CLAMP in Japan
It’s nothing serious. —motto of shoten
Japan in the 1970s was the perfect time and place to be a kid who loved comics. It was the decade when Japanese manga took off as mainstream entertainment and blossomed into the pop-art form that would conquer the world. Shonen (boys’) manga, always the biggest category of manga publishing, grew more diverse, with sports stories, horror stories, samurai epics, and sprawling fantasy and science fiction series. Shojo (girls’) manga developed even more dramatically; for the first time, large numbers of women artists began to draw manga, and they soon took over the shojo branch of the industry with artistically experimental, passionately told stories that awed a generation of girls.
Meanwhile, new types of manga for older audiences grew out of the 1960s gekiga (dramatic pictures) movement, allowing adult readers to enjoy hardboiled suspense stories, racy romances, and mind-bending underground manga. College students embraced manga as part of the counterculture. And young readers grew up at the center of the manga renaissance.
Of the millions of kids with their noses buried in phonebook-size manga magazines, some would grow up to write and draw manga of their own. One, who would later write under the pen name Nanase Ohkawa, was buying Weekly Margaret magazine and following the work of Shinji Wada, whose Sukeban Deka (Delinquent Girl Detective) recounted the exploits of a female juvenile delinquent enlisted by the police to fight crime. Jun Mihara, creator of cutely drawn but thematically grim dramas like Hamidashikko (Children Away from Home), about orphaned street children, was another of her favorite manga-ka.
Another girl was introduced to manga by Riyoko Ikeda’s popular The Rose of Versailles, a sweeping shojo adventure about a swordswoman who defends Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution. She also got hooked on anime, especially Space Cruiser Yamato and the Gundam series. Her pen name would be Mokona.
Satsuki Igarashi also read The Rose of Versailles, as well as Osamu Tezuka’s history-spanning epic Phoenix and the beloved shojo soap opera Candy Candy. Her magazine of choice was Nakayoshi (Friends).
Tsubaki Nekoi bought Ribon, where she read manga like Milky Way by Hideko Tachikake. As she got older, her favorite manga artist became Moto Hagio, whose introspective science fiction and fantasy dramas introduced a deeper psychological dimension to shojo manga—
and helped popularize shonen ai (boys’ love), androgyny, and other gender-bending themes.
In the 1980s, as these four girls became teenagers, manga exploded from a popular art form into a booming industry. It was the age of massive series spanning dozens of volumes. It was the age of science fiction and fantasy. It was the decade when art got cuter and sexier, stories got longer, women joined the ranks of the most popular creators, and every series seemed to get its own anime adaptation.
And it was the age of the otaku.
Fan culture was always part of manga, but in the 1980s the fans came into their own. The most hardcore fans, the otaku, grew in number and flaunted their extreme passion for pop culture—the 1991 Studio Gainax anime Otaku no Video captures the tongue-in-cheek otaku pride of the era—but thousands of relatively normal men and women counted themselves manga fans as well. In part, the burgeoning fan scene was a natural outgrowth of the aging of the manga audience; rather than just reading manga in elementary school and then giving it up, many people moved on to manga aimed at teens and adults, and in the process their childhood interest became an adult hobby—or obsession. Fan culture also filled the void left by the collapse of underground manga in the 1970s. Whereas doujinshi, self-published and small-press manga, had once consisted mostly of alternative and counterculture comics, not unlike underground comics in the United States, in the 1980s the doujinshi scene became dominated by fancomics: tributes or parodies based on manga, anime, video games, and other licensed properties.
The fan-centric doujinshi scene grew rapidly, and by the mid-1980s it was a sizable branch of the manga industry, with its own conventions and its own fans. Across the country, high-school and college students formed doujinshi circles, small groups of amateur creators who pooled their resources to publish manga together. Girls and women quickly dominated the doujinshi scene. Under less pressure than their male classmates to succeed at school and build careers, middle-class girls often had more free time to pursue creative interests than boys did. Many were inspired by the great shojo artists of the 1970s, like the famous “Year 24 Group,” so named because many of them were born in Showa 24 (1949 in the Western calendar). These creators, like Moto Hagio, Keiko Takemiya, and Riyoko Ikeda, had started their careers in their late teens or early twenties, drawing the kinds of stories that interested them as young manga fans.
Doujinshi creators and fans formed devoted communities around specific fandoms and interests. King of the subgenres was yaoi, manga involving homoerotic relationships between male characters, with the explicitness of the romances running the gamut from chaste to outright pornographic. Yaoi was initially a fan outgrowth of 1970s shojo manga. It took its cue from classic shonen ai manga like Hagio’s T¯oma no Shinz¯o (The Heart of Thomas) and Takemiya’s Kaze to Ki no Uta (Song of the Wind and Trees), both tragic love stories involving students at private boys’ schools. The term “yaoi” is an acronym of the phrase yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi (no climax, no point, no meaning), a common criticism leveled against the often plotless, pornographic early yaoi stories.
