Twelve Days 10: Cardcaptor Sakura

Sorry I’m late! I drove home yesterday to see my mom. I’m here now! So this post is actually getting written the day it’s going up. Hurray! I guess. Today let’s talk about Cardcaptor Sakura.

Just in time, right? The coming anime season features some Cardcaptor in it. I definitely watched this in high school, when it was just Cardcaptors and the localization changed a lot of stuff. Then I got into the fanfiction for it. Then I watched some of the OG stuff in undergrad and picked up some of the manga. So I have a kind of patchwork understanding of the whole thing.

Anyway. Just last month my wife and I started from the beginning. She is a big fan of the show. That’s not weird, it’s just true.

We’ll do a tarot reading for Sakura herself, and we’ll use the Santa Muerte tarot. I’m choosing this deck for two reasons. First, this show is about death kind of a lot, particularly for a kid’s show. That good old CLAMP folderol. Second, I just got it for Yule yesterday.

What? It’s a reason!


Past/Present/Future (I thought if I did anything else it would get too complicated, since, well, the whole show’s about cards, dang it):

Pardon these photos, but I couldn’t find any scans online:


Yeah, I have a tie-dyed casting cloth. You wanna fight about it?

It’s all swords! What the heck? I have already shuffled this deck over a dozen times, so they’re not just grouped up because they came that way.

So in Sakura’s past we got the King of Swords. That suggests one thing to me immediately: Clow. He’s a powerful masculine figure with a strong intellect. This card depicts the king of swords with a machete and surrounded by yellow flowers. He’s also wearing a military award of some kind. This reminds us that Clow himself wasn’t just a benign magician with a book full of cards: he was dangerous. Sakura is stumbling into the middle of a story that’s already begun, and there’s a dangerous wizard at the root of everything.

This deck is slightly shifted away from traditional meanings, even when sometimes the art is pretty familiar. So the artist’s book reminds us that the king of swords can be too severe (see above), and that, in the “advice from the dead” section, we should try to remember we don’t have to win every fight and we can do things from an emotional place as well. I think this still doesn’t apply to Sakura directly, but to the situation she’s about to find herself in. Force and intelligence were the orders of the day in the beginning of this story, and Sakura will be the emotional center that settles things.

In the present position we got the six of swords. As in the Waite-Smith deck, it shows a ferryman punting a boat loaded with swords. This figure reminds us of Charon, though, the ferryman over the river Styx. I’m not sure that’s a bulletproof idea in the card itself, since it’s based on the Santa Muerte tradition, but there’s almost no helping it — look at a skeleton punting a boat, see Charon. The deck’s book says that we should continue to move forward but to retain all the baggage we have, good and bad. It’s all enriched us in some way.

Sakura, in the first few episodes, is a force of forward momentum. She just keeps moving. Often, scenes skip right over any “in-between.” She’s supposed to go to bed. She says she’s going. Then she’s across town, in a costume, trying to figure out what’s wrong at the school. She rollerblades to school. This card shows us what Sakura is capable of: she can carry a lot of weight as she moves. We find, slowly in the show, that her family life is a little off. It turns out there are many reasons for that — perhaps the least odd reason is that her mother’s dead. But Sakura just keeps moving.

The future position gave us the five of swords. I feel like there’s a lot of variety in the way this card is depicted, even in decks consciously modeled on the Waite-Smith. Here, let me grab some examples:

It’s usually fairly negative. Rachel Pollack claimed the five of swords was one of the most disturbing in the deck. I don’t see that, myself, but there you go. The common link between them all is the sense of the action having happened already. The Alchemical (far left) may be an exception, as maybe this is before the action. But the blacksmith has already learned his trade and made most of the swords already.

But the Santa Muerte tarot shows us the action as it’s happening.


Right? Action! The book points out that the action is probably internal, and the best thing to do right now is to go with the flow instead of fighting a battle you can’t win. That’s clear in the card. The couple clearly aren’t prepared to fight at all, and they’re facing overwhelming force. They’re in the process of lifting their hands, showing that they’re surrendering. And what does that have to do with Sakura? Well, if you haven’t watched this story yet, and maybe you’re looking forward to the coming season, maybe skip the following paragraph:

spoiler start


Sakura loses to her rival, Li, at one point. It’s very serious, too. I believe he ends up with about half of the Clow deck. They kind of cut a deal that whoever successfully handles the card spirit gets the card, so they go back and forth. But there’s one important encounter Sakura loses. And Li is insufferable (I hated this fucker when I watched the show. My wife says he’s not that bad.). But, in a move that won’t surprise you, the show’s narrative actually uses the loss to teach Sakura something more than Li ever learns. So she ends up being the better magician, even as Li continues to be a better fighter.


spoiler end

So that would be that.

I’d say that worked out pretty well. Who else is looking forward to the new Cardcaptor show?

Santa Muerte Tarot is by Fabio Listrani. Check it out here


One thought on “Twelve Days 10: Cardcaptor Sakura

  1. Pingback: 12 Days of Anime 2017 Omnibus – Better Living through Symbolism

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