Born March 2, 1967 (Osaka, Japan)
Born June 16, 1968 (Kyoto, Japan)
Born January 21, 1969 (Kyoto, Japan)
Born February 8, 1969 (Kyoto, Japan)
Japanese manga creators
The Japanese manga team CLAMP is arguably the most popular creator of manga in the world, and certainly the leading creator of shojo manga, or manga intended for girls (though CLAMP produces all varieties of manga). Hugely popular in their native Japan since the early 1990s, CLAMP's works first came to the attention of American readers in 1996, when the publisher Viz released an English translation of X/1999. After 1998 the publisher TOKYOPOP (then known as Mixx) bought the U.S. rights to CLAMP's works and began to publish a wide variety of their titles, beginning with Magic Knight Rayearth. As with many Japanese manga, a number of CLAMP's works have also been made into anime (animation), either as a television series or, as with X, as a feature-length film.
Tokyo Babylon "is a prime example of the sheer talent that makes CLAMP such a publishing phenomenon here in the States."
As with many Japanese manga artists, CLAMP maintains a low public profile. While their works are wildly popular among young readers and are carried by most major bookstores and libraries with good graphic novel collections, the authors themselves remain little known. Japanese manga artists are known to maintain a certain air of mystery around their personal lives, but the members of CLAMP take this to new levels.
Graphic Novels (with dates of English publication)
X/1999 10 vols. (1996–2005).
Magic Knight Rayearth I and II 6 vols. (1998–2003).
Cardcaptor Sakura 6 vols. (2000–04).
Clover 4 vols. (2001).
Wish 4 vols. (2002–03).
Angelic Layer 5 vols. (2002–03).
Chobits 8 vols. (2002–03).
CLAMP School Detectives 3 vols. (2003).
Cardcaptor Sakura: Master of the Clow 6 vols. (2004).
Tokyo Babylon 7 vols. (2004–05).
Legal Drug 3 vols. (2004–05).
Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle 7 vols. (2004–05).
XXXHolic 5 vols. (2004–05).
CLAMP School Paranormal Investigators 3 vols. (2004–05).
RG Veda 3 vols. (2005).
Please note: CLAMP's works were published in a different order in Japan, and many series are ongoing.
Origins of CLAMP
CLAMP originated in 1989 as a twelve-woman group known as Amarythia. Amarythia was a dojinshi, a Japanese term for a group of manga fans who self-publish their work. Most dojinshi only share their works with friends and fellow fans, but Amarythia was one of the few groups to find a publisher and make a living from their work. Over the course of their first year, the group changed: by 1990 it was down to seven members and had changed its name to CLAMP. The group's first original manga was titled RG Veda. Loosely based on the Vedas (Hindu religious texts), RG Veda is a fantasy tale about an epic battle between the gods. Like many of CLAMP's works, it combines stories of love and romance with intense action scenes, some of them quite violent, which is typical of Japanese manga. RG Veda was published in ten volumes in Japan, though only the first two volumes have been released in the United States. Despite the success of their first major work, three more members of CLAMP left the group by 1993.
The four members of CLAMP who continued the group were Ageha Ohkawa, Mokona, Tsubaki Nekoi, and Satsuki Igarashi. (These are the names each member was using as of 2005, but it should be noted that in 2004 the members all changed their names slightly to celebrate the team's fifteenth anniversary. Ohkawa was formerly Nanase Ohkawa; Mokona was Mokona Apapa; Nekoi was Mick Nekoi; and Igarashi's name was unchanged in English.) Each of the members plays a distinct role on the team: Ageha Ohkawa is the team leader; she creates the stories and scripts and manages the business of the group, including sales and distribution. Mokona is the lead artist; she is in charge of character design and coloring for book titles. Tsubaki Nekoi is primarily the art assistant and chibi artist (the artist who draws young children), but she was the lead artist on the titles Wish and Legal Drug. Satsuki Igarashi is the art and design assistant, working on all areas of the detailed illustrations in the CLAMP publications.
In Japan, manga stories are first published in manga magazines, which may be issued weekly or monthly. These magazines range in length from 200 to 850 pages and contain a number of stories from various authors and artists. CLAMP published most of their works in such manga magazines. Once a story has run for a time, it is collected in a tankobon, or compilation volume, which brings together a set of stories in a series. It is these tank obon that have provided the basis for the CLAMP manga that has been published in the United States. Many of CLAMP's stories began, and some ended, in the 1990s, and some continue to publish through 2005 (including Kobata, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, and XXXHolic). But the stories that reach the United States are those that CLAMP's American publisher, TOKYOPOP, feels will be a success (see sidebar).
