My first experience with Cardcaptor Sakura was memorable but brief: I caught an episode of the anime on TV as a kid and was instantly enamored by its premise and iconography. And then….nothing happened. I never found it on TV again, and though I occasionally thought about it I never got around to reading the manga. Queue my interest when Kodansha announced Cardcaptor Sakura Collector’s Edition Vol. 1: an oversized hardcover reprinting of the comic’s first several chapters. Speaking as a (mostly) new fan, is it good?
First, given that this is a re-release, I’ll discuss the quality of the physical book itself and the way the manga is presented. The paper quality is fantastic, as is the cover design. The artwork also looks wonderful on the large pages, which really give all the little details room to breathe and be admired. There’s also a brief afterward that discusses some of the translation choices made throughout. In terms of delivering a new and improved version of a previously published work, this collection does everything one could hope for.
Now onto the manga itself. Visually, Cardcaptor Sakura is stunning. Clamp delivers all the shojo goodness you could want, from the patterns and shading to elaborate fashions and character designs. Sakura herself changes up outfits constantly instead of just using one uniform, which is a nice touch. The various Clow Cards also have aesthetically pleasing designs, especially the Illusion card.
The characters’ expressions throughout are very emotive, and the occasional splash pages of nature imagery and architecture are gorgeous. While the vast majority of the line-work is thin and polished, Clamp uses a much thicker, permanent marker-esque style to render comedic moments simply but dramatically. All in all, this manga is a joy to look at. Its only real artistic drawback is just that there are some occasional clarity issues, mostly in action scenes.
Vol. 1 also does a good job introducing the series’s characters and core concepts. The core cast includes Sakura’s familiar/exposition dumper Kero-Chan, best friend Tomoyo, brother Toya, and Toya’s friend Yukito (who Sakura has a crush on). Sakura’s dynamic with each character is unique, and we quickly get a good feel for what all their personalities and rapports are like. Each of them brings out different sides to Sakura’s own personality, helping to flesh her out as well. This book is a great example of how to effectively integrate several different characters into the plot without making any of them feel underserved or redundant.
There’s not a lot here in terms of actual plot, but that’s okay. There’s a very episodic feel to how Sakura collects Clow Cards, with most chapters being one-and-dones or two-parters. What cliffhangers are present work very well, especially the very end which hints at major plot progression to come. The decision to focus more on letting the characters bounce off each other in the early chapters rather than packing in a ton of lore is an effective one. It lets the reader get a solid understanding of the manga’s world and cast so that, when the plot presumably gets rolling next volume, its effects will actually feel tangible.
All in all, Cardcaptor Sakura Collector’s Edition Vol. 1 is an enjoyable reprinting of a classic. The physical quality of the book itself is great, and the visuals are top-notch shojo. This volume also does a great job introducing the manga’s world and characters. Whether you’re new to the series or returning to it, I would recommend this book.