Cardcaptor Sakura Manga Omnibus, Volume 1 (English)

February 28th, 2011

513FFeTeOrLIt was no real surprise to me that I have never before reviewed Cardcaptor Sakura here. By the time I was writing regular reviews, the English edition of the anime was out of print and so was Tokyopop’s manga edition. I’m sort of sorry for that, since this was a Gateway Yuri story for a lot of people in that post-Sailor Moon phase of Yuri audience development. Because I am revisiting this series, but some of you may not be, let me tell the story from the beginning.

Cardcaptor Sakura was one of the earliest CLAMP mega-hits. (Not *the* earliest, but right in the zone.) As a manga it ran from 1996 – 2000 in Nakayoshi magazine, which meant it was riding on the magical girl coattails of the massive popularity of Sailor Moon. It had…one of everything. There was Yuri, BL, it was chockful of intergenerational relationships (my first thought was that there was *some,* but then I started to think about it and the list got longer and longer….) It had cute girls and beautiful women and cute boys and beautiful boys and even some handsome men. It had arguably some of the best magical creatures ever to grace a magical girl series. (Admit it, ladies, how many of you swooned over Yue?) And, not coincidentally, the voice cast of the anime was stellar – also major crossover from Sailor Moon. I have not loved everything CLAMP has produced, but no one can tell me that they are not geniuses at their business. Cardcaptor Sakura was a milestone.

The story contained in this CCS Omnibus Volume 1 is a simple one – cute, athletic, cheerful Sakura finds a book which, when she opens the cover, proves to be a book full of cards. The cards immediately scatter to the four corners and the creature depicted on the cover of the book comes to life. His name is Cereberus (nicknamed Kero-chan); he is the Guardian of the Cards. Because she could open the book at all, he tells Sakura, she must have magical ability. It is her task to gather the cards once more because blah, blah, blah.

Sakura is not the only one in the family with magical ability. Her deeply odd older brother, the bishounen Touya (Toya in the English edition) also can “see” things. Toya’s best friend is the real reason we all watched/read the series – Yukito, who has a secret within him that makes him even *more* the reason we all read/watched this thing. Unashamedly, I hung on Yuki’s every word, as he was voiced by Ogata Megumi, whose voice still sends chills up my spine. Sakura’s father is perfect, her mother is deceased, and their story becomes increasingly relevant to the overall plot of this omnibus volume as it progresses.

Sakura’s exploits as the “Card Captor” are filmed and enabled by her filthy rich and extremely besotted best friend Tomoyo. For those of you who came to Yuri in later years, Tamao from Strawberry Panic! was specifically meant to be a Tomoyo clone.  Tomoyo is practically the *definition* of the best-friend in one-sided love – in the manga this is made quite plain…and given historical precedent.

Ultimately, Sakura develops a rival in the form of Li Syaoran, which added shota and, eventually, heterosexual romance into what is a really entertainingly bent series. (^_^);  And let’s not forget Kaho-sensei. No…we must not forget her. She is, in any case, unforgettable.

So many of the things that made Cardcaptor Sakura work were an effect of timing, CLAMP’s unerring ability to squeeze a genre until it bleeds money and their raw talent for telling character-driven, beautifully drawn series. Cardcaptor Sakura is beautifully drawn, the characters are likable and the story, which has become a cliche of itself, still works. How can I say this? Because I have read the original in Japanese several times and in English several times, I have watched the anime several times and, when I hit the last page of this Omnibus, I thought, “I want to see what happens next!” Seriously, I did. I KNOW what happens next, but I can’t wait to read it again.

Technically speaking, Dark Horse did a fine job. I don’t recall being irked by the translation, the S/Fx are translated inline most of the time, except in a few spots where they were easily replaceable. The addition of color pages was a delightful bonus, I’m very glad that they thought to add those. If I were *forced* to come up with an objection to this omnibus I would say that this nearly 600-page volume is not, perhaps, little kid friendly. But in this world where Harry Potter novels were devoured by tweens, perhaps even that is not an obstacle. If you know a tween who likes fantasy, or just needs the smallest push to becoming an otaku, consider buying this series for them.

For me, though, the true pleasure of this Omnibus was spending time with old friends. Seeing Yamazaki lie so cheerfully, Tomoyo kvelling over Sakura, Kero-chan obsessing about sweets and Yuki eating gigantic lunches…was just, so…nice.

If you have never before read this series, I really hope you will. It’s got significant Yuri cred; it was, in its time, a gateway series for a lot of GL and BL fans. It’s CLAMP doing a series that is unshockingly an excellent example of the genre and, if you like XXXHolic or, especially, Tsubasa Chronicles, *this* is where major players came from. It’s good to know your roots.


Art – 8
Characters –  9
Story – 8
Yuri – 4
Service – 4

Overall – 9

As I have said repeatedly, I am not a nostalgic person. Reading this volume, I came as close as I’ll ever get to it. Many, many thanks to Okazu Hero Eric P. for letting me wallow, just a bit, in pleasant nostalgia. ^_^

Dear Nozomi/Right Stuf, if you’re looking for another anime series to resuscitate, Cardcaptor Sakura would not be a bad choice. Hint hint

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6 Responses

  1. Oliver says:

    I like that Cardcaptor Sakura is a fun fantasy for younger readers that older readers can also enjoy for the subtext. It’s wonderful.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I followed the original during its entire run in Nakayoshi (still have all those volumes!) and picked up all the original print compliations. I was really put out by the Tokyo Pop handling, so seeing these new compilations has been a real treat indeed.

    I’d often struggle to identify what the intended meaning of all the diverse types of relationships were, and basically felt the underlying motif of the series was acceptance of love in all forms. In fact, I was rather happy to discover this quote from Wikipedia recently:

    “While Ohkawa planned out Cardcaptor Sakura from beginning to end, she never talked about the plot with the other members, instead giving them the script one chapter at a time. Mokona initially drew Tomoyo so it would look like she was in love with Toya, which lead to her surprise when she received the script for the chapter which reveals Tomoyo loves Sakura. The story was planned to be a “if you try your best, it’ll work out” kind of story, but Ohkawa did not start out with Sakura’s “It’ll definitely be okay” mindset. Ohkawa wanted to write a story that “minorities would feel comfortable with,” referring to the same-sex and taboo relationships featured in the manga. The series’ main theme is expressed through Sakura, a main character designed to be open minded about different family structures and kinds of love.”

  3. @Oliver – I agree. I just asked my niece if she wants a copy, because I think it is a cool series, and a little bent is a good thing for a smart kid.

    @Anonymous – I’m not surprised. The shift in Tomoyo’s interest is so lame in the story, though. ^_^

  4. socchan says:

    Cardcaptor Sakura also put me on the path to being a gay rights activist. I got to the end of the original “Chix Comix” release of volume two, and there was Syaoran crushing on Yukito. (I had no problem with Tomoyo’s crush on Sakura, for some reason.) I thought right then and there that, if I wanted to keep loving the series, I was going to have to be okay with romantic love between men and boys – and I really wanted to still love the series, so it was time to start accepting some new ideas.

    Ten years later, I’m an out bisexual woman singing in and designing fliers for the local LGBT chorus. I like to think that I would have gotten here eventually anyway, but CCS certainly sped the process along. For that reason the series will always hold a special meaning for me, in addition to being one of my favorite stories ever.

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