You’ve probably heard a lot of authors say that the characters take charge of the plot and hijack the story. Some even claim that they don’t intend for their characters to fall in love but they do it on their own.
It happens to me far too often. I don’t intend yet another romantic subplot on top of all the others I have already. But the characters go and fall in love anyway, then the romance becomes a major part of the story. With the Undersea series, I always intended for romance to be a major part of the story and to have a diverse range of relationships (straight, gay, interracial, mermaids, and so forth). But two secondary characters called Rico and Shiro seemed to fall in love entirely on their own. The more I wrote them, the more I realised they would need their own subplot in the second and third novels. It’s ended up becoming one of my favourite parts of the story to write and a major part of the plot. I’ve even come up with new spin-off books for these couples.
Most likely it’s just my subconscious realising that those characters are a good fit for one another, have good chemistry, or the subplot would benefit the story. But sometimes it does feel as if the characters really have become the masters of their own narrative.
Sale for UK readers
In keeping with the Valentine’s theme, Traitor’s Revenge will be on sale for only 99p during Valentine’s weekend in the Amazon UK store. My last sale was only applicable for the US store, so I didn’t want any UK readers to miss out.
If you polled fantasy readers on the most overdone tropes in fantasy fiction, chances are that most of them will name something like ‘the rebellious princess’ or ‘the stableboy who becomes king’ or any of the other numerous royalty tropes which frequently appear in fantasy. Yet it doesn’t stop fantasy authors from churning out a constant stream of books about royals, or readers from consuming them. It has reached the point that members of a royal family have almost become the go-to cast for a fantasy novel, and sometimes it can be difficult to find a fantasy book which doesn’t feature a member of the monarchy in some form. If royals are such an overdone fantasy cliché, why are we still so obsessed with them?
…And they lived
happily ever after
It all goes back to where modern-day fantasy spawned from –
fairy tales. The standard fairy tale plot is a princess gets captured or
imprisoned, a hero shows up out of nowhere to save her, and he is rewarded with
the princess’ hand in marriage and half the kingdom.
They may be old and horribly outdated much of the time, yet they are still the stories we are told as children, whether it is through bedtime stories or Disney movies. This teaches us from a young and impressionable age that being a Princess is something special and desirable and that a Prince is ideal marriage material.
The real-life fairy
This also explains why society is so obsessed with royalty
in real life, despite several dark periods of history making royalty almost
entirely obsolete in modern times. We’re well aware that modern monarchs are
only figureheads with no real power anymore. Most of us are also aware that
they’re living comfortable lives which none of us can ever hope for. Yet that
didn’t stop tens of thousands of people from descending on London last year to
watch the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in Windsor Castle, or
thousands more from watching it live on television. They have what we’ve been
taught to desire, but instead of feeling jealous, we adore them for it.
Escape into fantasy
explains that our obsession with real life royals is a parasocial relationship,
similar to our relationships with our favourite fictional characters. We form
one-sided relationships and become invested in the drama and stories of their
lives without actually interacting with them or having them directly impact our
lives in any meaningful way.
Whether they are real life or fictional, royals provide us with a necessary means of escapism. The British people don’t care that the royal family are costing them money at a time when their financial and political future is uncertain. They ignore the fact that high expectations and constant media bombardment probably make the life of a royal more stressful than it appears in pictures. They prefer to think about the dresses and parties and the smiling faces they see in the newspaper.
Fantasy is one of the prime forms of escapist fiction, and what could be more escapist than picturing yourself as the beautiful princess living in a fairy tale castle and falling in love with the handsome prince? Even the old fairy tales provided an escapist fantasy for regular people to envision themselves rising above their stations and becoming royalty.
In reality, being a public figurehead would be incredibly
stressful, a castle would be cold and drafty to live in, and falling in love at
first sight with a prince you barely know probably wouldn’t work out in the
long term. Yet even knowing all this, it’s still much nicer to just think about
the happily ever after.
