Special Interview With CLAMP
Ever since they debuted with RG VEDA in 1989, the women of CLAMP have spent 22 years as authors. This group of four’s literary works are unique and continue to capture the hearts of fans.
Again, in September 2011 there was a CLAMP Festival in Tokyo where an original comic called Shiritsu Horitsuba Gakuen – Exchange Student Excitement.
Students from Amusement Media Academy also participated in the live, on air motion comic!
This time, we talked to CLAMP regarding behind the scenes secrets about their creations and other events surrounding their work.
About Writing Together
Ohkawa: The members of our doujinshi group were different back in Kansai before our debut. It was more like a group of friends. For instance people would stay the night over at my house.
Mokona: When we tried to work as four person group, we found it was best to divide various things into four equal parts.
Igarashi: I think when you’re working on a project there are certain things you can’t say to assistants and editors and such, even though they’re working on the project with you. However, because the four of us are a team, we all share in both the good times and the bad.
Mokona: When I get stuck and am able to ask my teammates, “What should I do?” it makes me really happy. It’s really important that if any of us gets stuck, we can rely on the rest of the group to help.
How do you craft your characters?
Ohkawa: We talk about it beforehand, and together we think about how to make the characters. I make requests and discuss it with the other three, but I’m very concrete and specific about main characters.
I was particularly specific back during Card Captor Sakura. Occasionally, I’d ask to give so-and-so long hair for some reason, but the core designs were set in stone. There were some even more ridiculously specific things such as, “It would be good if they were something of a smooth-talker,” and so on… That’s not a lead character, is it? (laughs)
Mokona: That’s probably not a lead character. (laughs)
Ohkawa: There are one-off characters that we drew after only one conversation—for example, the clients in XXXHOLiC nowadays—which we drew in the blink of an eye, too.
Mokona: The clients are always women, so sometimes they’re redundant. (laughs)
Ohkawa: Huh? Before, there were, yeah…um, uh…things that turned out that way, but for the main characters, I’m reliable in giving spoken explanations for them. I get the rough sketches right on time, and then we go back and forth until I give the OK.
Mokona: This is when we agree on things like height and age.
Igarashi: In addition, when we’re designing the characters, there have been situations when we’ve gone as far as determining the head/body ratios.
Ohkawa: Since the person drawing can change the proportions in their sketches without knowing, Igarashi and I consult with each other and ask for revisions so that the proportions don’t shift, that kind of thing.
Nekoi: I think when I do it myself, I end up always drawing the same thing, which either way is just me. Coming from that, it’s a pain “displaying” your mistakes, so to speak, which probably really is because we’re working in tandem with each other as four people.
Mokona: As for me, I had trouble with Yuuko in XXXHOLiC. After drawing those long proportions , I would mess up and make the proportions in Kobato. long, too… Drawing consistently was a nightmare. As such, it really is reassuring to have partners who can check over your work with a cool head.
Ohkawa: Since there are times when the person drawing can consciously alter their work, and times when they can’t, we adjust things by talking it over.
When you’re in the preparatory phase, do you determine the art materials, too?
Ohkawa: Since you make a different impression just by changing the pens you use, we’ve often determined the materials we’ll use to draw during our initial prep meetings.
Mokona: As you’d expect, we didn’t know how the printer would output the pages, so we did test runs and things like that.
Igarashi: We went with different paper for CLOVER, didn’t we?
Ohkawa: It was drawing paper, right? (1) You make a greatly different impression just by doing that. We discuss all different kinds of things together, things like “We had materials like that!” and so on.
Mokona: For ANGELIC LAYER—Nekoi thought this up—we used thick, fountain-pen-like liner markers.
Ohkawa: From the start, when we set out to draw, we consult each other about things such as whether or not thin lines wouldn’t mesh well and so on. It’s the same with color materials. There have been situations when heavy colors would have suited the story, but conversely making it as cute as possible would have been good, so we play it by ear.
Do you have memos or notebooks for dialogue, expressions, and word choices?
Ohkawa: Honestly, I used to keep memos, but that was at about the time of our debut. Now, I put down the rough flow of the story in a memo, but nothing like expressions.
Mokona: It doesn’t seem like we make up mottoes, does it.
Igarashi: Just keywords, right?
Mokona: For big scenes, yeah, it’s gotten to the point that this unusual kind of route is better because you can clear out some space in the scenarios you get, in the spirit of the moment, as I understand it.
Ohkawa: The truth is, I used to get pumped about specifically setting out to write memos, but that pretty much ended immediately.
Igarashi: What kind of memos did you write, anyway? For about the two years I remember you writing them, that is.
Ohkawa: I carried a memo pad around, but I never put it to any practical use. Sitting around in your chair is no good when you’ve got deadlines to meet. (laughs)
What has kept you going over the past 22 years?
Ohkawa: In the end, it’s likely just the love of making something. Some time ago, when we were being interviewed in France, we were asked how much we worked. In an honest answer, I said, “Enough to violate French labor laws.” (laughs) Thinking about it, there’s probably a part of me that’s a workaholic. Nevertheless, when I’m in good spirits and have some free time, I genuinely think to myself, “This is great!,” while I’m working.
Well, actually…there have been times when, in the middle of the night by 2:00 or 3:00 am, I’ve thought, “What am I doing…” (laughs)
In closing, please tell us about your future plans.
Igarashi: The new Gouhou Drug series will start in November. (2) Also, in conjunction with that, we’re launching new formats for the original volumes. Please look forward to the publication of GATE 7, vol. 2, too. That said, sorry for just the advertisements. (laughs)
Mokona: I’m happy to have the chance to work on things outside of comics, such as character designs for animation. I’m looking forward to Code Geass in particular.
Nekoi: After eight years, I’ve finally gotten back to drawing Gouhou Drug. I’ll do my best once again.
Ohkawa: I’m assisting with writing the story for a stage drama, as well. I’d like to express my gratitude to all of the people who have helped me in planning it, and above all else, to all the people who will see it in the future.
Thank you very much for the interview, CLAMP!
After a successful run, “CLAMP FES 2011 Tokyo” is coming to a close, but we’ll keep cheering you on from here on out!
(1) “Drawing paper” here is contrasted with other, more common media such as comic paper and Bristol board.
(2) The new series would eventually be titled Drug & Drop.
(3) Ohkawa is referring to MOON SAGA, a supernatural dramatization of the life of Minamoto no Yoshitsune starring popular musician Gackt.
Translated from Japanese by Steadfast Sonnet (first two sections) and Panicle.
Interview published in Amusement Media Academy, September 2011. Available at http://www.amgakuin.co.jp/contents/?p=13675
If you found mistakes in this translation or would like to contribute with translating other interviews, please contact me.