Monday, December 31, 2018

Cardcaptor Sakura Exhibition - Magical Art Museum Review - Happy New Year 2019!

First off, belated Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I apologize for disappearing off the radar in all CCS/New Trials communities for the past two months or so. Work and life sort of took precedent, not that I ever forgot all of you guys. 

Despite how hectic work was, I was able to squeeze in a few vacation days last week to visit Tokyo, which is also why I wasn’t able to update anything on Christmas. One of the reasons I did want to visit Tokyo was because ever since I heard that the Cardcaptor Sakura Exhibition - Magical Art Museum was taking place at the Mori Arts Center at the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower months ago, I knew I must visit it when I had a chance. The trip nearly did not happen because of work and whatnot, but in the end it worked out, and I did get to visit the Cardcaptor Sakura Exhibition. I thought I might share a little bit of my experience. 

Roppongi Hills is one of my favorite places in Tokyo, and I try to visit every time I do go there. This is actually the first time I’ve actually seen an exhibition at the Mori Arts Center, which has a fantastic view of the Tokyo skyline as well since it is located on the 52nd floor of Mori Tower. If you do visit Roppongi Hills, do take a look at the fantastic view of Tokyo Tower. And if you visit during Christmastime, enjoy the annual Christmas Market and the illumination on the streets.  

First off, because it was Christmas season, the exhibition was really crowded. I heard from my friend though who also visited Mori Arts Center this summer for the 50th Anniversary Commemoration Weekly Shonen Jump Exhibition: The 2000s that it was even more crowded then, rightfully so since there were so many series being covered there, whereas this exhibition covered not even CLAMP’s artwork but specifically one series.
The CCS Exhibition kicked off on October 26, 2018, so I was visiting near the end—as it runs to January 3, 2019. Anyone in Tokyo, do go see it before it closes! I would best describe this as a Card Captor Sakura “experience” more than simply just an exhibition, accommodating both to longtime fans and newcomers. The friend I went with while familiar with a lot of CLAMP’s works never read/watched CCS but she seems to have enjoyed the experience, albeit probably nobody as much as me. I was going to say I thought there could be nobody who enjoyed the exhibition more than me, that there is no greater CCS fan than me, but then again, some fans I saw that day may have proved me wrong. I was so thrilled to see how much love CCS is still getting after over two decades. 

You first enter a general “Library” area which introduces the series and photography is allowed here. The best part was the giant Clow Book. This part was international visitor friendly with English captions as well including a section kindly explaining, “Why is Cardcaptor Being Rediscoverd Now.” Except, yours truly never left the CCS fandom, hence it’s not a “rediscovery.” I just realized my smartphone took really good quality photos, so if anyone is interested in reading the text from this part of the exhibition and wants me to share the HQ photos, you can probably make it out. There was also a peephole where you can see original artwork of Sakura and Syaoran’s date.

Next, you enter a room where you see a screening of short clip of Kero-chan explaining that Sakura has released a bunch of cards, thus introducing the theme of the museum, I believe. He was speaking in Japanese, and it’s not like I really understood but Kero-chan did get me all hyped up! 

Then, you enter the “Flower” room, which might singly be one of my favorite rooms because I believe it started out as a white room, but visitors are allowed to pick a flower sticker from a booklet and stick in anywhere on the wall. The exhibition had been going on for two months already, so you can imagine the room was completely filled. There were also paintings of pretty flowers there.
The next room is Tomoyo’s studio, or the “Siege” room, and you get to see a couple of Sakura’s battle costumes brought to life! There were six costumes designed by Mokona. They are very meticulously done, and I’m sure Tomoyo approved. 

Unfortunately, you couldn’t take photos in the main exhibition section, showcasing select colored artwork from the 1990s the latest pieces, as well as original manga artwork. I especially enjoyed seeing the original black-and-white manga artwork by CLAMP, where you can actually see the indentations from the pressure from the pen, as well as white-outed spots where Mokono-sensei corrected her artwork and even the texture and cut-out outline of screentones layered on! There were lots of people reading carefully each manga panel—awesome seeing the pages large-scale—but I couldn’t read Japanese so I only marveled at the original drafts of the artwork. 

