At long last, the collection of CLAMP, called “THE WORLD OF CLAMP” is coming to UT! This collection celebrates the four-woman creative team with designs inspired by four of their manga—Magic Knight Rayearth, xxxHOLiC, Tsubasa-RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-, and of course Cardcaptor Sakura, the hit franchise with a sequel, Clear Card, that is approaching its conclusion. We spoke with three of CLAMP’s editors at publisher Kodansha to learn more about CLAMP and their manga. How have they attracted so many dedicated fans from around the world? How do their stories draw in people of all ages? Over the years, the editors have gotten to know these brilliant creators and gained some insight into what makes their works so beloved.
CLAMP is a creative team composed of four women: Nanase Okawa, Satsuki Igarashi, Nekoi, and Mokona. Since debuting in 1989, they have produced numerous hit manga, including Cardcaptor Sakura, Magic Knight Rayearth, xxxHOLiC, and Tsubasa-RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-. Many of the works have been adapted into animated TV shows and movies. The manga are also popular overseas; translations have been published in over 20 countries. Global sales for all CLAMP manga have exceeded 100 million units.
The four manga featured in this UT collection
Cardcaptor Sakura｜Serialized in Nakayosi from June 1996 to August 2000, this manga tells the story of Sakura Kinomono, a Cardcaptor responsible for collecting magical cards that tend to bring disaster without an owner. A sequel, Clear Card, was serialized starting in July 2016 to mark the manga’s 20th anniversary; the story is scheduled to end this year.
Magic Knight Rayearth｜Three girls are transported into a world called Cephiro, where they become the titular magic knights to save the world from danger. The manga was serialized in Nakayosi from November 1993 to April 1996; this year marks its 30th anniversary.
xxxHOLiC｜She is Yuko Ichihara, the owner of a shop that can grant any wish for the right price. He is Kimihiro Watanuki, a high schooler who attracts the supernatural. Together, they encounter a series of strange goings-on. This dark urban fantasy was serialized in Young Magazine from 2003 to 2010; this year marks its 20th anniversary.
Tsubasa-RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-｜In this fantasy adventure, Syaoran travels through other worlds in search of feathers containing the memories of his childhood friend Sakura so he can restore her memory. The manga was serialized in Weekly Shonen Magazine from 2003 to 2009—roughly the same time as xxxHOLiC. It is also celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
How a partnership starts
Katsurada: I’ve been editing Young Magazine ever since joining Kodansha in 2001, so it’s been 22 years. I’ve been in charge of xxxHOLiC for over a decade.
Saito: After joining Kodansha in 2008, I worked on the magazines Be Love and Aria (currently on hiatus). At the moment, I’m part of the editorial department for the magazine Nakayosi, where I handle Cardcaptor Sakura and Magic Knight Rayearth.
Uchida: I was assigned to Young when I first joined the company in 2006, so Mr. Katsurada was my supervisor. I transferred to Weekly Shonen Magazine after that and am now working on Monthly Shonen Magazine. I took over Tsubasa-RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- while I was at Weekly Shonen, where it was serialized, and have continued to be in charge of the work even after transferring to Monthly Shonen. Since CLAMP’s works are handled by a number of departments within Kodansha, the editors basically work as one team without handing over editing duties to new editors. It’s kind of confusing—I’ve been in charge of a CLAMP manga for around 10 years even though I belong to a department that doesn’t handle any CLAMP titles!
Katsurada: It’s easier to think of us as the team that’s responsible for marketing CLAMP’s titles. We do things like plan pop-up shops to commemorate important anniversaries of their manga, including those that have finished their runs.
Through an editor’s eyes
Uchida: Since all of the titles we handle have been serialized for a long time, there were of course other editors who were in charge when their runs began. So we’re not the original editors.
Katsurada: CLAMP was already a legendary team that rarely met with anyone besides their editors, so I had no idea what they would be like until I actually met them.
