Age, Innocence, and an unnecessary comparison between Card Captor Sakura and Kyou no Go no Ni

by eternal on August 6, 2009

Age and Innocence (2)

Innocence in fiction is a funny thing, depending on how you look at it, because everyone’s definition is different. Some might say, I don’t know,  that something like this is innocent; others might only see innocence in a thing like that. A lot of that has to do with perspective, but in my viewing of Card Captor Sakura – believe it or not, it’s only my first time through – I realized that there’s one very important variable that can be attached to a person’s definition of the word. I’m talking about age, and how it ties into a viewer’s experience, triggering emotions like nostalgia or admiration, even if the work never requested it.

The first and most obvious point a person can make about CCS is that it’s a definitive story in the magical girl genre, combining the excitement and mystery of magic with the ordinary problems of everyday life – but things like that have already been written on, in more than a few posts that I can’t seem to dig up. The thing is, this isn’t really a post on Card Captor Sakura. It’s not really a post on innocence either. It’s a post on a lot of things that came to mind while watching a show that’s more or less aimed at 10 year olds.

Let’s start with a simple fact: CCS does innocent right. It’s the innocent kind of innocence, true innocence, untarnished by ulterior motives. I can only imagine that this is how old-school mecha fans feel when they watch something from the 80s, totally devoid of the male or female pandering that allegedly plagues anime today. Despite being a moe fan, I find myself enjoying Sakura’s genuine innocence and childishness: it’s almost like an unintentional reminder that this is what real children are like, and that they don’t make cute catchphrases and call you onii-chan for your personal pleasure. Admittedly, a real 10 year old would probably be an awful lot more annoying than Sakura and co., but you get my point. The CCS cast are among the only genuine anime characters under the age of 14 that I’ve seen in a long, long time.

If you ask how the show manages to capture that childish innocence, the answer should come to you within a few episodes. Part of the reason is that, I assume, it was originally aimed at a younger audience; don’t quote me on this, but it doesn’t seem like the kind of story that was meant for adults. It seems like the ideal age (though not the only age) to enjoy the show would be around the same age as Sakura herself: that way, the mystery and excitement of the world around her feels real, or at least it would in comparison. Without a doubt, the secret to the carefree adventurous atmosphere of the show is in the perspective – in telling the story from Sakura’s eyes, we see what the world looks like to a 4th grader. We see her brother, tall and wide-shouldered (part of that is due to CLAMP’s art, but I digress); we see her roller-blades as she skates to school every morning; we see her first crush, a quiet glasses-wearing young man who looks like the picture of maturity. All of these things appear different in Sakura’s eyes – high school students who look like adults, forest cabins that feel like they’re in another country – and they all feel new, waiting to be probed by a child’s curiosity. Her world is vibrant and exciting, and why shouldn’t it be? She’s not just a kid, she’s a magical girl!

Age and Innocence (1)Somehow, Card Captor Sakura Christmas pictures carry a completely different warmth than similar images from Love Hina or Kanon, but maybe that’s just me.

This is where the thought of the viewer’s age first crossed my mind. Undoubtedly, the show is saturated in Sakura’s naive and childish world view, but I think the feelings of nostalgia and the desire to see things from her perspective are a lot stronger when the viewer is older. It would be fun to travel with her in her elementary school life while we picture our lives being like that, all the while ignoring our multiplication tables homework, but witnessing her journey from an older person’s perspective is an entirely new experience. Since I’m still in high school, I can only hypothesize as to whether or not adults feel that kind of warm nostalgia when watching shows like Hidamari Sketch, but as I mentally searched through my anime list, a single, controversial name was highlighted.

Kyou no Go no Ni.

Age and InnocenceInnocent in the ways that count.

5-2, as I’ll refer to it from now on, is not exactly the picture of innocence. It’s an otaku-targetted fanservice show; not too explicit, I don’t think, but certainly not pure either. It goes without saying that very, very few elementary school students in the real world share the experiences of the cast. It’s not unlike the countless idealistic anime set in high school, only a few years younger (and for what it’s worth, I’m excluding middle school because you can never really tell the difference between middle school and high school unless you look at the uniforms). Basically, Today in 5-2 is a typical comedy with a bit of fanservice, the only significant difference being the age of the characters.

