Retrospect on CLAMP: In good and bad times…

Retrospect on CLAMP: In good and bad times...

5 things I LOVE about CLAMP and 5 things I want to complain about…Since I’m still reading CLAMP works and can ship couples and fangirl over characters, it means that beyond the flaws and weakness CLAMP have exhibited through the years, there are very important traits of theirs that are worth cherishing and that they’ve created some memorable works and subsequent anticipation for more. Thus, I’ll begin this post with what are their strength.

The bright side of life

1. CLAMP have worked really hard over the course of the last 22+ years to make themselves known and in the process they have given up their personal life to pursue their dream and be fully dedicated to their career. Along the way, they’ve also put their health on the line, with many sleepless days in the row, very few breaks and the pressure to please the audience. Lately, it was announced that one of CLAMP members has problems with strained hands, thus their work will slow down. They are really admirable for their perseverance and productivity: they’ve published officially over 140 volumes of manga.

Retrospect on CLAMP: In good and bad times...

2. From drama and romance to mystery and adventure, CLAMP have explored almost every genre across every demographic group. They’ve written shoujo, shounen, seinen and josei, but perhaps most importantly they’ve managed to tear down their boundaries and as a result a very wide audience can read and enjoy their manga. Works like X and Magic Knight Rayearth have the ornamental art shoujo bear and shounen themes and action. There’s a CLAMP work for everyone: the ecchi otaku and the philosopher geek, the drama-sucker and the hopelessly romantic and the list can go on.

Retrospect on CLAMP: In good and bad times...

3. I told you about the art, no? The art, oh yes… the art. Even if you don’t like the story, you might want to stick around for the backgrounds and the character designs. CLAMP have mainly two art styles- the highly detailed by Mokona, one might even call it ‘stuffed’, and the pretty minimalistic one by Nekoi (Chobits, Tsubasa) and Igarashi (Legal Drug, Wish, Suki, xxxholic). Another artistic trait of theirs is the use of astonishing splash pages and diverse layouts, that really carry you away. And they aren’t simply experimenting, but they are professionals who know when to use which art style to create the appropriate atmosphere.

above: RG Veda, below: Drug and Drop- notice the difference in shading and design

above: RG Veda, below: Drug and Drop- notice the difference in shading and design

4.  CLAMP’s illustrations are not only decorative, but there are also cases that tell a story in images and foreshadow plot twists. Let’s take for example the illustrations below that are taken from X.

SPOILERS: The first one talks about Subaru becoming the next Sakurazukamori. CLAMP, instead of reusing the imagery of Subaru embracing the capsule that has Seishirou’s eye and accepting to be its bearer, decided to show his change of sides through a religious coronation amidst skulls during a night with new moon (which stands for new beginnings). Seishirou on the one hand wears white robes, a very unusual color for him, and my guess is that white denotes his death, since in Asia people usually wear white in funerals, while the red ribbon stands for blood and his murderous past. Subaru on the other hand is cladded in black and purple-black like Seishirou used to wear and purple to denote royalty-it’s worth mentioning that he just filled the ‘widowed’ position in the Dragons of Earth team and he’s uninterested in participating in the battle and in killing.

The second and third picture can be read as hints about the manga end of X. Kamui is compared to Ashura from RG Veda, the god of destruction, who, when ready to kill Yasha whom he loved as a kid, stopped and stabbed himself and caged his body. It’s also interesting how Kamui bears angel wings instead of his usual demon ones, while in the third picture we see him tearing down his demon-winged self to let the angel-winged one emerge. This can be interpreted either that Kamui Shirou will change sides or that the ‘other Kamui’, Fuuma Monou, will revert to his initial personality.

 

Retrospect on CLAMP: In good and bad times...
5. Their stories are well-crafted; that is not to say that there isn’t room for improvement, but generally they are touching and daring in that the ending is rarely a traditionally happy one. CLAMP makes sure among other things to include some twists and clues for future developments in their more serious works. Ohkawa is the mischievous mastermind behind it all who instructs the other three carefully without revealing them much while the story progresses. It’s her scriptwriting that unfolds like a detective story, leaving traces to be found by the readers. Reading a dramatic CLAMP work is like unraveling a present.

 

Retrospect on CLAMP: In good and bad times...
 
The sour taste of things
 
1. Although CLAMP aren’t exacly famous for happy endings as I said before, we do see some happy and healthy heterosexual and gay relationships, but how about lesbian ones? There isn’t a single lesbian in CLAMP works that has her love returned or her life and her partner’s life intact. Be it canon or a potential fanpair up till now CLAMP appear to reserve only unhappiness for lesbians. CLAMP, do you hate lesbians, unconsciously or otherwise?

 

SPOILERS: Kendappa x Souma from RG Veda? Both dead- and Kendappa took her life after killing Souma. Saya x Tohru from X? Both committed a ritualistic suicide for the sake of the Final Battle. Tomoyo x Sakura from CCS? Tomoyo is alone in her feelings. Sonomi x Nadesico, their mothers? The same, plus Nadesico died from an illness. Oruha x Suu from Clover? Oruha is dedicated to Kazuhiko plus she is mysteriously murdered. Oh and Suu dies at the will and from the fear of the Wizards. Hatoko x Misaki from Angelic Layer? Misaki is paired with a boy, freaks out to the idea of marrying a girl, while Hatoko has an unrequited love for her. Sai x Kaede, rivals and friends of the former? Kaede dies from illness in Chobits. Miyuki from Miyuki-chan in Wonderland? She keeps denying her lesbian fantasies and complains she’ll be ruined for marriage.

