How many stories are “stored” in Ohkawa-sensei’s mind?
Ohkawa: Hm~ How many? (laughs)
Nekoi: Ohkawa often tells us stories, and edits the story on the spot.
Igarashi: Sometimes stories we’ve heard before appear as a mini-story in stories in progress.
Ohkawa: Normally I don’t tell other the members the whole story until the end. Sometimes I will say the main storyline but most of the time I don’t. The other three members don’t know what will happen in the end of Gouhou Drug, which is in progress now, or even the meaning of the title.
Do you give the work to them through text?
Ohkawa: Yes, I give them the script. Basically when we start a new series we’ve already decided how many volumes there are and what is drawn in each volume.
Nekoi: In the script every minute detail is written clearly.
Mokona: It’s kind of like a novel.
Igarashi: Even the emotions and expressions are written clearly.
Mokona: Sometimes I even cry when I read it (laughs)
So the three people who draw don’t need to think at all in that area?
Igarashi: Works like X have reference photos taken beforehand, finding those are already tiring/painful (laughs).
Are the backgrounds and the destruction of the city to some extent the idea/instructions of Ohkawa-sensei?
Ohkawa: Yes, everything is written in the script. For the details of how the collapsing looks like, I sit next to Apapa, so I use my ugly drawings to explain to her.
Then, what happens when the drawing drawn is a little different from what you planned?
Mokona: Redraw the whole thing. But if the drawing is not quite the same as the effect wanted in the outcome, we would know already by the time we do the storyboard.
I think it’s the problem of whether you can show/explain the world or meaning inside Ohkawa-sensei’s mind?
Mokona: Yes, no matter if it’s storyboard or a character, there is already a “finished work” in Ohkawa’s mind. What we have to do is if possible to understand this from the script or story completely, then materialize it on paper.
Nekoi: I think the work of drawing is to change something described in the script into drawings.
Mokona: But this is a very joyful job.
Igarashi: And we get to read the scripts first hand.
You can say this mutual trust relationship is the ideal relationship.
Ohkawa: Because it’s been 13 years since we’ve debuted. At first we weren’t that used to the doings of the other person, I also couldn’t get my thought across to the other three people well. The first two or three years were the most difficult.
From debut you have always maintained this CLAMP group, is there any special reason for the stubbornness of staying in this group?
Ohkawa: I think, just like there are things that can be made by only one person, there are also things that can only be made by four people.
Four people working together, there must be advantages and disadvantages.
Ohkawa: Yes. If people say they want to form a group and work together, you also have to see if they are suitable.
Mokona: You cannot form a group just because you are good friends, it is a different problem.
Nekoi: You don’t need to have the same favorite series or view on the world. For example, when someone watches a good movie, they will more or less be affected by it, people’s interests do change.
Igarashi: Sometimes because of practical issues, a couple of people may be suitable to work together, especially people like us. But the final couple of days, we basically have to live together. By that time, the most important problem is whether we can live together, work at maximum potential with each other.
Ohkawa: If you really have to work and you don’t set some rules, succumbing to yourself would be inevitable (laughs). Also, this isn’t a job where if you don’t’ draw or don’t write you will die, forming a group that makes everyone happy naturally will make people happier. The next thing to do is to fix your own short-comings.
Mokona: But when other people see your weak points, it doesn’t feel good when people say “You can’t do that”.
Igarashi: We do this not because we are in a group. But if you don’t fix your short-coming, the situation may turn serious.
Ohkawa: Speaking of extreme, if you want to form a group, it’s fine if you don’t like the other members, but if you don’t believe them then why bother forming one.
Mokona: If someone told me “This is really weird”, in an instant my mind will change that to “She is talking about my drawing and not defying the mangaka me”, also “I believe this person, the reason why she said that is only to raise the quality of the final product”, so the relationship between us will not be affected.
Is this the secret of being a team?
Ohkawa: Even if we say so, we don’t recommend people to form any groups, especially for girls, since there are so much that you have to give up on.
What kind of things?
Ohkawa: Time for dating. *laughs*
Mokona: To put it simply, there will be less space for other friends.
Igarashi: Even if we all have our own friends, our thought is that “it’s good enough if the four of us are together”. *laughs*
Most of the CLAMP mangas are already made into animes. Among those are ANGELIC LAYER, that is in a sense uncontrolled by CLAMP, Chobits with scripts written by Ohkawa-sensei, and Card Captor Sakura with Mokona-sensei doing the clothing design. Was there any reasons for the difference?
