Tag Archives: Mick Nekoi

Cardcaptor Sakura

cardcaptor sakuraMangaka: CLAMP

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Ten-year-old Sakura is basically your average girl–cheerful, fun-loving, bad at math, a little overly prone to sleep too late–but she also has a secret. You see, she has magical powers, and she’s been chosen to retrieve and master all the Clow cards, a set of magical cards that manifest as beings or phenomena in the physical world when released as they were at the death of their former master, Clow. Sakura is aided and guided in her quest to capture all the Clow cards by Kero, one of the guardians of the cards, and all her exploits are costumed and videoed by her best friend Tomoyo. But don’t think for a moment that Sakura spends her whole life devoted to capturing the cards–actually you could probably say she doesn’t devote herself enough. She actually has a busy life full of school, family, friends, and the hope of love. Sakura’s a pretty incredible girl.

I’m probably one of the few people who can say they didn’t grow up watching Cardcaptor Sakura at one point. I actually only discovered the manga after I fell in love with CLAMP’s writing and read several of their other manga; I’ve never watched the anime. I have to say that I really love this manga though. It’s so cheerful, even when it gets dark–and yes, at points it does get dark, especially in the second half. But Sakura’s such an optimistic character that she keeps the story bright throughout. And I love that even though this is technically a mahou-shojou/cardcaptor series, it’s fleshed out to be much more than that. There are numerous enjoyable facets to Sakura’s life that are presented here, as well as a number of really sweet love stories besides her own. This is one area in which I have complaint against the series, however; one of the fourth-grade students has a romantic relationship with one of the teachers, which is a totally CLAMP thing to do and is presented in a sweet and innocent way, but still NOT okay. And that, in addition to some of the complexities of the other relationships, is the primary reason that I can’t see this as a middle-school girl’s manga, even though it’s usually presented that way. It’s cute and sweet and funny, and yes, middle-schoolers would probably love it . . . but still. I do think there is a lot here for older teens and adults to love, though. Like I said, sweet story, great characters, and by the way, incredible art throughout. Absolutely beautiful. So in all, in spite of a few things I’m uncomfortable with in the story, I think Cardcaptor Sakura is an adorable, delightful manga that I would definitely recommend.

Note: I’d recommend getting the Dark Horse omnibus editions if you’re buying this. It’s only 4 volumes that way, and the binding is really nicely done. Plus, there are some incredible color pages included.

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Miyuki-chan in Wonderland

Mangaka: CLAMPMiyuki-chan in Wonderland

My rating: 4 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience

There are plenty of girls who would love some excitement in their lives. Miyuki-chan? Not so much. She’d be happy to be able to just go to school, work her part-time job, and hang out reading and playing video games like a normal girl. But Miyuki-chan has . . . a unique sort of problem. Adventure just seems to find her–and drag her into the midst of it, whether she wants to go or not. Whether it’s falling down the skating bunny-girl’s hole into Wonderland on the way to school or getting dragged straight into her video game to be the heroine, Miyuki-chan’s been there and done that. And probably will again. . . .

I may have mentioned before, but I love CLAMP’s manga, always. Having said that, Miyuki-chan in Wonderland is a bit different from anything else they’ve ever written. It consists of a series of short chapters (7 in all, fitting into a single manga volume), each focusing on a single, bizarre episode in Miyuki-chan’s life. I really like the character of Miyuki-chan; in a lot of ways, she’s your average high-school girl, only I’d say that she’s generally just a bit more blonde and go-with-the-flow in character than most. Overall, a nice kid though. The folks she runs in to on her adventures . . . not always so nice. And I must give the warning: this whole story is kind of yuri. I mean, there are some pretty sadistic individuals that Miyuki-chan encounters, all of them female. So, the end effect can be sort of hentai. One of the reasons I don’t like this one as much. But . . . Miyuki-chan always makes it out okay, so it’s not as creepy as it could be. And the situations she ends up in are certainly varied and imaginative–you kind of get the impression that the CLAMP members were just having fun and went with whatever they felt like writing at the time. On the plus side, there are some fun references, including references to other CLAMP works. (Oh, and I’ve mentioned this before, but check out Miyuki-chan making cameos all over the place in Tsubasa!) I guess I would mostly recommend Miyuki-chan in Wonderland to older readers who are familiar with CLAMP’s work and who enjoy something a bit off the wall (a more limited demographic than usual, I know).