The media cycle
Media outlets know that royalty is used as a form of
escapism and that they can use this obsession to increase their sales. Being
fed a constant stream of articles, images, and news pieces about royals keeps
them in our collective consciousness and keeps people buying newspapers or
clicking on news websites. Disney keeps on making movies about princesses
because they are fully aware that they will sell more toys and more trips to
Disneyworld. Similarly, publishers keep putting out book after book featuring
royals because they know that as overdone as it is, readers will keep buying them,
and the publishing cycle will continue.
Updating a tale as
old as time
Yet a constant stream of books about royalty doesn’t
necessarily have to be a bad thing, or a sign of an unoriginal writer. Our
knowledge of royalty also comes from history and folklore. Historically, a king
was much more of an ‘everyman’ and representative of the people with a lot more
say in the management and safety of his kingdom. This makes royals ideal
protagonists for fantasy fiction based upon a historical setting, since they
will need to make decisions which affect their entire kingdom. It provides more
leverage for everybody’s favourite trope, the forbidden romance, with the royal
finding a way to marry for love rather than political reasons. If you look
closely enough at history, you’ll find that there are many more obscure royals
or little-told-stories which would make for great fantasy books.
There are a multitude of creative ways that modern readers
can use royalty to subvert the old tropes and put a fresh spin on them to
attract more readers. This is why we are seeing more stories about overweight
princesses, transgender princes, or royals from cultures which aren’t
quasi-European. The beautiful princess and the handsome prince are still good
starting points for writers, but it is up to them what to do with these old
Have you ever found yourself getting really into a work of fiction – binge watching entire seasons at a time, buying all the merchandise, or gushing about it on social media – but later on you find yourself hating the work you used to love? Sometimes it is simply a case of our tastes changing naturally over time, or sometimes it’s a change in the writing staff or management. But often it is due to the writer making a bad decision which turns even the most loyal fans away. These are some of the biggest writing mistakes which ruin a good story which you should avoid in your own writing:
Abandoning the premise
While some bad stories fail to live up to their premise, others abandon theirs altogether and alienate their existing fanbase. For example, say you have a gritty, relatable drama about regular working-class characters but then halfway through the characters suddenly win the lottery and it turns into a comedic farce about living amongst the wealthy elite. Those are two excellent premises on their own but switching from one to another in the same continuity is just a slap in the face to any fans who enjoyed the original premise.
Forced romantic conflict
I love romance plots with a burning passion, but I completely despise those which are inserted into a story for the sake of it, or which rely upon outdated or unpopular plots such as a love triangle, affair, or misunderstanding. If you do want to include a romance plot or test the couple, at least make it meaningful and fitting with the story and characters.
A delve into darkness
It is beneficial for a story to become increasingly dark as it goes on, since it gradually ups the stakes and provides deeper conflict. Yet more writers seem to be under the impression that they need to make the story as dark and disturbing as possible early on, which only makes the characters unlikeable and the story too depressing to follow or finish. Game of Thrones is probably the main cause of this trend, yet what most people don’t realise is that despite the increasingly dark tone, there still remains an element of hope that our favourite characters may still survive and fix everything. That is what keeps us enthralled with the series, not the endless stream of blood, death, and rape.
Dragging out the drama
In a failed attempt to keep fans interested, some writers drag out their conflicts almost indefinitely, or at least way past the point when they should have been concluded. This can actually have the opposite effect in turning fans away from the plot, since they have little incentive to follow it if they don’t believe it will ever be solved. Similarly, if you introduce a mystery or burning question into the narrative, don’t drag it along further than it needs to, otherwise the fans will stop caring.
Hitting the reset button
Have you ever reached a satisfying conclusion for a season of a tv show or a book in a series, only for the author to suddenly undo it all at the very end, or set up yet another long string of incredibly similar challenges for the characters to face? It fails because it makes the entire journey you have just followed feel completely pointless, and hints that the next instalment will just be a rehash of the first. If you are writing a series, build upon each new instalment with something new and the fans will stay interested for as long as you write it.
