A single, remarkably clever plot device at once 'explains' the reunion and rearrangment of characters from (virtually?) every previous CLAMP manga/anime series and justifies the plot being divided into segments like the levels of a video game--one part Buddhist reincarnation, one part the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, but with a little overlay of the Western idea of a person as the unity of body and soul and the magical idea that the name is integraly part of the thing named: the same person lives many different lives in different worlds. It explained as people in different worlds having the same soul, but the people with the same soul always look alike from world to world, and have the same name.
This being CLAMP, it goes without saying that the animation is beautiful, although the job was subtended to Bee Train studios, rather Madhouse. The voice acting is excellent, and the whole series is supported by a gorgeous suite of incidental music which succeeds in melding elements of romantic-style orchestral music and lieder, jazz, J-pop, and rock into a seamless whole. The only reason the series' music did not rate a 5.0 is that the opening and closing themes are not up to the same standard as the incidental music.
Sakura-hime and Syaoran-kun (and, yes, that's pronounced the same way as Shaoran) have been friends from childhood, despite their different social ranks, she the princess, the sister of the new King Toya, and he the orphaned commoner, an archaeologist, following in his foster-father's footsteps.
Yes, the core characters are the characters form Cardcaptor Sakura living different lives in a different world, a bit older, and with very different life-circumstances. The idyllic young-love between Sakura and Syaoran is suddenly interrupted by events triggered by malevolent forces. Sakura visits a mysterious ruin that dominates the view from her city, which Syaoran is investigating. A pattern on the floor, or some magic in the chamber causes her to fall into a trance, and her soul spreads itself as feathered wings. At that moment a robot army attacks the city and complex of ruins.
Syaoran tries to save Sakura who is floating entranced, oblivious of the danger, but they fall and her wings shatter. King Toya holds off the robots, while the High Priest Yukito, explains to Syaoran that he must collect Sakura's soul, which has dispursed throughout the worlds, and sends him and the soulless shell of Sakura to Yuuko the Dimensional Witch (plainly the same as in xxxHolic, rather than an other-world, same soul person) in Tokyo of our world. There they are joined by other travellers who also wish to travel between worlds--Faye D. Flowright (also Englished as Flourite), a sorceror fleeing his own world, and Kurogane, a samurai exiled by Tomoyo-hime the Japan of a world enough like ours to have (or have had) a feudal-era Japan, to which he wishes to return. The party has their wishes to travel the worlds granted, in exchange for "equal compenation". Each "world" visited functions rather like a "level" in an RPG-style video-game: in most there is a "boss" who has to be defeated to acquire one or more of Sakura's feathers, restoring bits of her memory. Different worlds have different theories of magic, or no magic at all, different technological levels and cultures, some are like "puzzle levels", no "boss", but something that has to be figured out. One of the more intriguing turns out to be, in fact, a video game. Throughout the travellers' quest is dogged by the operatives of a malevolent member of the Reed clan--Fei Wang Reed. Along the way there are cameos or longer appearances from same-soul-different-world versions of vitrually all of the major character from Cardcaptor Sakura, Chii (yes, according to CLAMP, constructed persons have souls) and Hibiya Chitose from Chobits, the Magic Knights from Magic Knight Rayearth, and Seishiro from Tokyo Babylon, and probably a few others I don't recognize. The plot is left unsatisfyingly unresolved, evidently because of a distpute between CLAMP and Bee Train or the network which showed the series, that resulted in the third season being canceled. Even so, it almost rates a must-see recommendation (and does for those of you who liked both CCS and xxxHolic). Not really much by way of parental warnings: lots of stylized magical, marital-arts and sword fighting.
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