October 24, 2008

Manga Primer Part II: CLAMP

On the manga primer, Oliver suggested CLAMP titles:

For new readers, they must get educated as to what a CLAMP book is like (since there are many CLAMP series and it's better to found out earlier that you're a fan than later). I suggest "Chobits" is a good starting point. From there, decide if you like apocalyptic manga, or light and cute manga because CLAMP's got a lot of both. For apocalyptic manga, choose X/1999 (before it goes out of print), and for light and cute, choose Wish and Cardcaptor Sakura.

I agree completely that being educated on CLAMP is important. CLAMP, a group of four manga-ka, is popular and have been in the biz for 20 or so years. Now, there is a reason I didn't suggest any CLAMP titles in the first post: CLAMP is evil and quite possibly insane. Expect homoeroticism, eye gouging, and horrible things happening to good people. On the other hand, one of my first titles was by CLAMP. It was, of course, Cardcaptor Sakura, made available by Tokyopop through their now defunct Chix Comics imprint.

Book Cover

The series is twelve volumes long; the second six volumes are titled Cardcaptor Sakura: Master of the Clow in the English release. (I've been sticking to things I know are available in English.) Adorable Kinimoto Sakura must capture the Clow cards, a plot anyone with the slightest familiarity with anime can recognize. Of course, in most of those stories the main character and her love interest don't have a rivalry over the affections of another guy. Oh, CLAMP. Of course, while this story has the tangled webs of love and gets progressively darker, it's still basically a fluff series that has nothing on CLAMP's darkest moments. In addition, there's no eye-gouging.

For those interested in the anime, find a subtitled version. The English dub chopped it up, changed the episode order, and generally sucked.

Chobits is a shonen series, heavy on the philosophy and slight on the SF (despite featuring an android) . . . and also heavy on the adult humor. But hey, I read it in middle school.

Book Cover

Filled with adorable loli-style art and adorable moments of unbearable cuteness between the pervy stuff, I love CHOBITS. It's a well-plotted series that sets up and establishes a relationship in seven volumes even with all kinds of crazy conspiracies going on. The fanservice does decline toward the end, as the characters try to discover whether a human and a persecom can truly love each other. It's classic CLAMP and yet half as crazy as their usual fare. (No eye gouging, for one.) I adore the anime, despite the filler episode about shopping for underwear, if only because it has a fabulous opening theme.

For the final one Oliver suggested that I've read, is one of my favorites: X/1999.

Book Cover

Okay, the art is a little dated and people tend to look like triangles (broad shoulders, tiny waist). The sound effects in English are ridiculous. Until you reach far enough in the series to learn the characters' motives almost all of them seem like unsympathetic jerks. That is, except for poor, doomed Kotori, who just wanted to become an indigo dye expert. Anyway, what happens when you throw together Buddhist, Shinto, and various other mythologies with stylistic use of Christian symbolism to depict the battle over the fate of the world? Pure, crazy awesome. There's a schoolgirl in love with a middle-aged man that's possibly the sweetest romance in the entire thing. And yes, there is eye gouging. Romantically significant eye gouging, at that.

The series went on hiatus (at eighteen volumes, at a CLIFFHANGER, basically) after 9/11, as the violence and wanton destruction of major landmarks kept increasing and CLAMP refused to censor themselves. However, two endings are available in the anime (simply known as X - X/1999 is an English-only title) and the OVA (ie, movie). The movie just makes everything 30x more incomprehensible. The TV series is pretty good and even manages to make the characters more sympathetic. Episode 9, which introduces Subaru, is a work of art. It's even more beautiful if you understand the Buddhist symbolism, but it's incredible without it.

Of course, to get the lowdown of the relationship between the characters of Subaru and Seishirou, you have to read Tokyo Babylon.

Book Cover

This is the story of a Bet. It's also the story of a 25-year-old veternarian romancing a 16-year-old boy while the boy's twin eggs it on. It begins fairly episodic, with Subaru going about various onmiyoji jobs. (An onmiyoji is something like a medium/exorcist . . . in short, he's got awesome supernatural powers.) Now this one starts rather adorably but slowly crumbles that veneer until the tragic ending. It's seven volumes of superb storytelling. This one contains eye gouging.

The OVA is only two episodes long and skippable.

Another series that gives some background for X/1999 is Clamp School Detectives, which I have not read. (I'm fairly sure there is not eye gouging.) It was adapted into an anime that fans generally hate.

To continue the steam of interconnected series, I'll next talk about CLAMP's two current projects.

First is xxxHolic.

