Pre-blog note: I’d like to mention here that details about various CLAMP series starting/stopping/hiatuses/title change details are not presented in the chronologically correct order in this blog post. I did not read all of CLAMP’s works, nor did I read them in ‘chronological’ order. I recreated my personal timeline in this post, not an accurate one.
Additionally, I do not hold any malicious intentions towards CLAMP or any associated persons/projects/etc. This is my personal rant, that I have made available on a public platform, and that is all. These are my opinions, and are not facts. Anything I wrote here should be taken an opinion, and or considered speculation unless linked news articles or sources were provided.
In my “Dropped” series, I made a bit mention of how I went from someone who loved CLAMP, to someone who doesn’t bother keeping up with them in any capacity. Which is then complicated by the incoming anime reboot of Tokyo Babylon, with Tokyo Babylon 2021. The project has since been stated to no longer be part of the Spring 2021 line-up. We’ll have to see if it resurfaces at all, since CLAMP themselves haven’t stated their involvement with the project other then a few retweets. At this point, if it’s not Cardcaptor Sakura or Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – CLAMP doesn’t seem to care too much unless it’s merchandise they can shill out.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Like any good story, we need to take a look at where I started to figure out how I got so bitter about this mangaka group.
I was first introduced to CLAMP by the Chobits anime of all things. I watched the whole series, absolutely loving the concept of cute humanoid robots in the future. I was delighted to find that the anime had a manga, and the manga was gorgeous. At least the bump pages and cover art. Elda and Freya’s illustration dresses are to die for.
Which lead me to a wonderland of all things CLAMP I could get my hands on. I devoured any title I could get my mitts on: Man of Many Faces, Angelic Layer both manga and anime, the original Cardcaptor Sakura (CCS) manga and then first animated film, Clover, Magic Knight Rayearth complete manga and anime, Suki: A Like Story,Wish and anything licensed in English that I missed listing. Although as an aside I haven’t read/watched RG Veda and don’t intend to at the moment.
I then hit my peak. My selection of titles available, this was back in the mid 2000’s into the early 2010’s by the way, was thinning. I realized that certain characters were being repeated and I was at a loss for where they came from verses where they went. Then I learned of Tokyo Babylon. It’s a title that really sticks with you with the meshing of modern Tokyo, and the great former city of Babylon. Truly, a succinct and iconic title to this day.
I fell in love.
Retrospectively, it’s because the series had Subaru and Hokuto Sumeragi, fraturnal twins. They were only the second time I’d seen ‘myself’ and ‘my brother’ in manga. I was beyond delighted. I remember stomping down the hall yelling at my twin that would we be cosplaying the duo one day. I was that excited to them on print pages. (We never did cosplay them though.) Plus the story was contained, short, and I knew where to go next.
Or as I usually write it, X/1999. That’s how the title was generated in my library system, so that’s what I’m use to typing.
I genuinely consider X/1999 to be CLAMP’s magnum opus. It’s truly deserving that title, considering what that story did for the genre and for the group. The plot, conflict, art, pacing, and most importantly the characters, the best one’s CLAMP has ever created to this very day, were all in one place, one series. One… incomplete to this day (as of writing) series.
It wasn’t so much of a let down, then a wake-up call when I read exactly as to why, CLAMP allegedly stopped serializing X/1999. The circumstances at the time were too similar to real life events and the series was suspended from publication. At least, that’s what we were told more or less. I respect that. Early 2011, it was rumored that X/1999 would finally resume, but 3/11 occured and well, that would not happen. Plus that was a largely English-centric conversation, so I’m not sure that was ever a thing. There were also rumors that the violence was so bad that no magazine would publish it, but I never found any statements backing that up. I mean given what had already happened in the series, I’m not sure how the next chapters could suddenly deemed unable to be published. So like many I lit up my candle of hope waiting that one day, even as a doujinshi, that X/1999 would finally get it’s conclusion.
I’m still waiting.