Saito: I’ve been reading Sakura since I was a kid, so I was thrilled to be assigned to it. But at the same time, I worried about whether I was up to the job. However, CLAMP works differently than other manga artists. We don’t meet with them to discuss the content of their work at all—we leave it up to them. All we have to do is receive the drafts and manuscripts, proofread them, and submit them, so our workflow is very simple.
Uchida: Even though we’re the editors, we don’t have to tell CLAMP anything. They are the ones who diligently pay attention to the world around them to gather story ideas, which they incorporate beautifully. So, we don’t ask them about their work any more than we have to.
Katsurada: Even when they share their ideas for the next part of the story, it’s more of a casual chat than a meeting—we know they don’t need our guidance. When I look at the recent issues of Sakura , for example, I can tell that every word and every punctuation mark has been carefully considered.
Saito: That goes even for things that would normally be up to us editors to suggest. Take Nakayosi , which is sometimes packaged with bonus Sakura collectibles. CLAMP will come up with ideas about what drawings to put on these items all on their own. Even when something isn’t going to be in the manga itself, they come up with the perfect solution. These ideas are always overwhelmingly cute, and I am always impressed.
These are just some of the CLAMP manga stored in the CLAMP Room—the office within Kodansha where CLAMP’s editors meet to discuss their projects. Each book is filled with sticky tapes indicating illustrations suited for use in merchandise.
These books are packed with color illustrations that CLAMP have created over the years for the covers of magazines serializing their work, as well as for the softcover publications of their manga. “CLAMP design their illustrations so they fit nicely inside a frame,” says Uchida. “This makes it easy to display the works at exhibitions. That’s why they continue creating their illustrations the old-fashioned way, even as everyone else is going digital.”
Something for everyone
Katsurada: CLAMP has the extraordinary ability to adopt dramatically different styles to cater to the target age group and the theme of the work. It’s rare for a manga artist to create works for different genders and age groups, let alone works that don’t fit into any genre. Our minds mature just as our bodies do, so it is not uncommon for an artist to start out writing, say, manga for young boys (known as shonen manga) and then switch to writing seinen manga (which targets a young adult audience). But CLAMP not only transcend gender barriers, they also have the ability to write manga for adults and then switch back to shojo manga (which targets young girls). I don’t know of any other artists like them.
Uchida: In shonen manga, it is the plot that drives the story forward in a clear-cut way, whereas shojo manga is driven more by the emotions of the protagonists. They are completely different on a structural level.
Saito: That’s very true. Our audience at Nakayosi is mostly made up of girls in elementary and junior high school, so our artists think about the emotions and concerns of elementary and junior high schoolers when they create their stories. The things that kids look for in stories are always changing, and I think CLAMP is very sensitive to that.
Uchida: I think that subtle, emotional stories are a challenge because they cannot be explained by logic or reason.
Saito: It’s been said that shojo manga is about the characters’ emotional reactions to what’s happening in their immediate surroundings. It is a nuanced genre in which the drama arises from what is important to one character, whose emotions cannot be easily expressed in words. It is certainly not as straightforward as shonen manga, which tends to have a lot of sports and action. But everyone experiences moments when they feel drawn more to the sentimental imaginings of shojo manga, as well as moments when they prefer the spirit of adventure and daring that you see in shonen manga. Both genres reflect core aspects of human life.
Uchida: That makes me think of how there are also shonen themes in CLAMP’s shojo manga. Rayearth has giant robots, for example, and Sakura is driven by the protagonist’s mission to collect cards. It seems to me that CLAMP’s skillful balancing of genres is what wins over readers before they even realize it.
Appendix of Nakayosi, Feburary issue, 1996
A creative team unlike any other
Saito: Sakura has a charm that is universal and timeless. No matter when you read it, you’ll always discover something new.
