The Best (and Worst) Magical Costumes in Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Cardby Lynzee Loveridge,
In a genre full of magical girls, what makes Card Captor Sakura stand apart? She doesn't have a squad of color-coordinated friends like Sailor Moon or dark emotional themes like Madoka Magica. Beyond its pedigree as part of the CLAMP catalog, Card Captor Sakura most stands out for its primary focus on aesthetic beauty. The world of Card Captor Sakura is beautiful, from its setting in the fictional Tomoeda to the delicate designs of the town's inhabitants. There's an overwhelming sense of purity to the adventures Sakura navigates through her childhood, dealing with such whimsical problems as "something is turning the playground equipment upside down" and "it sure is raining a lot of flower petals."
The allure of Card Captor Sakura comes from its easy-going nature, where being a magical girl isn't that different from playing dress-up with your best friend. It just so happens that Sakura's best friend is the heir to a multi-million dollar toy conglomerate, so her mother is more than happy to provide the resources for her to dress up Sakura. This particular part of the show is something I've always enjoyed. While other magical girls might get a handful of glitzy outfits while powering up throughout a series, Sakura gets a new costume to stun viewers in nearly every single episode. When I heard the show was returning with an all-new series, my immediate thought was: "Oh man, we're going to get new costumes!"
To my delight, most of the designs for the series' first half had no trouble feeding into my desire for more frills, sparkles, and pageantry. In what I'm going to dub "Lynzee-chan CHECK," let's take a look at how the costumes stack up so far in my totally objective list of least to most magical.
#8: Blue Wing Jacket (Episode 12)
This episode focuses predominantly on Sakura's athleticism, as she's targeted by the card Hail during her school's Ball Sport Competition. Given the circumstances, Tomoyo didn't have the same amount of time to prepare a spectacular costume for Sakura in this episode, so she instead offers her a coat to wear over her gym clothes. It's a pretty simple design, but it lands its place at the bottom for also being expected. Its only detail of note is the winged-collar treatment, which has been a recurring design element in Card Captor Sakura since the beginning. It could function as a callback to the wings that appear in the original anime's first opening sequence, but overall it's just a bit boring.
#7: Water Lily Two-Piece (Episode 4)
Sakura's outfit from episode four takes some design cues from Syaoran's battle outfit while also feminizing it with soft florals. The outfit puts ease of movement first, an important thing to consider when taking down the "Action" card (once again on school grounds). Overall, this outfit is okay. I do like the fringe details on the cuffs and on Sakura's hair clip, and the waterlily scene on the front is also very modern, rather than following a typical floral print pattern. Overall though, this costume lacks the visual drama or cuteness of its peers. Maybe if the bolero had a cape-like detail, it would kick the look up a notch.
#6: Band Conductor Costume (Episode 11)
Okay, so this is the kind of stuff I'm here for: themed costumes that look like someone took a cute uniform and cranked it up to 11. While the earlier Card Captor Sakura series usually put Sakura in Battle Costumes that matched the "Card of the Week," Clear Card has not been doing that. In this episode, our magical girl takes on "Reversal" dressed in what I can only describe as an old-timey band conductor costume, complete with tails and a tiny hat. This costume gets props because suits are straight-up not used enough for magical girl costumes. She's also wearing amazing boots that I would 100% wear year-round, complete with buttons up the side. My only complaint is the color scheme, because this would have looked amazing (but perhaps too mature for Sakura) in darker colors.
#5: Back to Pink Basics (Episode 2)
Sakura's first Battle Costume of the season is a major throwback to her elementary school uniform and the first season's opening theme costume. One of the first things you'll notice that the characters have dropped since moving up into middle school is their hats and the long white tails that extended from the uniform's sailor flap. You can see both of these design points referenced in Sakura's first costume as a middle-school magical girl. Even the red and white striped ribbon detail is taken from the Tomoeda Elementary School uniform. As for the rest of the costume, the skirt's cut beneath the shawl is very reminiscent of the first series' opening sequence.
This outfit gets points for tapping into sweet, sweet nostalgia, but it could use another color to break up the overwhelming pink of it all.
#4: Water Jester Upgrade (Episode 9)
This costume is a straight-up recreation of Sakura's earlier Battle Costume, seen in episode three of the original anime series. The reuse is intentional, since in the original show Sakura was pursuing Watery within the local aquarium. She revisits the scene again, this time on a date with Li, only to be confronted by a havoc-wrecking magical card once again. When she goes in to capture it this time around, she suits up in this old favorite, although its got a new coat of paint.
I've got a soft spot for this costume's jester aesthetic. It's very whimsical, tennis ball baubles and all. It just looks bouncy and fun to wear.
#3: A Dress of Stars (Episode 7)
This dress is resplendent when combined with the card Sakura captures in this episode. Tomoyo really goes all-out in this episode, and it doesn't hurt that the card shows up in her own backyard. (If you can call manicured gardens with a man-made pond a "backyard.") This costume in particular reminded me of an earlier manga image of Sakura's mother, Nadeshiko. She's discussed extensively in the original series, as a guardian angel type of presence for her surviving family members. This is probably why CLAMP often draws her with a star theme, similar to Sakura's outfit here. This is also the episode where we re-encounter Tomoyo's mom, who continues to mourn Nadeshiko as a cousin/love interest, and it's also where Sakura regains the power of flight from her newly captured card. All I'm saying is that this costume seems to invoke imagery of angelic Nadeshiko purposefully, and it's also really pretty.
#2: Froggy Rain Jacket (Episode 3)
The appeals of this jacket are almost too numerous to list, and I would wear this thing everywhere without regard to how much it might embarrass my children. Comparing this to the earlier jacket outfit, you can see where this one is leagues ahead in charm. It's fully functional as a rain jacket, has a frog-head hood, and an additional hidden frog face on the bottom. That's two frogs for one coat, and you're not going to get that level of adorable just anywhere. I especially enjoy the color variation around the hood, so it looks less like Sakura's head has frog eyes on top and more like her face is sitting inside the actual mouth of a frog.
#1: Crystal Tutu (Opening Sequence)
If you want to get long-time Card Captor Sakura fans excited, you can't do much better than opening with this costume right out of the gate. This outfit has everything: feather-like tendrils flowing out from a tutu-style skirt, crystal-dazzled tights and skirt details, a fitted gold-lined bodice, and an envy-inducing crown. Even her shoes are friggin' amazing with detailed heel embellishments. Sakura floats throughout the series' first opening sequence in this number (and has the audacity to look sad, like anyone wearing this dress could experience sadness) before adding her "Flight" card bow and swirling around like some kind of magical swan princess. I hope there are a million cosplayers in this get-up at the biggest cons this year, because I'm not sure we've had such a great magical dress since the final Madoka film.
So what are your favorite designs from the series' first half? Let us know in the forums!
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