Cardcaptor Sakura and the Alternative Canon: What is the “Clear Card Saga” Anime Following?

When the Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Saga anime announced, one of the questions asked was, would it be following the canon of the manga or the anime? Although the two versions share many similarities, there are also some notable differences between them. Now that the new TV series has been out for little while, it’s evident that they’re acknowledging the old anime…but I have my suspicions that this wasn’t always the case.

One of the tell-tale differences between the two iterations of the original Cardcaptor Sakura is how they end. While both involve an exchanging of teddy bears as an expression of mutual love and a temporary separation as Syaoran returns to Hong Kong, the anime has this happen at the airport, while the manga’s version takes place as Syaoran is riding the bus to the airport. Also, while the anime has them reunite in the second film, the manga immediately follows this with a timeskip where Syaoran shows up to greet a now-middle school-aged Sakura. This is roughly the point where Clear Card Saga starts.

Prior to the premiere of the Clear Card Saga TV series, there was a special OVA released as a way to bridge the old and new anime. As seen above, this OVA takes its cues from the manga by having the bear exchange take place at the bus, and then transitioning to the middle school timeskip. With this, I assumed the matter was settled. The Clear Card Saga anime would definitely be sticking closer to the manga.

Then episode 1 hit, and things didn’t quite line up.

When Syaoran shows up again in the manga and OVA, he’s wearing a Tomoeda Middle School uniform. In the new anime, he’s wearing street clothes. Maybe this is just a timing or aesthetic issue. Perhaps it doesn’t make sense for Syaoran to have a uniform after just moving back. Maybe the fact that they show Sakura at school before meeting Syaoran means he couldn’t be there (because she or one of her friends would’ve inevitably noticed him walking around in uniform). Either way, here is a discrepancy from the manga.

But they also flashback to the teddy bear exchange, and it’s at the airport! That’s a scene that explicitly calls back to the anime and not the manga. Maybe they just did that for the convenience of the people who watched the old anime.

The smoking gun comes in episode 2, when the characters are having lunch together at school. During their conversation, Tomoyo asks Syaoran how Meiling is doing. The reason this is a big deal is that Meiling never shows up in the manga. She’s an anime-original character, and one of the many elements used to turn a 12-volume manga into a 70-episode anime. Whatever the case may be, we have clear unequivocal acknowledgement that the old anime’s events are either partially or wholly canon in the Clear Card Saga anime.

So why make that OVA? I suspect that it served multiple functions. First, it might’ve bridge the gap between series, as mentioned above. After all, it’s been about 15 years. Second, it could’ve been used to get the staff and actors used to working on Cardcaptor Sakura again. Third, I really do think the anime was going to follow the manga more strictly, as a way to keep things simpler, but that they changed their minds at some point. If this were the case, maybe it was because they realized many had only ever seen the anime, and thus would be confused by the differences.

While the old anime appears to be canon for the new show, the question remains as to how much will actually be different from the Clear Card Saga manga. Referencing Meiling is one thing, but what about having her show up? Will the new anime have more clear cards than the manga, just like it’s predecessor? And what of the fact that Sakura’s dad is a partial reincarnation of Clow Reed—a fact revealed in the manga but never in the anime?

Personally speaking, I wouldn’t mind seeing Yukana reprise her role as Meiling and treating us to some Kung Fu fighting.

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The Light Pathos Club

The second season of K-On! begins with the girls of the light music club heading to their clubroom. Already there, Yui plays a quiet tune on her guitar evoking  a feeling of renewal and change tinged with nostalgia. The subdued nature of this first scene then carries over into the rest of the episode and beyond. As K-On!! has progressed, there has been a distinct overarching focus on the the idea that high school is almost over for the founders of Houkago Tea Time and that things will never be the same.

While present to a certain extent in the manga, Kyoto Animation’s adaptation seems to be focused on showing the subtle magic of the senior year of high school, before the girls become adults and get that much closer to the real world. A semi-running gag in the manga about the ex-student council president turning out to be Mio Fan #1 now features that same character as a mature college student looking fondly on her high school memories. An entire episode is devoted to Sawako, the club supervisor and closet former metalhead guitarist, and her recapturing some of the passion of her youth. In general, the lighting in K-On!! is very soft, again hinting at a strong feeling towards the ephemeral. The message from Kyoto Animation is loud and clear.

I’m not sure how I feel about this, as I think it’s an attempt to add a bit of depth to K-On!, but I’m not sure how much K-On! needs or even wants it. I understand that high school is a big deal and all. My memories of high school are among my most cherished, and it’s because I had very close friends with whom I could be myself, which is also the case in K-On!! However, because it was only somewhat there in the source material, some of it works, some of it doesn’t, and the end result is that it kind of feels forced in.

What are your thoughts on the direction K-On!! has taken?

The Mystery of the Disappearing Keiko

Sasahara Keiko, sister of Sasahara Kanji, is non-existent in the anime Genshiken 2.

Essentially, they’ve turned Kuchiki into a surrogate Keiko, giving modified lines that she would have been delivering to Kuchiki instead. I think this is really a shame because Keiko becomes a pretty good character in the second half of the Genshiken manga and that while the overall effect for the sake of the plot is the same, their wildly different character types result in two wildly different deliveries of the same information. Keiko fills a role that Saki can’t, being both normal (if you consider ko-gal to be normal) AND unreliable, and she gets quite a few good lines and even a chapter devoted to her. Probably the best example of Keiko goodness is in Volume 9 of the manga with her interactions with both Ogiue and Ohno.

All this considered, I’m not exactly sure why they’ve done this, seeing as Keiko has appeared as late as the third OVA episode. There are a number of possibilites though. Maybe Keiko’s voice actor, Shimizu Kaori, was unable to fulfill the role. Maybe they figured Keiko wouldn’t be a popular character. Maybe they thought the cast would have gotten too cluttered. Maybe they really like Kuchiki. It’s all speculation though.

At the very least though, I can say that reading the manga and watching the anime are two similar but different experiences. I, of course, recommend doing both.