Cardcaptor Sakura

ccs1_coverI am a fairly normal human being. I am college educated, I am a male, I am 23. I like girls. I dress in t-shirts and jeans. I drink coffee and eat hamburgers. I follow the typical hobbies of people born in my income bracket. I’m an avid reader. Though some oddities could be attributed to my mien, and I ought to trim my beard more often than I do, weighed against the multitude of my generation I am not too strange – not in a perverse sense, anyhow. So one can legitimately ask the following question: why am I spending a Wednesday evening writing a review of a Japanese TV show for little girls?

Cardcaptor Sakura is very much aimed at young girls. The protagonist Sakura is a young girl. She has a crush on an older boy, she has trouble with her older brother. Cherry blossoms and flowers abound. By demographic logic, rather than purchasing and viewing Cardcaptor Sakura I should be pretending I enjoy Takashi Miike movies or forcing laughs at the Clerks cartoon.

But I enjoy Cardcaptor Sakura, and I’m not ashamed to admit it1. I’m not sure I would be entirely comfortable allowing a daughter to watch it, had I the offspring in question, but for myself, I find it satisfactory entertainment.

Cardcaptor Sakura2 is a wildly popular show from the wildly popular Clamp group of manga artists. That the show is well liked isn’t too mysterious – the afore mentioned protagonist is likeable, the production is first rate, and though the show’s structure lends itself to repetition, the character interaction is lively enough to maintain interest. The basic plot of each episode involves Sakura recovering lost cards from a magic deck (called The Clow) with the help of the Clow guardian, Kerberos3. Tagging along is Sakura’s best friend, Tomoyo, who videotapes all of her adventures.

What this simple synopsis conceals (and the main reason I would be leery of exposing kids to this stuff, though that may just be my latent puritanism showing) is how very perverse Cardcaptor Sakura is. Sakura is a very normal character who exhibits normal reactions. The world she inhabits, however, in cracked. The boy she has a crush on (and who apparently reciprocates) is as gay as Liberace’s wardrobe. Slender, delicate, woman’s voice. Spends all his time with her brother. Her best friend Tomoyo believes there is nothing in the world prettier than Sakura, and spends all her waking moments videotaping her and making her wear strange rubber costumes. In later episodes a male Cardcaptor rival arrives who seems to develop a red-faced crush on Sakura’s brother. Sakura is as confused by all the (ahem) alternative love interests a-happening as we are, but that doesn’t lessen the sense of “off-ness” that pervades the show, wrapped though it is in a highly mainstream package. The whole show is like Harry Potter for costume fetishists.

That description might scare off those who may like the show, or entice those who may despise it. Cardcaptor Sakura is good natured and sweet. It is so cute that even cute-o-philes may have instant tooth decay and die, their mouth full of stinking rotten teeth, black as my crippling heart. That it is also distressingly perverse and odd is icing, of a sort. I like the show because it approaches its semi-psychotic sickness with enthusiasm and a lot of heart. My mother told me of a time when she ran into the daughter of a family friend in a doctor’s office, and the girl cheerfully announced “The doctor says I’m bi-polar!”4 That’s Card Captor Sakura.

1 At least on the semi-anonymous Web. If one of my friends asked me about the DVD I would laugh in a halting manner and try and get them into a conversation about the failings of the one reel-one shot system
used in Rope.

2 For a while, Cardcaptor Sakura was shown on TV in a bowlderized version called Cardcaptors. It is no longer on the Kids WB – the only reason I can determine for its demise was that it didn’t suck as badly as Yu-Gi-Oh, and thus it threw off the stations quality curve.

3 This is a horrible Japanese rendition of Cerberus, which makes no sense. Kerberos does not have three heads, and looks like more a bear or lion than a dog. Indeed, he looks a little like his homonym, a Care bear.

4 This really happened. This or something quite similar, clouded by memory. It was a long time ago.
Rating: B+

About Kent Conrad

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