 

You might ask why I placed Yukito x Toya among the other lesbian couples. I want to make a point about the way CLAMP seem to see homosexuality in general. Even tough Yukito x Toya are happy and live a rather normal and healthy relationship, we don’t see how they got acquainted and how their feelings became more intimate. What we see is a Tooya that has lost his mother and got dumped by a woman. So their relationship and gayness can very well be interpreted as the result of lack of a stable and nurturing mother figure. The same goes for Kurogane x Fai from TRC, Subaru x Seishirou from Tokyo Babylon, and Kamui x Fuuma from X, though these three couples and especially the last two exhibit distorted perception of love. The other very famous yaoi pairing of theirs, Watanuki x Doumeki from xxxholic crumbles due to one-way feelings and Doumeki’s mortality. These situations and underlying views on homosexuality upset me quite a bit. I always have high expectations of CLAMP, and this is a weakness that I can’t easily overlook.

 

Retrospect on CLAMP: In good and bad times...
2. CLAMP ethics are ethics I usually I find myself agreeing with, yet there are some cases where I strongly disagree. The most important one: pedophilia. I can’t understand what they were thinking when they were throwing in so many teacher-student relationships and especially the Terada x Rika one. Because for goodness shake, Rika is in primary school not in high school like the other similar relationships. Even Kaho x Eriol is somehow excused since Eriol is still a magician and I think he has played around with his appearances and age.I’ve read a few people trying to defend this couple by saying that everything is kept pure and that both are honestly happy. And I say, IT’S CREEPY. To offer an engagement ring means wedding plans, means adult situations, means Terada is blushing not only with innocent thoughts… I’m very angry that CLAMP even want to present it as normal to an under-aged audience. Incest between siblings and cousins around the same age are much more acceptable in my eyes under circumstances. Yet, we don’t see any incest in the whole CLAMPverse. Oh and by the way, CLAMP are ok with pedo but not abortion (just read xxxholic’s vol.18).

 

Retrospect on CLAMP: In good and bad times...
3. Ok, I know, CLAMP has written many strong female leads, but do they need to write, clumsy, naive girls, sometimes doormats or simply write females dreaming of becoming wives??? The following panels speak for themselves. To the dummy bunch add Kobato, Saya from Blood-C, Hina from Suki and Kotori from X. I’m not sure that Chikahito from Gate7 is redeeming them in a sense, since he’s a boy. Sakura was a klutz at times but she was written so well as a character that her flaws weren’t that annoying. We were shown that she was very clever when it came to battle tactics to seal the Clow Cards. And Chii spoke like a toddler but she was a robot that was learning.

 

Retrospect on CLAMP: In good and bad times...

4. CLAMP have explored very interesting themes through certain techniques in their works and they keep going. What’s wrong with this? Well, after so many works, it can get too repetitive meaning too boring. CLAMP fans that have read all their works can feel tired from reading about the same old things just in a different setting. There are also times where a technique that was once very fun to encounter, like the crossovers, gets too streched. For example, it reaches ridiculous levels to transform Watanuki into a dog and make him appear in Blood-C to council Saya… The twists in TRC became so complicated that even the creators themselves had problems understanding what they’ve created. The book as a way to reach the protagonist and teach her about herself was great in Chobits, but felt redundant in Suki (but I’m biased here.)

 

Retrospect on CLAMP: In good and bad times...

5. With so many works and so many charactersit is inevitable that characters will start to look alike. It’s not completely their fault, yet it’s a bit weird to see a new character and feel you have a deja-vu without really one.

Retrospect on CLAMP: In good and bad times...

Lastly, they have bad luck with the magazines publishing their manga; Clover, Kobato, X, Legend of Chun Hyang all had either issues with their publication or the magazing hosting them closed down… That’s not something CLAMP can do much about, therefore I don ‘t list it with the other rants about them.

Do you agree? Do you disagree? Anything to add?

———————-
For more of my CLAMP series reviews, visit the Down the Clamphole! post.
This post is also one of my entries for the Manga Moveable Feast which for this month centers around CLAMP.

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11 thoughts on “Retrospect on CLAMP: In good and bad times…

    • In every sexual act as a culture we take 2 things in account: a. consent, b. physical and emotional consequences. The consequences of incest can nowadays be regulated through condoms and pills. But consent is very much an issue when we talk about relationships where a person of authority is involved. Older figures like parents and uncles/aunts no matter if they share the same blood or not with their children and nephews/nieces are there to protect and nourish. Mixing this with sexual feelings will only have co-depedency as a result. The same goes for siblings or cousins with a big age gap. The younger in the relationship will be manipulated in one way or another. That’s why I creep out with Usagi Drop’s end or Koi Kaze, but I’m not that annoyed by Tsumi ni Nureta Futari.