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Shirahime-Syo

Mangaka: CLAMP

It is said that the falling snowflakes are the tears of the snow maidens. But ask a snow maiden, and you might get a different story altogether. In fact, she might tell you stories similar to the ones a young traveler heard when he spoke to a pale, beautiful woman out in the snowy wilderness . . . you might even hear stories to make you weep yourself.

I love the way in which Shirahime-Syo is both very unique for CLAMP and is yet quintessentially theirs. This is a single volume of manga containing three short stories that almost resemble folk tales. This feeling is enhanced by the art style which is, again, both extremely CLAMP and yet different from their norm, evoking a more traditional Japanese painting style. It’s very beautiful, haunting almost. The style fits the stories perfectly. All three tales are of old Japan (or somewhere that looks similar), out in the wilds during the deep snows, and in each story, there is an initial impression  of a man-versus-nature sort of story. Yet somehow in the midst of that, the stories get turned back upon man, showing that we are our own worst problem. The stories are poignant and beautiful, tragically lovely. I’m sure not everyone would enjoy them, but I truly think all readers would benefit from reading Shirahime-Syo at least once; it’s a moving experience.

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Legal Drug

Mangaka: CLAMP

At rather a bad point in his life, Kazahaya finds himself literally picked up off the street (and out of the freezing snow!) by the tall, dark, and grumpy Rikuo. Shortly thereafter, the two find themselves rooming together (however unwillingly) and working for the lovely pharmacist(?) Kakei at the Green Drugstore. Which would be all well and good if their work were limited to doing stuff in the store. But between Kakei’s shady side business and the boys’ own unusual abilities, they always seem to get dragged into the odd, the paranormal, and the occasionally frightening–basically they’re a pair of paranormal odd-jobbers, pulled by every sadistic whim of Kakei’s. It’s a good thing that Saiga’s there to keep Kakei in line at least a little (when he’s not sleeping on the job!).

I’ve probably said this before (just maybe?), but I really love CLAMP’s writing–it’s always fresh and unexpected. Legal Drug is honestly one of their manga that I come back to most frequently. It’s an intriguing combination of shounen ai (sort of?), fantasy/paranormal, and work story/slice-of-life. It’s probably most similar to xxxHOLiC of all CLAMP’s other manga, and actually crosses over with said manga when Watanuki visits the Green Drugstore for a hangover medicine in xxxHOLiC. But there’s enough difference between the two series to make them both significant and interesting in their own right. The character blend in Legal Drug is certainly an amusing mix–their interactions are always good for a laugh. And speaking of characters, those of you who have read Wish might recognize certain individuals (although they are kind of hiding their identity for the moment). There are several other crossovers throughout the manga for those who pay attention. Of note, this is one of the few manga in which CLAMP’s chibi artist Mick Nekoi is actually the lead artist; the style’s not quite as polished as, say Tsubasa Chronicle, but I like the overall feel that it provides. Sadly, Legal Drug was dropped after the third volume, so it’s currently incomplete . . . but (I am sooo super excited about this!) after something like eight years, it is now continuing in the manga Drug & Drop which basically picks up where Legal Drug stopped. Happy! Anyhow, I think Legal Drug is a fun, mysterious manga that is widely enjoyable as long as you don’t mind a bit of shounen ai (but it’s really mild and kind of mock shounen ai almost)–seriously, check it out!

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The One I Love

Mangaka: CLAMP

Anyone who’s been in love can tell you it’s a wonderful thing. But love isn’t all happiness and comfort–it comes with uncertainties and fears. Will this continue? Am I the only one who feels this way? Sometimes, it seems the more you are in love, the worse your uncertainties become. . . .

