ADVANCE REVIEW! Cardcaptor Sakura Omnibus Volume 4 will go on sale Wednesday, September 26, 2012.
I picked up my first Cardcaptor Sakura back in 2000 in the Kodansha bilingual editions. I loved the series, but stopped reading it after Sakura captured all the Clow Cards. I didn't like a few of the twists, mainly Yukito's revelation as Yue, and the series had come — if not to a definitive end — at least to a good stopping point. Comics are expensive, after all.
Now, more than ten years later I finally get to finish the story with these Dark Horse Omnibus editions. These are an amazing deal — almost 600 pages for $20. And it isn't like they are just packaging up previously published material. The series got an entirely new translation, and the volumes are packed with extra full-color art printed on larger, nicer paper stock. These are the deluxe editions of Cardcaptor Sakura.
What I love about this fourth volume is that it is a definitive end. I was worried in Volume 3 that the new character, Eriol Hiiragizawa, was just going to be a lame substitute villain out to steal the Clow Cards from Sakura or some other such lame plot device. I should have known better. The fine ladies at CLAMP didn't follow convention in the first half of Cardcaptor Sakura so there was no reason to expect doldrums in the finale. They still had some rabbits to pull out of their hats.
I can't say that I loved every new twist. Eriol's revelation wasn't what I was expecting, and was slightly disappointing. I don't think it explained enough of his previous actions. Eriol was a better antagonist than I thought, but still not enough of a story-driver. I just didn't care about him as a character. The tie-in between Eriol and Sakura's father came out of left field, and while it explained a few things it didn't add much. And while there is action here, the final battle and the big reveal almost seemed like filler. I wanted them to quit with the fight scenes, and get back to the real story — mainly who Sakura was going to fall in love with.
Because the strength of the series is in the characters, and all of those odd relationships that cross every boundary available but are portrayed with love and without judgment. The homosexual attraction between Yukito and Sakura's brother Toya, Tomoe's unselfish, unrequited love for Sakura, the relationship between elementary school student Rika and her teacher or even the interracial Chinese/Japanese love between Sakura and Syaoran Li — every coupling in this comic seems to be designed of some conservative group, yet every relationship is handled without resorting to sensationalism or exploitation. If there is a message to Cardcaptor Sakura, it is that you love who you love, and all love is equally good.
So I was happy to see that Volume 4 spends most of its pages with its characters. We don't get a measly three-page epilogue. All of those various love stories are resolved to satisfaction. Sure, there still some of the ambiguity that has marked the series, but that's okay. Not everyone gets to go walking hand-in-hand into the sunset, but you kind of know how things are going to turn out, even for the most controversial couples. It is hard not to want to run up and hug someone by the last page. (That last page is great, by the way.)
Well done, CLAMP — now that is how you end a series. And well done, Dark Horse, for putting this entire series in such an attractive, affordable format.
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the '90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack’s reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.