When I think of April, I think of spring.
When I imagine spring1, I think of sakura trees.
And when I think of sakura trees, I dream of walking under rows of sakura trees, while a blossom gently falls on my forehead.
And then I die in Rainbow Bridge. Or fall off Tokyo Tower.
And that’s when I think of nothing but CLAMP.
I think it’s proper to assume that we’ve all had our sakura dreams thanks to CLAMP.
Back in 2000, the it fandom was CLAMP. Not X. Not Tokyo Babylon. Not Card Captor Sakura. It was CLAMP.
When the internet was just starting in Asia, and anime started to become popular in the Philippines, those who are in the know, know CLAMP. You can trace back the amazing greats of fanfic history by their association with CLAMP fandom. All of them may not have started there but definitely all of them managed to converge and made CLAMP one of the best fandoms ever established.
But why was it CLAMP? Inoue Takehiko made Real and Slam Dunk but fans solely focused on Slam Dunk. When fandom has the percipience for what riles their imaginations through independent works, they choose to break all rules with Clamp. They don’t just love XXXholic or Tsubasa alone. They love CLAMP. To be blunt about it: they love the CLAMP Universe.
The CLAMP Universe… maybe Multiverse
Imagining the world of CLAMP as a universe is nothing but appropriate. They cannot fit in a world. Not even in a galaxy. Just when you think they’re all just kids staying in CLAMP School, you realize much much later that there are parallel universes intertwined by CLAMP.
At first, it was manageable. When RG Veda started, followed by Magic Knight Rayearth, we were fine with having two Mokona there. So she made some cameos in other stories, but we’ve seen resurrected characters, yes? They had their own fantasy adventures in one place and that was that. And then there were kids cum detectives who conveniently studied in a school named CLAMP. The years came and went and we met various students and alumni that seemed to have either overstayed in that place or as we realize later, has providential reasons for staying.
And then.. it just… spiraled outward. More like, it exploded in Big Bang proportions as soon as Card Captor Sakura movie came out and XXXHolic and Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles came telling us that Clow is Watanuki and Yuuko loved Clow.
Or something like that. I give up. OTL
Truth be told, the experience of keeping up with the universe can be kept for the hardcore fans. Perhaps in my youth I would have remembered those details for ficcing purposes, but right now, the relationships and theories of the CLAMP universe is something I’m happy to witness as a reader but not something I’d probably memorize to the core.
What’s strange about CLAMP is while I do know the existence of the universe, I read their works with little or no expectations of knowing who will appear and what’s their purpose in the grand universe. Reading it with that context in mind dulls my experience. So it’s best to read their works with fresh eyes and if someone familiar comes along, embrace it.
To a degree I cannot help this illusion of grandeur from the ladies because they were actually fans of a grand story: Saint Seiya. Apparently they were also fans of Captain Tsubasa. Friends from old would remember those doujins and always felt that above the lot, Clamp thought of grand things because at their roots, they’ve messed with grand universes. Then again, they used to be 11 writers. Now we only have Mokona, Nanase Ohkawa, Tsubaki Neko, and Satsuki Igarashi. And yet they’re still drawing some things we never could have imagined.
Getting away with vagueness…
CLAMP have a tendency to be vague. While some find this annoying, I personally find this vagueness intriguing. There’s a mysterious aura in a CLAMP title. Just by looking at the elaborate world that they’ve built, the stunningly detailed art that they’ve drawn, and the mesmerizing characters that they have introduced, it is impossible not to be drawn to their work.
I remember reading X/1999 and was hopelessly drawn to the world they lived in, even if it was about to end. At that time, I was naive about Japan thus the romance of fantastic kekkai and shinigami and how the world will come to end only lured me further into Japanese myths if only to find ease in settling my curious mind. At that time, I honestly hated this vagueness but I came to understand that this was the lure of their titles. CLAMP had me like a donkey chasing a carrot. I will always curse them for leaving me hanging and yet I know quite well that as they let me nibble on to their details, I get satisfied.
And honestly, they only give so little. In reading titles like Clover or Legal Drug, I’d like to think that while it appears resolved, there are still many questions left to be answered. Some might find these gaps laziness. I often considered CLAMP as careless writers who go on a whim without thinking how some actions will be forgotten in their complex world. But at the same time, this haphazardness has lead to some amazing fics that have emerged from the CLAMP fandom. Looking back, somehow this carelessness may have been intentional. With their origins as fans, perhaps they knew the value of this vagueness. It’s only in these gaps that fans can further explore their world. And they knew that as soon as we dive into their hole, we’ll never want to leave.
A CLAMP for everyone
I think the still continuing popularity of any of their titles is an indicator of how CLAMP has reached a very wide audience. There’s always CLAMP title for someone out there. Mystery nuts can enjoy their tribute to 20 faces. Romantics will definitely be swept by X/1999. Young girls with magical dreams will have Card Captor Sakura. Fujoshi will forever hold Tokyo Babylon close to their heart. Otaku-kei can connect with Hideki in Chobits. And boys will be lured by the mystery of Yuuko in XXXHolic.
CLAMP can market themselves to everyone and anyone and even to people abroad! And we’ve seen in various conventions the thousand of girls in holding on to their Mokona and their tarot cards! Perhaps CLAMP has this allure, a strange exoticism so prominent in their artistic style that it draws any curious reader in. Perhaps not all of us will think fondly of the strange opening song of Card Captors, but I’m quite sure that at times we wished to own the beautiful things seen in CLAMP’s Wonderland.
Their titles are a litany of how amazing these girls are in persistently striving to share their world to the audiences they have in mind.
I honestly don’t read much CLAMP nowadays. But it’s not an indicator of how much I hate them. More like, I read a CLAMP title knowing too well how involved I can get in reading it. Thus, I’ll save them for last, perhaps when it’s visible that they’ve seen their world come together because after X/1999, I know how much they can leave me hungry for more.
At most I can say that CLAMP has at least ingrained the grand image of sitting beautifully and idly under the sakura tree. As much as the tree symbolizes the aesthetic of mono no aware, CLAMP is in no way different from a sakura tree. Their stories continue to be filled with meaning and fleeting.
Well, if there’s any saving grace, at least my favorite couple in X/1999, Sorata and Arashi got their happy ending of sorts in Tsubasa. As for Seishirou and Subaru… at least I can look at Rainbow Bridge with fondness.
Most Clamp titles have been widely translated in English, so go and buy it!
Personal favorites: Tokyo Babylon, X/1999, XXXHolic, Legal Drug, Clamp Detectives, and Card Captor Sakura
For those into fantasy and adventure: Magic Knight Rayearth, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles, Gate 7
For the fanfare: Kobato, Chobits, and Angelic Layer
- we only have summer, rains, and cold drafts in Manila [↩]