Manga Focus: CLAMP

Hey all! A quick note – this post will contain NO SPOILERS! It’s an introduction to a bunch of this group’s works, enjoy 🙂

For me, before there were comics, there was manga. I devoured the stuff. Anything and everything – books, videos, t.v. shows, silk screens, posters, collectable cards and of course the anime cons. I read all of anything I could get my hands on, which meant me and a group of friends trading around our copies of any manga we could get a hold of — and on an army base, that wasn’t much, and not all of it was good. 

Then I discovered The Magic Knights Rayearth by CLAMP and I began to develop a taste for a specific kind of manga – beautifully unique art style (I mean, most manga has this, but CLAMP, for me is one of the most stunning), charming and dynamic main characters (while Rayearth is a little charicature-y later CLAMP works is better) and a creative, magical, storyline.

One of the wonderful things about the many works of CLAMP is that even though love transcends everything, yep everything — even that pesky gender thing, or that being a robot thing, or that being a psychotic murderer issue, yes even the royal pain in the butt can be loved (and can love in return). However! This is not to say that love conquers all — but rather that love can be felt even when there are insurmountable barriers to having a functional relationship (like that issue with being a robot or a psychotic murderer). Love, in the CLAMP stories is simply love, but a happy resolution for all parties involved is not a guarantee (i.e. Tomoyo and Sakura from Cardcaptor, while Sakura certainly loves Tomoyo, she does not feel romantic love for her friend and so Tomoyo’s love is unrequited — though this doesn’t put a damper on their relationship very often). 

CLAMP is a five woman team of story writers (though most storylines are created by the leader Nanase Ohkawa) and artists. The storylines, as I mentioned, are generally magical, speculative or otherworldly in some way. While they are mostly cute and lighthearted (Cardcaptor and Chobits and Clover) they can also be quite gruesome and violent, yes, characters do die on occasion. The CLAMP universe is all connected and so characters wear many hats in many of the different manga that CLAMP create. The plots are generally strong, with a mission laid out right at the get go (except for Chobits really…) and then the story is developed and pushed along by character development and interaction and the stories roll on until they reach a conclusion. Oh yes, I also like CLAMP because their stories have endings, and satisfying endings at that. Their artwork is highly detailed and the colours generally match the characters of the story – just check out the pictures in this post’s header.

Magic.Knight.Rayearth.full.14752Let me introduce you to The Magic Knights Rayearth.

The story focuses on three eighth-grade girls: Hikary, the headstrong tomboy; Umi, the quick tempered beauty and Fuu, the intelligent and gentle. While on field trip to Tokyo Tower (of course) the girls are transported to a secondary world named Cephiro. They learn that Cephiro is maintained by a single person called a pillar, who influences the world with her mind. They are tasked with rescuing the current Piller from the antagonist of the series, Zagato.

Guided by the adorable Mokona, a fluffy marshmallow-y bunny blob, the girls discover their respective element-based magics and awaken the rune gods. When the rune gods transform into giant robots with the girls at their side they become the Magic Knights. The story revolves around self-discover, working together, making new friends and really, it’s all about the journey. But will they defeat Zagato? Good and evil are never clear cut in CLAMP stories, and this one creates a beautiful world that asks interesting questions.

Cardcaptor.Sakura.full.68682Now let me introduce you to the many worlds of Cardcaptor Sakura.

Cardcaptor Sakura takes place in the fictional city of Tomoeda. Sakura is ten-years old when she accidentally releases a set of magical Clow cards from the book created by the magician named Clow Reed. Each of the cards is (beautiful!) named after it’s unique ability and, when freed from the book, can act on it’s own. It is now up to Sakura to assume the role of cardcaptor and, with the help of Cerberus (Kero!), recapture the cards.

More helps appears along the way, while Kero acts as her guide her best friend Tomoyo (also a second cousin) creates battle costumes and films her exploits. Syaoran Li, a boy Sakura’s age and a descendent of Clor Reed, arrives from Hong Kong to recapture the cards himself – but of course he turns into an ally, who could resist Sakura? And it is implied that Sakura’s older brother, Toya and friend Yuki watch over Sakura (though Toya does so willingly and Yuki has… other reasons *NO SPOILERS!*). 

Can Sakura capture all the cards, and once she does, can she pass the test?

tsubasa

Some of these characters look familiar? Well! That’s because they are! The Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles encorporates many characters from Cardcaptor but also reaches out and uses Mokona from Rayearth and makes use of the time witch Yuko Ichihara from xxxHolic (another wonderful series that you can check out here).