Book Cover

CLAMP's artwork started out lovely, but I think this series features the most beautiful art. Watanuki can see ghosts and can only not see them in the company of Domeki, the rival for his crush's affections. Pretty soon he's indebted to the Time Witch . . . and things just keep getting worse for him. This one also starts off episodic with "be careful what you wish for" type parables. Then the overarching plot begins to become evident, although it might make no sense if you don't read TSUBASA as well. If you do read TSUBASA, the plot makes sense if you make an effort not to think about it. Eye gouging that's practically Disney by CLAMP's standards.

The anime is a decent adaptation, but due to copyright issues avoids referencing TSUBASA. This might make trouble as it continues and the plotlines become increasingly interwoven.

This brings be to Tsubasa: RESERvoir CHRoNiCLE, the epitome of begin fluffy and become completely dark.

Book Cover

Knowledge of Cardcaptor Sakura will aid in reading this one, as will knowledge of xxxHolic. Alternate-universe versions of characters from all of their other series will make appearances, but they're more like bonuses if you recognize the series. Sakura loses her memory and falls into a coma and her childhood friend Syaoran wants to save her. The price? Her memories of their relationship. Soon Syaoran is on a roadtrip through universes with warrior Kurogane, magician Fai, and Mokona. Then the Acid Tokyo arc happens. CLAMP has never had this much fun with eye gouging before. And as those of you who read the scantilations before the official translations, it just gets weirder and weirder. I'm pretty sure they've violated their own canon. Also, the art is purposefully a little rough and generally excellent, though action scenes can be a little hard to follow.

The anime started speculating too much during the filler, so CLAMP back their rights (or whatever) and a new adaptation will be out soon.

One of their titles that might be good for a beginning reader is Magic Knight Rayearth.

Book Cover

This one combines schoolgirls falling into another universe, Magical Girls, and mecha. The first series plays fairly straight with the typical trappings of those genres, but the second series explores the consequences of their actions. Generally a very good series that is much more straightforward than most of what CLAMP does. It's been awhile since I've read it, but I don't remember eye gouging. The TV series (two seasons) changes some elements from the manga, leading to plot holes. The three episode OVA barely resembles the source.

There are only two more CLAMP series which I've read. The first is the three volume Legal Drug, which is currently on hiatus.

Book Cover

Rikuo discovers Kazahaya passed out in the snow and takes him to the shop where he lives and works. Soon the two are running odd errands together. It's an interesting series with fabulous art, but I don't recommending getting into it since it currently stops just as the plot is picking up speed. However, anyone who can explain to me what the marijuana leaf motif has to do with anything gets a cookie. No eye gouging. Yet.

The 10-volume RG Veda draws heavily on Buddhist and Hindu myth.

Book Cover

It's pretty, but it is an early work and CLAMP didn't quite have the chops to pull the complicated story off. It's still good reading and features a number of sympathetic, complex characters. I don't recommend it for manga beginners. At this point CLAMP had yet to develop a penchant for eye gouging. There's an OVA that doesn't fit into the storyline.

Other CLAMP works currently available in English include Angelic Layer, Legend of Chun Hyang, Miyuki-Chan in Wonderland, Suki: A Like Story, and Wish. Clover is out-of-print, but it's rumored Tokyopop will print a new edition soon. Let's keep our fingers crossed, because what I've read of it was minimalist and beautiful.


  1. In all honesty, CLAMP is not exactly my favourite and there are times where I didn't like it. But there are also once in awhile cute ones that I liked. The only one I seem to enjoy most out of all the series they published (though I only read a few) is xxxHolic.

    I have all of Chobits of disc and I remembered it to be a disappointment in the end. I watched it a couple of years back but I ended up not liking it so much like I did in the beginning. I indeed love Chi's and Freya's artwork because of the lovely clothes they wear in the illustrations!

  2. I never read X/1999. I always wanted to but the library had like volume 9 or something but I like to read my mangas from beginning to end.

    An old friend of mine cosplayed as Chi three years back. =) (Just realized that I watched Chobits way before that. About four years ago) I remember that is was slow, the ending. That it was a bit sad and none to exciting. Ah my mind is fuzzy. I would go back to watch it but I have a bunch of other anime on disc and in the computer that I haven't been able to get to yet.

    I know! CLAMP does frustrate you! That's why I don't like it as much.

    Oh my gosh, I love Kaori Yuki!! I was happy I managed to collect all of Godchild. I need to buy Fairy Cube #2 but I'm feeling cheap at the moment. Plus, I have to try to finish all the books that have been piling up. Sigh, no manga review from me for awhile.

