“It’s not easy to be a professional. If you despair because somebody wants you to give up, you may not be able to handle harsher conditions that follow”.
CLAMP is an all – female manga team. There were more members at first but now there are only four. Each takes responsibility for different aspects of the manga production. X, for instance, sees Nanase Ohkawa doing the script writing and book design, Mokona Apapa handles the comic and cover illustration, Mick Nekoi, takes charge of art direction and Satsuki Igarashi lends her creative talent as the group’s art assistant. The artists first knew one another when they were in senior high school. Their passion for art and their adventurous experimentation with all kinds of artistic possibilities brought them together. Their friendship eventually blossomed into a strong mangaka team that won international acclaim.
About the formation of CLAMP
Ohkawa: Some of our friends were involved in doujinshi. Though we did not belong to the same group we were very close so we decided to form a group to be remembered as. The group was called “CLAMP”.
Teamwork vs solo effort
Ohkawa: We feel that the workload is more manageable if we work in a group of four. People often say that it’s rare to see a team operated entirely by female artists but we don’t agree.
Checking the work progress
Ohkawa: Don’t interfere with the other team mates’ work. If I’m in two minds about anything I can ask the rest but I’m still responsible for my own tasks. Only then can I possibly produce a piece of work that brings personal satisfaction. The other point is, we have to be frank with one another. If asked for my opinions and I find a suggestion weird or the content boring I need to say just that. Honesty is crucial for accomplishing a product that each of us is satisfied with.
Hours of sleep
Nekoi: About four hours if I have to work and six if I don’t.
Ohkawa: This (having only four hours of sleep) will stretch up to twenty days in a month.
Nekoi: I once suffered from anemia for not having enough sleep. The doctor told me to get eight full hours but that would be at the expense of my work.
Mokona: For the background I use Pigma 0.05 mostly. I also use Porokki. For hair, it’s drawn using waterproof Pentel pens.
Nekoi: When I produce the draft version of the characters, I only use ballpoint and G pens. Pigma 0.05 is used for the background. Lately, I began using sandpaper on pattern film, the fine ones which are excellent for polishing parts of the pattern film’s surface. To emphasize the thickness of lines, I need to use “hard” pens. G pen is too soft to support the pressure that I exert when drawing.
Satsuki: To accommodate our hand pressure, we choose thick papers. They are thrice as thick as the manga drawing papers on the market.
Mokona: Different paper sizes are chosen for different projects, depending on their nature.
Satsuki: Every illustration done by Nekoi bears a mark.
Nekoi: We use any type of paper that we can easily lay our hands on.
Satsuki: Like wrappers found in the receptacle.
Mokona: We normally use Watson or Kent papers or the back of photocopied papers and manuscripts. Boxes even. In places of a traditional Japanese style, we can find packets of tea being sold. We use the wrappers, some of them still have the shops’ names printed on them. *laughs* X, for example, used one with the picture of a dragon.
Reasons for using all types of papers
Mokona: Each drawing tool requires me to decide on a specific paper type. For Rayearth, I chose white paper or paper with slight patterns as I was using Copic. In X I use absolutely anything: wrapping paper, cardboard and tea wrappers. It doesn’t have a particular set of drawing tools.
Nekoi: Copic was used before the brush pen was introduced.
Using colored pattern films
Mokona: Tokyo Babylon is the only manga that predominantly uses colored pattern films.
Ohkawa: Tokyo Babylon came across as relatively flat, visually. I wanted to transform it, giving it a cool look. I talked to Mokona about this and eventually decided on using pattern films. For CLAMP, before penning a story, we have to determine the drawing tools as well as the direction of the pictures and frames. This is also when we need to settle on how the book is to be bound. Many Magic Knight Rayearth readers are of a younger age and if the pictures were too many and elaborate they wouldn’t have a clue as to where to start. Pigma was chosen to make sure that lines were not too thick.
Mokona: I wish to turn Magic Knight Rayearth into a piece that was neatly organized. Pens cannot accommodate my pressure to yield a distinction between thick and fine lines.
Nekoi: I had to remind myself that I should use less films in the opening scenes and when the characters employed their magical powers.
Ohkawa: Satsuki and I are responsible for that. One directs the project, the illustrator plans and sketches the comic followed by a discussion to reach a decision.
Orientation of CLAMP’s Works
Serializing Magic Knight Rayearth
Ohkawa: I’m glad that the editorial at Nakayoshi entrusted us with the task.