In the mean time, CLAMP got busy with a very ambitious project. The concurrently serializing Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE (TRC) and xxxHOLiC. Both stories had their own distinct premise, but also intertwined in unique ways. Depending on which you read first, certain events in one story would impact the other, and vice versa. And I have to say as my personal follow-up to X/1999; it was pretty damn bold. Perhaps a bit odd, since CLAMP’s art had been significantly reduced in character designs. Most of the characters look like more refined Gumby-humanoids then people especially in xxxHOLiC, but I digress.
In terms of creativity, this project was off the charts. No one was doing what CLAMP was doing. No other artist or artist team, has attempted such a thing since. It really solidified in many ways, CLAMP’s own character universe. Most of the characters of TRC were minimalistic versions from prior works. It was fun to see how taking familiar faces and changing just a few aspects of them and making a new story. I mean, it was also the ultimate Easter Egg hunt within a given world the TRC characters travelled too.
I don’t blame CLAMP for ruining my enjoyment of those two stories. As I’ve admitted; I was a dumb teenager who didn’t learn from her mistakes until too late. They are not in control of how many times I decide to give their works a try and fail.
However, what happened post-TRC and xxxHOLiC is entirely CLAMP’s fault. Since the results are rather disappointing as a fan.
I think many people are aware of Legal Drug. It’s a rather controversial premise, especially with choice of greenery on the original cover. Legal Drug was one of the many manga that was picked up by TokyoPop in the mid-2000’s published up to a point, and then disappeared from the market when they folded. It also appears at that time that CLAMP suspended the story, unreleated to TokyoPop folding, and moved to their next project. Legal Drug joining X/1999 on the indefinite hiatus but in CLAMP’s words “intended to be finished” series list.
Which is why fans of the story were delighted when Legal Drug was re-packaged into Drug and Drop in 2011. And it made it’s way to the West via Dark Horse in 2015. It seemed the ladies had found their stride again, with the story. It inspired hope in CLAMP fans that the women could keep their word, and truly get through to finish what they had started.
Until they didn’t.
Instead, they decided to slap Drug and Drop on haitus, and take on a new highly ambitious project; Gate 7. A manga that would be simultaneously published in English and Japanese. Which again, given the climate when Gate 7 began publication, was huge. It was among the first titles I ever recall getting the simultaneous publication efforts. I was once again hyped for the series until we never got an update after around chapter 22. Because, like several predecessors now, CLAMP decided to put it on indefinite hiatus in order to focus on something else.
The list of incomplete CLAMP titles at this time was now CLOVER*, X/1999, Legal Drug/Drug and Drop, Gate 7, and xxxHOLiC Rei. Which I found strange. Granted, CLAMP’s list of completed works is still miles longer then their incomplete ones, but six incomplete titles? That’s gotta be a record for a mangaka group that’s still active. Kobato, although I personally dropped, had wrapped up nicely enough in a similar time frame. The group seemed to be doing well enough between their own projects, and projects they were invited to join.
Then came 2016, which was a joyful time and also a time I have come to loathe; the announcement of the Cardcaptor Sakura sequel. None other than the still currently publishing regularly, Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card (CCS:CC).
I’ll admit that at the time of the announcement I was pretty excited. I had adored the original CCS manga, and was excited to see where Sakura would go next. So I read up to chapter 13, and stopped. The story felt like a repackage with some new bonus characters, verses a true sequel. It felt, for lack of a nicer term, an easy cash-grab. Because CCS of all of CLAMP’s works, is easily the most well-known, nostalgic series the group has ever done. The timing was just right to couple it with an anniversary date for the original as well. So of course fans would eat it up. I did too at first! I will also readily admit, that I could be very wrong about this since I am not up to date on the series. Feel free to correct me in the comments.
However, I find it really suspicious that CLAMP made all the grandiose statements of Legal Drug being rebooted. Then Gate 7 being a simultaneous publication, after riding the fairly high success of TRC and xxxHOLiC globally. The fact they dropped two projects that were somewhat new in demand, in favor of a reboot that, quite literally, there was no demand for, is really suspicious in retrospect.
I have talked to all sorts of CCS fans. From other casuals like me, to people who re-watch the original series once a year every year, and every other type of fan in-between; no one asked for this series. There were no petitions to bring it back or anything of that nature. It was completely CLAMP’s call.
