Brace yourselves. This is going to be long. REALLY long.
On my SPEED version of Timeless Thoughts, I mentioned that I would be focusing on my early favorite J-Pop and K-Pop groups for my first four posts. I wrote about my memories and experiences with SPEED and Fin K.L., two of the greatest girl groups of Asian Pop back in the ’90s. My initial plan was to write about two of the greatest boy bands of Asian Pop (J-Pop and K-Pop, to be exact), but I decided to take a break from music for the time being because I want to post this one particular manga/anime series that continued on to be in my heart.
And that particular manga/anime series is none other than Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP.
And even though I am still insisting how much the ’90s was the Golden Decade of pop culture, CCS was a ’90s product as SPEED and Fin K.L.1 One of Japan’s most renowned mangaka crew, CLAMP, created CCS to incorporate everything that defined the themes (and cliches) of your typical shoujo manga, from the magical girl genre, cute guardian-type characters aiding our hero(es) on the way, a bit of mystery here and there of all sides, implications of shounen-ai2 and shoujo-ai ((love/romance between females)), who is a friend and a foe3, and most of all, everyone’s favorite: pure, innocent young love between a girl and a boy, especially when they start off as a heated rivalry with one another.
I’m not going to write about what CCS is about, because Wikipedia already has done that for us. Instead, I’ll write about how I came across this series, why I’ve grown to love it, and why I still love it up till today. I love (present tense) everything about it because it’s like a mesh-up of most of the themes we would normally see in (shoujo) manga/anime stories and CLAMP has done really well in how they blended all of these themes (and cliches) altogether in one well-crafted story. The art is amazing, as always expected from CLAMP, but when I got to know more about the vast genre of manga/anime in the early days, I became rather picky with the story, and not just the art or the character designs alone.
I came across CCS during my (not-so) glorious days of college/university in the late ’90s during Japanese class. It was during the second year of high school when one of the Japanese foreign exchange students in our Japanese culture club that introduced some of us to CCS when she showed off the first volume of the CCS manga, which was first released in Japan back in May 1996.4 Because it was in Japanese and my Japanese was still limited to just reading Hiragana, Katakana, and some beginners’ Kanji, I became intimidated. The funny thing is also is that this was the first time that I saw and held an original manga tankoubon in its original Japanese. She told me about the story, and even though it seems to be a children’s story because of the age of the main characters,5 but there may be some themes and implications that may not quite be suitable for children in the Western world. My Korean classmates and I got intrigued with this very new series that we began relying on her for quick translations.
That foreign exchange student even hoped that one day, because manga/anime is becoming a lot more available in the U.S. now, especially here in the Bay Area, because one of the Western world’s most renowned manga/anime publishers and distributors, Viz Media, was born (and still located) here in San Francisco. I remembered how California was one of the states back then that had the most access to various manga and anime available, how our neighborhood comic book stores (and eventually our local bookstores and public libraries) and video rentals had so much of them on sale or for rent. There was even a point where I somewhat begged the people at the local comic book store near my college to contact Viz if there would be an English version of CCS to be released soon. Sometime later, I received the bad news that Viz wouldn’t be able to distribute them in English because they don’t have a contract or something with Kodansha, which broke my heart.
Two years later (1998), Japan premiered the anime series of CCS. At that time, that foreign exchange ended her year there and went back home to Japan, but lucky for us, we got her address in Japan so we can write her letters. Back then, email wasn’t quite popular yet, but we managed. It wasnt’ until during summer when one of my friends met someone who is a huge anime fan and has friends who do fansubbing of anime. We finally acquired just one VHS tape of the first 4 episodes of CCS, fansubbed. Heaven!
When early 2000 came, my last year in college, I received bad news from our “supplier.” His friends stopped fansubbing CCS because it was officially licensed to be released here in the U.S. My heart leapt for joy and hoped that they would at least give a good dub without any weird changes. And then, sometime during spring, my sisters and I visited that same local comic book store. Right at the front shelves, my eyes sparkled when I saw the first volume of CCS beautifully displayed, now translated in English. It was published by some newcomer distributor called Tokyopop.6 No question, with very little money I had on that day, I went ahead and purchased the first volume. My middle sister had a part-time job while she was attending high school, so she started chipping in the costs for the manga too. I asked the manager regarding the anime and its being licensed, even asked him when the VHS would come out. Then the manager said that he believed that CCS will not be released on VHS, but will be on TV, following the success of the TV airing of Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball (the first series, not DBZ). 2000 became one of my favorite years of my life, not just because I graduated and began my life as an employee of the real world, but because CCS has finally came to my life 100% LOL.