Tsubasa is probably, currently, my favourite series because it is a little bit dark, it involves dimensions, time, multiple selves and just a whole whack of fun and interesting speculative concepts – though the story is fairly simple.

The series begins by introducing best and close childhood friends Sakura, a princess and Syaoran, an archaeologist who investigating a ruin within the kingdom of Clow. Sakura visits Syaoran one day in the ruins and her spirit takes on the form of a pair of ghostly wings that disintigrate and scatter across, time, space and dimensions leaving her in a near death state. The mission – to save Sakura by collecting all of the feathers. Sound too familiar? Don’t worry, it’s not. Along with Syaoran and Sakura, there is Kurogane, a ninja who wishes to return to his home world after being banished by the princess Tomoyo in an effort to force him to learn what true strength is. And Fai D. Flowright, a magician who wishes to never return to his home world, Celes. In exchange for the ability to travel across dimensions, the witch demands that each pay with that they value most: Kurogane offers his sword Ginryū; Fai offers the tattoo that suppresses his enormous magical strength and power; and Syaoran offers all of Sakura’s memories that involve him (AWWW!). Yuko presents them with Mokona and sends the group on their merry journey.

This series is great fun for a slightly older readership than Sakura – you’ll love it!

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chobits

Let me introduce Chobits to you!

This series too is for a slightly older audience, but it is a very charming and interesting speculative series.

The protagonist is Hideki Motosuwa, is a student with a mediocre life. He dreams of success, of having a girlfriend and of owning a persocom — an android used as a personal computer, they are expensive. So when he finds one in the form of a beautiful girl lying in the trash he carried her home. I’ll admit, Hideki can be a bit of a pig at times, however, I think that this helps to illuminate some of the… er… moral ambiguities about creating persocoms, and Hideki improves dramatically! I promise.

The persocom, who comes to be knowns as Chi (for the only word that she can initially say), is not a normal android and it is soon revealed that she is custom built – and now a total blank slate. Much of the plot revolves around Hideki growing up a bit and the growing subjectivity, well and the possible subjectivity of the robot Chi.

A major part of the plot involves Hideki attempting to teach Chi words, concepts, and appropriate behaviours, in between his crammed schedule of school and work. At the same time, Chi seems to be developing feelings for Hideki, at an emotional depth she is not supposed to possess, and Hideki struggles with his feelings for her. The need to figure out more about Chi and her mysterious functions and past becomes a pull for the characters in the series. Together, Chi and Hideki explore the relationship between human beings and persocoms, as well as their friends’ and their own.

It’s charming, it’s interesting and it’s worth a read!

OK! Well, I could go on but this post is long enough. I think these are great CLAMP manga to get you started and I hope you enjoy!

Check out more CLAMP at these links here:

  • As someone whose introduction to CLAMP was X:The Motion Picture, let me say that X:The Motion Picture may not be the best introduction to CLAMP. 😉

  • I love CLAMP! They are amazing, and their art adorned my walls throughout my teenage years!!

  • CLAMP isn’t my fav kind of manga art though I agree it takes a lot of skill to be so cute! I do, though, absolutely adore Chobits! So inventive and thought provoking. A great post introducing peeps to the wonderful art world of manga. Cheers.

  • I loved Chobits. Especially because it had an ending. Meandering manga plots just bother me…

  • E.

    My goodness! So happy you wrote this. As much as I love manga, CLAMP’s work is always my favourite. All time favourite, in fact, as when I grew up, I found different perspectives and meanings.

  • I love Cardcaptor Sakura so much!!!

  • Love to see some CLAMP on my dashboard. Chobits is definitely one of my favourites because it plays with the tropes of the genre. I like how manga and anime aren’t afraid to take the playful route to be subversive. I really need to check out the rest of their works since I’ve only seen Chobits, Angelic Layer and Cardcaptor Sakura. Excuse me while I go hum the OST…

    • You gotta read Tsubasa! ^_^ Or maybe xxxHolic. They both play with dimensions and so many characters from the rest of their work appear.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Yayayay CLAMP!! You know, I had no clue they were all women! I thought Chobits was really fun, but I LOVE xxxHolic. I really, really need to read Tsubasa because there were definitely parts in xxxHolic I was like…wait…what?? as I didn’t realize there was a crossover series until about halfway through haha

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