Too many plot twists
Plot twists are like rollercoasters; exiting when ridden one at a time, but if you ride several one after another then you’re just going to feel sick. If you have too many plot twists or plot twists which are too close together, the fans will barely be able to catch their breath before the next one comes along. Generally, I would say limit yourself to only one or two plot twists per book or season and give the fans plenty of breathing room each time to process them.
An unsatisfactory ending
Whether the story ends with joy or tragedy, it at least needs to be satisfactory and fitting to what the rest of the story has been building up to. No matter how good the rest of the story is, a bad ending will taint the entire thing and leave fans raging.
Which writing mistakes do you think ruin a good story? What has made you hate a story that you used to love? Tell me in the comments below!
Subplots and side characters serve an important narrative role in fiction. They fill out the world and break up the story so that the main cast aren’t overwhelmed with solving every problem. This is why authors should give just as much love and attention to them as they do the main plot and characters. But there are some books in which the subplots and the characters within them are actually better than the main plot. Sometimes you find yourself dragging through the main plot and waiting with anticipation for the subplot to start up again. These are some subplots which I liked far better than the novel’s main plot (again, this is all opinion based, so don’t get your panties in a bunch if I include something you like):
Eragon – Roran’s story
The main plot: A Gary-Stu stumbles upon an adorable baby dragon and a bunch of other abilities and makes a lot of powerful friends. They travel the world of inexplicable geography to rip of Star Wars and every other fantasy story ever to take down the evil emperor, who is only evil because the author says he is. At one point the protagonist spends an entire chapter hanging around some woods and thinking about how ants are neat.
The sub plot: A normal farm boy with no special powers or privileges goes out into a world he barely knows to avenge his fallen father, save the survivors of his village, and rescue his true love, all so that he can return to living a normal life with the ones he loves.
So awesome that they were of course cut from the movie
The Hunger Games – Basically any of the other subplots
The main plot: A girl appears on a reality tv death show, takes down the government, and still has time for the most overblown love triangle ever. All for a poorly thought out social commentary that rich people are bad (who knew?).
The sub plot: Two kindred spirits both suffering from post-traumatic stress have a forbidden romance with one of them being used by the President as a sex slave, yet still help the other deal with their mental issues. When they finally wind up happy together, one of them is unceremoniously killed off-page.
The other sub plot: At age 12, Rue is already caring for her younger siblings until she is chosen for The Hunger Games, or super happy death camp. She survives for a long time thanks to her hiding abilities until her death sparks the first riot amongst the regular population which leads to the takedown of the government.
How the entire series went in my head
His Dark Materials – Mary Malone and the mulefa
The main plot: Two super special awesome kids with overpowered plot devices go on a quest to kill God, despite having no real qualms against him, go to the world of the dead just because they can, and have a tragic ending for no real reason. The message is that religion is a lie, even though God and the afterlife literally exist in this multiverse.
The sub plot: A nun-turned-scientist discovers gateways between worlds and comes to live with a bizarre alternate reality race who help her uncover the nature of the entire universe and how to save it.
The Princess Bride – Inigo Montoya’s revenge
The main plot: In the book version at least, two overblown romance novel stereotypes with no real personalities or likeable attributes go through a bunch of overblown romance novel clichés and almost die for each other BECAUSE TRUE LOVE!!
The sub plot: A man who witnessed his father’s murder as a child dedicates his entire life to avenging him, but instead becomes a washed up drunk assisting the main idiots with their stupid problems. He finally gets his revenge in the most awesome fight scene ever and becomes a legendary pirate, showing us how far a person will really go for the sake of true love.
When I began my first novel, I spent a lot of my free time watching anime. This bled into my writing and caused me to fill my book with characters and plot elements similar to those I had seen in anime.
It was only when I looked back at my first drafts that I saw just how out of place this influence was. These tropes are perfectly acceptable in anime, even if most of them are considered clichés, but don’t belong in a novel. If you’re having the same problem that I had, these are some of the anime stereotypes to look out for and leave out of your novel:
Complex love charts
Practically every anime has a complex chart of who has a crush on who, setting the ground for how the chart will be sorted out and who is going to end up with who in the end. A novel doesn’t have the same amount of time for relationship development as a 52-episode anime, so it won’t have the space to solve such a complex love chart. Novel readers also aren’t as into love triangles as anime fans are, despite what publishers will have you believe. Keep your love charts as simple as possible and resolve them fully by the end of your book.
