|Cardcaptor Sakura (カードキャプターさくら Kādokyaputā Sakura?), abbreviated as CCS and also known as Cardcaptors, is a Japanese shōjo manga series written and illustrated by the manga artist group Clamp. The manga was originally serialized monthly in Nakayoshi from the May 1996 until the June 2000 issue, and later published in 12 tankōbon volumes by Kodansha from November 1996 to July 2000. The story focuses on Sakura Kinomoto, an elementary school student who discovers that she possesses magical powers after accidentally freeing a set of magical cards from the book in which they had been sealed for years. She is then tasked with retrieving those cards in order to avoid an unknown catastrophe from befalling the world. The series was adapted into a 70-episode anime TV series by Madhouse that aired in Japan on NHK between April 1998 and March 2000. Two anime films were produced by Madhouse in August 1999 and July 2000. Ten video games were produced based on the series. Kodansha published art books, picture books and film comics for the manga and anime series. Tokyopop released the manga in English in North America from March 2000 to August 2003. After Tokyopop’s license for Cardcaptor Sakura expired, Dark Horse Manga acquired the license and began releasing the series in omnibus editions starting in October 2010. Nelvana licensed the anime TV series and first film for North American broadcast and distribution, renaming it Cardcaptors. All 70 episodes were dubbed; however the version aired on American television was heavily edited into 39 episodes; other English-speaking territories received the full run. Cardcaptors aired on Kids’ WB, Cartoon Network and Teletoon. The TV series and films were re-licensed by Geneon, which released them unedited with English subtitles. Critics praised the manga for its creativity and described it as a quintessential shōjo manga, as well as a critical work for manga in general. The manga series was awarded the Seiun Award for Best Manga in 2001. The TV anime adaptation was praised for its ability to transcend its target audience of young children and be enjoyable to older viewers too. The artwork in the anime was also a focus of attention, described as above average for a late-1990s TV series, and Sakura’s magic-casting scenes were complimented for being nearly unique, because of the regular costume changes. The TV anime won the Animage Grand Prix award for Best Anime in 1999. The American edit of Cardcaptors was heavily panned by critics, who called the editing ridiculous, cutting out vital character backgrounds essential to understand the plot.|
Cardcaptor Sakura begins when ten-year-old fourth grader Sakura Kinomoto accidentally releases a set of magical cards called Clow Cards from the Clow Book, created and named after half-English, half-Chinese sorcerer Clow Reed. Each card has its own personality and characteristics and can assume alternate forms when activated. The guardian Beast of the Seal Cerberus emerges from the book and tells her it is now her responsibility to retrieve the missing cards. As she finds each card, she battles its magical personification and defeats it to seal it away. Cerberus acts as her guide, while her best friend and second cousin Tomoyo Daidouji films her exploits and provides her with battle costumes. Sakura’s older brother Toya Kinomoto watches over her, while pretending that he is unaware of what is going on.
A boy Sakura’s age and descendant of Clow Reed, Syaoran Li, arrives from Hong Kong to recapture the cards himself. Their relationship is rocky, because he believes that he deserves the cards more than Sakura. However, he comes to respect Sakura and instead begins aiding her as he spends time with her. Once Sakura captures all the cards, she undergoes the Final Judgment, presided over by Yue, the cards’ second guardian, who tests Sakura to determine if she is worthy of becoming the cards’ true master. Yue is the true form of Yukito Tsukishiro, Sakura’s crush and her brother’s best friend. Sakura is aided by her teacher Kaho Mizuki, who was sent by Clow to ensure Sakura is able to pass the test, because he chose Sakura to be the cards’ new master when he knew he was going to die. Sakura passes the test and becomes the new master of the Clow Cards.
Life for Sakura is initially peaceful until a boy Sakura’s age, Eriol Hiiragizawa, transfers from England, which coincides with new disturbances occurring in Tomoeda. Suddenly unable to use the Clow Cards, Sakura transforms her wand and creates a new incantation, which can transform a Clow Card into a Sakura Card. As strange events continue, Sakura gradually transforms each card into a Sakura Card, unaware the events are being caused by Eriol and two guardian-like creatures, Spinel Sun and Ruby Moon. Yue begins to grow weaker, because he requires magical support from Sakura, but her magic is not yet strong enough to sustain him. Toya gives all of his magical abilities to Yue in order to ensure Yukito does not die. Sakura eventually deals with the pain of Yukito’s gentle rejection of her feelings, as he instead loves Toya. Syaoran consoles Sakura, while finding himself falling in love with her, but is unsure of how to tell her.
When only the Light and Dark Cards remain to be converted, which must be done together, Eriol reveals to Sakura he was behind all the strange events. After the cards are transformed, Eriol explains that he is half of the reincarnation of Clow Reed, with Sakura’s father being the other half. Eriol, who has Clow’s memories and magical abilities, aided Sakura in converting the cards so they would not lose their powers. Before returning to England, Eriol asks Sakura to split his magic between himself and her father, so that he will no longer be the most powerful magician in the world. Afterwards, Syaoran confesses his love to Sakura, but she is unsure how to respond. Sakura is hurt and upset when he tells her he is returning to Hong Kong, and comes to realize she loves him too after talking with her friends. She rushes home to make a teddy bear for him and confesses to him as he leaves for the airport and he promises to return when he has taken care of some things. Two years later, Syaoran moves back to Tomoeda permanently. They embrace and Sakura happily exclaims that they will be “together forever.”
The plot of the anime series is extended, featuring 52 Clow Cards from the manga’s original 19, and certain scenes are stretched and delayed, such as Cerberus’ true form not being revealed until just before Yue’s appearance. Sakura creates a 53rd card, Hope, a talent she is not shown to have in the manga. Some of the circumstances around the capturing of the cards is changed, such as Syaoran capturing several cards himself and being tested by Yue in the Final Judgment. Syaoran’s cousin and fiancee Meiling Li is introduced in the anime, who positions herself as a romantic rival for Sakura later in the series. The role of Sakura’s father as the second half of Clow’s reincarnation and the splitting of Eriol’s magic is removed from the ending. The TV series leaves the relationship between Sakura and Syaoran unresolved, but Sakura confesses her love to Syaoran at the end of the second anime film.