It was also nice seeing CLAMP’s artwork evolve from the original CCS series, especially in the early volumes, to the 2000s and then to the current Clear Card artwork. The currently artwork has rounder lineart, perhaps less intricate and detailed linework than the 1990s. The Clear Card artwork is more modern and CCS doesn’t look much aged currently. I can’t really say if I prefer one style or another—I appreciate both aesthetics. I went with a manga artist friend, so she told me that the artwork has clearly evolved, but then again, I have nostalgia for the old art. You also see an evolution in the colored art work. The 1990s CCS artwork is more watercolor-like, if that makes any sense, while the Clear Card artwork feels a bit more vibrant. CLAMP seems to enjoy using gold in their latest colored artwork which is so much more awesome to see in real life than in print. The perks of going with a mangaka friend was she told me about how a certain background was comprised of one entire sheet of screentone popular with manga artists (CLAMP getting a tad bit lazy), or what sort of gold paints are used for such artwork. It was really amazing seeing some of my favorite artwork in real life, as well as some of the iconic CCS manga scenes in print. Some of the most recent Clear Card manga pages were also displayed. 

After you emerge from the main exhibition section, the “Maze” room, you enter the “Cosplay” section with the gigantic Kero-chan plushy which you might have seen a lot of pictures of. There is an opportunity to even to cosplay as Sakura. There are two options, Battle Costume mode (with the iconic Clear Card pink cape and beret), or the Tomoeda Middle School uniform top. And a Clear Card mini staff as well. I actually wanted to wear the Tomoeda Middle School uniform blazer, but then I went with the cape and beret in the end because why not go all out. The uniform blazer looks like something that would have come out of my closet anyway. 

This room is connected with the Card Room, where the 52 or however many Clow Cards are lined up on one wall and the Sakura Cards on the other. Then, the Clear Cards are also displayed at the far end of the room. Truthfully, I wish I could have spent more time pouring over each artwork, but my friend and I had a dinner reservation, and also, it was really crowded so I was a bit drained by this point. 

The next battlefield was of course the exhibition store aka the grab everything you can find even if you don’t know what it is section. I think I will do another blog post if you are interested in the merchandise I did end up getting. Actually, it might be a special surprise for me as well, since that whole experience was a haze and I haven’t really opened up my shopping bag to see what I got then. There were a lot of interesting never-seen before goodies at the store, and I wish I had more time to pour over them. 

I didn’t get to visit the Cardcaptor Sakura café, located next to the entrance of the exhibition, but did take a peek in. I took a picture of the menu. Overall, there was a lot of lining up. I noticed that there was really a diverse blend of Japanese and international visitors, as well as a wide range of ages, from children to adults. The ticket cost was 1,800 yen, or around $18, which I think was pretty reasonable consider how thoughtfully put together the exhibition was, catering to fans, making the whole experience very interactive, including a chance to cosplay. I didn’t rent out the audio guide, which I believe would have been Yue’s voice since December. It was Kero-chan’s voice previously, before the switchover. You even get an exclusive special gift drawn by CLAMP at the end—a clear Sakura Card, the “Happiness Card.” 

The whole experience was sort of a penultimate moment in my some 20 years of Card Captor Sakura fandom and likely is going to give me some much-needed morale boosting in writing the finale of the New Trial of Card Captor Sakura fanfiction. It also seems a bit like my life has come to a full circle with CCS, because the series was introduced to me during perhaps my most impressionable years, and it has resonated with me for the past two decades, helped me grow as a writer, given me some direction on the meaning of life, and most importantly become a bridge to me and all of you, the readers of New Trials, and also just fans of CCS in general. The series will always be precious to me, and this exhibition at Mori Art Center—a contemporary art museum which has featured numerous famous artists--located in one of the poshest areas of Tokyo, is a testament to how CLAMP’s Card Captor Sakura has resonated with the entire world.  

Happy New Year and much good tidings for 2019!