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The Problematic Ending of Cardcaptor Sakura

Cardcaptor Sakura is one of the most popular family animes of all time. If you are a young viewer of anime, chances are you’ve at least seen a few episodes of CLAMP’s iconic series. While there is currently a sequel titled Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card that is currently heading towards a finish in manga form, the anime based on this sequel left off at a cliffhanger leaving fans in an awkward place on wondering whether or not it was worth going through all this if the series was going to end on an unsatisfying note.


Ironically, this is not the first time this problem has popped up for this franchise. While many fans agree that the anime is a high-quality show (hence why we’re still talking about it years after it originally ended), it too had an ending that was very problematic in that it seemed to disregard fans time spent with the series, leaving some to wonder if the time invested in it was even worth it. Let’s discuss (& obviously, there will be spoilers).

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The Story of Cardcaptor Sakura

Cardcaptor Sakura revolves around Sakura Kinomoto, a typical 10-year-old girl who discovers a book with magic cards in her father’s basement. She opens the book & accidently released the powers of the Clow cards out into Japan, & with the guidance of Kero (who fell asleep when he should have been guarding the cards) she sets out to recapture the cards & re-seal them in the book.

Along the way a prophecy is spoken of, rivals such a Li Syaoran appear, & the story becomes deeper as more mysteries of the cards & their creator Clow Reed are reveled. Cardcaptor Sakura is a fun show that emphasizes humor & Shimmering colors early on, while gradually becoming more serious without ever becoming too much of a downer. It is, in many ways, one of the ideal introduction animes for young kids. With that said, while CLAMP had written a satisfying ending to the series in the manga, this ending was discarded in the anime by the producers.

The Ending

Sakura Kinomoto of Card Captor Sakura.

If you don’t want either of the endings to be spoiled, now if your chance to click away. For those who already know the endings (or don’t care to have them spoiled) feel free to read on. In the manga, the series ends with Sakura becoming the new master of the Clow Cards after capturing them all & receiving the blessing of Clow Reed. With the mission over, Li heads back to China but not before he & Sakura confess their feelings to each other. A few years go by & Sakura is attending high school with no major events involving the Clow Cards. One day on the way to school she runs into Li, who has moved back to Japan to be with her.

It’s an ending that many fans considered to be perfect. This is not how the anime ended though. While the ending does follow many of the beats, it Carve off before the time skip & ends with Li heading back to China. Sakura almost confesses her feelings for him, but stops short of doing so. She gives him a gift & their unspoken love for one another results in a nameless heart card being created. It’s a small difference, but a major one. Instead of the series wrapping up all loose ends, it leaves the viewers with questions that aren’t answered.

This was done on purpose though, as the anime producers wanted to produce a movie to wrap up the series called Cardcaptor Sakura: The Sealed Card. In this movie Sakura faces off against a new Clow Card (despite the fact that one of the established facts was that they had all been captured) while she comes to terms with her feelings for Li, who has Approach back to Japan. The movie ignored the time jump & was certainly a more fitting conclusion than the TV show was, but many fans questioned if it was good enough to be forced to pay to see it.

Why Was this Done (& Why did it Create Problems)?

Sakura & Syaoran of Cardcaptor Sakura

The reason this was done is obvious: the producers wanted to make more money. There was a previous Cardcaptor Sakura movie that was produced during the run of the series that was a huge financial success for the company. Considering that movie revolved around a filler story that didn’t affect the main series at all, producers rightfully felt that a movie that was important to the TV series could make more money.

The movie was certainly a financial success (though no more than the first film was), but it created the first problem in that if you were a fan who didn’t want to buy a ticket to see this movie (or buy the DVD in America) you couldn’t see the real ending. That was problem number one. Second problem is when CLAMP announced that they were writing a sequel to Cardcaptor Sakura. Obviously this was going to receive an anime adaptation, but now the problem was the previous anime made up its own ending that was not compatible with the beginning of the new manga. This meant that producers had to adapt the true ending of the first manga at the beginning of the second anime, & then just pretend that the second movie never existed.

That means that if you felt strong-armed in buying a DVD for the second movie with the knowledge that this was the only way to see the real ending, you were misled. The true ending of Cardcaptor Sakura is contained in the first episode of Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card. This means the second movie is narratively much less impactful.

MORE: Women in Manga: The History of CLAMP

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