Explaining the canon of Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card (anime), connection to the second film

Sakura is not amused by your ignorance!

Sakura is not amused by your ignorance!

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card marks the return of my all-time favorite magical girl, Kinomoto Sakura (and magical boy, looking at you Syaoran!) into the world of Japanese animation, starting off the 2018 year on a good note. And I’ve returned from the dead to explain some very common misconceptions about the series that has plaguing the minds of fans since the animated version of this amazing sequel started.

Because not knowing may needlessly hamper your enjoyment of the series, when it doesn’t really have to!

It's not a farewell yet!

Is this a continuation of the first anime, or a straight adaptation of the Clear Card manga?

It’s a continuation of the first anime series, which is apparent right from the first episode, which starts with a special Leave it to Kero! segment which briefly recapped what happened in the previous anime, including a montage of scenes containing anime-only events, such as the elevator scene:

A very iconic anime-original scene

The elevator scene was not in the manga, where Syaoran starts calling Sakura by her given name under very different circumstances

The first episode also gives us a flashback to Sakura and Syaoran’s farewell scene at the airport from episode 70 of the original anime. They even took the time reanimate it! However, in the manga, this scene did not exist – our couple say their farewells, but it was vastly different. For instance, Sakura and Syaoran’s farewell scene was at the bus stop in the manga and they exchange teddy bears with each other, rather than Syaoran just giving Sakura his bear.

Episode 70

Cardcaptor Sakura

Clear Card Flashback

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card

Manga

Manga

Sakura and the Two Bears OAD

Sakura and the Two Bears OAD

The first Cardcaptor Sakura anime series followed a similar plot-line as its source manga, but had radically different takes on various details and chapters, even adding their own, in order to keep it a fresh experience for readers of the manga. For example, the manga had fewer cards compared to its anime counterpart: 19 cards in the manga vs. a full 52-card deck in the anime.

The same is true for this newer Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card anime series: many episodes are rather different from their manga counterparts, there’s plenty of new content made for the anime, and we’re getting a lot of new anime-only Clear Cards. In order to fully enjoy the franchise in its entirety, I really do recommend experiencing both the manga and the anime, they’re both two lovely different takes on this charming story.

Meiling is back, and cuter than ever!

Meiling is back, and cuter than ever!

Another decisive indicator that the Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card anime is a continuation of the older Cardcaptor Sakura anime and not the manga  is the appearance of Li Meiling (cousin of Syaoran and a close friend of Sakura and Tomoyo), and a mention of Syaoran’s butler, Wei.

These two characters only ever appeared in the anime and did not exist in the original manga. They also do not appear in the Clear Card manga – their appearances in the animated version is once again exclusive.

Happily ever after, a love that transcends life and death

A love that transcends life and death…

Scenes of Sakura’s father, Kinomoto Fujitaka, in the Clear Card arc are also heavily altered, due to a certain revelation about him that was never revealed in the Sakura Card arc of original anime, but was revealed in the manga counterpart of the Sakura Card arc.

I’ll avoid mentioning what that spoiler is (to encourage people to experience the manga depiction of this series alongside the anime), but to sum things up, Ohkawa Nanase and the staff at Studio Madhouse are taking the adaptation differences introduced in the first anime into consideration, and crafting the story of the animated Clear Card arc accordingly to what older fans experienced on TV and in theaters so long ago… and what many Japanese kids today commonly have access to as an anime.

What this all means is that you only need to watch the older anime and its two films to understand the anime version of the Clear Card arc. Otherwise, you do not need to read the manga, which leads into the manga version of Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card (although, again, I recommend both mediums!).

I'm here to give you my answer

What about the Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Prologue: Sakura and the Two Bears OAD that was released during Autumn of 2017, wasn’t that a retcon of the final episode of the first anime?

This is an easy question to answer: it has nothing to do with the anime.

The OAD was released as bonus content for those who preordered the limited edition of volume 3 of the Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card tankoban. I happen to own it, myself:

It's worth not being an EOP

It's worth not being an EOP

Nowhere does it indicate that it’s a prequel to the Clear Card anime series, nor does it advertise the new anime series. Yes, it’s the Clear Card prologue, the Clear Card MANGA prologue. Not the anime. It’s just a straight-up animated adaptation of the last few chapters of the original manga and was meant as a bonus for the readers of the manga (not the watchers of the anime), some overlap aside.

If there’s any relation to the newer anime series, it’s just Studio Madhouse experimenting with the new animation and art style, which matches the new anime series.

To seal the deal, on the official website for Cardcaptor Sakura, this OAD is listed under the manga section, not the anime section – which lists the old anime arcs, the two films, music, and the new Clear Card anime.

OAD = Manga Canon

The manga section: “Sakura and The Two Bears” listed under Volume 3 contents

Clear Card anime = Anime Canon

The anime section: Clow Card arc, Sakura Card arc, Blu-ray Box and DVD box, Clear Card arc, Clear Card Blu-ray and DVD, Music, 1999 film, 2000 film, Revival Screening (1st movie), Revival Screening (2nd movie)

There was never a reason to think the OAD was canon to the anime series in Japan; westerners had this confused because of the fact that online streaming sites uploading everything without release context makes it harder to differentiate between a product made for the anime and a product made for the manga.

