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  • Writer's pictureAndréa Gilroy

March 5th: CLAMP


If you’ve read manga or watched anime in the last 30 years, chances are you have encountered the work of CLAMP. They’ve created over 25 series since their professional debut in 1989, and their oeuvre includes mega-hits like X/1999, Magic Knight Rayearth, Cardcaptor Sakura, Chobits, xxxHolic, and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle. Still producing manga to this day, CLAMP’s work has not only had a major impact on the manga industry in Japan, but has been integral to the explosion of manga’s popularity worldwide.



CLAMP began as a group of eleven friends making doujinishi–or fan comics–of their favorite manga and anime series, like Saint Seiya and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. They were especially well known for their yaoi (gay romance) stories. In 1987, an editor for Wings, a manga magazine for young women, saw their work and asked them to submit a story for publication. Their first submission was rejected, but their second submission would become their first original series: RG Veda, a reimagining of Rigveda, one of the holy texts of Hinduism.




As the group took on more professional

work, CLAMP’s members shrunk from eleven to four women: Nanase Ohkawa, Mokona, Tsubaki Nekoi, and Satsuki Igarashi. Their creative process is highly collaborative–Ohkawa is the primary writer and plotter, with the rest of the artists taking turns on storyboarding, character design, and background drawing depending on the series. In interviews, Ohkawa has shared that with their system, they are able to complete a chapter of manga from storyboards to completed pages (usually 20 pages) in about a week!


CLAMP’s work is, on the one hand, easily identifiable as shoujo manga: the main characters are usually women, relationships drive most of the plots, the characters are lithe and beautiful with big sparkly eyes and outrageously cool fashion. On the other hand, their work jumps genres from tragic mythological tales to magical girls to multiversal adventures to stories about cyborgs. The visual style often shifts as well; for example, the lush details of Yuko’s magic shop in xxxHolic contrast with the minimalist steampunk of Clover. This fluidity has made CLAMP’s work popular with a variety of audiences.


By the mid-1990s, many of CLAMP’s manga would be adapted into animated TV movies and series, further cementing their status as manga superstars. Cardcaptor Sakura, in particular, was a major work in the early 2000’s manga and anime boom in the US.


CLAMP’s most recent work is Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, an 80-chapter sequel to the original Cardcaptor Sakura series. Its final chapter was published in January 2024. An exhibition of CLAMP original art will be featured at the National Art Center, Tokyo from June through September of 2024.


FURTHER READING:



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