The Clow Cards (クロウカード, Kurou Kādo) are the nineteen (in the manga) or fifty-three (in the anime) magical, mystical cards used in the manga and anime series Cardcaptor Sakura. In the latter half of Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, they're used by Syaoran Li as a safety measure against Sakura's increasingly powerful magical abilities getting more chaotic as she creates more transparent magical cards subconsciously and randomly.
The Cards were created by the half-English, half-Chinese top sorcerer Clow Reed. They are the result of the combination of Eastern and Western magic and formed the basis for a new kind of magic unlike any other seen so far. To contain the incredible power of the cards, Clow had the cards sealed in the Clow Book after his death, only to be released when the "chosen one" appears.
The cards represent a combination of Eastern and Western magic centered on the concepts of natural forces and elements. The original Clow Cards fall under a specific sign, the sun or moon, and correspond to the guardians Cerberus and Yue.
The cards can only be controlled under your command if you become its owner. In order to do that, you must sign your name at the bottom of the card, otherwise they will run loose again. The card goes to whoever binds its power: the one who defeated it.
In the manga series, there are nineteen cards specifically named, while the anime series has fifty-three (fifty-two in the regular series and one in the second movie). The nineteen cards in the manga are The Light, The Dark, The Windy, The Earthy, The Firey, The Wood, The Watery, The Flower, The Fly, The Jump, The Erase, The Mirror, The Maze, The Illusion, The Sword, The Shield, The Shadow, The Thunder, and The Glow. These cards also gain slightly different appearances in the manga when transformed into Sakura Cards (Star Cards in the English dub). Changes mainly include the addition of a star; however, The Sword and The Shield cards gain completely different appearances.
Each Clow Card has its own personality, ranging from good-nature to violent and its own powers that are mostly centered around an elemental force or performing a specific task. When in use or acting on their own, the cards assume alternative forms that vary from card to card. All cards appear to be able to float. Example: the Sword was floating immediately before it was captured.
Most of the cards may be seen represented in four ways: most of the time a beautiful woman or pretty girl dressed or holding an object according to its power (Arrow, Windy, Bubbles), an animal related to the power (Jump, Change, Dash), an object (Sword, Shield, Float). For some reason, the Clow Card design of Time in the anime is a male, but when Clamp designed all the Clow Cards, they were originally all female. They may have taken the hair under her chin for a beard.
Within the deck, there is a hierarchy. Clow Reed and later Sakura Kinomoto as Master/Mistress of the Clow have command of all cards and both guardians. Below them are the Guardians of the Clow, the physical incarnations of the powers used to create the cards. Cerberus representing the sun and the Western magic Clow inherited from his English father and Yue, the spirit of the moon and the Eastern magic from his Chinese mother. Beneath the guardians are the Four Elements (The Earthy, The Firey, The Windy and The Watery, two under each guardian) and the Two Attributes (Light and Dark one for each guardian). The remaining forty-six cards are divided up between those six. Each attribute has seven cards under them, while each element has eight under it.
The only cards outside the jurisdiction of either Yue or Keroberos are the Nameless Card and the Hope (created by Sakura well after the creation of the Guardians so she couldn't appoint one of them as protector of it) and the Nothing, a negative card made simply to balance the Yang that the Clow Cards make whenever they are used.
Based after Tarot cards of the Major Arcana, the Clow Cards are tall, roughly 12 inches long. The cards share the same back image, and frame in the front. The back consists of an orange frame with 4 stars in the corners and the Clow circle in a crimson background (distorted in an oblong to fit the thin frame). The side is decorated golden ring with a sun in the center and a moon in the upper left with a pattern making a star with twelve points.
The front consists of the same orange frame with two stars in the center portions with a flowing, thin golden frame around the central picture representing the card. Above, the half of a golden sun with the Chinese/Japanese symbol of the card, and below, a ribbon with the card's de facto name, below a waning moon. In the center of the card, in front of a purple background, the card's representative figure. A Clow card can be represented by either an object or a person, usually a female character dressed representing its properties (sometimes, the character's anatomy do so, such as wings, ears, etc.). the art of the cards follow a pattern, the purple background, the characters always in beige with a small portion of them in a different color each (a necklace, earrings, other forms of decoration). The cards represented by objects follow the same pattern. Some unique cards can be labelled as "sisters", cards that share opposite elements, and therefore, are represented by remarkably similar characters, like twins, such as Dark and the Light, The Time and The Return, The Little and the Big.
List of Cards
- * These Clow Cards were never seen being captured, but at the beginning of Episode 36, Kero states that Sakura caught them during spring vacation.
- N In the anime, Windy is the only Clow Card that Sakura does not have to formally capture as it is in her hand when the other cards scatter.
- M This card was captured in the first movie which is set sometime between Episodes 35 & 36.
- In descending order:
- N In the anime Windy is the only Clow Card that Sakura does not have to formally capture, as it is in her hand at the time the other Cards are scattered. Likewise the Nameless Card and the Hope were never captured: the former being created by Sakura.
- M Only appeared in the first movie, set sometime between episodes 35 & 36.
- * These cards capture was not shown, although they were briefly seen already captured at the beginning episode 36.
- In descending order:
- Cardcaptor Sakura, Series 1-3, Bandai Visual
- Cardcaptor Sakura, Volumes 1-6, Nakayoshi
- Cardcaptor Sakura: Master of the Clow, Volumes 7-12, Nakayoshi
- Cardcaptor Sakura Art-book (I-III)
- Cardcaptor Sakura - Official Website (NHK)
- Card Captor Sakura Clow Card Fortune Book, Kodansha (2000), ISBN 4063342980