By CLAMP. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Nakayoshi. Released in North America by Dark Horse.
First, a brief note on the presentation. Dark Horse's Chobits omnibus was good, and improved on Tokyopop's, but was not, in the end, worthy of buying the same manga a second time. Cardcaptor Sakura had an even higher bar, as Tokyopop released it twice, once early in their history and again in a spiffy, more faithful box set. So Dark Horse needed to go that extra mile to justify buying everything a third time.
They've done so. This manga looks fantastic, one of the best I've seen this entire year. The volume is bigger in size, which shows off CLAMP's gorgeous art style. The paper stock is heavy and fine, and the art reproduced on it shows that Dark Horse weren't kidding when they said it was remastered from CLAMP's originals. The translation seems to involve taking Tokyopop's 2nd edition one and spiffing it up a bit, but then, there wasn't really anything terrible about that version's in the first place. (And yes, Kaho still makes Sakura feel all floaty inside.)
So that's for the people who already know the story. What about those who, for some reason, have never read Cardcaptor Sakura before? Well, you're in for a treat. This is CLAMP firing on all cylinders, giving us cute shoujo with a fantastically likeable strong heroine, great supporting cast, and a clear, magical-girl issue plot that lacks the excessive machinations of later works such as Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. This is just the story of Sakura Kinomoto, a 10-year-old girl who opens a magical book and now finds she has to retrieve a series of magical cards with only the help of her best friend and a magical talking animal.
CLAMP are clearly having fun with the magical girl archetypes, and just jump right into rescuing the cards. The premise is actually quickly given as an afterthought in a Chapter 1 flashback, basically telling the reader 'this is why Sakura can do magic and what she's after, now back to our cute girl'. It works well, and allows CLAMP to take the high fantasy art they had done in Magic Knight Rayearth and X and apply it to a real-world setting. Sakura is a typical 10-year-old girl, especially for shoujo heroines. Athletic yet bad at academics, generally perky, and with a huge crush on her brother's best friend.
Speaking of crushes, one thing that does stick out here is all of the romantic and quasi-romantic pairings. In fact, the one couple that will end up together at the end are the only ones NOT interested in each other here. Sakura and Syaoran are still mostly faced off as rivals here, and Syaoran seems to have far more of an interest in Yukito, the boy Sakura also loves. Which is a shame for both of them, as Yukito is shown to be fairly devoted to Toya, Sakura's brother.
And then there's Tomoyo, Sakura's best friend. She's my favorite character in the manga, getting to be both the sensible advice-giving best friend AND the weird cosplay-loving Sakura-obsessed freak. She definitely gives CLAMP some great costumes to work with, with Sakura appearing in a variety of stunning outfits (most of which make their appearance on the added color pages throughout). She also loves Sakura - and makes it very clear in this volume how she means that, even if they're only 10 years old. "I think we're talking about different kinds of love, Sakura," she says when Sakura cheerfully announces she loves her back. Tomoyo knows that Sakura's unaware of her interest, but to her credit doesn't back off - she knows Sakura's crush on Yukito isn't going to happen, so presses her love whenever she can. Of course, we also meet her mother, who seems to have paralleled this in her devotion to Sakura's mother, so we can likely see where this is going to end.
That said, there's also the odd couple of Rika and Terada-sensei, which mostly just makes me sigh. Like Tomoyo's love for Sakura, this was toned down a bit for the anime, which skipped the part where Terada-sensei actually gives the 10-year-old girl an engagement ring. I suppose this falls under the heading of 'I am not the audience for this sort of thing', and certainly for the 6-8 year old girls that read Nakayoshi, the hot teacher you have a crush on returning your love must be a great fantasy. But it still sort of creeps me out.
Cardcaptor Sakura is one of CLAMP's masterpieces, an exciting, cute, and direct shoujo story that uses all the old magical girl cliches but never feels tired or repetitive. If you were to ask me which CLAMP series I'd take to a desert island, this would probably be the one. And this volume is an excellent starter, with Dark Horse providing a fantastic re-introduction for those who may have first met these characters in Tsubasa. Anyone who likes shoujo should read this.