A Return to Card Captor Sakura: Cataloging flowers in Clear Card-hen and my first foray into fandom

*Sakura/cherry blossoms not included.

Watching a reboot or sequel to a classic favorite is inevitably an awkward endeavor. I first experienced this in anime through Sailor Moon Crystal, a reboot of one of the properties that, among other highly personal things, gave me an initial push down the path of becoming a lifelong anime fan. Crystal was a homecoming at first, then a massive disappointment, then a fun return to a franchise that resonated with me unlike any other media property from elementary school through my own adolescence.

Even returning to Naruto through Boruto was accompanied by an odd feeling of time passing without me. I was never deeply immersed in the world of Naruto, or even too emotionally attached to any of the characters. Despite never finishing the Naruto anime itself, I enjoyed the time I spent watching it and my passive participation in the fandom consuming fanworks. Perhaps this is why Boruto initially registered as a fanwork itself, albeit an official one, in my mind.

Yet, Card Captor Sakura is neither Sailor Moon nor Naruto for me. Revisiting Card Captor Sakura is another, different experience and return to a beloved franchise.

Where Sailor Moon aided me through my early teenage years and Naruto came well after I had navigated other fandoms on the internet, Card Captor Sakura formed an odd bridge between the two. If Sailor Moon set me down the path to becoming an anime fan, it was Card Captor Sakura — and to some extent, the original Pokémon series — that made certain I stayed there.

The English-language version Cardcaptors aired when I was high school. Since I wasn’t allowed to watch much television — I had strict parents who didn’t, and still don’t, have cable television — I missed out on the anime series on Cartoon Network/Toonami until I entered college but was able to catch Cardcaptors. There was something about it that caught my attention, and with a bit of internet research, I found Card Captor Sakura. With this discovery, all of the small things that felt a bit off about Cardcaptors fell into place: it had been hacked to pieces and adapted for a North American audience with the idea that Syaoran Li was to be a dual protagonist alongside Sakura Kinomoto with the idea of marketing the series to boys more than girls.

I quickly moved from Cardcaptors to Card Captor Sakura and purchased VHS tapes of the subtitled Japanese original — yes, VHS tapes, my parents did not own a DVD player at this time either, despite the fact that DVD players were hardly new — along with the manga volumes. It became a relaxing, cheery series that I could return to when anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed. Card Captor Sakura also was my first foray into participating in fandom proper, and I now eagerly await the day that my horribly organized fansite for the series appears on One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age.

Card Captor Sakura‘s most recent OVA for its upcoming revival, Clear Card-hen, was the first return to the franchise that I’ve made in about five years. It was the most genuine return I’ve experienced — Sailor Moon Crystal‘s was tinged with nostalgia but quickly soured and Boruto‘s made it apparent that the Hidden Leaf Village had drastically changed in its time offscreen — with visual designs skewing more towards CLAMP’s originals while remaining somewhat malleable, unlike Crystal‘s.

I agree with a lot of criticism that has been levied at this OVA, especially regarding the washed-out color palette, but couldn’t help but be somewhat charmed by the ubiquitous flower appearances despite the fact that they don’t translate nearly as well onscreen as they do on the page of a manga. I remain cautiously optimistic about the new Clear Card season in January, although I won’t be surprised if a stricter dedication to CLAMP’s source material becomes Clear Card‘s undoing, I’ll simply be a bit sad.

With all of this in mind, here are a few of the possible meanings behind the ubiquitous flower scenes and filters in the Clear Card OVA.

When Sakura is considering Syaoran’s love confession, what appear to be mimosa flowers — especially considering the evergreen-like leaves — frame them both as the camera pans down. Mimosas can mean sensibility regarding solving a problem or expanding one’s knowledge and horizons. In this moment, Sakura doesn’t know how she feels towards Syaoran, making his confession a problem or puzzle that she cannot yet solve (before opening her own horizons and accepting her feelings).

Given Tomoyo Daidouji’s love for Sakura, it’s not surprising to see her surrounded by white/pink lilies. Lilies have long been a symbol of yuri relationships. What’s important about lilies in this specific scene is that they appear after Tomoyo tells Sakura that only Sakura can know her own feelings for Syaoran. Tomoyo is someone who figured out the nature of her own feelings towards Sakura very quickly, and in turn, accepted Sakura’s love of Syaoran — meaning that Tomoyo’s own love was unrequited — before Sakura knew of it herself.

Lilies can also mean renewal or a new beginning (which is why it’s also commonly used as a funeral flower) which is apt for Sakura in this situation, on the cusp of renewing her relationship with Syaoran in a way.

As Sakura thinks about Tomoyo’s words, white daisies materialize behind her. White daisies are typically used as a symbol of innocence, childhood, or faithfulness. They appear when Tomoyo tells Sakura that the answer Sakura is looking for is already inside Sakura’s heart.

Lilies of the valley appear behind Sakura as she hugs the bear that she made, and never gave, to Yukito Tsukishiro. It’s not a stretch to say that their meaning of purity, sweetness, and humility applies to Sakura’s feelings for her first love, Yukito. She has already released these feelings, leaving a lingering feeling of sweetness.

White lilies pop up yet again when Sakura talks to Yukito about Syaoran leaving for Hong Kong. Yukito tells her that as long as she wants to see him again, despite the distance, they’ll be able to meet. Here, the meaning of renewal and a fresh start or next step in life is more apropos.

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3 comments

  1. The “mimosa” flowers look more like the related acacia to me. According to one website, “the acacia flower is most often associated with honor, resurrection and immortality. They are also given as gifts to represent friendship, secret romantic crushes, and chaste, unsullied affections.”

  2. Really enjoyed reading your piece about cardcaptor Sakura representation to do with flowers 🌺 hope one day maybe i can write piece like this as my attention for noticing these little things is really important.

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