Admittedly, it’s been quite a while since I’ve watched through the original Cardcaptor Sakura series. Revisiting it recently, though, both through the recent Clear Card series and celebrating the holiday season with the original series’ Christmas episode, I can confidently say that the series has not lost an ounce of its charm with the passage of time. The amazingly consistent quality of the anime’s production aside, however, is how easy the series is to watch, thanks primarily to good vibes.
Each episode, I simply enjoy living a day of Sakura’s life. Interacting with her amazingly loving father, and surprisingly thoughtful brother. Attending school with her consistently entertaining friends (particularly Tomoyo). Gathering cards in battles that almost always end in a JoJo-style riddle solution. It takes the tropes that work in so many other stories, especially anime, but expertly weaves them into a story that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. Honestly, when I have children, this is probably the first anime I will mandatorily subject them to.
Cardcaptor’s Christmas episode (Season 2, Episode 15) is no exception. It’s perhaps a rather standard affair, all things considered, with each character fulfilling his or her established tropes (perhaps with the exception, to some degree, of her brother). Frankly, little changes, and there is little story progression. In hindsight, reading that last statement may cause you to ask why I, one of Beneath the Tangles’ historically harshest of reviewers, an easy pass. That’s easy.
On one hand there are numerous anime such as the current Goblin Slayer, which gets by solely on its gratuitous violence and attempts at plot twists, which keep viewers like me hooked long enough to watch on a weekly basis in a “guilty pleasure” sort of way. On the other, there is this sense of good vibes that simply keeps the viewer engaged because they are a part of the world. But in Sakura’s case. not only are we a part of a fictional world with her, we are a part of her “good vibes” world.
These good vibes are what make this such an effective Christmas episode, in a medium that rarely celebrates Christmas in any meaningful way. There are no shocking twists (though there is one rather minor, meaningful twist… one I won’t spoil here), but we get to see and appreciate characters for the things most important to them—each other. While we don’t see an emphasis on the “Christmas spirit” beyond the tradition of gift-giving, each major character displays clear emotional care for his or her loved ones, sometimes in surprising ways.
As a Christian, and a Christian who has seen hundreds upon hundreds of anime, now with years of experience living in Japanese society, communicating primarily in the native language, it’s easy for me to appreciate this for what it is, perhaps particularly because I’m watching the series solely in Japanese. I might feel teased by the mention of a church, or one character’s piano practice for a 聖歌 (seika; literally “holy song,” though probably most often thought of in the Christian world as a hymn, or “special music” in this case), and the fact that the concept of a Christian Christmas is not explored more deeply than the notion of being thankful. I could even feel a bit betrayed that the Christian Christmas is being portrayed as something almost animistic. But instead, I’m thankful that Sakura’s Christmas is one where people decide to focus on the love they have for those close to them.
The good vibes of the series in general are really something to be celebrated here. In a culture where Christianity is a small subset of the community, considered somewhat rigid in protecting uncommon rituals, I’m happy to have the good vibes of something like a Sakura Christmas. A Sakura Christmas is the perfect opportunity to experience what I believe God wants out of all of us, at the most basic level, despite the writing dancing deftly around the idea of God. Regardless of any lack of explicit explanation or theological details, the birth of Jesus in the Christian tradition continues to symbolize one important thing: God’s love for us. Let’s be sure to share those good vibes with everyone, especially those who may not recognize what delights Christians so much at this time of year.
Day 2: Episode 12 (season one) of I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying is on tap for tomorrow!