As iconic and enduring as Cowboy Bebop and Akira, it has magic that cuts across generations

By Josh Morente

Cardcaptor Sakura, often abbreviated as CCS

In a macho-centric world that releases countless high-octane shōnen animes every season, one would think that a show about a magical girl with a pink staff is just a Sunday morning kid’s show. In classic weeb fashion, it’s just too “kawaii.”

But don’t be fooled by its cute exterior and ruffled costumes. The universe of Cardcaptor Sakura is more than that—it’s a fun Magical Girl adventure that’s got lots of heart, a strong set of characters, and an amazing soundtrack. From Clow Cards to costumes and characters that turn beet red because of their crushes, Cardcaptor Sakura is a hell of an iconic show. Not to forget: the show is also very much inclusive.

CLOW REED’S TEXT Clow Book, a book containing a collection of mysterious and powerful magic cards called ‘Clow Cards’

Running for three seasons with a total of 70 episodes (excluding 2017’s Clear Card Arc) and two movies, the show follows wand-wielding heroine, Sakura Kinomoto, through her journey in retrieving the mystical Clow Cards to prevent a calamity that might break the world. Never one to go out without her trusty rollerblades, she takes on each of the cards’ challenges to “return them to their true form.” She is accompanied by some lovable characters in the form of her best friend Tomoyo, rival-turned-love interest Syaoran, and the guardian of the Clow Cards slash show’s mascot Kero.

MAGIC STAFF Sakura’s Sealing Wand, a bird-like head wand

Like its cards, the show has an apparent cuteness—but do not be fooled. Other things make Cardcaptor Sakura such a timeless show. It (and the whole magical girl genre) empowers not just girls, but also the queer. It shows that they are not weak, and erases the notion of them needing help all the time. They can be and are as powerful, and as amazing as the male heroes that dominate the vast world of anime. It does all these without letting go of its feminine aspect. More important, it massively helped people in expressing their true selves. Nothing like a mahou shoujo to save the day, and instill in its watchers that there is nothing wrong with who they are.

Aside from the obvious nostalgia-fuel, it never shied away from breaking gender stereotypes, which helped establish itself as an all-around LGBTQ+ icon for the young and old.

Love knows no boundaries in this CLAMP gem (save for that weird teacher-student relationship). Aside from the obvious nostalgia-fuel, it never shied away from breaking gender stereotypes, which helped establish itself as an all-around LGBTQ+ icon for the young and old. Nostalgia is what made people come back to this show time and again, but inclusivity and representation are what gave it special significance.

Aside from the show being ahead of its time, it sure can bring back its viewers, old and new, to a time when playing outside and getting bruises were part of daily life. A time so simple you wished you were young again, getting excited over Sakura and Syaoran blushing because of the lovely Yukito and, eventually, because of each other.

EARLY BL One of Clamp’s ‘Soul Pairs’ Touya and Yukito

For a lot of ’90s kids, Cardcaptor Sakura was the introduction to the Magical Girl genre, and to anime in general. There were some alternating between wanting to be Sakura and wanting to be friends with her and Tomoyo. A remarkable volume of people also found themselves rooting for Touya (Sakura’s older brother) and Yukito’s discreet yet unconcealed love for each other.

PETALS Sakura’s opening costume

Tons of future cosplayers and ordinary fans loved Sakura’s everchanging closet of costumes—a game-changing feat considering that most anime characters only wear the same outfit throughout the whole series. And for some, it was just a huge part of their lives growing up.

Much like Yu-Gi-Oh! and the myriad card games out there, it was the cards that drew some people in. The collecting of such, to say the least, was exciting, albeit having only less than a hundred—19 in the manga, and 53 in the anime. Having those was like keeping a fond memory of an old friend. Meanwhile, it was the music for the others. “Tobira wo Akete” is that warm feeling in song-form, and it’s impossible not to join in on the chorus when “it’s alright daijoubu daijoubu daijoubu” kicks in. Meanwhile, “Catch Me, Catch You” is just a perpetual bop.

Differences aside, Cardcaptor Sakura is as iconic and enduring as Cowboy Bebop and Akira. A devilish curiosity sometimes lingers as to why it isn’t talked about as much as those two are.

Warm, nostalgic, and progressive, Cardcaptor Sakura’s magic cuts across generations—and she does it in style.