I’m reading CardCaptor Sakura, or, as I like to call it, Magical Card Adventure Girl (With Creepy). Sakura remains a loveable and determined hero, persevering against all comers with grit and charm. However, I just don’t know how she’s getting anything done with all the love pollen in the air.
As of volume three, there are no less than nine romantic relationships or love interests. I was advised that I would likely find some of these entanglements disturbing, and so it has proven:
- Sakura crushes on her brother’s best friend, Yukito.
- Sakura’s rival Li crushes on Yukito.
- Sakura’s brother crushes on Yukito.
- Sakura’s best friend, Tomoyo, crushes on Sakura.
- Sakura’s brother crushes on Sakura’s math teacher.
- Tomoyo’s mother Sonomi crushed on her cousin, Nadeshiko (Sakura’s mother).
- Sonomi crushes on Sakura (this appears to be more because Sakura is Nadeshiko’s daughter and brings that nostalgic love to mind, rather than any romantic interest in Sakura herself).
Incredibly Fucking Creepy, Oh My God:
- Nadeshiko, aged sixteen, marries Sakura’s father, who is Nadeshiko’s high school teacher.
- Sakura’s ten-year-old friend Rika is described as having ‘an older boyfriend’. This is revealed to be their homeroom teacher.
I realise that this is all a little tricky to keep in your mind at one time, so I have helpfully prepared a diagram.
I’m not at all appalled by kids crushing on their friends, older kids or adults. I’m only a little freaked out by the incestuous quality of Sonomi crushing on her cousin (and, as proxy, her cousin’s daughter) it wasn’t requited and there’s sufficient ambiguity as to its extent.
But those two red lines up there are really, really scary.
The marriage between Sakura’s parents is desperately icky on paper, but the creepiness is somewhat ameliorated by its presentation as a not unqualified success. Nadeshiko’s parents were horrified, and Sonomi still doesn’t approve, and not only because she feels her love was stolen, but because the age and power imbalance is squicky: ‘I still remember how you lived together in that tiny apartment! How you would walk to school together! The student and the teacher, holding hands!’
So, though the relationship isn’t textually condemned, and was a successful and loving marriage, it isn’t presented as entirely unproblematic. Still, I raise an sceptical eyebrow at it as a totally unnecessary plot point, and as an inappropriate topic for a book aimed at children.
And then I raise both eyebrows in stark horror and shriek at the unmitigated awfulness of the other reciprocated romance thus far, which is between a ten-year-old girl and her homeroom teacher.
Rika, who is described as ‘nice’, ‘pretty’ and ‘really mature’, has told her friends that she has an older boyfriend. After exchanging significant glances and blushes with Rika, the teacher gives her a ring, ‘as promised’, declaring, ‘I told the clerk that this is an engagement ring. Take care of it until it becomes a wedding ring.’
Perhaps I am especially disgusted because I teach at elementary schools, and a lot of my students have crushes on me they give me flowers and love notes and cling to available limbs, to the point where I have ascertained my maximum bearing weight is three first-graders, or two second-graders.
I naturally don’t return that affection in kind, and I would under no circumstances give any one of them a ring that would later become a wedding ring, because that would be incredibly fucking creepy, oh my god.
Unlike the relationship between Sakura’s parents, there is no intratextual condemnation whatsoever of this irredeemably fucked-up agreement, which is presented as a charming tale of romance, instead of latent pedophilia at work. It’s a sweet tale of wish-fulfilment that says ‘Hey, kids! If you fall in love with your teacher he just might marry you, and there’s nothing wrong with that!’
Shame on you, CLAMP! This is not a message for children (or for anyone)! It is downright irresponsible to suggest that a romantic relationship between an adult and a child is acceptable at all, much less a cute sub-plot. Shame, shame, shame on you.