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Three and a half years ago a friend and I started watching our way through the original Japanese version (with subtitles) of Cardcaptor Sakura, comparing it along the way with our memories of CardCaptors, which was a heavily edited version, in English, which we’d both watched at school. We didn’t get very far and recently I picked up the series again, and I’ve now reached the end.

The Japanese version combines all the cute elementary school crushes stuff with the adventure of saving the world (or at least, the local area) which is the only thing you get in the American version. I think part of this is that American children’s TV audiences probably couldn’t have coped with the various homosexual relationships/infatuations and one of the supporting character’s infatuation with her teacher. Also, the American version cuts out a lot of references to Japanese culture; it might as well be set somewhere in the West. I don’t really know why they did this.

I found old memories returning very strongly during certain scenes. When the main character wants to use her magic she has first to convert her pendant into a full-sized wand, and whenever she does this (most episodes) I felt myself being taken back. Back then I think I almost believed that all this sort of thing really was true—that there really were people hiding out in the vicinity with various powers. Or I wanted to believe it so much that I let myself. I suppose around that time (1999–2003) we were in the middle of a wave of Japanese fantasy: Pokémon, Final Fantasy, Digimon, Tenchi Muyo, Dragonball Z and all that—so many times certain bits of music or certain ways of illustrating some magic during Cardcaptor Sakura reminded me of other things from the past.

I spent most of my time from maybe 1996–2007 putting together every fantasy world I came across into one big imaginary world with myself and a few friends at the time at the centre of it all. It got incredibly complicated by the end and people used to be quite impressed, but I felt guilty that the vast majority of the ideas were from elsewhere, and I’d just lumped them together. The theme was always fighting off various threats to all life, so rather like CardCaptors in skipping out any stuff about interpersonal relationships.

I think that I see my study of philosophy now as some kind of fantasy adventure, which actually matters, rather as I used to be absorbed in those other worlds. This is because, when you start doing it, you start restructuring your entire worldview in opposition to those around you who aren’t doing the subject: kind of like having your own magical powers. Can I think of philosophy differently and more sustainably than this? Hopefully! Though there’s still a lot of philosophers-vs.-the-world left in my thinking.

After finishing the series I felt very sad that our world is not as happy as Sakura and her friend’s seems to be. I suppose that it can be—if one chooses to adopt a certain amount of childish happiness. Hopefully I can learn to do that in upcoming years. It doesn’t have to mean not taking serious things seriously.

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