Nekoi: It was my first time to do an appendix for the book and there were so many things that needed editing.
The unique set of 53 poker cards
Mokona: We designed the border of the cards, the reverse side and the box itself.
Ohkawa: We realized how to design the box only after we tried folding one to see how it would look like.
Mokona: I’m delighted to have them. They make the story very beautiful.
Theme in Magic Knight Rayearth
Ohkawa: There isn’t a definite set of values. There is no absolute justice or evil. Everyone does what he or she thinks is right and this culminates in conflict. It’s hoped that readers will ponder over why a character did what he or she did. This is the philosophy behind the making of Magic Knight Rayearth.
Mokona: There are times when a design has been predetermined. The next step is to complement it with illustrations.
Ohkawa: Tokyo Babylon is similarly completed.
Extent of instruction
Satsuki: Everything. Paper size, print, color selection. We also designed the calendars and the illustration series ourselves.
Preparation before serializing a manga
Ohkawa: First and foremost the story’s plot has to be finalized. The scope is then narrowed down to the details of the characters’ first appearances in the manga. Next comes the number of chapters needed to complete the story. After that, Mokona and Nekoi conduct a discussion on a detailed design of the characters.
Design of the cast
Ohkawa: The food they eat, special skills, what they do at different times, how they were brought up, interests etc. All these must be very detailed.
Mokona: And the type of houses they lived in: Japanese or western style.
Satsuki: And whether they enjoy sweet stuff.
Frequent appearance of food
Ohkawa: Oh yes. Like whether a character drinks red tea or Japanese tea. These reveal much about their lifestyle and principles.
Having three protagonists, not one
Ohkawa: Because three people can form a mini organization. The majority will make the decision. Besides, more heads can come up with more ideas.
An end with an impact
Ohkawa: Many people feel that this is CLAMP’s style. Some editors held opposing views towards the ending to Magic Knight Rayearth. We’re grateful to the editorial at Nakayoshi for accepting and publishing it.
About Magic Knight Rayearth 2
Ohkawa: The young Nakayoshi readers understand us. This is something we are happy about. Those thinking that “this is a fantasy story and so the ending will be this” would find the closing incomprehensible. I think the happy ending delighted the kids the most. Our fans may be surprised with such a perfect end.
Philosophy in life
Tokyo tower as the symbol for Tokyo
Ohkawa: The visual effect it produces. And also, Mokona has a thing for tall, beautiful buildings.
Becoming strong in character
Ohkawa: Follow your heart and put your ideas into action. Self sacrifice isn’t something that I would consider great. When a hero sacrifices himself to save the world, what about those saved by him? They can neither forget the person who died nor can they pretend to live their lives as if nothing has happened. My point is that without individual happiness there is no group happiness.
A twist at the end
Ohkawa: We don’t strive to be different or original. We merely start with the story, see how it develops and finally ends. Each character makes their own decision and their decision leads to a consequence. To keep our readers interested, we of course build in some mysteries and remarks that are suggestive of future developments. When you look at the entire story, however, you can guess what comes at the end.
On characters that died
Ohkawa: We don’t dislike happy endings. I also don’t think that characters should just die without thinking. Basically, each character is true to themselves and when they die it doesn’t always mean an unhappy ending. CLAMP’s characters choose their own destiny. The paths they have chose might seem unfortunate for some people but that’s the life that the characters have chosen for themselves.
Ohkawa: It depends on the individual. What constitutes unhappiness for a person might be seen as happiness to another. Instead of waiting for everyone else to accept your idea of happiness, more importantly, you feel that you are happy and the people you love are happy as well.
For would-be manga artists
Ohkawa: It is not easy to be a professional in any field. If you despair because somebody wants you to give up, you may not be able to handle harsher conditions that follow. A professional must maintain their status and produce work of a professional quality. The same applies to us. Once our standard dipped, in five or ten years, we can no longer consider ourselves as professionals. Hence, anyone who
genuinely resolved in becoming a manga artist must make their dream a reality. They must produce quality work and not succumb to hardship. The best motivation is having a strong belief in yourself.
It is unclear where and when this interview was first published. Judging by the answers, it looks like it was published right after the ending of Magic Knight Rayearth 2 (1996). Available at http://www.lchr.org/a/2/lb/clampart.html
If you found mistakes in this translation or would like to contribute with translating other interviews, please contact me.