What is the story behind this work being drawn?
Ohkawa: At the time, Kobunsha was publishing a magazine called Val Pretty. Its editor came to us and said, “The magazine is being discontinued, but will you draw a graphic novel for us?” I remember that the issue of the magazine itself with the announcement (of Shirahime Syo) was the final one before it was suspended.
Why did the graphic novel you made for them, Shirahime Syo, turn out so different from other CLAMP works?
Ohkawa: A little before we got the request, we saw a very well-done episode of Manga Japanese Legends on TV and were very deeply impressed. We had enthusiastically kind of decided and kind of not decided that we’d have to do a Manga Japanese Legends! (laughs)
Why did you use a brush and ink as the media?
Ohkawa: To give it more of a folktale atmosphere.
Nekoi: We didn’t use screentone at all, so the characters’ clothes, the backgrounds and everything were painted with diluted ink.
Igarashi: But the manuscript paper got soaked through (since it had been painted with ink), and we had a rough time drying it out.
Mokona: There were almost no rough drafts, and once the frames were drawn, everything up to the background was executed all in one shot. We had only one chance at everything, but because of that, we finished it faster. That was an advantage we hadn’t thought of (laughs).
So the work progressed relatively smoothly.
Mokona: The artistic phase ended quickly, but the printing process was ruthless (laughs).
Nekoi: Back then, unlike now, parts of the plate-making process were done by hand, so even the half-toning was done by a human being. We had them adjust the percentages (at the printing office) so the half-toning for the parts with diluted ink wouldn’t be ruined, but it took up to an awful lot of time to check it all.
Igarashi: And it’s not like all of the plate-making for the whole volume was done by the same person, so sometimes one page would be pretty, but the next would be no good.
Ohkawa: Also, our schedule was very tight. When the editor asked us to do it, we had only ten days to finish the art (laughs).
Mokona: That’s another reason we used brush and ink. We didn’t have time to ink everything by pen (laughs). We wanted to carefully choose the paper for the manuscript, but we had to just rifle through the paper we had on hand and use what was easiest to draw on.
In a situation like that, you must not have had much time to do thinks like work out the character designs…
Mokona: More like no time at all — so it was almost draw in one shot. Only the design for Shirahime was already completed.
Ohkawa: Some time earlier, we’d attached a Shirahime postcard as an insert for the newsletter-type thing we’d made ourselves for our readers. At the time, we only had a vague conception of using her in a folklore-type story someday.
Why did you design the character of Shirahime as a yuki-onna snow fairy?
Ohkawa: Why indeed… (laughs)? I’m pretty sure, though, that this was also because of the strong influence of Manga Japanese Legends. But I think Shirahime is less like a yuki-onna and more like (Osamu) Tezuka-sensei’s Phoenix. I think that perhaps you could say she’s like the Phoenix in the sense that’s a character who exists separately from the individual stories but is a type of supporting — yet indispensable — character.
Is there a historical background that you had in mind?
Ohkawa: It’s all fiction. If we decided on a time period, the costume designs and everything would be bound to that, and we didn’t have time to do the research.
Mokona: But it was sort of done so that the costume trends in each individual story would be different. That way, it feels like each episode is hinting a different time period… it gets more and more like Phoenix (laughs).
How did the readers react when it was presented?
Ohkawa: They were divided. Whenever we do something new, without fail there will be criticism at first (laughs).
Mokona: Seeing the brush strokes, there were some readers who thought the art was crudely done, but on the other hand, there were readers that understood that it was a new technique. Also, apparently there were some people whose interest this piqued for the first time, and they wondered, “What kind of works did these authors draw before?”
When the original version was bound, the paper for the cover was somewhat unique.
Ohkawa: We gave some Japanese-style paper an embossed inlay finish.
Igarashi: The printing office told us, “If you give an embossed inlay finish to this kind of paper, the inlay will come loose, so it’s definitely no good”. But we said something really conceited, like that we were doing it on purpose (laughs). By the way, who did the calligraphy (for the logo) again?
Mokona: I did (laughs). When I first wrote it, the kanji for “Syo” was off center, so we made copies and lined them up (laughs).
How does it compare to your usual serializations?
Ohkawa: As we were saying earlier, yes, our schedule was rough, but that in itself was fun. If we concentrate and tackle just one project, and can end it in a single volume, our art style doesn’t waver at all. If I get the chance again to take about a month to work on just one project and not do any other jobs at all, I’d like that.
Translated from Japanese by TokyoPop.
Interview originally published in CLAMP No Kiseki vol. 9 (Kodansha), released on May 20, 2005. Original text available upon request.
If you found mistakes in this translation or would like to contribute with translating other interviews, please contact me.