Day 6 of ’12 Days of Anime’ – [See other posts in this series]
One of the first anime I ever watched was a magical girl show by the name of ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’. I had been wandering around the now extinct supermarket Safeway, and to kill time while my family checked out the fresh meat counter, I stuck my hand down a bargain DVD & VHS basket. I pulled out a few things all at once, and one of them turned out to be the anime we’re talking about today.
At this point in my life I hadn’t watched many cartoons, let alone anything intrinsically Japanese. I had caught glimpses of shows like Pokemon & Yu-Gi-Oh!, but given the cultural osmosis of those franchises, I hadn’t previously thought of them as being the product of another country. This meant that after forcing that volume of Cardcaptor Sakura through the tills and having raced back home to watch it, I was just then getting my first awakening to the potential of anime as an independent medium.
I’d love to give you the rest of the story, but the unfortunate truth is that memories fade over time, and what I’m slightly ashamed to admit is that I don’t remember most of what I saw. I can’t even remember if I owned the first volume of the series or the second, because the only thing I do recall was an episode set in an art gallery, featuring a spirit that was sealed inside a painting. It has been well over 10 years now since I last watched the show to completion, so I can’t blame my memory too much, but it’s still sad that something I recognize as having had a profound impact on me, failed to withstand the test of time.
When I started rewatching the show earlier this year, I happened to glance at the preview for episode 7, which caused me to quickly realize that this was that one episode I had never fully forgotten. I knew the mere act of viewing it would be a momentous occasion, almost like opening a long buried time capsule, so I rightfully had to record it down permanently on this blog.
Having just now watched the episode mere minutes before writing this, I can say it was a joy to relieve such fond childhood memories. I’ve had a couple of hits of nostalgia this year, but frankly nothing has quite compared to this. It has reminded me why I fell in love with the show, how well it appeals to a kids demographic, and the almost timeless nature of its storytelling.
For those who don’t know anything about the show, it follows a young girl named Sakura, who comes across a book of magic cards. The powerful spirits sealed inside these cards escape, and Sakura takes on the mantle of Cardcaptor, tasked with resealing their power and bringing it under her control. With that in tow, she can then use those powers to help her capture even more cards, making her stronger and stronger as the story goes on.
As a concept, this would appeal to someone like me even today. While monster of the week storytelling has never been rare in anime, with the versatility of Sakura’s particular shade of it, it’s no surprise that people such as me get hooked. Although there isn’t anything exceptional about the episode I rewatched compared to the rest of the series, it can still be used as a nice illustration for how this works.
As you might guess “The Silent” is a ‘clow card’ with the ability to silence any and all noise around it. This silencing effect comes hand in hand with a teleportation spell which prevents anyone from getting close. Since Sakura needs to be able to speak a special incantation before swinging her wand at the spirit, you can see how this might be a sticky situation to be in. This is where the set-up for the show comes into full effect. Despite struggling time and time again, she just can’t get herself close enough to seal the card in. So what solution does she comes to? Use her previously captured ‘shadow card’ to extend her body up to the painting while remaining out of earshot of the silent spirit. By doing as such she successfully captures the card and unlocks its unique power for herself.
But another point of interest, is the pretense each character operates under. To put it simply, it plays on the thoughts and feelings that children typically express. For example in this episode, the spirit is inside an art gallery, so one of the things the characters fear the most is being loud in a private place. Being a magical girl show, you might expect Sakura to fear the cards themselves, yet here she is predominately scared of upsetting authority figures like her teacher. It doesn’t get more #relatable than that.
Now you might be thinking that there wasn’t all too much to the story, and I’d agree with that assessment. But for a kids show, you can see what makes it far more developed than the “kick the bad guys to win” plots of old. The conclusions that Cardcaptor Sakura episodes come to is always this split between answers in the world building, and answers from the characters own ingenuity. That is to say, you get a creative setting, and inspiring characters.
Now I can’t exactly go back in time to interview the person I was back then. I can’t sit them down and have them clarify every last reason they had to shout “I love this show!“. That is all to say that when I attempt to explain the elements of this anime that make it sparkle, I can’t know for sure if past me would agree with it. But I think that is probably a good thing. A large part of what makes me so happy after having seen this episode again, is because of how it helped shaped the person, or specifically the anime fan, that I am today. So yeah, I’ll likely never see it the same way I did back then, but the fact that I can’t is a symptom of how much it changed me for the better.
So thank you Cardcaptor Sakura. Neither of us knew it at the time, but you became the time capsule I left for myself. After all these years; it’s been a wonder getting to see you again.
Thanks for reading!