    Why don't you review some mangas on the blog? =) Even though I'm sure the majority of your watchers doesn't read manga but I wouldn't mind discovering some new manga. =D

    Gosh, this got to be the longest comment I posted on a blog... owo; Mangas do get me going! Because of it, I stopped reading regular novels for four years and just got back into it last year.

  3. I posted every single book I've read since I made my blog. Lol, I feel bad if I don't! So now it is a habit. I only review the first volume because I hate spoilers too. If there is something I want to mention in the second volume, I do it in the same post.

    Wanted by Hino Matsuri? I've read it but that one disappointed me. I still stick to MeruPuri. Even though it is weird that Aram is a child, I don't mind as much. I find it an amazing story and haven't landed on another manga that reached the potential. (Though there are many close ones!)

    Lol, I never worried about that part so much but I think it did cross my mind.

    I read all of Count Cain online a couple of years before Godchild came out. Then I went and bought it. Love it. <3 I never read Angel Sanctuary except the first volume but I read that one by so quickly I don't remember much except angels, incest, and forbidden love!

    I was introduced to mangas in gr. 6 so by then, I read regular novels in a rare while. I started to get back into it last year because I could boost up my grades in science and english if I read 1000 pages worth of books for each subject.

  4. In the summer, I run to Chapters literally every day and grab a new manga to read. I only read one novel in the bookstore once and that was Zombie Blonde which is incredibly good (except the end).

    It was cute yes, but the plot itself I did not like. It would've been nicer if the mangaka made it a bigger series instead of a one shot. I want to read the new one that is coming out, Captive Heart.

    Vampire Knight is a huge disappointment towards MeruPuri. The art got really sloppy and I didn't like it, considering that it was published afterwards. It was plain per se.

    Lol! I will once I have time. (Which is like next summer...) I just got myself a new manhwa, finally! I will review it soon once I manage to pass my schoolwork and some several half read books... But Angel Sanctuary is so long... Though knowing Kaori, she'll keep you going till the end. I just don't like how her art in AS is a bit dated. Especially Count Cain! But nonetheless, I loved it.

    How big is your manga collection?

  5. They bring cookies?? Lucky! I don't know a single Canadian store that does that! I'm so cheap on my spendings. I only buy one manga a month and haven't bought a regular novels for ages! They only time I splurge with my money is when I go to an anime convention but even so I don't spend as much as a regular attendee.

    It was exciting, the plot. I read Wanted online so the side bars are never translated. I only read the sidebars when I own the book so otherwise when I read in the store I don't.

    I don't subscribe nor read Shojo Beat. I liked Crimson Hero in the beginning! It got me going until like volume 7? Then I got bored of it. Too much of "We have to work together" or "Doesn't matter if you lose as long as you love it" concepts. I hate those whole bonding and teamwork ideals in mangas. It totally diverted the romance part away from it and I lose interest.

    I hope it's good! It's okay in the beginning so far... Crossing my fingers that I don't regret buying it.

    Long series frustrate me. Aka Inuyasha or POKEMON. Oh dear lord why haven't Ash aged after so many years?? And Team Rocket still stupidly chase after them!

  6. Lol, I really liked the cover so I was like, "Why not? Haven't bought a manga for quite sometime..."

    Aww, there are big bookstores in Canada with cafes with Starbucks and such but of course you have to buy. Oh America gets all the cool perks!

    I am more of a comedy and romance person when it comes to manga. But I love action packed stuff too as long as it makes sense! Some of the manga I read are full of fighting but no explanation on what is going on!

    I enjoy Naruto too though I haven't watched it for like three years now because I'm too lazy to find where I have left off. And yes, that's true. I had committing to long series too because you'll never know when it'll end! That's why I usually research those long ones before committing. There is this one series that I was collecting but Tokyopop stated that it'll stop at 7th volume. Instead, it went beyong by the time I got near the 7th! It was frustrating!

  7. That's true, I wouldn't sympathize a person like her in real life but from her perspective of the story, you do pity her. (When what she is doing is clearly wrong)

    Aww, lucky! Free food are the best asides free books!

    Yes, I love all genres too! Except sports, not so much. It depends on what the storyline is. Oooh, Monster is good. I only read the first volume but find it pretty thrilling. Sadly none of my libraries have the second volume nor does the book store.

    Ooh, I hate that! I hate it when I have to go back and try to search where I have left off. But since all of mine is on a CD, it labels from which episodes I'm last on because it's the last one on the disc.


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