These girls and their relationships with magic and each other form the basis for their stories. This includes how they interact with the world around them and generally right wrongs. Of course, as the genre develops the more nuanced and complex these ideas have become.
The genre came about first by two popular stories in the 1960s, namely Sally the Witch who was based off of the American character Samantha from Bewitched, and The Secrets of Akko-Chan. Both stories were aimed towards girls and feature a young woman with special powers who help others in some way.
The genre has continued to grow since the 60s into today, though modern audiences might be more familiar with series such as Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Check out this blog about why the magical girl genre is one of the most influential genres in anime.
Cardcaptor Sakura is a fantasy story about a young girl named Sakura Kinomoto, who happens upon a book filled with magical cards called Clow Cards. This kick starts her magical quest to capture and control said magic cards.
By finding and capturing the Clow Cards, Sakura can use the power from each card to help her on her quest. We also have more background information on Cardcaptor Sakura, for those who want a deeper look into the series.
Magical girl anime may all seem the same, girls with their flashy outfits and their love of friendship and love of well…love. But that does not mean each of their stories are all the same. Aside from Puella Magi Madoka Magica which is a bit of an outlier since it is a deconstruction of the magical girl genre, most of the magical girl series are pretty similar. How, then, is Cardcaptor Sakura different?
One of the main and obvious things that sets Sakura apart from other modern magical girls is her age. While other girls are often in junior high or high school, Sakura starts her adventure in elementary school. This makes her one of the youngest protagonists in the modern magical girl genre. Though it is important to note that Sally Yumeno from Sally the Witch from the 1966 series also appears quite young when she enters our world.
By having a younger main character with magical powers Cardcaptor Sakura is able to appeal to an even younger and more impressionable audience. This also means that the things that Sakura goes through in her story are a little different from her older counterparts. Although it is possible to have romantic story lines for young kids, their scope and how they are handled is a bit different from those who are 17 and almost adults.
Another thing that sets Sakura apart from other characters in the genre is the enemy she “fights.” While other magical girls are fighting pure evil incarnated, Sakura is really just dealing with restless spirits that don’t want to be confined or controlled again…and to be honest that’s fair.
The cyclical and repetitive nature of many popular anime and manga series can either feel cohesive and necessary or frustrating and stressful. Cardcaptor Sakura does a good job of making the weekly “villain” trope feel bearable and interesting. These are not just copy and paste villains of the week but unique characters. There are also fewer fillers in each episode such as action hero screams or a transformation sequence. The use of different attacks on said villains also keeps the show feeling like it is moving at a faster pace.
Another big point that separates Sakura from some of the other magical girls is her costume. First of all, the obvious one is that her costumes are actually that, costumes that are made by hand and put on by hand. We don’t really know the mechanics behind how the Sailor Scouts get in and out of their magical outfits other than….magic and glitter?
Sure, Sakura possesses and can use magic to help her in her adventures but that is not extended to shape changing clothes or beams of light that vaporize and materialize clothing. Nope, Sakura has more in common with standard and old school superheroes who need physical costumes.
What she does have though is a very rich best friend with an eye for fashion who has made it her personal mission to make sure Sakura looks good on her missions. That’s right, her best friend Tomoyo makes and provides Sakura with all of her costumes and a large van to change in when she knows she is going on a card capturing mission. Check out our pick for Sakura’s top seven best costumes.
What is Sakura’s Impact on the Real World? Cardcaptor Sakura’s LGBT+ influence has had a profound effect on many of the not only the women and girls who are fans of the series but boys, men, and non binary fans as well. Cardcaptor Sakura has multiple same sex couples portrayed without any mentions of homophobia, along with gender nonconforming characters as well.
In addition to being progressive, the series empowers young girls to stand up for themselves, their beliefs, and the people around them. The show does a good job of telling generations of young girls that emotional strength and kindness is a super power in itself and is just as necessary as something like super strength or speed.
Are there any differences we might have missed in our list? Comment below and let us know.
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