That being said, fans of the franchise aren’t going to say no to a continuation, and I don’t blame them. I readily watched CCS:CC with everyone else when it aired Winter ’18. There were tons of hints that CCS:CC was building towards a new story, but from what I read and what I saw we never really got there. There were new character’s introduced, and a few crumbs of a bigger plot that just didn’t bear fruit for me. And personally, didn’t capture my interest enough for me to continue.
It’s frustrating to see a group that use to be at the top of my list of mangaka’s I would readily give my money to hand over fist for their stuff, ditch the unique series they were once know for, to being sell outs.
And I hate saying that, because I know that mangaka’s are criminally underpaid for their work, and with CLAMP being a group of four it’s gotta be split even further. So in a sense I don’t blame them for picking a project where they can make a killing on merchandising, collaboration deals, and just banking on die-hard fans they know they have to turn a profit.
It just hurts looking at a fandom that had a conclusive ending, even arguably a spin-off of their OTP (depending on how you look at TRC of course), get even more when fans of incomplete works can’t even get non-merchandised anniversary acknowledgements.
Going back to X/1999, the series has now officially been on hiatus longer then it ever ran in print publication. In 2022, X as a franchise will be 30 years old. I just simply do not see it getting the same treatment as CCS and I find that troubling as a long time fan. Then again, none of CLAMP’s other works seem to be getting the same attention as CCS as a shitty consolation observation. A scroll through their official twitter, and it’s one merchandise announcement after another. It hurts my heart thinking that X/1999 might never get the conclusion it deserves because quite frankly, at this point I don’t think CLAMP actually has an ending.
My long standing thought is that the group knows and vaguely plots the beginning, middle, and end of every story as most authors do. With a story like X/1999 you have to map it out throughly or it will fall apart. And I think they excelled at doing monthly publications that compile into short series usually averaging around 8 to 12 volumes. X/1999 being the first big exception to this pattern to my knowledge. It all worked because they just had to worry about their own series, and nothing else. So when they started picking up steam and getting sourced on other projects (Code Geass, HiGH&LOW G-Sword, etc); they started get lost in their own sauce. Which makes sense as with more popularity creates more demand, and their projects have to start catering to bigger audiences. It’s no longer enough for them do just do passion projects and hope it sells like they did in their early career.
However, my personal conspiracy is that CLAMP gets bored in the middle of production with certain titles. My speculation being that Gate 7, Drug and Drop and xxxHOLiC Rei were victems of that mentality. It just so happened to coincide that the anniversary of CCS was coming up, so cut their losses and raise their profits easily. Which again, not faulting them for getting their money, but for fuck’s sake don’t give people hope to only take it away.
It just sucks that CLAMP and whoever owns the publication rights to X/1999 never grew any balls and just released the alleged final chapters. I’ve tried finding the sources that said they exist, but most of the sites are defunct now. I know back in the day there was speculation that X would be around 21 volumes in length so about 15-20 chapters remaining. However, these sources are gone so these alleged final chapters might not even exist. Even more so now; there will never be a ‘right’ time for X to come back. The world’s kind been ending for awhile now, except with less magic and battles in Tokyo. Hiding being something like timing at this point, just doesn’t make any sense.
But if these chapters do happen to exist: at this point I’d do just about anything to get my hands on them. I’ll pay to read them online. If they don’t want to release a print version I will print them off and bind them together myself. I’ll preorder a ridiculous price for the final volume(s) even if bankrupts me. Hell, I will slug it out with novelized final chapters just give me something to work with please.
And if nothing else exists, and they really did start strong, but their interest tettered out and there’s nothing left: just admit it.
Put us fans out of our misery, say that too much time has passed and that it’s over. That will give me more solace and inner peace, then holding onto the ever weakening flame of hope that X/1999 will get it’s ending in my lifetime. Because truly, that’s my fear. That either I will expire before X/1999 gets it’s ending, or that, god forbid, one or all the members of CLAMP pass away before finishing it. It’s not and unfounded fear given that works like With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child, Phoenix, Itazura na Kiss and more are considered unfinished due to the untimely death’s of their authors. So again, I can only pray we get some sliver of what was suppose to happen before anything drastic occurs.
