Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cardcaptor Sakura (manga, vol. 1) by CLAMP

Not long ago, Sakura, an ordinary fourth grade girl, discovered an old book in her dad's library. Out of that book came Cerberus (Kero for short), the Creature of the Seal, assigned to protect the book and the Clow cards within it. Unfortunately, Kero slipped up, and the cards have all escaped. Each of the cards have incredible powers, and when they're out in the world like this they can cause lots of havoc. The fact that Sakura was able to open up the book indicates that she has the potential to use magic, so Kero gives her the Key of Seal, turning her into a Cardcaptor. Her job is now to capture and seal all the escaped Clow cards.

In this volume, Sakura captures the Jump card, the Fly card, the Watery card, and the Illusion card. Jump and Fly are relatively easy cards for her to capture, although Fly teaches her that cards under similar elements shouldn't be used to capture each other. Instead, Sakura captures Fly by realizing in a dream that it's wounded and offering to help it. Watery is a much more dangerous card and almost drowns several students before Sakura finally comes up with a plan to capture it by freezing it, allowing her to seal a card that Kero had thought she wasn't yet ready to seal. Illusion turns out to be even more dangerous - people see what they want to see, or think they should see, and Sakura ends up seeing her mother, who died when Sakura was very young. However, Sakura knows that her real mother wouldn't want her to come to harm, so she is able to capture the Illusion card by breaking the illusion it has cast over her.

Aside from all the card capturing, this volume also establishes several of the relationships in the series. Tomoyo is Sakura's best friend, a rich girl who loves dressing Sakura in elaborate costumes and filming her as she captures cards. Sakura's father and brother aren't developed too much yet - basically, they're just shown to be friendly and supportive (although, of course, Sakura is often annoyed by her brother, who likes to tease her). It's also quickly established that Sakura has a crush on her brother's friend Yukito, a nice, friendly guy who miraculously manages to eat his weight in food every day without gaining an ounce. While Sakura is infatuated with Yukito, Tomoyo has a secret crush on Sakura's brother.

Okay, so this series is totally sugary sweet, but I love it. I'm glad that I'm finally getting around to writing something about it. If the series were just about capturing cards, it wouldn't be nearly so interesting - the main draw of this series is the relationships between the characters. This series has plenty of friendships and sweet romance (because the romance generally involves 10-year-olds, all that really happens is lots of blushing and maybe some hand-holding).

In this volume, I particularly enjoyed the conversation that Yukito and Sakura's brother had during the Illusion story, after Sakura was nearly drowned by Illusion. Although Toya (Sakura's brother) may pick on her a lot, he's also protective of her and worries that she's lonely without her mother. As for Yukito, I can't help but smile at how nice he is to Sakura. Also, knowing what happens in future volumes (I've read this entire series before), I can't help but go all squealing fangirl whenever there's a Toya/Yukito scene.

At this point in the series, there's nothing that most parents would find objectionable. It's a sweet, magical girl series without magical girl transformation scenes. Everyone is nice, and although Sakura occasionally ends up in danger, it's nothing she can't handle without the help and support of her friends and family. Future volumes have some developments that some parents may find objectionable, but, at this point, it's a lovely series (in every way) that I'd recommend to anyone who likes character-focused stories. This volume hints at a lot of the cool stuff that turns up in later volumes (for instance, Kero's transformation).

The version that I read for this post was Tokyopop's 2003 edition. The artwork is unflipped, and all honorifics are retained. I enjoyed the translation, although I thought Sakura's habit of exclaiming "Hoe!" all the time was a little odd - wasn't there a better way they could've written that? Oh, well. As far as extras go, there's a short explanation of the things Tokyopop has done for this new edition, an explanation of Japanese honorifics, explanations of various flower-related names, and a few translator's notes. Since Tokyopop doesn't usually have many extras, much less translator's notes, it's a surprising selection of extras, but I still wouldn't say there's very much there.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle (manga) by CLAMP; Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle (anime TV series) - Sakura, a princess, lives a happy, fairly carefree life until her memory is magically fragmented and spread, in the form of glowing feathers, throughout different dimensions. Syaoran, a young man who secretly loves her, and a few strangers with their own goals and secrets travel from one dimension to the next in search of the pieces of Sakura's memory. This series is darker than Cardcaptor Sakura, but some readers may enjoy seeing familiar characters in an entirely new story. Syaoran and Sakura a bit older in this series, and their relationship has even more difficulties. I should also add that Sakura's brother, Yukito, and Clow Reed show up briefly.
  • Inuyasha (manga) by Rumiko Takahashi; Inuyasha (anime TV series) - Kagome is an ordinary schoolgirl living in present day Tokyo. One day, she travels to feudal Japan by way of an ancient well and discovers that she is the reincarnation of the priestess who once guarded the powerful Shikon Jewel. After the jewel is accidentally shattered, Kagome, a half-demon named Inuyasha, and others team up in order to recover all the shards. Those who'd like another story with a little bit of romance, plus characters looking for a fragmented item (shards, rather than cards) might like this title.
  • Gakuen Alice (manga) by Tachibana Higuchi - When Mikan's best friend leaves to attend the mysterious and elite Alice Academy, Mikan goes after her and tries to become a student at the academy herself. Alice Academy turns out to be a special school for children with amazing abilities (like flying, telekinesis, etc.). Once Mikan manages to prove that she belongs at the school, she becomes a student. Unfortunately, students are allowed little contact with the outside world, and there are other secrets the school and its teachers are hiding. Those who'd like another series starring characters of approximately the same age as those in Cardcaptor Sakura might like this series, which also has approximately the same amount of sweetness and cute romance.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! (manga) by Kazuki Takahashi; Yu-Gi-Oh! (anime TV series) - High school student Yuugi Mutou gains a powerful card-playing alter ego after he assembles the ancient Millennium Puzzle. Throughout the series, Yuugi uses his card-playing skills to battle various opponents and protect himself, his friends, and his family. Those who'd like another series in which cards (and friendship) have power might like this title.

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