Cardcaptor Sakura Omnibus Volume 3 by CLAMP

This volume starts the second major story arc for Cardcaptor Sakura, and since I had only collected a few of the early Tokyopop volumes it was all new material for me. Since in structure Sakura’s main mission was ended when she collected all the Clow cards, I was curious to see how CLAMP was going to move on to the next phase of the series. For as light and fluffy a series as Cardcaptor Sakura is, there are some hints of darkness and suffering that make it a bit more sophisticated than one would think of a manga geared towards the younger set. Syaoran is struggling with the feelings he now realizes he has for Sakura, and things are complicated further with the sudden arrival of a new transfer student, Eriol Hiiragizawa. Sakura immediately thinks that Eriol looks familiar. With his glasses, polite nature, and gentle smile, the boy reminds her of her father. But it turns out that Eriol is actually Sakura’s mysterious antagonist who seems to be Clow Reed reborn in younger form. Most of this manga concerns Sakura’s investigations of the strange phenomena that occur after Eriol’s arrival. While she has the cards and can use them, now her own innate magic is changing their forms. Unfortunately Sakura’s lack of magic is starting to cause problems for her guardians. Yue in his human disguise of Yukito grows progressively more and more fatigued, and as Toya attempts to have a serious talk with him over and over he gets interrupted by one of Eriol’s interfering familiars.

Fans of the earlier volumes of this series will find plenty to enjoy here. Sakura is gradually becoming more self-reliant, although she still treasures the help of her friends. There’s a little bit of resolution to the tension between her father and great-grandfather, and seeing Syaoran struggling with first love inspires both comic relief and sympathy. I really enjoy CLAMP’s art in this series. It is just ornate and girly enough to satisfy my inner 12-year-old, without being overly decorated or difficult to follow. CLAMP is good at developing ambiguous villains, and since Eriol’s plans and motivations aren’t entirely clear there is plenty of dramatic tension as the events unfold. As always, the battle scenes are balanced with the school life and hijinks of Sakura’s friends. Cardcaptor Sakura is such a feel-good manga. I always put it down feeling a little better after immersing myself in plenty of flowers, friends, and sparkles. Dark Horse’s manga omnibus volumes are always the best in terms of production quality and extras, and there are plenty of color illustrations here to appeal to any CLAMP fan.

Legal Drug by Clamp

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.

Cardcaptor Sakura Omnibus Volume 2

Cardcaptor Sakura Omnibus Volume 2 by Clamp

I finished this volume and I immediately felt frustrated that the third Cardcaptor Sakura omnibus from Dark Horse doesn’t seem to be scheduled to be released anytime soon. I’m feeling a little frustrated with some of the more modern Clamp series – they just seem to either go on for far to many volumes (Tsubasa) or lean towards the insipid (Kobato). But since I’ve only read a couple scattered volumes of Cardcaptor Sakura I am happy to enjoy it from the beginning in all of its pink magical girl glory.

The opening storyline of this omnibus shows Sakura struggling to master the Clow card “The Maze.” She’s aided by her enigmatic Mizuki, who has an alarmingly direct way of dealing with her students being trapped in a maze that automatically adjusts itself to create more confusion. Syaoran is immediately suspicious of Mizuki, but it turns out that she used to know Sakura’s older brother. The question of Mizuki being helpful or having some other agenda runs through much of this omnibus, because she seems determined to remain mysterious. Sakura doesn’t really care because Mizuki makes her feel “floaty inside,” but Syaoran is constantly trying to figure out what Mizuki is up to. Other episodes include a scary class trip and a class play put on by selecting roles without considering gender, with the result that Sakura ends up playing the Prince and Syaoran the Princess. Crossdressing Syaoran is pretty hilarious in the way his dialog is portrayed at being flatly shouted and peppered with exclamation points.

While magical girl activities are the general focus of the book, there’s also a nice summer vacation episode when Sakura and her father go on vacation and she befriends the old man next door who turns out to be her estranged great-grandfather. Having the card battles interrupted by occasional school event or family interaction helps keep Cardcaptor Sakura from feeling too quest-focused. The end of this omnibus is a giant battle as Sakura has to prove herself worthy of the cards she’s collected. One thing I was surprised about was that by the end of this omnibus Sakura has collected all of the Clow cards, so in six volumes the first stage of her quest is complete. I somehow thought the card collecting aspect of the manga went on for much longer, but as you might expect when Sakura masters one challenge she is set up to face new tests in the next volume.

As always from Dark Horse, this omnibus features plenty of color pages and nice paper quality. It might take them forever to release these volumes but they are a treat for Clamp fans. Now, when is volume 3 coming out?