Legal Drug Volumes 1-3 by Clamp
I was happy to see that Manga Bookshelf was hosting a Manga Moveable Feast on Clamp, because X/1999 was one of the titles that cemented my status as a fan when I started reading manga again. I also like Clover, and I delight in the new omnibus editions of Cardcaptor Sakura. At the same time, I’m experiencing a bit of fatigue when it comes to Clamp’s newer series. I experienced volume and crossover fatigue with xxxHOLiC and Tsubasa and gave up collecting them midway through the series. I thought the first volume of Kobato was dire and wasn’t able to summon the enthusiasm for Gate 7. I’ve actually had Legal Drug on my shelves for a long time and never read it, so this feast was a perfect excuse to give the series a try. This three volume series was originally published by Tokyopop, and is incomplete, but the continuing series Drug and Drop started up in Japan recently.
Legal Drug is a story about a group of men who work at a drug store who have mysterious powers and often experience angst about how pretty they all are. Rikuo finds Kazehaya almost frozen to death in a park and takes him home like a stray cat. The tall, solidly built Rikuo and the whispy Kazehaya find themselves as a shonen-ai odd couple, turning into bickering roommates who go on odd missions for their bosses at the Green Drugstore. While they do normal things like helping customers and stocking shelves, the mysterious boss of the drugstore Kakei sends the young men on side jobs that require a certain amount of psychic power. Kakei and his belligerent companion Saiga seem like a more grown up version of Kazehaya and Rikuo in appearance at times.
Kazehaya can pick up impressions of objects after touching them, and he and Rikuo are sent off to recover a mysterious book. Rikuo’s power is to break things, which comes in handy when they need to get through a locked door. Kazehaya finds a backyard garden filled with fish swimming through the air and the spirit of a vengeful woman embodied by a fig tree. The tone of this story and some of the visual imagery reminded me strongly of xxxHOLiC, making me wonder if Legal Drug was a bit of a trial run for some of the themes explored in the later series. Kazehaya and Rikuo continue their bickering relationship as they go on other missions, but Kazehaya’s powers have him picking up on mysterious incidents from Rikuo’s past. Both boys are haunted by different events in their lives, which causes a element of mysterious tragedy to carry through the more episodic missions involving spirits or the shadows of invisible fireflies.
The second volume fills in more details about the different women that haunt Kazehaya and Rikuo, as Kazehaya indulges in childhood memories of his sister Kei and Rikuo fiercely vows to track down a powerful woman named Tsukiko without the help of Kakei’s precognitive powers. The boys have to run after a mischevious magical kitten, they track down a vase who gives them a hard time, and poor Kazehaya is forced to cross-dress in order to help a female spirit live out her wish of the last day of school. There’s a brief cameo from the protagonists of Suki: A Like Story. Overall, this second volume cemented the usual plot points that the reader would expect after the first volume. Kazehaya and Rikuo fight, but there’s a bit of an unspoken friendship developing due to their extreme familiarity with each other. Rikuo realizes that Kazehaya might be useful with his quest for Tsukiko, if the psychic is able to pick up on memories that he can’t access himself. Rikuo acts as a protector when Kazehaya gets in over his head during missions. Saiga serves as a bit of comic relief when he isn’t busy groping Kakei as they discuss the boys’ missions while remaining mysterious and aloof.
The third volume deviates from the episodic structure of the earlier volumes as Kazehaya and Rikuo are sent undercover to find a ring at a boys only school where the students live in dorm. They meet their classmates and Kazehaya in particular befriends a boy named Nayki. Rikuo is told to wear glasses while he poses as a student, and he strongly resembles the student body president Mukofujiwara. Nayuki seems cheerful in a forced way, and the presence of a spirit running around the school shows that something supernatural is going on. As with all boys only schools in manga, there is also a cross dressing contest.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked Legal Drug. The art duties for this series were handled by Mick Nekoi, who’s more unadorned style for this series provides a bit of visual relief if you are more used to the ornamented stylings of usual Clamp artist Mokona. I would really be interested in reading the sequel series for Legal Drug if it is translated here, since so many things were hinted at but not followed up on in this series. Still, Kazehaya’s and Rikuo’s missions and the dynamics between all four of the characters were plenty engaging even without a clear conclusion. I generally tend to steer clear of unfinished series, but reading this manga was a satisfying experience and it reminded me again why I enjoy reading works by Clamp.