Uchida: Maybe it’s because CLAMP are themselves fans of manga and anime, but they manage to incorporate both niche elements that resonate with die-hard fans and classic elements that appeal to a wider audience. All of their stories also feature good use of foreshadowing. You get the impression that they’ve already planned out the entire story arc when they start writing the first chapter. It’s a rare thing to be able to start a story while looking so far ahead.
Katsurada: Another amazing thing about CLAMP is that they are able to show exactly who and what the story is going to be about in just a few pages in the first chapter, with just a touch of humor. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the first chapter sets a tone and introduces elements that determine the rest of the story. Their works really are models of perfection.
Uchida: You’re already attached to the protagonists in the first chapter, so you can’t tear your eyes away even as new characters are introduced later on. There are a lot of characters, but it doesn’t feel crowded—each character is fleshed out and has a leading role to play. This has made it possible for them to create parallel worlds like in Tsubasa, which features alternative versions of characters from their other franchises.
Saito: I was hooked by the worldbuilding of Tsubasa when I first read it in high school. It depicts a world that’s different from our own but that’s inhabited by people who have the same sensibilities as us and who are somehow connected to us. I’d never read a manga like it. It was as though I was following the lives of people in some other country, which made me see how vast and amazing our world is.
Weekly Shonen Magazine 2006, Vol.1
Katsurada: In that sense, it’s no surprise that it’s popular overseas. Many manga set in schools are deeply influenced by Japanese school culture, with its school uniforms and club activities, which can make it difficult for people from other countries to get into. But Tsubasa is a fantasy that does not belong to any one world, so it is full of elements and emotional beats that are accessible to people of all backgrounds.
Saito: If there were a radar chart of important elements for manga—like themes that resonate with people of all ages, the strength of the characters, and the appeal of the story—CLAMP’s titles would be rated highly on all of the spokes and, what’s more, would strike a great balance between them. I think that is the secret to their great stories, which are as sophisticated and beautiful as fine art—but easier to get into. They’re a form of entertainment that anyone can enjoy.
Getting to know CLAMP
Saito: The first time I met CLAMP, I was so stiff and nervous. What were your first meetings like?
Katsurada: I met CLAMP when they were based in Tokyo. Their studio is in Kyoto now, but I remember the winding walkways of their Tokyo studio.
Uchida: When I took over editing duties for Tsubasa , I went to introduce myself, and we went out to eat. Even now, we don’t talk much about work when we share a meal. Instead, we spend a long time together talking about our favorite manga and anime, or the people and things that we’re into lately. We’ll meet up at noon, but by the time I get home, it’s already 8 p.m.!
Katsurada: We haven’t done it much lately, but we used to go to karaoke a lot. We’d have an early dinner, then go have a karaoke contest. They’d be sure to let me know whenever I got out of tune!
Saito: They have very fun, strong personalities. They love to chat and are full of curiosity, bombarding you with questions about how things are going.
Katsurada: Speaking of which, they loved the T-shirts in this collection!
The three people we spoke to
Sho Saito｜Deputy Editor at Nakayosi in charge of Cardcaptor Sakura and Magic Knight Rayearth Saito was born in 1985 in Saitama, Japan. He is one of few male editors at Nakayosi. He has been a fan of romantic manga since he was a child; when he joined Kodansha, it was for the purpose of working for a shojo manga magazine.
Tsuyoshi Katsurada｜Deputy Editor at Young Magazinein charge of xxxHOLiC
Katsurada was born in 1977 in Shiga, Japan. He has spent his entire 22-year career at Young Magazine. He became CLAMP’s editor in the middle of xxxHOLiC’s run.
Akihiro Uchida｜Deputy Editor at Monthly Shonen Magazine in charge of Tsubasa-RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-
Uchida was born in 1982 in Saitama, Japan. He first encountered CLAMP’s works in elementary school through Magic Knight Rayearth, which he read in his sister’s copies of Nakayosi.
Release dates and prices may vary. Some items might be limited to certain stores or countries of sale or may be sold out.
©CLAMP, ShigatsuTsuitachi CO.,LTD./KODANSHA