It’s April Fool’s everyone and that means it’s also CLAMP DAY!!! Whether or not you read and enjoyed the manga CLAMP has produced over the years, it’s hard to deny that they are one of the most influential Shōjo mangaka ever.
Let’s celebrate the day by talking about a CLAMP work.
Cardcaptor Sakura was published from May 1996 to June 2000. Since you can read all about CCS on Wikipedia on your own, I won’t recite that for you here. I’ll instead talk about what makes CCS special and why it should be celebrated.
CCS is one of the most unique Shōjo manga I’ve ever read and to this day hasn’t been replicated by any other mangaka. Due to this being a CLAMP work, the art in it is soft and beautiful. It isn’t as detailed as the newer Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE (yes that’s seriously how it’s spelled) and XXXHolic, but that doesn’t make it any less stunning to look at. All the artistry is expressive, smooth and (I know I’m repeating myself) but soft. There are feathers, flowers, and soft shadows/shading which make the whole manga feel comforting and light. You feel happy just getting to be a part of the world CLAMP has created.
The characters themselves were a big part of what helped make CCS so unique. They are lanky and gorgeous (as you do in Shōjo) but they are also complicated people. Sakura herself has a heart of gold but still thinks for herself, her best friend Tomoyo is seemingly happy-go-lucky (and can sew like the wind) but harbors an unrequited love. Sakura’s brother and his best friend seem like total opposites but you soon learn how much that means to their bond. Later we get the bratty Syaoran who probably has the most emotional growth in the series and Meilin who provided the “romantic rival” angle for Sakura. Even the “enemies” (this is magical girl so every enemy is just a friend you haven’t hugged yet) all have interesting thoughts and actions which keeps you, the reader, constantly intigued.
CCS spans 12 manga and 70 anime episodes + 2 Movies. The anime invented a whopping 33 new cards to pad out its run but surprisingly enough every episode feels like an adventure. The powers the cards give and have are fantastical, colorful, and are just so darn pretty to look at. The story of both anime and manga features adventure, action, romance, fantasy, and complicated relationships in a way no other work in the magical girl genre comes close to. In terms of the relationships, CLAMP was able to put together a homosexual couple such that they felt completely natural. They weren’t there as wish fulfillment like yaoi and yuri. They were an organic part of the story and a testament to the way homosexual couples should be created in pieces of media. I will admit that CCS features a (in my opinion) creepy relationship involving an 10 year old and a 20 something year old teacher, but this relationship never detracts from all the others, and is the only negative thing I can say about the work.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the cards that make up the titular Cardcaptor Sakura. Each card is beautifully illustrated and has a fun, unique power. Windy feels different than Fly, which feels so different from Mirror. Some cards are massive (like Maze) and others are for fun or necessity (Jump) to help Sakura compete with the fantastical powers of the card she’s trying to capture. Certain cards even have a personality (Dark/Light, and all the Elemental Cards) which gave the quest more emotion and weight. Sakura needed not just to catch the cards but to understand them. Each card feels special and Sakura has to capture each one by using her smarts, wit, and athletic skills. It was such a thrill to see what she’d use to capture the next rogue card.
In addition to the uniqueness of the cards, the outfits Sakura wears deserve a mention. Tomoyo is a skilled seamstress and CLAMP made it a point to switch Sakura’s outfit a ton of times throughout the series. This showed creativity and enormous skill on their part and has carried through as a signature feature of CLAMP work. Look up any of the current CLAMP work and your jaw will hit the floor regarding how gorgeous the characters outfits are.
CCS is a beautiful and heartfelt piece of anime and manga history. It deserves all the love it receives and for anyone who has never given it a go, please consider trying it out in both it’s anime and manga form. For those of you wondering, no…I am not going to talk about the 4Kids monstrosity version of this show….feel free to look it up if you are curious….