And that’s exactly the difference that matters.

I remember feeling that same warmth while watching 5-2 that I’ve been feeling recently with CCS, the only difference being that I didn’t have a blog to post my thoughts on back then. While it’s true that 5-2 isn’t all that original in terms of story, the setting in itself is enough to give it that extra excitement. Playing idly with a ball at recess, meeting up by chance at a drinking fountain, horseplay-ing at lunch and getting food spilled on your clothes…none of those things are interesting by themselves, but they’re completely unheard of in the world of anime, and that’s what made the show unique. Sadly, it’s too late now to know what I would have thought of the OVA had I watched it back in elementary school, but I know that most of my enjoyment of it today was based on nostalgia. It’s not innocent in the same way that CCS is, but it’s got it’s own charm in the way the characters act and the things they say.

–  –  –  –  –

At the end of the day, it can all be boiled down to the fact that your experiences in the real world will affect your viewing of fiction. When you’re younger than the characters, you might look up to them, or you might not understand them; when you’re the same age, you’ll relate to them, and you might envy them; and when you’re older, you might think they’re immature, but more likely than not, you’ll look back at them fondly. I guess that’s what the first half of Card Captor Sakura has taught me: that there was a subtle, innocent beauty in the years we spend playing tag and agonizing over our first crush. It just doesn’t feel that way until afterward.


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

kadian1364 August 6, 2009 at 9:33 pm

You linked to the same picture twice in the first paragraph. Not sure if that was intentional or not. Nor do I see much “innnocence” in it, aside from Pero-pero.

But I understand the nostalgia angle you were talking about. Peculiarly, both Azumanga Daioh and Kare Kano make me reminisce fondly about high school, though what they make me reminisce about exactly are entire different things.

And 5-2 made me want to take a long, cold shower.


kadian1364 August 6, 2009 at 10:27 pm

Actually, the CCS manga also made me want to take a long, cold shower, so the comparison might actually be more appropriate than as it first appears.


A Day Without Me August 6, 2009 at 10:05 pm

I must admit that I don’t believe I’ve ever had a case where an anime made me feel nostalgic for my childhood; granted, this could have more to do with the fact that I haven’t watched much with child leads in a while that portrayed its leads convincingly as children (the last I can think of is either Bokurano or Shadow Star Narutaru, neither of which would cause anyone to wish for a return to childhood or a childhood feeling, since both are fairly reiminiscent of Lord of the Flies). I also don’t think I’ve become removed enough from high school yet to feel nostalgic for that. Instead, I find that re-watching anime I’ve previously viewed at a much younger age makes me feel nostalgic for the age I was when I first watched it – particularly, nostalgia for that sense of wonder when I first really started being an anime fan and watching a lot of shows as opposed to just being into Sailor Moon and Pokemon.

This post makes me want to re-watch CCS; it was the first anime I ever collected, and the only one that I ever bought whenever the newest volume was out. I’d save up my allowance all month just so I could buy them.


gaguri August 6, 2009 at 11:18 pm

CCS is absolutely pure innocence, loved it (well, the innocent part, not the repetitious part). 5-2 is not innocent at all but is kinda guilty pleasure of mine. I think I would have loved 5-2 if I watched it at the age of, say, 10~12 years old. Back then, most of us were into girls of our age in more innocent way (i.e. more interested in kissing/going out/holding hands than sex), and not really into talking about older girls. But the anime has pretty good direction, and makes you remember that more immature and perverted period of your life, so instead of feeling disgusted by perving at little girls, I guess it’s more like looking at yourself from a long time ago (like a mirror) who is perving at little girls, and delighting in that nostalgia like you’ve mentioned.


IKnight August 8, 2009 at 3:37 am

I can’t think offhand of an eighties mecha show that’s completely devoid of pandering, but maybe that was your point. (Funnily enough, innocence is a running theme in VOTOMS, but that’s partly because the hero lost his by growing up in the equivalent of the SS. And his love interest is a tabula rasa. But I digress.)

