Now we continue with more of Ten Things I Hate about Cardcaptor Sakura:
Number 8: Lame Magic.
Supposedly, Clow Reed, the creator of the Clow Cards, was the bestest wizard ever, and he supposedly encapsulated more-or-less all of his magic in the cards that Sakura steadily collects across the series. But there’s a problem—
The cards are hella lame.
Pulling my set of Cardcaptor Sakura off the shelf and thumbing through it, we find that the cards include such things as Flower, a card that creates and throws flowers, or the Glow, which produces glowing points of light.
Those are easily the lamest of the cards, but there are only seventeen others, so two out of nineteen are complete wastes.
Even the other cards, with more impressive powers, are kind of lame when you get down to it. Aside from the elemental cards, most of them, such as Mirror or Maze, are more like elaborate parlor tricks than useful abilities.
Although Kero-chan warns Sakura in the beginning that the cards, once escaped from the book meant to contain them, will commit “evil” and that “disaster will befall this world,” most of what the cards actually do is relatively harmless. For example, the Watery card, which can control water, grabs some kids by the ankle while they’re swimming in a pool.
That would be scary to anyone it actually happened to, but nobody gets hurt in the end, and it seems more like an irresponsible prank than an act of serious evil, and this in spite of the fact that Watery is supposed to be an attack card, one presumably capable of injuring or killing people.
At times, the needs of the story lend the impression that the cards’ abilities are over-touted. For example, the Sword card produces a sword and also supposedly turns its wielder into an expert swordsman. The Sword card possesses a little girl named Rika, one of Sakura’s classmates and a victim of child molestation (more on her later …), who then attacks Sakura. But in spite of the alleged mad fencing skillz she should have as a result of Sword’s powers, she can’t hit the broad side of a barn.
Sakura escapes Rika using her Jump card, and Syaoran comes to her rescue, as he has a magic sword of his own. Sakura is able to acquire the Sword by distracting Rika using Illusion.
The animated version improves things considerably. In the anime, there are fifty-two cards (like, you know, a deck of cards) instead of a mere nineteen, and though they include some redundancies (Float is a useless duplication of Fly), they grant abilities that are much more impressive than most of what appears in the manga, such as Time, which can manipulate time, or Loop, which can create pocket universes.
With the larger number of cards in the anime, Syaoran is able to acquire a few of them himself; in the manga, Syaoran is wholly unsuccessful as a cardcaptor, but in the animated version, he is a formidable rival to Sakura as well as a martial artist and love interest.
The anime also manages to up the stakes on occasion: for example, Watery attacks an entire aquarium instead of a mere kiddy pool.
One thing both anime and manga deserve credit for is creating magic that is mostly well-defined. The cards have a hierarchy, Sakura gets definite powers from them, and she finds ways to use them to capture subsequent cards. This is certainly an improvement over the unexplained burst of light that characterizes typical magical girl magic.
There are exceptions, though. The Fly card places wings on Sakura’s staff so she can fly with it like a witch’s broom. At one point late in the story, she finds that she needs to fly and use the staff simultaneously … so she simply asks Fly to change forms, and it places wings on her back instead of on her staff. So Sakura, too, can instantaneously alter the nature of her powers when written into a corner, just like most magical girls.