Why I Hate ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’ (and you can, five!)

The Ten Days of Hate: Day Four!

We now continue with the Days of Hate begun on Monday. I sent my old and decrepit computer in for maintenance, and it’s no longer overheating on me, so I think they managed to get my issues fixed … but now all my image files have been renamed for some reason, so I can’t find my screenshots …

Well, anyway, we’re back with more of Ten Things I Hate about Cardcaptor Sakura.

Number 7: Freakin’ Tomoyo.

Seriously. Freakin’ Tomoyo.

I had an argument with myself over where to place Tomoyo on this list. Tomoyo is a psychotic little freak who belongs in a nut house, but after some consideration, I concluded that some of the things I want to talk about might not make sense if I don’t discuss her ahead of time. Besides that, I realized I don’t really hate Tomoyo herself; I just hate what Clamp did to her.

Freak.

Tomoyo is not further down the list because she falls just short of being the kind of character whom fans want to strangle to death. She’s not Happosai, who single-handedly makes Ranma 1/2 unwatchable. She’s not Ensign Wesley Crusher. She’s not even Sailor Chibi Moon.

She’s her own special kind of annoying.

Freak.

Back during the Studio Pierrot era, it was typical for a magical girl to have a male counterpart, usually a much older guy on whom she had an unrequited crush. I suspect it was Sailor Moon that killed this trope: Sailor Moon also has an older boyfriend, but because she’s an action heroine surrounded by other action heroines, her boyfriend ends up becoming a useless extra appendage.

It’s hard to make a man not look like a tool when his girlfriend is a superpowered action heroine (just ask Steve Trevor), and thus male supporting characters have gradually disappeared from magical girl team franchises, whereas in stories about individual magical girls, they have been largely replaced by what I call the “obsessive best friend,” a female hanger-on whose main purpose is to broadcast the heroine’s virtues.

Although, having said that, it is worth adding that Cardcaptor Sakura manages to do both: Sakura has her obsessive best friend Tomoyo, but also her supporting male Syaoran, who avoids looking like an idjit by being a magic-powered Kung fu master who is Sakura’s rival as well as her reluctant ally when need dictates.

Freak.

Tomoyo may be considered the archetype of the obsessive best friend—but whereas most obsessive best friends simply seem to have nothing to do when the heroine isn’t around, Tomoyo is literally obsessive, and that’s what makes her creepy.

Actual dialogue. What a freak!

Tomoyo is Sakura’s classmate as well as her faithful sidekick. She’s the only non-magical character aware of Sakura’s magical girl activities. One of Cardcaptor Sakura’s gimmicks is that Sakura has no magical girl transformation: although she has a transformation sequence of sorts when she “releases” her magic staff, this sequence doesn’t alter her clothing. Instead, Tomoyo designs and makes various costumes that Sakura wears when capturing cards, so our heroine is able to don a different ensemble on every adventure.

“Mew Ichigo can kiss my butt!”

I previously discussed the implausible characterization of children in this franchise. Here, we are expected to believe that a ten-year-old girl is personally sewing elaborate, expert-level dresses—and doing it at lightning speed, too, since after Sakura plans an outing, Tomoyo can have an appropriate costume ready for her by the next night.

This conceit is passable if we accept it as a simply a thin excuse to put the heroine through a wide array of magical girl costumes and treat adventuring as a dress-up game, but Clamp isn’t willing to stop there. In addition to dressing up Sakura in an array of frilly outfits, Tomoyo insists on packing a camcorder wherever she goes and filming Sakura’s every move.

Hm.

You sick, sick freak.

Tomoyo’s mother is ridiculously wealthy and apparently spoils her daughter. Tomoyo lives in a huge, lavish house in which she has her own private theater. When she isn’t following Sakura around with her camcorder, she’s sitting in her theater alone, in the dark … watching her recordings of Sakura.

Ooookaaaay …

Get some help, you freak.

Anime Amino mentions an additional detail: Tomoyo once borrowed an eraser from Sakura and now keeps it in a box as a treasured keepsake. Yeah … I forgot about that.

Over on Crunchyroll, someone once left a comment on one of the episodes that I think is quite apt: “Note to Tomoyo: stalking isn’t love.”

The one on the right is a freak!

There was recently an announcement that Clamp has created a brand new sequel to Cardcaptor Sakura, the “Clear Card Arc,” which will also see an anime adaptation involving much of the staff who made the original. I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m afraid to see it because I’m worried that this is going to be the chapter in which Tomoyo finally ties Sakura up in a basement.

You. Are. A. FREAAAAAK!!!

The anime version excises some of Clamp’s creepiness, so it leaves Tomoyo’s exact feelings for Sakura heavily implied rather than stated outright. The manga, however, knows nothing of subtlety, and Clamp drops the bombshell in the most obnoxious way possible.

It goes like this: for several chapters, we see Tomoyo blushing profusely whenever Sakura’s older brother Toya is in the vicinity. Naturally, this leads the reader to think that Tomoyo has a crush on him. Thus, her habits of dressing Sakura in weird outfits and filming her every move appear to be mere eccentricities rather than stalkerish and voyeuristic.

Then, after several chapters, comes the implausible reveal: Tomoyo actually has the hots for Sakura, but blushes at Sakura’s brother because his ears have the same shape as hers.

Clamp won’t let you miss these details even if you’d like to.

It’s kind of like, “You thought this girl had a crush on a boy?! Well, she’s actually GAAAAAAAAYYYY! Ha, bitches!” It reads like a deliberate middle finger to the audience.

According to legend, this “twist” happened on account of a miscommunication between members of Clamp: the writer intended one thing, but an artist misunderstood and drew something else, and then they had to retcon. So, do these women, like, not talk to one another, or what?

Anyway, whenever I’m watching or reading Cardcaptor Sakura, I’m always distracted by trying to figure out which of the adult characters has been molesting Tomoyo, because that’s the only explanation I can come up with as to how a ten-year-old girl gets this messed up.

The most likely candidate is her mom, who’s as weird as she is.

She looks the type.

Tomoyo’s mom had the same weird obsession for Sakura’s mom that Tomoyo has for Sakura. They say abuse tends to be generational. Sakura’s mom is dead, too, presumably because Tomoyo’s mom killed her in a fit of “if I can’t have you no one will.”

Tomoyo’s mom plots Sakura’s mom’s demise (artist’s conception).

Oh, and by the way, it turns out that they’re all related, so we’ve got the incest thing going, too.

What perhaps most bugs me about this is that nobody notices Tomoyo’s obviously unhealthy monomaniacal obsession with her best friend. People sometimes react cartoonishly to Tomoyo’s off-the-wall behavior by making faces or falling on the floor, but nobody, not once, suggests psychological evaluation or an SSRI, or maybe even just a little time apart.

Seriously, if I were Sakura’s older brother Toya or her familiar Kero-chan, I’d be checking Sakura’s bedroom for hidden cameras every night.

Camera alert!

And this girl is supposed to be ten. Did I mention she’s ten?

The Clamp ladies apparently thought they were being cute. Tomoyo’s incestuous, monomaniacal, homosexual, paedophiliac, voyeuristic obsession with Sakura is portrayed with the same heavy coating of syrup as everything else in the comic. If they had been content simply to make these characters best buds, everything would have been fine, but that wasn’t enough: they insisted on “going there” even though the story didn’t demand it. The result is that Tomoyo’s habit of dressing Sakura up like a doll and then filming her takes on a kinky aspect it didn’t have to have.

“Now pout for me.”

So here is all the proof we need of that well-established truism: Just because you can ship doesn’t mean you should.

To be continued …

Sakura makes her escape!