CLAMP in the United States
The first CLAMP story to become a success in the United States was Magic Knight Rayearth. It featured three fourteen-year-old girls—Hikaru Shidou, Umi Ryuzaki, and Fuu Hououji—who were transported to the world of Cephiro to become the Magic Knights. Along the way the girls run into a number of interesting and dangerous characters and they learn how to deal with themselves and those around them. The book combined beautiful panel work and outstanding inking to draw the reader into the magical battles and mystical world, and introduced American readers to the combination of romance, humor, and action that has become CLAMP's trademark. Magic Knight Rayearth is six volumes long; the anime series based on it contains forty-nine episodes.
TOKYOPOP, Viz, and Del Rey: Bringing Manga to the West
Though manga has a long history in Japan, dating back to the nineteenth century, it is still a fairly recent phenomenon in the United States. In Japan, millions of people read manga every day, and the most popular stories are converted into anime (pronounced an-i-may), or animated cartoons on television and film. In the United States, anime was popular long before manga books were available. Television cartoons such as Kimba the White Lion (1965) and Speed Racer (1967–68) are some of the most popular early anime series to have reached the United States.
There are a number of obstacles involved in translating Japanese manga for an English-speaking audience. All the word balloons must be erased and English words inserted in their place. Sound effects rendered in Japanese characters make no sense in English, and they are often removed or left, untranslated. Moreover, in Japan manga, comics read from right to left, both on the page and in the book as a whole. When this format was transformed into the left-to-right style used in the West, some of the transitions no longer made sense. Finally, Western readers are not accustomed to the Japanese openness about sexuality and nudity, and many titles have been considered obscene, though they are intended for a general reader.
Despite these obstacles, by the 1990s several publishers began to publish translations of Japanese manga in the United States. The first to succeed on a large scale was Viz, an affiliate of Japanese publishers Shogakukan and Shueisha. Viz was followed into the American market by Mixx, which became TOKYOPOP. Based in Los Angeles, TOKYOPOP is credited with successfully marketing manga to American teenagers, leading to the current popularity of the form. Beginning in 2004, Del Rey Manga (a division of publishing giant Random House) entered the manga market by promising books that were truer to their original form than those offered by the competition. Two of their first four books were created by CLAMP, one of Japan's most popular manga creators.
The next CLAMP series to be successful in the United States is called Chobits. Chobits tells the story of a struggling male student named Hideki Motosuwa who happens upon a persecon in a junk pile—a persecon is a walking computer that looks like a young girl and is designed to perform errands. He takes her home to his apartment and names her Chi. It turns out that Chi is an extremely unusual persecon, and Hideki spends the rest of the manga trying to figure out Chi's origins while developing a very interesting relationship with the persecon. Published in eight volumes, Chobits was a major hit in Japan and is one of CLAMP's best-selling manga in the United States. Though created to appeal to teenage boys, Chobits has a huge fan base of older fans, both male and female.
One of the earliest of CLAMP's manga series, CLAMP School Detectives, was published in Japan in 1992 but did not reach the United States until 2003. The story is set in an all-ages school that attracts the best and brightest students from all over Japan. Among the top students are three friends, aged ten through twelve, who join together to form a detective agency. The three-volume story allows the detectives to solve a variety of crimes. In his review of the series in Library Journal, Steve Raiteri feels that though the leading characters are very mature, "their intelligence, humor, and respectful treatment of others make this charming rather than strange. The stories can be silly, but they're light and sweet." The series has found adoring readers in the upper elementary and middle school age range.
CLAMP's bold worlds intertwine
As stories like Magic Knight Rayearth, Chobits, and CLAMP School Detectives reveal, CLAMP is a group that is capable of creating material for all ages, dealing with all kinds of subject matter. Though they are particularly noted for the quality of their shojo manga, which focuses on clothing, romance, and emotion, they are equally skilled at action-packed stories. One such story is X/1999, which began publication in 1992 in Japan and has already reached eighteen volumes; publisher Viz released this series in the United States beginning in 1996. X/1999 is an extremely complex story about six characters, all with magic powers, who converge on the city of Tokyo to fight to either save or destroy the human race. Unlike many other CLAMP stories, this series is extremely violent, containing numerous bloody scenes, and isn't typically considered for younger readers. In 1996—with the creation of the series ongoing—X/1999 was made into an anime movie in Japan, and then repackaged for release in the United States in 2000. Reviewing the U.S. version, Variety's Dennis Harvey wrote that the film "will satisfy diehard anime fans," but "Western viewers will likely find disjointed climax after climax mindless diverting for a while, then ponderous." Harvey's reaction to the film characterizes many Western reviewers' reactions to manga as a whole: unless the reader is immersed in the story and the storytelling conventions of manga, it can sometimes be difficult to comprehend.
