The Summer of Love IV continues! We are rapidly approaching the end of the series, but before we examine the last batch of episodes, I think it is important to examine one other character. Last time we discussed the series lead Sakura Kinomoto and her innocence, but also elements of true humanity. Now we will discuss the other main character, her rival, her friend and the person who becomes the love of her life. After the cut let’s take a dive into Syaoran Li.
When examining Cardcaptor Sakura I’ve discovered that despite the good plotting and great story, there isn’t that much to really bite into. While there are episodes and moments of character depth and development, they are spread out between several episodes of the ‘monster of the week’ format that can feel samey at times. For someone like Syaoran Li, a key supporting character, he does suffer a bit from that, not having the character development one would expect, but enough that he does stand out at times.
When first introduced Syaoran’s character he is the mysterious rival, a living descendent of Clow Reed and the person expected to become the new master. At first he views Sakura as nuisance, someone who got thrown into his world and a pest that will eventually get removed. Sakura meanwhile sees Syaoran as a potential friend but one she can compete with and push herself to her limits in sports and athletics. Yet as time goes on Syaoran is eventually won over by Sakura’s kindness and becomes an ally. He sees her upbeat attitude, endless optimism and ability to be friends with anyone and is changed by it, dropping his hostile attitude and helping her. Even after he is easily cast aside by Yue in the Last Judgment, he remains focused on helping Sakura and those feelings eventually bloom into real genuine affection which then drives his character for the remainder of the story where he has to battle his pride and youthful nerves to tell Sakura how he feels.
And while I swore that I would not discuss the 4kids Cardcaptor dub in this event, I have to make an exception for this. There is very little that can be applauded from that travesty, but making Syaoran a bit more bitter and upset over his failure to become master does add a bit more depth to his character. It feels natural for him to be him like that, upset that his birthright was usurped by a complete stranger and that such things were planned from the start. While he does learn to accept it, Syaoran also begins to doubt that he has little reason to remain in this world. Yue’s reassurance that he ‘has a place’ by Sakura’s side that no one can replace helps re-assure the fact that it is his destiny to be her loyal protector. I just wish that shit was in the actual Japanese version.
Regardless, it is a good storyline for the character and one that helps transform Syaoran Li into the would-be successor to the person he needs to become: a knight protecting his charge. Like with any good story, the main character needs not only a sidekick, but someone support them. A Frodo needs their Sam and Syaoran in many ways fills this for Sakura. While Tomoyo’s affection/obsession is a key point, she doesn’t have magical powers and can’t really understand what they are going through. Syaoran is the only one who can relate to Sakura’s journey and provide a shoulder to lean on. This is something shown a lot in the sequel series “Clear Card’ where Syaoran has to protect her from the powers rapidly growing out of her control. He may not be the star of the show, or the heroes we might have expected, but he becomes the hero that Sakura needs and the person whose love for her is wholly different than her family or Tomoyo. Plus it’s all cute as hell.
At least that is what I think.