Ohkawa: That depends on what the production team prefers. If people from the production team want it to be “like the original” that they want us to join the team, we’ll do that. If they prefer working on it alone, our joining in would be a nuisance, so we’ll leave it to them entirely.
If it is possible, would you like to participate in some ways?
Ohkawa: No *laughs* I don’t. Especially for Card Captor Sakura, it was a lot of work!
Igarashi: As we are serializing in a weekly magazine now, we don’t have the time to discuss the animes every week.
Ohkawa: But I enjoy watching others work on it.
Mokona: I like watching animes too.
Ohkawa: Even so, I won’t “absolutely want our work to be animated, or absolutely want to watch the anime version of our manga”. If the teams want to make it an anime and the readers want to watch it, I would welcome that.
Mokona: People might have misunderstood us in this respect.
Ohkawa: If we are to participate, we would be a part of the production team, what we do must be approved by the director.
There may be both the production of manga and the production of anime of the same piece of work. Do you regard them as two separate entities?
Ohkawa: Basically we want to draw the manga, if we don’t do this well, we can’t move onto other aspects. *laughs* But as a member of the production team of the anime or anything else, we are simply working as a “production team member”.
You were fastidious about the binding of tankobons. Did you design this way right from when your group is formed?
Ohkawa: At first it was often not done according to what we said. *laughs* That is because we didn’t have much achievement at that time, it’s just natural. We urged to be responsible for the design and binding of the tankobons, and when they think that what we’ve done wasn’t too bad, they let us work on it by ourselves next time.
Why do you care so much about the tankobon publication every time? Is there any reason?
Ohkawa: Manga are for keeps. If we serialize them in the magazines, there will be other works. But tankobons belong to us entirely, so it’s just natural to want to design ourselves. Because we regard every tankobon, novel, CD and DVD (covers/wrappers included) as a piece of work. And we shouldn’t forget the feeling of those who buy the merchandises.
Igarashi: When I was very young, I tried hard to save money every time I have something I want to buy. That’s why we always ask the editor to “lower the price as much as possible”.
Mokona: And the illustrations on phone cards and stuff, even if there’s only one, we won’t be sloppy. There may be less people owning them, comparing with magazines and tankobons, but still they spent their important money to buy them.
Nekoi: We try very hard to remember about our readers.
Ohkawa: Nowadays there are countless who draw well, and many that produce works funnier than ours, so we have to continue to work hard without slacking off.
Nekoi: If we are used to “work with moderate effort”, it will be easier, but it will bring bad memories, and I don’t like that. But without certain amount of bad memories, we can’t produce good pieces of work.
What you are saying now echos the topics we talked about earlier, “setting rules for yourselves”, as you are professional mangakas.
Mokona: I think one should start to do this he/she is avocational. It’s hard to finish drawing before the deadlines, and it’s normal to think that “we want to spend more time to draw if possible”. It takes quite a long time for us to realize that we must try our best to draw within the time limit.
Is this a secret of your productions, to keep your awareness as professionals?
Ohkawa: We are still learning.
Igarashi: I think we must be aware that people buy our work with their money, if they think their money is wasted after buying our stuff, I would feel apologetic about that.
Ohkawa: That’s why we have to raise our awareness.
In this interview, I strongly feel that you love manga the best even if you have done a variety of jobs.
Igarashi: Really Love!
Mokona: I want to read interesting mangas!
Nekoi: It’s the happiest thing to read manga that one likes!
Ohkawa: Although we don’t think we are special, we feel that we are lucky. This job cannot be done very well just with the ability. Luck is involved in whether people want to read series done by a certain someone in a particular time, and are there many who want to read that. There are really many who knows how to draw mangas, but only some of them would be able to do that as a job. So I think that we are really lucky. We will do our work seriously while people still want to read mangas that we draw.
To conclude, please say something to our readers.
Mokona: What I want to say is still “luck”, “vigor” and “hard-work”.*laughs* Strive on everyone!
Nekoi: We really love mangas. Please support us!
Igarashi: We will continue drawing anyhow, please read our manga!
Ohkawa: I just said that this job is often affected by luck, but it is not totally depended on luck. The most important thing would be “draw til the very last” and “draw for someone”, everything starts from there.
Translated from Chinese by Regine Lun (first half) and Lydia Fok (second half).
If you know where this interview is from, found mistakes in this translation or would like to contribute with translating this or other interviews, please contact me.