This volume starts the second major story arc for Cardcaptor Sakura, and since I had only collected a few of the early Tokyopop volumes it was all new material for me. Since in structure Sakura’s main mission was ended when she collected all the Clow cards, I was curious to see how CLAMP was going to move on to the next phase of the series. For as light and fluffy a series as Cardcaptor Sakura is, there are some hints of darkness and suffering that make it a bit more sophisticated than one would think of a manga geared towards the younger set. Syaoran is struggling with the feelings he now realizes he has for Sakura, and things are complicated further with the sudden arrival of a new transfer student, Eriol Hiiragizawa. Sakura immediately thinks that Eriol looks familiar. With his glasses, polite nature, and gentle smile, the boy reminds her of her father. But it turns out that Eriol is actually Sakura’s mysterious antagonist who seems to be Clow Reed reborn in younger form. Most of this manga concerns Sakura’s investigations of the strange phenomena that occur after Eriol’s arrival. While she has the cards and can use them, now her own innate magic is changing their forms. Unfortunately Sakura’s lack of magic is starting to cause problems for her guardians. Yue in his human disguise of Yukito grows progressively more and more fatigued, and as Toya attempts to have a serious talk with him over and over he gets interrupted by one of Eriol’s interfering familiars.
Fans of the earlier volumes of this series will find plenty to enjoy here. Sakura is gradually becoming more self-reliant, although she still treasures the help of her friends. There’s a little bit of resolution to the tension between her father and great-grandfather, and seeing Syaoran struggling with first love inspires both comic relief and sympathy. I really enjoy CLAMP’s art in this series. It is just ornate and girly enough to satisfy my inner 12-year-old, without being overly decorated or difficult to follow. CLAMP is good at developing ambiguous villains, and since Eriol’s plans and motivations aren’t entirely clear there is plenty of dramatic tension as the events unfold. As always, the battle scenes are balanced with the school life and hijinks of Sakura’s friends. Cardcaptor Sakura is such a feel-good manga. I always put it down feeling a little better after immersing myself in plenty of flowers, friends, and sparkles. Dark Horse’s manga omnibus volumes are always the best in terms of production quality and extras, and there are plenty of color illustrations here to appeal to any CLAMP fan.