But the chart says…
I’m majorly jealous of the girls in anime. They all have wacky hair colours in styles that are impossible in real life. It’s tempting to give your novel characters a similar appearance in order to make them a little more different or quirky. But while we expect girls in anime to have weird hair colours and styles, it won’t make as much sense in a novel, unless you can somehow explain where a medieval-esque fantasy society are getting so much hair dye.
Oh sure, it’s easy when you wear a wig…
Casual physical abuse
The trademark of the ‘yandere’ character is to punch their love interest into the sunset for the smallest of mistakes. Not only is this considered horribly abusive behaviour, it makes the characters despicable, not lovable. In real life, this person would either be in jail or undergoing severe psychiatric treatment. If your novel characters abuse their partners, or anyone else, it should only be if you are writing them as purposefully villainous.
Typical anime love interest
A classic anime story – A completely normal, average guy, serving as the surrogate for the romantically frustrated male audience, winds up with at least half a dozen beautiful young girls, who all magically love him despite his complete lack of a personality. It’s a male fantasy that may work in anime and visual novel games, but has no place in actual novels.
Not pictured: Personality
I think it’s fairly obvious what this character is all about. It’s difficult to make an outwardly perverted character likeable, as they will come across as creepy and rapey instead. If you try to make this character into the love interest, it will be even more unbelievable, as nobody will believe that this person can magically become monogamous through the power of love. Your novel characters may experience attraction or a sexual awakening like everyone does, but try to keep their perversions to a minimum.
If you could name one thing in common with all your favourite books, it would probably be that they all have an excellent premise. Perhaps it is a new twist on an old genre, a unique location, or a fascinating character. It is the thing which made you choose the book over thousands of others on the shelves.
But like me, you might have frequently found yourself drawn into a book by its excellent premise only to find that the content of the book is severely lacking, or not what you were expecting. These are some of the books I have read which I had high hopes for but which I felt weren’t carried out well (this is all opinion based so don’t get your panties in a bunch if I slag off a book that you like):
Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher
The premise: A teenage boy travels to a remote English villa to find out what happened to his missing father, and uncovers mysterious secrets.
The execution: Mystery, time travel, steampunkish tech, faeries, and some other stuff I just didn’t get all jammed together into one book. This book had a strong opening, but then threw so much stuff at me all at once that I barely had time to take it all in or keep track of what was going on.
The King’s Sister by Anne O’Brien
The premise: A story about Elizabeth of Lancaster, sister of King Henry IV and a little-known figure of history.
The execution: Medieval soap-opera melodrama and problems which were either solved way too quickly or just seemed to solve themselves eventually anyway.
Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry Brooks
The premise: A highly different fantasy which is set not in another world or the distant past, but in the post-apocalyptic far future.
The execution: Just another bog-standard sword-and-sorcery fantasy. There are so many things that could have been done with this premise- Magic duels in the ruins of skyscrapers, contemporary stories becoming folklore, everyday modern objects viewed as sacred artefacts. If you want this same premise done much better, read the Mortal Engines series instead.
The Wolf Princess by Cathryn Constable
The premise: A teenage orphan and her friends get the chance to travel to a remote palace in Russia and uncover hidden family secrets.
The execution: Cliched characters, a protagonist who is barely active in her own story, and huge, completely noticeable plot holes.
Dragon’s Child by M.K. Hume
The premise: An origin story for King Arthur, focusing heavily on the Roman Britain setting.
The execution: Murder, rape, torture, paedophilia, slavery, and just plain uncomfortable reading.
What are some books which you thought were going to be great but severely let you down? Tell me in the comments below.