I like the idea that, if I read this post aright, you can find CCS, with its child’s perspective, much more convincing in its evocation of a more innocent time than Kyou no Go no Ni, even though it’s CCS that features magic. Which perhaps goes to show how hollow most arguments about realism are. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that CCS‘s characters are purged of all the spite and cruelty that children their age are capable of, to extend your own point that real ten-year-olds would be more annoying. In this world, isn’t that kind of innocence only found in fiction? Or, as you suggest, in hindsight, afterward. Though I’d argue that if anything that makes innocence more, not less, important.

Which reminds me that Now and Then, Here and There is probably the anime which did the most to convince me that childhood is actually important, by portraying a world in which it doesn’t really exist.

(Also, what makes a comparison necessary or unnecessary?)


Chris K. August 8, 2009 at 8:48 pm

I agree with you that CCS does portray a more innocent version of childhood than anime such as 5-2 does, but my favorite version of an innocent childhood has to be how Hayao Miyazaki portrays Mei’s childhood in My Neighbor Totoro, a world filled with wonder. Even his portray of Mei’s older sister Satsuki is nicely done, we watch Satsuki begin to get her first stirrings of attraction to a boy her own age but in a nice way, blushes and so forth. I hate how a lot of girls in anime are now portrayed, they’re either a moe blog or a lolita predator in training.


phossil August 10, 2009 at 11:47 am

I loved Sakura’s Hoeeee~~ expression. :)


Y10NRDY August 17, 2009 at 4:08 pm

this is an excellent comparison of two shows i really enjoyed. i am an otaku in my early 30s and YES, there is a big difference between CCS and almost all other shows that share it’s themes per se. CCS gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling most commonly associated with moe characters without the pervy, horny edge to it. don’t get me wrong… i love my fan service! but ultimately itz the shows that favor substance and mood over gratuitous panty shots and ecchi-pandering scenarios that will stick with us over time and invite repeat viewings… and buddha preserve ’em!!!


ETERNAL August 19, 2009 at 2:34 pm

@ kaidan1364: Thanks for the warning, that was a mistake on my part. When I wrote the post, my goal was to link to something childish and innocent in one picture and something more otaku-targeted in the other. The idea sounded better on paper, though, and I only just remembered that shows like Chii’s Sweet Home exist. Anyway, I’m sure you get my point.

@ A Day Without Me: It’s interesting when you rewatch shows you watched as a child and realize how differently you can view them now. It’s also funny, as what happened to me with Honey and Clover to some extent, when you view something the exact same way you did5 years ago.

@ gaguri: Yep, that’s pretty much how I feel about 5-2. It’s highlighted even more because so few anime take place at that age: aside from Noein and maybe some Ghibli movies, I can’t think of a single show with schoolkids not wearing uniforms.

@ IKnight: Good comment. I see you still have a knack for making my points better than I can :P
(For what it’s worth, I could imagine someone, somewhere, cringing at the thought of comparing CCS to 5-2, but I guess that doesn’t make it unnecessary)

@ Chris K: I’ve noticed that Ghibli does a good job with anything to do with childhood and innocence and growing up. Their stories never appealed to me subjectively, but they all seem to have a warm aftertaste and a vague message that you leave with, which is nice. I haven’t seen Totoro but I know off-hand that Whisper of the Heart was a pleasant coming-of-age story.

@ phossil: Incidentally, so do I. :P

@ Y10NRDY: It’s true, I don’t mind ecchi and I like the unrealistically fluffy moe stuff, but it’s such a breath of fresh air when you watch something devoid of pandering. I wouldn’t want all anime to be like this, but it wouldn’t want all shows to be like Key or K-ON either.


Aydz August 25, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Hey, Eternal. This age thing got me to remember my first reading of Great Teacher Onizuka. Granted I’ve now read it twice or thrice adn am currently going through the anime, but I still get that feeeling of how different if would be if I had read that during middle/high school.

I guess, although I’m not sure if others feel the same, that it is that sort of thing that makes me regret not getting into Japanese pop culture just that few years earlier.

N.B: Do read GTO. The anime doesn’t do the themes or story any justice and basically just turns it into a serious/funny middle school story with a different perspective.


Roy Mustang May 2, 2010 at 11:12 pm

“it’s almost like an unintentional reminder that this is what real children are like, and that they don’t make cute catchphrases”


Did we even watch the same anime?


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