We continue now with Ten Things I Hate about Cardcaptor Sakura.
Today’s entry in our ongoing series is a relatively short one, but it necessarily contains spoilers. Spoilers begin after the break.
Number 6: There Aren’t any Villains.
I understand that not every story needs to have some hand-rubbing, cackling villain on a mission to incompetently conquer the world with the aid of an army of faceless mooks. But Cardcaptor Sakura could have used one.
The story is divided into two arcs, both of them containing a number of complications and plot twists on which I won’t bother giving all the details. The first arc is about Sakura acquiring the lost Clow Cards, and the second arc, which Tokyopop published in English under the subtitle “Master of the Clow,” is about Sakura making the cards her own.
Throughout both arcs, there are mysterious characters who appear to be opposed to Sakura. In the first arc, we encounter the serial child molestor Kaho Mizuki (more on her later), a shrine maiden who possesses an artifact called the “Moon Bell,” which can affect Clow Cards. She appears possibly to be a villain, but ultimately turns out to be an ally.
At the end of the first arc, Sakura has to face the “judge,” Yue, an angel-like being with the power of the moon who will take the cards away if Sakura can’t prove herself worthy of them. It seems Sakura will have to fight him, but, though the manga and the anime have different versions of exactly what happens, the gist of it is that Sakura completely screws up, mostly because Kero-chan never bothered to train her properly. Nonetheless, a deus ex machina steps in, saves her bacon, and averts a crisis. She gets to keep the cards in spite of having failed.
The second arc introduces some new characters who appear to be villains, but it turns out in the end that they, too, were actually on Sakura’s side all along. Everything she goes through was mapped out ahead of time by Clow Reed, who could see the future and therefore arranged to ensure that Sakura would become the cards’ new master as smoothly as possible. So Clow was sort of like a parent who wanted to ensure that his children, the cards, would have a good home once he was gone. That’s great, I guess, but it kind of makes for a dull story.
… And I just realized that would also make him the only adult in Cardcaptor Sakura who treats children responsibly.
It’s typical in magical girl stories for magical girls to destroy their enemies by making them into friends. But in Cardcaptor Sakura, the big twist, in both arcs, is that the supposed enemies were really friends all along. The result of this is that, although Cardcaptor Sakura is a coming-of-age-story, Sakura never has to prove herself, never has to fight, never faces a real risk of loss, and never has to do anything except walk the path that someone else marked for her.
In other words, the twists, while elaborate and surprising, are letdowns. It consistently turns out that the stakes were lower and the problems smaller than they initially appeared. Even the ominous “disaster that could befall this world,” which we’re warned of at the story’s beginning, turns out not to be a particularly big deal when its nature is revealed: I’ll refrain from describing it until a later post, but it turns out to be something that wouldn’t affect anyone but the story’s characters.