I’ve previously written about some of the classic romancewriting tropes which I can’t stand, and today I have another to add to the list: Love/hate relationships. These are fictional relationships in which a couple do nothing but fight, sometimes even physically abuse each other, yet at the insistence of the author and the rest of the cast, it is evidence that they are falling in love.
It’s clear why this type of relationship in fiction isn’t too popular anymore and why people are beginning to severely question it. Who looks at a real-life couple arguing and thinks that is what they want from a relationship? It isn’t very romantic to hook up with someone when you still hate them.
Yet readers still love reading about interesting and complex relationships and a dynamic between two incredibly strong-willed individuals working through their feelings can be a good one when done correctly. Hate turning to love is still a popular fanfiction plot as readers enjoy seeing how their favourite characters can go from one emotional extreme to the other. They just don’t want to be tricked into supporting an unrealistic couple with no reason to love one another. These are some of the top ways to write a believable love/hate relationship without dipping into abusive territory:
Write a character arc
The golden rule of writing applies to love/hate relationships too. Rather than showing a couple spend an entire work of fiction bickering then have them suddenly admit their attraction and hook up at the end, give them an actual character arc to show how they and their relationship change over the course of the story. Show how intense hatred can turn to intense love through character interaction gradually softening the relationship.
Overcome a character flaw
An integral part of the character arc is to show a character with a severe flaw which they come to realise and improve. Perhaps the reason your characters start out in a love/hate relationship is because one or both has trust issues or was raised in an abusive household. These can explain the character’s motivation and give them an interesting Hero’s Journey which the readers will want to follow.
Make it comedic
Another way you can get away with a love/hate relationship is to write it in a comedic context. This stems all the way back to Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, possibly the very first love/hate relationship story. We can laugh at Benedick and Beatrice’s quips yet still have the sense that they genuinely care for each other and feel happy when they sort things out at the end.
Don’t write physical or mental abuse
The main criticism against love/hate relationships is that authors confuse abusive behaviour with regular domestic arguments, or believe that regular fights are a normal part of relationships. Thankfully people are now waking up to how damaging this message is, but there are still too many borderline abusive relationships in fiction. Arguments may be a common part of relationships, but they should be presented in a constructive manner to allow a couple to air their grievances occasionally, not happen all the time. It should go without saying that physically abusive behaviour has no place in a romance, not even in a comedic context.
Make it purposefully self-destructive
You might, however, decide to go down the opposite route and write this type of relationship as self-destructive on purpose. This can demonstrate the realities of a co-dependant relationship and how it will rarely work out. There are many fascinating real-life examples of couples with a ‘can’t live with them, can’t live without them’ type dynamic. For example, the biopic Sid and Nancy depicts the real-life relationship between the Sex Pistols’ bassist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen and the disastrous impact it had on their lives.
What are some good and bad examples of love/hate relationships that you have seen in fiction? Tell me in the comments below.
There is a reason why most love stories end at the ‘happily ever after’ part; after we’ve seen the couple finally confess their love or defeat the obstacles which were preventing them from getting together, we like to believe that they skipped merrily into the sunset and never had any problems ever again. We don’t like to acknowledge that in reality, even the most loving relationships can still have problems, and most don’t work out at all. It doesn’t help that most couples in fiction who are supposed to be a representation of true love wouldn’t work out for very long in the real world. This leads to many writers depicting a long term couple as boring, relying upon old stereotypes, or piling unnecessary drama upon them.
As someone who has been in a long term relationship for nearly 12 years (I’m only 28, by the way), I can tell you that there are ways that you can write one and make it just as interesting and heart-warming as a couple who have only just gotten together. Here are a few top ways:
Dealing with realistic issues
Rather than using a string of soap opera melodrama to test the couple’s relationship, it is much better to show them going through realistic and relatable issues. This could be health problems, issues with their families, or the stress of raising a child. These are the real tests of a relationship which determine if it will last. Readers will respond to them much more than yet another forced temporary breakup.
For instance, in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Princess Cadence and Shining Armour are supposed to be the literal embodiment of romantic love, but they were criticized for being too perfect. In recent seasons they had a baby, Flurry Heart, and had to deal with the stress of caring for their first child, which turned opinions on the characters around and suddenly made them much more realistic and grounded.
