by Shannon Hochman
Many of us who grew up in the 90’s have a grudging attitude towards the new generation of anime fans that are exploring the niche in a world that makes it far more accessible than it ever was even five years ago. We resent that they peruse the likes of Naruto and Bleach without a care for any of the retro classics that helped define an entire genre. But that begs the question as to whether or not it’s really their fault. After all, you’re lucky to find a rogue copy of Paradise Kiss or something from the Tenchi meta lying around, much less something as definitive as Sailor Moon or Urusei Yatsura. Maybe it’s a little unfair to blame the uninitiated when a good number of those familiar, classic titles aren’t even in print anymore.
That’s where Dark Horse comes in, flaunting beautiful new reprints of both Cardcaptor Sakura and Chobits, two amazing series that any fan of anime and manga should have in their lexicon. Both represent high points in the career of manga powerhouse, CLAMP, a quartet of ladies who began in the realm of doujinshi (or fan comics) and continued on to revolutionize the approach to manga for everyone else. Their current projects are the parallel-running XXX-Holic and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles, which actually features many characters who appeared in older CLAMP titles.
Cardcaptor Sakura is reminiscent of a time when the magical girl category practically dominated shojo manga, though Cardcaptor went far above and beyond the call of duty. Following the exploits of a young girl named Sakura, who accidentally releases a deck of magical cards into the world and is charged with the task of collecting them again, Cardcaptor boasts lovable characters and phenomenal art. Many of the characters, such as Sakura’s brother and his best friend, have incredibly developed side stories and relationships that are sure to endear any reader, not to mention secrets that keep the plot a constantly evolving entity. The drawings are tight and detailed, with a wide array of wonderful outfits and cool monsters. The pages are all masterfully laid out, fluid and loaded with dynamic drawings. Cardcaptor is especially a must-read for younger girls looking for an involved story geared towards them: Sakura endures many situations familiar to middle school girls, such as having a first crush, or dealing with a rival who doesn’t seem to like her very much at all! At its core, Cardcaptor Sakura presents a heartfelt story with a lot of charm and soul to go around for all.
The second series to benefit from Dark Horse’s reprint is Chobits, and though it targets an older audience, it is no less endearing than its predecessor. The art features a change in CLAMP’s familiar extravagant style, with a heavier reliance on solid blacks and whites, and lineless, soft colours in the cover illustrations. That’s not to say that there is any less detail in the work, which is still latent with stylish outfits and intricate panel layouts. Exploring the age-old question of what defines humans from machines, the story follows Hideki, a student too poor to buy a persocom, the humanoid robots computers have evolved into. But when he comes across a discarded persocom in the trash, he brings it home to discover that she might be more than just a forgotten piece of junk. And though the initial joke of the series is to poke fun at typical hentai scenarios, CLAMP takes it to the next level with their well-developed characters and tight storyline, which covers all its bases while still allowing readers the gratification of gleaning their own interpretations. In particular, the persocom, Chi, is so mind-blowingly cute, it is impossible to see her as anything but human. Hideki finds her with a wiped memory, so seeing her slowly relearn about the world through the eyes of Hideki is an amazing lesson in how the simple things are the most important.
Hopefully, Dark Horse will continue on this trend of returning lost titles such as these to the shelf. The fact that they have already recirculated Clover (also by CLAMP), which was incredibly underrated, is sign enough that this arc of classic CLAMP titles is more than just happenstance, so let’s hope they keep it up! If they can revive Magic Knight Rayearth and x/1999 as well, then there might be hope for the future generations of anime and manga fans in the US!