Cardcaptor Sakura, abbreviated as CCS and also known as Cardcaptors, is a Japanese shōjo manga series written and illustrated by the manga group Clamp. The manga was originally serialized in Nakayoshi from May 1996 to June 2000, and published in 12 tankōbon volumes by Kodansha from November 1996 to July 2000. The story focuses on Sakura Kinomoto, an elementary school student who discovers that she possesses magical powers after accidentally freeing a set of magical cards from the book they had been sealed in for years. She is then tasked with retrieving those cards in order to avoid an unknown catastrophe from befalling the world. A sequel by Clamp titled Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Edition focusing on Sakura in junior high school began serialization in Nakayoshi with the July 2016 issue.
The Cardcaptor Sakura manga series was popular with Japanese readers, ranking among the top five sellers during its release. The manga series was awarded the Seiun Award for Best Manga in 2001. Shaenon Garrity of The Comics Journal described the series as a quintessential shōjo manga, which is praised for its mature direction in the second half. Cardcaptor Sakura has been described as a “critical work” of manga by Christopher Butcher of Comics212. In a review by Lisa Anderson of Manga Life, the subplots in the series related to the interactions between characters were noted to be of special interest. Anderson praised how the manga, while at the onset begins with a costumed Sakura chasing after a Clow Card, takes a “rather big leap in another direction” when focusing on the characters. The manga is further lauded for its depth. Anime News Network (ANN) reviewer Robert Nguyen felt Cardcaptor Sakura is an “atypical shōjo” manga, which puts an “emphasis on the emotions of the character.” The original manga sold over 12 million copies as of 2016, while the sequel series had surpassed 1 million printed copies as of April 2017.
In Manga: The Complete Guide, Mason Templar states that the series is not “just one of the best kids’ manga in translation, it’s one of the very best manga available in English, period.” He praises Clamp for their creativity and shrewd business sense, in being able to create a series that “clearly has merchandising in line” and an “utterly forgettable premise” into a story that is “brimming with warmth and joy and wonder” and is “much more than the sum of its parts.” The manga is cited as being cute by critics, and in some cases too cute; however, Anderson stated that “much like Magic Knight Rayearth, even a cute story will have its depth and drama.” The artwork of the manga is praised for being detailed and having “beautifully drawn pictures of the Clow Cards themselves.” The cards are described as having “an artful blend of magical fantasy and reality.”
Cardcaptor Sakura takes place in the fictional Japanese city of Tomoeda which is somewhere near Tokyo. Ten-year-old Sakura Kinomoto accidentally releases a set of magical cards known as Clow Cards from a book in her basement created and named after the sorcerer Clow Reed. Each card has its own unique ability and can assume an alternate form when activated. The guardian of the cards, Cerberus, emerges from the book and chooses Sakura to retrieve the missing cards. As she finds each card, she battles its magical personification and defeats it by sealing it away. Cerberus acts as her guide, while her best friend and second cousin, Tomoyo Daidouji films her exploits and provides her with battle costumes. Sakura’s older brother Toya Kinomoto watches over her, while pretending that he is unaware of what is going on.
Syaoran Li, a boy Sakura’s age and descendant of Clow Reed, arrives from Hong Kong to recapture the cards himself. While initially antagonistic, he comes to respect Sakura and begins aiding her to capture the cards. Once Sakura captures all of the cards, she is tested by Yue the judge, the cards’ second guardian, to determine if she is worthy of becoming the cards’ true master; Yue is also the true form of Yukito Tsukishiro, Toya’s best friend. Aided by her teacher Kaho Mizuki, Sakura passes the test and becomes the new master of the Clow Cards.