Okay, let me back up slightly and preface this by saying that I am by no means a Cardcaptor Sakura expert. I’ve seen a number of episodes, some when they first kicked around in the U.S. and now again that my son has discovered it, but I haven’t read the manga, nor have I seen every episode of the show. So, bearing that in mind…
One of the things that I started thinking hard about after the Cardcaptor Sakura exhibit a few weeks back is the difference between a villain and an antagonist. See, when I think of conflict in an adventure, I think of a bad guy. Sauron in Lord of the Rings, and each of his lesser henchdudes. Harry Potter has Voldemort, his minions, and all the Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Sailor Moon all have their respective Evil Queens… Basically, pick an adventure story at about any level of telling and there’s a villain actively taking steps to keep Our Hero down. It’s one of the things we all look for: the Thanoses and Poison Ivys what have yous to defeat to prevent the end of the world as we know it.
Except… villains turn out to be entirely unnecessary. Sakura ends up having to save the world— well, her part of it at least— every week. There’s nobody sending monsters against her, no master force behind this week’s problem. Each card she comes across is simply causing problems thanks to their nature, not because they’ve been sent to eliminate those pesky heroes. Nope. They’re just unruly magical sprites causing trouble, and Sakura needs to clean up.
They’re antagonists, not villains. They provide a challenge to work against, and butt heads on occasion, but without any grander plan or deliberate malice. Simply conflicting goals. The realization was one where I had to yell at myself for a little while. Of course, you don’t need to have a grand villain orchestrating everything, every time.
Sometimes, you just need a good puzzle or a magical force that doesn’t understand that they’re wrecking house just by playing tag. So. What’s your favorite fictional obstacle?