By Shannon H
Death and pestilence kept me from the Weekly Planet last week, and it would figure that on such an occasion, the robot manga gods of Japan delivered a book I’ve been clawing after for no less than half a year. That book would be Dark Horse’s new printing of the first Magic Knight Rayearth story arc, another CLAMP title that had been abandoned by lame-o Tokyopop, forgotten and left to rot in the archives of our memories for almost eight years now. I had nearly lost my mind when I first found out that Dark Horse seemed to be on this CLAMP kick, but the Magic Knight book kept falling behind schedule, and it was making me a very sad panda. It’s definitely one of my favourite CLAMP titles, not only because it was the first one I ever read, or because it changed the way I looked at comics in general, but because it’s just so damn awesome as well!
MKR is the story of three girls, Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu, who all go to different schools but happen to be on a field trip at Tokyo Tower at the same time. Suddenly, there is a flash of light, and before they know it, the trio finds themselves in a place that looks like it’s been taken right out of a fantasy video game. They are almost immediately whisked away by a small wizard named Clef, who tells them that the princess of the realm has been kidnapped and has summoned them to save the day. He eqips them each with armour and hands over a small, bunny-like creature called Mokona who is supposed to take them to see Presea in the Forest of Silence to acquire weapons. The girls are skeptical but are ready to go with it, since fulfilling the quest is the only way they can return to Tokyo. Besides, leveling up armour and saving the princess is just like a video game, so how hard can it really be? Or so they think.
MKR is one of the best examples of how pro CLAMP is about weaving lush character designs and landscapes with top-notch, tightly-laced storytelling. The secret? Well, it might even be as simple as dividing and conquering, as CLAMP isn’t just one person, but rather four talented women who have been making comics together since the 1980’s. Nanase Ohkawa writes and plans all the stories, and Satsuki Igarashi, Tsubaki (Mick) Nekoi, and Mokona all divide up the visual work amongst themselves depending on the project. Perhaps it is because they got their start making yaoi Saint Seiya doujinshi back in the day, but part of what I love about the structure of CLAMP stories is that they really know how to appeal to the reader as a fan. By that, I mean that they know the sorts of plot elements and visuals that will excite a fandom without concretely sealing such things in such a way that might deter others. Great examples include Yuki and Touya from Card Captor Sakura, Kurogane and Fai from Tsubasa, or Arashi and Sora from X; duos that everyone knows are an item because of various hints throughout the story, despite the fact that there is never actually a moment where such a relationship is announced. Better still is the fact that no matter what specific genre their manga happens to fall into, almost all of CLAMP’s manga can be enjoyed by both male and female readers with their flawless ability to mesh the best aspects of shounen and shoujo. Combine that with constantly evolving art and layouts, and you have a recipe for success! With any luck, Dark Horse will keep this up and return to us some other great CLAMP titles like RG Veda, Wish, X/1999, Angelic Layer, adding them to the already great pile of CLAMP omnibuses they’ve brought back to the table.
AND as a super secret added bonus, a little birdie told me that Dark Horse (new best friends forever) has acquired the rights to CLAMP’s newest series, Gate 7, just months after its Japanese release. Dayumn, son! So get pumped for that while you mill around with your new volumes of Black Butler and survival horror favourite Highschool of the Dead, both of which are the crown jewels of this week’s lovely manga releases.