Animated ponies are more relatable than most soap opera characters
Five love languages
Author Gary Chapman theorised in his book The Five Love Languages that there are five ways that couples show love for each other, and that we need all of them, not just one or two, to make a relationship work long term. These are gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical contact. Ensure that your fictional couples use all of these to show how their relationship remains strong.
Leave out the arguments
I for one am really sick of the so-called joke of two people arguing ‘like an old married couple’ as proof that they are a perfect couple. It is true that even the best relationships do involve arguments over petty things such as leaving the fridge door open or who was supposed to take the dog for a walk. We all get stressed at times or make mistakes so it is inevitable. But readers don’t want to be reminded of these disputes when they are indulging in escapism, so it’s best to leave them out of your fiction.
Have the relationship evolve
One of the things I love about the Japanese anime My Love Story is that the love confession scene, which would be at the end of any other anime, happens in episode three out of 24. The rest of the show is dedicated to the two figuring out their first major relationship by going on dates, setting up their friends, and getting to know each other’s families. It goes to show that you can definitely have a romance story arc that doesn’t end after ‘I love you’.
Don’t make the reader question why they’re married
For decades, mainstream television was under the apprehension that arguments and constant disagreements are a normal, and even preferable, part of relationships. But attitudes towards marriage, divorce, and family have since changed, so when modern audiences look back at these old shows, they usually say ‘but why don’t that couple just get divorced?’
Today’s consumers aren’t accepting of actions that can be interpreted as abusive and are bored to tears of nagging wives babysitting their lazy husbands. Many of them might have even grown up in these types of households and have experienced first-hand why they are so destructive in real life. So no matter what, don’t make your readers question why your couple ever got together in the first place or why they are accepting of a miserable living situation.
Write them as characters
In cartoons it is normal to have stock parent characters who are only ever referred to as ‘Mum and Dad’ even by other characters. Am I the only person who has noticed how weird that is? But you hopefully aren’t writing this type of story. You want to write your long term couple or parent characters as people, not stick figures. Give them backstories, goals, likes and dislikes, and everything else you would give your protagonists and they will become some of the most memorable and lovable characters of all.
20 years later and I’m still trying to figure out their names.
Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka, also published under the much less boring title Strawberry Fields, tells the stories of a group of seasonal agricultural workers, primarily an idealistic young Ukrainian aspiring author named Irina, who all find themselves working at the same strawberry farm in Kent. While her romantic vision of England is far from what she expected, Irina still finds a sense of camaraderie with her fellow strawberry pickers despite their different backgrounds, aspirations, and language barriers, as they attempt to make the best of their situation. Their peace is interrupted one evening when an incident involving the promiscuous farmer and his jealous wife leads the entire group on the run from the law and scattered across South East England working various menial, low paying jobs. Each of them meets a host of characters, some immigrants and some Brits, who are equally down on their luck. Some of them give in to despair that this is what their lives have become. Others hang onto hope that it is merely a bump in the road that will lead them to achieving their dreams.
I read about this book in a magazine and with the current political situation in the UK, thought it would be ideal to read. As entertaining as the book is, it is also a necessarily painful eye opener about the truth of the UK’s so-called immigration crisis and how we are able to get affordable food from our supermarkets. I grew up in Kent, where the book is primarily set, and was only vaguely aware that this type of thing was happening. This is why it particularly spoke to me when one of the foreign workers walks into the quaint English village next to an inhumane chicken farm, where an employee had his thumb cut off only a few hours before, and wonders if the village residents are aware of what is happening right on their doorsteps. If the events in this book are even remotely close to the truth (the back of the book does cite some research), they are outright depressing, especially since the fate of some characters is left ambiguous and it is easy to assume the worst.
