Ogiue, especially in this age of constant fansubs where the viewers are witness to new characters every season. I really don’t know if I have a complete answer to that, and this post is going to be about trying to find a reason. Warning: meandering ahead.
First, I think Ogiue is totally deserving of it. I believe her to be one of the most unbelievably complete and well-rounded characters in anime and manga. Actually, this applies to pretty much every other Genshiken character as well. What puts her above the rest is that she’s attractive to me.
Aside from that, however, is the fact that I have a tendency to carry long-term obsessions with characters in general, and it just manifests itself most strongly with Ogiue. Maetel, Tomoyo, Eureka, Cagalli, Hinata, in many, many cases once a character manages to catch my eye, they never quite leave. Some have faded a bit over time (Filia from Slayers TRY for example), but for the most part the strong presences of my past are not overridden by the strong characters of the present.
The real question, then, is why exactly am I able to obsess over characters for significantly longer periods of time compared to some of my peers? One possibility is that I form what feels like an emotional bond with the characters such that even if the quality of the character is not as great as I imagine, even if they turn out to be fairly big cliches, my memories of fondness for the characters are much stronger than objective reasoning. If they are indeed strong characters with strong emotions, such as Eureka, then that connection becomes much stronger and much longer-lasting. That said, I don’t think I’m all that susceptible to pandering fanservice characters (no matter what type of fanservice it may be), but there are always a few. I don’t call them guilty pleasures because they never really are.
I don’t think all that many people actually just cast their preferred characters aside when a new season starts, and the primary difference between me and some friends becomes how we display our passion for anime and its characters. Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve stuck with the Ogiue paraphernalia (avatars, name tags, this blog) for quite a while. It’s the public display that is more important. New, strong characters appear every season, but I stick with Ogiue.
Maybe it’s just how I want people to think of me, but I feel more like I’m compelled to do so, because she is that strong of a character.
While this blog is indeed called Ogiue Maniax, I thought I’d talk about two of the girls of anime who I called and still call my favorites, particularly the ones prior to my discovering Genshiken.
Daidouji Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura has, in terms of favorite characters, been #1 for a very long time. Her devotion to Sakura, her desire to help those she cares for, and just the strength of her compassion makes watching her in Cardcaptor Sakura simply a joy every time. In fact, to give you an idea of how highly I think of Tomoyo (or maybe how highly I think of Ogiue), I am going to have to rewatch some Cardcaptor Sakura so I can determine to myself which is currently #1 to me.
Maetel from Galaxy Express 999. Prior to Ogiue, she was the most beautiful character I had ever seen. I remember seeing the GE999 movie in a theater about 8 years ago, and it changed my life. Galaxy Express 999 is the best anime I’ve ever seen, and the timelessness of Maetel’s character contributes to that feeling immensely. Watching 999 leaves me very emotional, so it’s no wonder I consider Maetel not only one of my favorite characters, but one of the best characters in fiction, period.
There are of course more, but we’ll save those for another day.