The Birth of CLAMP
The group that would become the world’s most successful manga team started as one of countless teenage doujinshi circles across Japan. Several of the members, including Igarashi, Nekoi (then using the name Mick Nekoi), and Mokona (then Mokona Apapa), were in junior high and high school together in Kyoto. They got into the doujinshi scene through school manga clubs, where fans read and drew manga together. The girls borrowed a mimeograph machine from their school to make copies of their comics and sold them at local doujinshi conventions. Through their work, they met other aspiring manga creators, like Ohkawa, who grew up in Osaka. A friend gave Ohkawa some doujinshi drawn by Mokona, and soon they sought each other out and became friends. Since Ohkawa and her friends lived a long way from the Kyoto group, they usually met at weekend conventions in Osaka or Kobe, where they would hang out, go to movies, sing karaoke, and work on comics together.
Eventually Ohkawa’s group, the Kyoto group, and some other friends from the local doujinshi scene published an anthology together under the name CLAMP. It was a typical doujinshi publication: a collection of short manga and artwork, with each creator contributing a piece or two and everyone pitching in on the final presentation. The name was a misspelling of the English word “clump,” as in “a clump of potatoes,” meant to suggest the humble, thrown-together nature of the group. It stuck, and CLAMP soon became a regular doujinshi circle.
In its doujinshi days, CLAMP had about eleven regular members, as well as occasional guest artists and satellite members. All the regulars were women except for Shinya Ohmi, a relative of member Tamayo Akiyama. By the late 1980s, when most of the members were in their early twenties, the group was putting out an ongoing anthology called Shoten (Bookshop), releasing new issues on a roughly quarterly schedule (although they never actually managed four issues a year). Like many doujinshi magazines, Shoten was typically a mix of short manga covering a variety of subjects and styles, as well as pinups, illustrated prose stories, and chatty messages from the creators. CLAMP put unusual effort into the production of its books, often springing for hardcover binding, slipcases, color pages, posters, postcards, and other bells and whistles uncommon in doujinshi.
Much of CLAMP’s earliest work consisted of the kind of fancomics popular throughout the doujinshi scene, especially yaoi-themed treatments of popular 1980s shonen manga. Whereas most doujinshi creators focused on a specific fandom, CLAMP drew tributes and parodies based on many different series, often releasing “CLAMP Presents” collections in which each member contributed a piece based
on a chosen fandom. These included popular doujinshi targets like Yoichi Takahashi’s soccer manga Captain Tsubasa and Masami Kurumada’s fantasy battle manga Saint Seiya (known in English as Knights of the Zodiac), but also more obscure manga like Yun Kouga’s shonen ai series Earthian and live-action movies like Star Wars.
Hirohiko Araki’s glam fantasy/horror epic JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure was a particular favorite of the group. CLAMP developed an ongoing universe inspired by the JoJo storyline “Stardust Crusaders,” wherein juvenile delinquent Jotaro Kujo and his group of fellow “Stand Users” with supernatural powers travel the world to stop the evil vampire Dio. CLAMP’s version starred an original character named Jota, the “egg baby” of Jotaro and his male friend Noriaki
Kakyoin (lovers in CLAMP’s version of the story), and Jota’s Stand, Charmy Green, named after a brand of Japanese laundry detergent.
But the group also created settings of its own. Chief among them was the CLAMP School, a vast, mysterious pentagram-shaped private academy for elite students from kindergarten through twelfth grade. The artists populated the CLAMP School with characters they had created, forming an eclectic...
MASTER MANGA CREATORS
The enigmatic four-woman team of manga creators from Japan known as CLAMP has taken America by storm. Now, in this beautifully illustrated volume, the talented and reclusive group emerges into the light to reveal CLAMP’s origins, inspirations, and secrets!
This book is a treasure for CLAMP fans and art lovers everywhere. With more than three hundred stunning images of CLAMP’s most beautiful illustrations, some never before seen outside Japan, CLAMP in America also features
• exclusive interviews with all four CLAMP members
• a complete history of this innovative group
• reviews and analyses of CLAMP’s best-known works
• thoughts from successful artists who were inspired by CLAMP
• CLAMP’s colorful journey to America—and candid remarks from the professionals who made it happen
• CLAMP’s own reflections on their experiences in America
Enjoy new perspectives on the stories you already love, reacquaint yourself with favorites, and discover some CLAMP gems you may have missed. This is an authoritative, all-access pass to some of the greatest graphic storytelling on the planet—a visual feast for fans far and wide.
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