Then, it happened. CCS began airing on Kids WB under the slightly altered title, Cardcaptors. I actually had mixed feelings with this one because, like what they did to Sailor Moon and a bit of Dragon Ball, they changed the character names (thank goodness Sakura still remained Sakura, and that Syaoran’s name was slightly altered, but still somewhat the same), and then… a lot of omissions and screw-ups. In a way, my heart crushed that I’m seeing this on TV. My youngest sister (who was still in high school at that time) was rather upset that they turned CCS into a show aimed towards children, like Sailor Moon and DB. My middle sister (who graduated high school that summer) made a statement that America doesn’t have a clue what anime really is, thinking that anime is just “Japanese animation,” and that animation in general here normally means it’s a show for kids, but in Japan, it’s a genre for all ages, not just for the story, but to also appreciate its art and cinematography, something like that.
I was mad that I can no longer get CCS fansubs because of Cardcaptors, but my sisters, who preferred watching their anime dubbed because they find subtitles really distracting, and I’m partial with both subs and dubs. We decided to just stick with the manga, save up as much money as we can to buy the new volumes. We collected all 12 volumes (the ones published by Tokyopop), by the way, and now my middle sister, married and happily owning her own house with her husband, took the entire CCS manga with her and is now currently sitting neatly at the bookshelf of their bedroom. (What?!)
2001 also became my debut year into web designing/development, and built my first shrines (based on a series of Square (Enix) games like Final Fantasy VIII, IX, X, Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross). It wasn’t until much later in that same year that I finally bought my third domain, kinomoto.nu, in which its first purpose was to host general anime shrines. But when I began building it, I ended up scratching that idea and changed it to a CCS-only domain. I even began writing CCS fanfics, mainly love stories of my (possibly) most favorite manga/anime pairing of all time, Sakura Kinomoto and Syaoran Li. In fact, I still write fanfics about them. I have about 2-3 of them here.
Along with saving up for all the manga volumes, I also ended up buying their art books and even their soundtrack CDs. I still have the CDs, but then I ended up having my dad lock up my art books in the backyard shed during one of my heavy spring cleanings of my room. Dang mistake!
Eventually, I moved on to new and different things and abandoned my very long fandom for CCS. My middle sister, however, bought the DVDs of the first and the second movie, which should be the “official” endings of the anime version of CCS. I just gave up on Cardcaptors once I read the entire manga series. Then some years later, my youngest sister was able to borrow DVDs of the entire CCS anime. Much that the dubbed version turned out to be Cardcaptors, my sisters decided to go through the struggle in reading the subtitles. Either way, we were very happy CCS fangirls.
Next month (May 2016) commemorates the 20th Anniversary of CCS. The series began as a manga and became popular enough to have its own anime, as well as its own vast worldwide fanbase. And because of this, the old CCS fangirl in me has awoken. BIG TIME. Currently, I began continuing my long-hiatus fanfic, Troop Pegalion, and also began making plans for a revival of my very old Sakura & Syaoran shrine, Cherry Blossom, Little Wolf. And then this, this, and most of all, THIS.
I swear, I knew that I had to write this for the month of April. After all, April is Japan’s month of beginnings. April is always the beginning of the school year in Japan, and everything else in Japan always begins in April. Therefore, I begin to revive my CCS ultimate love…
… on this month: April 2016.
On the sidenote...
- Yes, I love to reiterate my past posts with the current one. That’s just how I roll, yo. [↩]
- love/romance between males [↩]
- though in most cases, “who needs foes when you’ve got friends like these?” [↩]
- Now you see why I decided to choose CCS for this linkup. Next month is CCS’ 20th Anniversary!! [↩]
- Sakura, Tomoyo, Syaoran, and others are 10-years-old, and then there’s Touya and Yukito, at age 17. [↩]
- they no longer exist today, sadly [↩]