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Anime Expo 2017
Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Prologue OVA World Premiere

by Lynzee Loveridge,

Anime News Network's coverage of Anime Expo 2017 is sponsored by Aniplex and Yen Press.

When Li Syaoran boarded his plane back to Hong Kong and left behind Sakura Kinomoto, the pair's budding romance was halted. Audiences weren't sure if the kids would ever reunite, whether it be for more magical adventures or to officially sort out their feelings. The series was soon followed up with a second franchise film that put a shiny bow on the remaining dangling threads. Sakura and Li found one another, all the pesky Clow Cards were claimed and no longer running amok throughout Tomoeda, and its residents were left to live out the rest of their magic-tinged lives.

CLAMP wasn't ready to give up the ghost of its magical girl hit series. They would revisit the characters again in Tsubasa: Resevoir Chronicle and eventually start to connect their manga into an overarching multiverse. Super fans ate that iteration up, too. There remains a demand for CLAMP's beloved characters, a fact made self-evident by the snaking line of Anime Expo attendees waiting to get into the Main Events hall for the world premiere screening of the Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Prologue original video anime. The anime isn't scheduled for release in Japan until September, but North American fans got the first crack at seeing the next installment with the anime's producer Chiyo Kawazoe.

You can count me in as one of the fans highly anticipating this screening. Card Captor Sakura and I go back to Tokyopop's single chapter release flopped issues that sat in my bookshelf with the original North American Clow Card pack. Tsubasa Resevoir Chronicle didn't capture my attention in the same way, despite initially springing off the same "collect them all" gimmick. The Clear Card Arc will tread that same territory when the series premieres in January, but this lead in OVA is more concerned with matters of the heart, treading back from the plot of the second film for an alternative path. Although ultimately, it leads to the same destination.

Li Syaoran is returning to Hong Kong, Eriol is returning to England, and young Sakura is grappling with her confused feelings of first love. How does her affections for Li differ from Eriol or Yukito?

Underneath its magical window dressings, Card Captor Sakura has always been a story about love in its many forms. The series' central romantic relationships of Sakura, Li, and Yukito orbit around each other while the complicated family relationships of Sakura's father, mother, Tomoya's mother, and the friendships in between are what's at the heart of the show. In that regard, the Clear Card Prologue captures the essence of the original and continues to build on Sakura's growth. The Clow Cards were best when they were used as a means to push Sakura's character forward from a shy, scared grade schooler to a girl who has the inner strength to protect the people she loves and step outside her comfort zone.

The OVA does just that, calling on Sakura to admit her feelings to herself and chase after what she really wants even if the chase will be long and painful. Card Captor Sakura is a pure-hearted thing. In a statement delivered on behalf of director Morio Asaka prior to the screening, he said "I wasn't sure I could portray such pure-hearted characters after I've aged so much." Echoing Mr. Asaka, the episode defies cynicism, if only the viewer can let go of past heartbreak for thirty minutes and embrace two sixth graders promising to wait forever for one another.

As for the "Clear Cards," fans will have to keep waiting to get a glimpse of that. The OVA is concerned with Sakura and Li's feelings only. There's no elaborate costumes, magical mischief, or any hint beyond that Sakura will be starting middle school come January 2018.

CLAMP stated that they decided to revisit Card Captor Sakura to give a new generation of young girls a chance to grow up with the characters. In that way, the anime is suspended in time. The OVA, while still feeling like a love letter to long time fans, separates itself from say, Sailor Moon Crystal and its merchandising campaigns, which always feel like an afterthought created to monetize off nostalgia. Older fans can squeal loudly seeing Li express his feelings for Sakura, or nod knowingly when the camera pans over the show's iconic King Penguin slide, but the show's purity is something that will speak to new, young fans looking for a magical girl to cheer for.

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