Cardcaptor Sakura and the power of pure nostalgia

Hands up if you watched Cardcaptor Sakura (or more accurately, Cardcaptors, if we’re talking the English version) on CITV back in the early 00s?

From the super-cheesy but oh so catchy opening song to the show’s rollerskating, card-collecting, wand-waving hero, I’ll never forget the excitement I felt for this show – arriving as it did, when I has just started secondary school. Just as I, myself, went through a world of newness, the show itself seemed to offer a window into something quite unlike anything else on TV – even the anime predecessors that were obviously instrumental in it being ported onto English-language TV: Pokemon and Digimon.

And the thing is, while Pokemon and Digimon felt consciously commercial and part of the wider Japan hype of the time, Cardcaptors, even in its arguably bastardised English form, felt like it always placed the focus far more on its narrative and characters. Even at the time, young as I was, I felt its palpable sense of emotion – and the simple daring-ness of it being a show in which the lead character was a girl. Yes, Syaoran Li with his little sword and robes felt like something out of a Zelda videogame, but he was merely part of a wider universe of wonder.

In my ‘collector’ mindset of the time – driven by Pokemon databases, strategy guides and instruction manuals, I remember the very precise act of ‘watching’ and interacting with Cardcaptors as a piece of media. I’d rush home from school to watch it, then post-show, write down whatever the ‘featured’ card of the week was in a notebook I kept religiously under my bed. In the show’s episodic, formulaic monster of the week format – there was regularity and safeness – each week’s card might be unfamiliar, but you always knew Sakura would triumph.

Time would pass, and I’d forget all about anime for a long time. Digimon switched from CITV to cable channels I didn’t have access to. The initial Pokemon boom died down, and I only really stayed in contact with the franchise through the games. The last anime of that early 00s period I watched on regular TV was Monster Rancher, and that felt like the last gasp or tail end of an era that was already dying away.

Many years later, I found the notebook under my bed containing my scrawled weekly writings of all the cards from Cardcaptors. That was nostalgia.

More recently – many more years later – I finally understood the full concept of Cardcaptors within its original Japanese context and desperately searched for the long Out of Print UK releases of the show, which amounted to fewer than 10 of the first few episodes. Eventually I’d come to buy the original manga. That, too, was nostalgia.

Thinking back now – with a new Cardcaptor Sakura manga being serialised, and an anime to follow – it feels like we’ve come full circle. For me, an understanding of Cardcaptor Sakura will remain, always, inseparable from the notion of nostalgia. And I think, in a way, that has always been the point of the series – cherry coloured, semi faded memories of a half forgotten youth. Captured in time, a fragment of a turn-of-the-millennium age that continues to exist, regardless. That’s its magic. That’s its nostalgia.


4 Replies to “Cardcaptor Sakura and the power of pure nostalgia”

  1. I dearly hope the new anime won’t lose any of that emotional or character-driven focus by becoming too consciously commercial. I always felt like Cardcaptor Sakura was a lot more subtle and sophisticated than most other magical-girl shows, despite having the same primary target audience. So I’m really excited for the franchise to be returning, but also wary of exactly what that will entail.


    1. Same, I’m hopeful for the new anime – especially as Madhouse are doing it, and their stuff is pretty much always competent. If they can handle the transition to the modern style like they did the newer version of Hunter x Hunter, I’ll be happy

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh man, seeing “Cardcaptors” on screen was one giant slap of nostalgia back to my childhood. o.o I had no idea the series was making a comeback, but I am certainly pleased to hear it! With Digimon Tri, a Pokemon movie that retells Ash’s first steps and this, it certainly feels like the early ’00s are back again 😛
    Also, would you be interested in sharing your work on Movie Pilot? I’d like to invite you to the platform as one of our content creators. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail, my contact details are on my “About” page. (o^.^)b


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