Manga of the Month: Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card

Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card by CLAMP

The first Cardcaptor Sakura manga debuted in 1996 and quickly became a high bar in the magical girl genre which is still beloved all these years later.

Despite CLAMP’s evolving art style, the current of which is much more clean and simplified, they were able to return to an earlier form embracing the chibi faces, asides, screentones, and many other staples of their 90s manga which allows this new Cardcaptor Sakura story to feel seamless. The only thing that points to a different era is a more decompressed storytelling as Clear Card surpasses the length of the original CCS stories.

In Clear Card, Sakura is making her middle school debut! As the school year opens, Syaoran returns from Hong Kong to join Sakura and their friends. Sakura is excited by all the new possibilities of the future, but soon she is having strange dreams of a cloaked figure and the Clow Cards mysteriously turn clear.

It probably goes without saying, but you should definitely read the original CCS to follow along with Clear Card. Although there are new characters and a lot of new developments, the core cast and their relationships are still at the center of this story. I don’t think I would have been quite so moved by seeing Sakura and Syaoran meet again without knowing the history.

As the series progresses and they start to unravel why the Clow Cards have evolved, this becomes a story about adolescence. Sakura is growing and changing, her magic powers are as well, and the path ahead is one of her own making.

CLAMP came back to one of their iconic series after two decades away and it feels perfectly aligned.



Manga of the Month: Heavenly Delusion

Heavenly Delusion by Masakazu Ishiguro

Heavenly Delusion introduces us to a devastated Japan. After “The Collapse,” modern civilization as we know it was destroyed and much of the population perished. I was pulled in by the intriguing, mysterious dystopian landscape which they let wash over you instead of trying to frontload the story with a lot of explanation.

Tokio and other kids are part of a facility that completely encloses them from the hellish outside world. One day she gets a strange message and her friend makes a prediction that someone with Tokio’s face will come to rescue her. The children in this facility come off as ordinary teens going to school, joking around, and awakening to new feelings. But other things are odd, there are secrets here; off limits areas, a lack of information, and you get the distinct feeling that some of them know more than others.

In a parallel story, Kiruko and Maru are wanderers of the dystopian wasteland seeking two people Kiruko carries photos of and the nebulous “heaven,” the final words of a friend. Kiruko is supposed to be Maru’s bodyguard on this journey but their rapport is more of that of friends or siblings, and Maru does his fair share of defending against threats. Their easy manner contrasts nicely as they encounter survivors, monsters, and their own internal struggles along their perilous journey.

What has happened to the world? Who is Kiruko? Why do Maru and Tokio have the same face? Where did the monsters come from? When will this rescue occur? How does Maru know how to fight the monsters? Heavenly Delusion leaves me contemplating so many questions after each chapter I read. The story has layers upon layers, both in terms of the plot and the interior lives of the characters that keeps me turning the pages.

Heavenly Delusion feels like a classic sci-fi story with the added bonus of Ishiguro’s off-kilter characters.


Manga of the Month: Skip and Loafer

Skip and Loafer by Misaki Takamatsu

Mitsumi has moved from a small town to Tokyo to live with her aunt and start a new chapter of her school life. She has grand ambitions of becoming a public servant (and mayor of her hometown someday)! Only come to find out, she is a bit less astute than one might imagine. She get hopelessly lost on the first day of school, pukes on a teacher after her opening ceremonies speech, but befriends a handsome slacker along the way and thus her new school life full of missteps begins.

I honestly picked up Skip and Loafer because the girl’s face on the cover made me laugh (and sums up the character perfectly btw). It just got better from there. The series balances the things you expect from a school comedy (navigating friendships, low-stakes misunderstandings, budding romance) with a willingness to show how flawed everyone is. Mitsumi has the classic can-do, nothings-gonna-get-me-down attitude of a shojo lead (despite running in a seinen magazine), but all her intelligence is in book smarts. In contrast, she lacks self-awareness, making for a protagonist who feels normal but not average. That robustness of character extends to every member of the cast and is what makes Skip and Loafer comedy gold while also being incredibly endearing.

It has been sometime since a school life story really captured me, but Takamatsu has given the genre a fresh twist with a heroine who is earnest and well-intentioned but also an overconfident blockhead.