Beginning in 2004, the Del Rey manga publisher began to release in the United States two innovative new series from CLAMP: XXXHolic and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle. Tsubasa brings back the most popular CLAMP couple ever, Sakura and Syaoran, in a new story in which "Princess" Sakura loses her memories in a mysterious way. Devastated by the loss, Sakura and friends set out to get her memories back by traveling to different worlds that just happen to contain all of the CLAMP characters ever created. XXXHolic is in many ways a companion story, and it tells the tale of Yuko, a witch who grants wishes, and Watanuki Kimihiro, a teenage boy who sees visions and wants to get rid of them. As Watanuki and Yoko come to know each other, their adventures lead them into contact with characters in Tsubasa and a range of other CLAMP stories. For longtime CLAMP fans, these two new series offer a great chance to relive their enjoyment and knowledge of past works, inviting them into a complicated universe of CLAMP's making. Fans have followed the cross-connections and have tracked them on several Web sites devoted to CLAMP and its works. Del Rey's work with CLAMP was praised for staying closer to the Japanese publication style than other publishers, and it included original Japanese sound effects, colored pages, notes from translators, and a range of other aids to help the reader appreciate the cultural differences.
CLAMP has published many other series in the United States, and even more in Japan. In 2004 the group released a new series in the United States called Tokyo Babylon. Its works are also sold in the United Kingdom and Australia, and are finding readers in Spanish translation in South America, especially Brazil and Argentina. According to Nicole Pelham, manga author and publisher with NDP Comics in Seattle, Washington, "The key to CLAMP's popularity rests on the storylines; their plot twists and inner stories have you waiting on bated breath for the next issue. CLAMP also does a great job of creating characters that are easy to relate to, and characters that struggle with every day problems like love, friendship, and self image while being thrown headlong into fantastic scenarios. Finally, the group's three artists mesmerize readers with their ability to bring the stories to life." With such skills, the women of CLAMP seem likely to have a long career bringing Japanese manga to the United States and beyond.
For More Information
Harvey, Dennis. Review of X. Variety (May 1, 2000): 33.
Mitchell, Elvis. "Even Animated, Poor Tokyo Can't Get a Moment's Peace." New York Times (March 24, 2000): B16.
PR Newswire (September 16, 2003).
Raiteri, Steve. Review of Clamp School Detectives. Library Journal (November 1, 2003): 60; (September 1, 2004): 128.
Avila, Kat. "15 Years of the All-Woman Manga Studio CLAMP." Sequential Tart. http://www.sequentialtart.com/archive/nov04/art_1104_4.shtml (accessed on May 3, 2006).
CLAMP. http://www.clamp-net.com (accessed on May 3, 2006).
Del Rey Online. http://www.randomhouse.com/delrey/manga/index.html (accessed on May 3, 2006).
Smith, Lesley. "Happy Birthday, CLAMP!" Animefringe. http://www.animefringe.com/magazine/2005/04/feature/01.php (accessed on May 3, 2006).
TOKYOPOP. http://www.tokyopop.com (accessed on May 3, 2006).
Additional information for this essay came from direct correspondence with manga author and publisher Nicole Pelham in September of 2005.
clamp / klamp/ • n. a brace, band, or clasp used for strengthening or holding things together. ∎ an electric circuit that serves to maintain the voltage limits of a signal at prescribed levels. • v. [tr.] (often be clamped) fasten (something) in place with a clamp. ∎ fasten (two things) firmly together: the two frames are clamped together. ∎ hold (something) tightly against or in another thing: Maggie had to clamp a hand over her mouth to stop herself from laughing. ∎ [tr.] maintain the voltage limits of (an electrical signal) at prescribed values. PHRASAL VERBS: clamp down suppress or prevent something, typically in an oppressive or harsh manner: police clamped down on a pro-democracy demonstration.DERIVATIVES: clamp·er n.
1. An electronic circuit that is designed to limit the excursion of the signal voltage to the desired level, e.g. to limit the reverse voltage produced when the current in a conductor is abruptly changed.
2. An electronic circuit that is designed to return the d.c. voltage level at a given point in the circuit to a fixed reference value at fixed points in time, often in response to an externally generated clamp pulse.
1. Large mass of dried bricks or limestone arranged for burning.
2. Metal bar for binding together stones in a building.
3. Timber receiving in a groove on one side the rebated ends of other timbers, as in shutters.
4. As clasping buttress.
a compact heap or pile of bricks for baking; a heap of earth to cover potatoes; a pile of ore for roasting.
Examples: clamp of bricks, 1679; of coal; of dung, 1771; of limestone, 1795; of mangolds, 1881; of metal ore; of potatoes; of turf, 1753.