In this delightful collection of shorts, CLAMP unpacks some of the issues that come up frequently in relationships. While The One I Love is set up in a different format than their typical works, it features a topic that seems ubiquitous to all of their manga–a topic about which they always have something interesting to say. In this volume, Mick Nekoi (usually the chibi artist of the group) creates 10 manga shorts, each featuring a different girl and the specific love-problem she is facing. Following each manga, lead story writer Nanase Ohkawa has a short essay discussing her own opinions and experiences about that same love-problem. The manga are cute and meaningful, and I think the discussions are interesting, relevant, and helpful. The One I Love probably isn’t for everyone, but for CLAMP fans and for those interested in some insight into their own uncertainties, I think it’s an enjoyable collection.

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xxxHOLiC

Mangaka: CLAMP

For as long as he can remember, Kimihiro Watanuki has been plagued by being able to see spirits–and worse, by attracting them! It is on a seemingly ordinary day, much like any other, that while he is attempting to evade a particularly nasty and persistent spirit, Watanuki finds himself drawn–physically, by powers unseen–into an eccentric-looking shop. Within this shop, he encounters the even more eccentric shop-keeper, Yūko Ichihara, who claims his coming is hitsuzen, fate. Before long, Watanuki finds himself employed part-time, serving the unusual, selfish, and frequently-drunk Yūko–and the steady stream of customers, human and otherwise, who frequent the shop that fulfills wishes.

XxxHOLiC has got to be one of the best manga out there, period. The characters are first-rate–well developed, unique, and showing immense and fascinating growth over the course of the story–and the relationships between them are subtle and beautiful. In particular, I love Watanuki’s overreaction to Domeki (his best friend, although he won’t admit it) and to Yūko. And the subtle developments in Yūko, going from a completely overbearing and selfish individual to a self-sacrificing and almost motherly one, is absolutely incredible and completely fitting with the story. Because that’s a major factor in the story, the idea that the people we encounter change us and that everything has a purpose. I also really enjoy the inclusion of lots of Japanese legends, especially as CLAMP weaves them into the modern world in a classic urban-fantasy fashion. The main story-line itself is intricate yet wonderfully consistent–and absolutely heart-rending. Finally, the art is beautiful–primarily a classic CLAMP style, but with a more traditional Japanese art flavor that fits the storyline perfectly. I would highly recommend xxxHOLiC to anyone, regardless of usual taste; it supersedes barriers like gender, style, and age in a wonderful manner.

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Wish

Mangaka: CLAMP

Traveling to earth to search for a dear friend and mentor, Hisui, the angel Kohaku becomes stuck in quite a pinch–or to be specific, in a tree. When this bumbling, innocent little angel is rescued by the tall, dark, and handsome (human) Shuichiro Kudo, Kohaku truly desires to repay his help . . . but Shuichiro won’t, or can’t, think of anything he would want in repayment. Determined to repay Shuichiro’s kindness, Kohaku sticks around–and ends up freeloading at Shuichiro’s place. Whoops. While there, Kohaku grows closer to Shuichiro, is bullied incessantly by the devil Koryu, and eventually does find the missing angel Hisui . . . in the company of Kokuyo, one of the worst devils out there. From which point, things get immensely sticky.

Wish is one of the sweetest, saddest manga I’ve read. I really love it. The characters are great, all of them, although I think Hisui is my favorite–so calm, so unpredictable. The plot is a really sweet romance of sorts, although (per CLAMP’s usual) there’s a nice mix of tragedy, intrigue, mystery, and comedy thrown in. The art is really pretty/cute, although it’s definitely not CLAMP’s standard style: one of the outstanding features of Wish is that the art is primarily done by Mick Nekoi (the only others I can think of are Legal Drug and Suki). As for the basic framework of the story, it kind of bugs me that the mangaka take Christian theology and totally throw it off; it’s more like a fantasy that uses the ideas of heaven and hell, angels and devils, as alternate worlds. Still, if you can just think of it as a fantasy, it works. Also, regarding gender in this manga: technically in the original, both angels and devils are genderless; however, in the English angels are referred to in the feminine and devils in the masculine. This basically works, sort of, until you realize that Hisui looks and is treated more like a guy in Legal Drug. I would like it so much more if it were possible to translate without imposing gender, but it really doesn’t work in English. Oh well. Despite these issues, I really love Wish and would recommend it to anyone interested in a super-sweet shoujo fantasy.

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