The OAD depicted Sakura’s confession to Syaoran as it happened in the manga, which was not present in the older anime series. However, the anime has its own version of Sakura’s confession in the form of the second film, Cardcaptor Sakura The Movie: The Sealed Card, which served as an anime-original ending and seals the SyaoSaku relationship for the anime universe. Speaking of which:

Why would you want this to be non-canon?

Is The Sealed Card movie still canon to the anime series, as of the Clear Card arc?

Frankly, it still is. People were contentious with this because of a couple of factors:

  • The existence of the Sakura Bear, which Sakura only gave to Syaoran in the manga.
  • The existence of Eriol’s mansion, which was destroyed and rebuilt as an amusement park in The Sealed Card.

Fans have been making all sort of theories regarding the first point. The flashback to the farewell scene at the airport was also accompanied by a flashback scene where Sakura is making the pink bear (this bear is still not shown in the reanimated airport scene). Sakura wears the same outfit as the airport scene, and apparently, since she can never ever wear the same outfit twice (sarcasm), this has thrown people off and leaving people to assume that CLAMP and Madhouse are mixing canons, and that certain aspects of Episode 70 of the original anime series have been mixed with certain aspects of the OAD/final chapters of the original manga.

However, this doesn’t make any sense on a timeline perspective (in the manga and OAD, Sakura/Syaoran were in the 6th grade during their confessions, while their anime versions were still in the fifth grade) and needlessly confuses the younger new viewers, who would not be thinking of things so intricately while watching CCS and most likely not have had access to a limited edition item such as the OAD.

During episode 10 of the Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card anime, Sakura shows her new friend Akiho an album showcasing photos depicting a scene from the second film, in which Sakura and Syaoran play the role of a prince and princess in a play (which are not redrawn and are actually screenshots taken directly from the film). Akiho asks Sakura if she could see the recording of the play, but Sakura nervously suggests that they should watch it another time, presumably to avoid Akiho seeing The Nothing card cause havoc in the middle of the play, which Tomoyo caught footage of in the film.

B-BUT MUH NON-CANON

Can’t exactly show off something that never happened, huh?

This seems to solidify the second film as still being canon to the anime timeline of CCS as we know it now. In the film, Syaoran was only back in Japan for the summer and presumably left for Hong Kong after. This gives us a perfect time frame for Anime!Sakura to make and give Anime!Syaoran the pink bear she was seen making in her flashback – in fact, it’s the only way this all makes sense. On top of that, current viewers are given encouragement to watch the second film if they have not already. Right before the Japanese premiere of the first episode of the Clear Card arc on television, the film was screened in Japanese theaters (in the west, Crunchyroll streamed the movie sometime after the English subbed premiere of the new arc). And in an interview, Ohkawa Nanase expressed that fans should watch the second film to get the full enjoyment of the Clear Card animation, further confirming that the movie is indeed in continuity with the current anime series.

The only plothole this leaves is the existence of Eriol’s mansion, which was demolished in the film to make room for the new amusement park. Why has Eriol’s house suddenly reappeared as Akiho’s home in the Clear Card arc, and why are the characters not shocked by this? None of us know yet – CLAMP hasn’t revealed the significance the second film’s story has to the animated Clear Card arc yet, but there may be an explanation down the road as to why Eriol’s house has suddenly reemerged.

Even if there wasn’t… well, let’s take a look at it from that perspective. We have to look at it from a character-building perspective and also the perspective of the young audience. Back when CLAMP decided to give the anime an original ending via a movie plot, they probably didn’t think ahead that they were going to make a sequel to the series, a decade down the road. Now that we have the Clear Card arc, they probably realized that some of the details from the film clashes with the direction they want to take the very basic story shared by both the anime and manga, such as the bear and Eriol’s house. Now, the bear is easily reconciled and can easily happen after the events of the film, but Eriol’s house? Assuming there isn’t magic involved here, they kind of dug themselves a hole there.

Cutest scenes

That’s right – the ground where Akiho lives right now was home to some of the cutest SyaoSaku scenes

But look, they had two choices here: One, to shove the movie aside and render it out-of-continuity, therefore denying the anime viewers a canonical love confession from Sakura, which is sort of needed to have her and Syaoran’s current relationship make sense… or two, hand-wave the reemergence of some dumb destroyed building in favor of keeping that solid relationship foundation for our two lovebirds. Honestly, the choice sounds like a no-brainer for me. I’d much rather take a contrived explanation such as demolishing a building to build an amusement park, only to demolish that amusement in order to build the very same building they demolished in the first place, to missing out a chunk of wonderful relationship development between Sakura and her special person. Maybe Eriol’s mansion got restored with magic after The Nothing shenanigans. Either way, fuck the building, Sakura and Syaoran take first priority – and the card that was a key point in episode 70 of the original series anime ends up serving its purpose.

With the producer of the anime shoving down our throats of the fact that the second film has some sort of significance to the plot of the Clear Card arc, and the fact that, instead of airing a new episode on April 1st (Sakura’s birthday, Japan doesn’t celebrate April Fools), they’re choosing to rebroadcast the second film instead, I think it’s safe to say that… yes, the film is indeed, canon to the Clear Card arc. And I think it’s an awesome thing – the film is an amazing part of the franchise.

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