What I do not want, in all my yearning, for X/1999 or any other unfinished series of their’s is that CLAMP keeps giving us false hope and stringing people along. Additionally, if they are going to ‘finish’ X/1999 with their current art style; hell no you’re not. To the trash can. Do not disrespect Kamui, Kotori, Fuuma and all the other characters with the ugly ass re-designs you gave them in TRC. If you need to pay other artists to mimic X‘s style, do it. I will not be sated with minimal efforts after 17+ years of waiting. I will take any ending over none, but doing it poorly will hurt your public image.
It really hurts all over again, when we look at Tokyo Babylon 2021. Because I dare let myself get excited. After years of swearing off CLAMP (aside from reading HiGH&LOW G-Sword for reasons), I felt my heart pitter patter with of all things, hope. That maybe, just maybe they weren’t evil after all and did remember projects other than CCS for non-merchandising purposes.
However, Tokyo Babylon 2021 is plauged by it’s own problems completely unrelated to CLAMP. As of December 24th 2020, the series is suspended from it’s April 2021 airing date. From how I read it there are some legal problems afoot, with the whole design stealing that got outed in December from GoHands staff. Sigh. It’s also not looking good since CLAMP doesn’t seem to be involved with the project in any capacity. They posted a handful of retweets about it, and that’s it. Considering how busy they were with the 30th anniversary stuff, I sort of give them a pass on it. There’s some speculation (more like demands at this point) from the English-speaking fanbase about using the ‘original designs’ but I’m not sure that the Japanese audience cares about that so much as the anime being a faithful but modern replication of the manga. It’s hard for me to remain excited about the project when it pretty much seems dead in the water.
I’ll admit, that I metaphorically shot myself in the foot many a time, when it’s come to CLAMP’s works and that is not their fault. I hate to say it, but the once mighty and original CLAMP have fallen. Because that’s exactly what they’ve done over the years with all the announcements, and cancellations in favor of making a quick buck. You can call me a bitter ex-CLAMP fan all you want. You’re not wrong. I am bitter, and dare I say it, rightfully so at this point.
It’s one thing to suspend a story due to current circumstances, hell I’ll admit that back in 2003 it was the right thing to do. But now having it be on haitus longer then it originally ran, with no updates? That’s too cruel.
I can only hope that CCS:CC is truly bringing in that bag for CLAMP, so that it’s worth it. And I mean this whole heartedly, I hope the CCS fans are basking in it all. I would, genuinely, hate for the rug to be pulled out from under them like has happened to other fans of other series. But hey, with merchandising the way it is currently, that probably won’t happen.
*Regarding the status of CLOVER: Some sources I read say that CLOVER is complete as of writing, other’s say that it’s incomplete. The status has never been clarified by CLAMP or any other official source to my knowledge. At this time, based off of other fan arguments and my own recollection I do also consider this story incomplete.
Yeah, I think they got a little too into their own universe and preferences and kind of left their audiences behind. I miss the days of short or decent-length series and too mature characters, but they also tended to be a lot of fun and engaging. I wasn’t even thrilled with Kobato’s ending, but hey, at least it had an ending!
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I miss the decent length stories with a solid beginning, middle, and end like you said. There’s a lot of charm to their older ways of writing characters, since they left a lot of room to explore with.
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Looking back now. I have to agree with you on CC:CC. It didn’t feel fresh, sure the nostagia hit, and I watched all of it. Looking in hindsight, nothing new was added. If anything the “magic” was waning from it. It would have been cool if the main antagonist siphoned off Sakura’s magic to create new cards or something, to make the series feel new and different. But nope, just some banal repackage of previous series.
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I would like point out that, X and legal drug went on hiatus in 2003. And gate 7 holic rei first cancelation as well as the reboot drug & drop all were but hiatus due to a staff illness in 2013. Xxx holic rei so far is on and off. Both rei, and gate 7 is the same style . X and legal drug is the same style. Its not because of marketing. Even though CCS has most merch. It most likely 2 incidents the lead artist had reason for hiatus and the publisher didn’t want to bring back on.