The book is able to generate this sympathy thanks to its cast of characters with well-rounded positive and negative traits. It doesn’t always make them completely likeable, but it does at least make them realistic. Even Irina and Andriy’s awkward romance, which is almost a parody of the epic romance tropes both of them are hoping for, is surprisingly endearing because it is presented in the way most young romances play out. The bonds they form to get through their difficult times and their never ending hope for a better future are endearing and even prompted me to re-evaluate my own life a little. But at the same time they are disheartening when you realise that there are people in these exact situations in real life who probably never escape the cycle.
And yet these revelations are broken up with moments of dark humour which reach almost Monty Python levels of ridiculousness. My favourite is when Tomasz, a Polish worker with limited English, is talking to his fellow chicken farmer about Big Brother, and both of them repeatedly confuse the Big Brother house with the chicken house they are standing in.
The only negative point I can give this book is the jarring switches between character viewpoints, and even between first and third person, including sudden and pointless jumps into the point of view of a dog.
The social commentary might be a little too heavy for the recreational reader but anyone interested in good political satire will enjoy this as an entertaining, darkly humorous, and informative read.
It’s a good time to get nostalgic about anime and manga at the moment. Right after Fruits Basket got a sequel series, my other favourite manga series Cardcaptor Sakura is also getting a sequel, to coincide with the manga’s 20th anniversary, and the first chapter has just come out in Japan.
Cardcaptor Sakura is one of Clamp’s most popular series and along with Sailor Moon, it was one of the defining series of the magical girl genre until Madoka came along and turned it super angsty.
I’ve been re-watching the anime lately and it not only still holds up (the only thing that has become outdated is the bulky cell phones), its portrayal of LGBT+ characters was amazingly progressive for a late 90’s show, something that western animation is still struggling to get to grips with. The general rule of Cardcaptor Sakura, and with Clamp manga in general, is that love has no boundaries such as gender, age, or whether a person is technically human. While this does provide a few questionable student/teacher romances, it’s rare to see a series where sexuality and gender identity are treated in such a way. Touya and Yukito were probably the first yaoi couple I knowingly shipped like crazy (I shipped other guys as ‘friends’ thanks to section 28) and it took me this long to realise that Yukito is technically non-binary. If you throw in his alternate form Yue, does that technically make it a polyamorous relationship?
Always date a person whose hair is longer than their body.
The plot of the original series was about a precariously cute little girl named Sakura who discovers a book of magical cards called Clow Cards in her father’s library and accidentally sets them all loose. She has to become the Cardcaptor and use her growing magical powers to get them back and stop them causing mischief throughout the town, all while trying to get the cute boy she has a crush on to notice her.
The Clear Card arc picks up almost exactly where the manga left off; on Sakura’s first day of middle school when she and her long distance boyfriend Syaoran are finally reunited and can finally be together forever. But on the same night, Sakura gets another of her prophetic dreams about a mysterious figure in strange clothes, indicating that a new supernatural thereat is on its way.
Even if Sakura has only aged up a few years in the story’s timeline, there is still a strong feeling of ‘my daughter is all grown up’ for the reader. It’s refreshing to see all of the characters again in their original forms, and not with all the Tsubasa alternate dimension self weirdness (sorry Clamp fangirls, but I really didn’t like Tsubasa). Tomoyo, Sakura’s loyal best friend, is hilarious as ever when she films Sakura and Syaoran’s touching reunion and for some reason I find it funny that Kero, a magical creature who has lived for hundreds of years, has an e-mail address.
Perhaps it is because the characters are getting older but something still feels slightly off with this first chapter. Sakura and Syaoran aren’t quite as lovey dovey as you’d expect of a couple who have been separated for years. They even re-exchange their homemade teddy bears, which in the original manga were a symbol of their love for each other. I really worry that is some kind of horribly foreshadowing. There is also a notable absence of Yukito, despite being a major character and presumably an official couple with Touya by now. Perhaps there just wasn’t enough time in the first chapter to introduce him along with everyone else.
Even so, all of these new questions are intriguing. The series has been able to develop itself while still keeping with the spirit of the original. I’m looking forward to the next installments of the story arc and seeing what is going to happen to Sakura and her friends from here.