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    • I hate to admit it but perhaps in Japan things in the manga industry might not be that easy. Nowadays though they could try sth like Kickstarter perhaps to overcome the issues with the magazines? But I’m not that aware of what becomes of the copyrights :/

      I hope to see you around more :3

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  1. @kitsune and neko:

    Incest: Hmmm…. how about a thing about Setsuka (Seishirou's mom) and Seishirou? It's one-sided, but it's still incest. They kissed several times as drama CD.

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  2. @Kencana: Hmmm… you might be right, I had kinda forgotten it. But I have some doubts, if Setsuka was his /real/ mother. She looked so terribly young… Even if she was, since we talk about two people who can be seen as vile, I'm not sure CLAMP supports incest… Terada and Rika are both depicted as very good people. Hence their relationship comes as much more approved and 'right' :/

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  3. This whole post pretty much sums up my feelings to CLAMP perfectly. I like their series as much as I sometimes really dislike them.

    They have a lot of good things about them (the art being my favourite), but a good deal of the time I find the stories are just weak. Like with Clover, the creativity and art is beyond amazing, but the story falls flat. There are more stories I disliked, than actually liked.

    Nonetheless, even if I have a lot of problems with their work, I' always curious to read/see more from them. They have a certain quality that somehow always draws me in for more!

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  4. @Justin: I think that I expressed point 5 very mildly and wasn't sth that I 'screamed' about like the rest negatives. And I have read all their manga except for 2-3… I think I have the right to complain just a tiny little bit about seeing almost the same faces. Of course, other mangaka are much MUCH worse in this aspect, so…

    Other things to say about CLAMP, huh? Not sure there are more, at the moment at least. I think this post is pretty extensive by itself… Is there anything in particular, you'd like me to comment on?

    Yeah, I managed to post quite a bit. But I didn't prep that much. I found out about MMF a few days before it started. I did outdo myself, I think, since I've problems writing every day- I couldn't become a journalist for sure; I can't perform under pressure and write about things I'm not interested or expand a comment to whole paragraphs… The RG Veda, Tokyo Babylon and Man of Many Faces reviews were written a long time ago and I dug them out, searched for images and posted them. But X review which is a labor of at least 3 days (I wasn't satisfied easily with my word or image choice, because I wanted to do it justice) and this post are fresh material that I had to work “live”. If I find some more time between swimming, I might be able to have ready one more post before the MMF ends.

    Thanks for your kind words 🙂 I hope you find your CLAMP work.

    @Kencana: Tomoyo is cute and smart but if you sit down and think about it she has some stalking vibes… I liked her more in TRC.

    Hana does have some powers and a fighting spirit, I can't say (s)he's onl cute. I want to wait till the manga ends to see more of her and judge her. But damn it her design is so kawaii~~~

    I liked TRC for several reasons I've discussed in my TRC fangirling post. I agree that here Sakura is more of a damsel in distress, but she had her spotlight back in CCS, so things are kinda balanced out, I think.

    I haven't seen any incest in CLAMP works… have sth slipped my attention? :/

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  5. The sour taste of things.

    1. Yes. I feel sad with their one-sided feeling. It's funny that I ship Tomoyo/Sakura rather than SyaoSaku. SyaoSaku is cute, but I like Tomoyo one-sided love or maybe I'm just Tomoyo fangirl.

    2. I also don't like teacher-student relationshop so much. The teacher/student thing is all about parental trust. You send your child to learn and not to be taken advantage of by adult teachers.

    3. Yes, please give those heroine goal like: kindergarten teacher, mangaka or anything. Hana? No comment. She/he's sure is cute, but just that.

    4. The twist at TRC is mindfuck. I read it solely because of Tomoyo, KuroFay, vampire twins and the hunter. Syao/Saku? Meh. I'm not fond of damsel-in-distress. All Sakura do at ALMOST entire manga is sleep or scream 'Syaoran-kun!'. Sleep when everyone is protecting you? Wow.

    5. No comment. As long as they're gorgeous, I'm fine with that. *cough*

    Bright side:

    3. Yes, yes. I love the art.

    5. I'm glad that CLAMP didn't shy away from mature content. Gore, homosexual, incest.

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  6. Eh…five's kind of a bit too picky. Most mangaka use the style they've worked with since they started; obviously while the level of detail and such get better as time goes on, the aesthetic stays the same. It's the style that is appealing to many fans/ surveyors of CLAMP. Of course, I have not read a lot of their works, so yeah, my view is pretty biased, but I find your complaint being too much.

    CLAMP has had a rich but weird history. This is probably what happens when you create as many works as they do, and mostly suited to the JP audience. Obviously, I'm in little position to get on CLAMP's case, so I'm still learning about them thanks to articles like yours and everything else in MMF. I still wonder though, if you had other good things/bad things to say about CLAMP. I wouldn't have minded if you included thoughts in them.

    Last thing: been noticing you've been posting a lot about CLAMP this week. You must've prepped for this a while didn't you 😀 Either way, nice work this week Ayame, I have a few titles I'll give a look at hopefully soon.

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