CLAMP Interview – CLAMP No Kiseki vols. 11-12 – Tsubasa – RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – (July-August/2005)

© CLAMP/ 講談社

© CLAMP/ 講談社

Tsubasa is a publication of Weekly Shonen Magazine. Did you have to make changes in order to be in that magazine?

Ohkawa: Everything related to the argument was agreed before starting to publish, therefore no content changes had to be made. On the contrary, we had the designs decided and the materials prepared. The editor only asked us for the drawing style to be attractive to the readers of Shonen Magazine.

And what designs and materials did you have in mind?

Ohkawa: Until then we had not published in rough paper magazines. Although we could use the same old paper, printing changed the result a lot. And we took that into account.
Nekoi: When printing on rough paper, the frames do not work out well, and the fine lines are blurred. We decided to use markers with which thick lines could be drawn.
Mokona: We also realized that, if we piled up the characters a lot, they got confused with the backgrounds.
Ohkawa: Also, the characters we design often wear ornaments. But in this case everything was very blurred.
Igarashi: When working as a team in four, when there is a problem you cannot know who has done each thing.
Ohkawa: And that’s why we agree on indicating the shape of which character it is at all times.

The truth is that there has been a design very similar to that of anime.

Mokona: Because anime design doesn’t include so many ornaments. They would look like a huge mass and it wouldn’t look very graceful. In addition, this makes it much easier to set the characters in motion.

So the serialization starts, in a weekly shonen manga magazine. What did it mean to you?

Ohkawa: The chapters of a shonen manga have to hook. In shojo, to some extent, it is not essential to end with a cliffhanger.
Mokona: In this case, for example, you cannot finish the chapter when they are about to hit a character (laughs).
Ohkawa: It’s a characteristic of Shonen Magazine (laughs). Chapters never end when the character is in a very difficult situation and suddenly, end. Rather… lose, get back up, pose as counterattack and that’s where you have to leave the final scene.
Igarashi: If the readers of Shonen Magazine see the defeated protagonist, they could fall apart as well (laughs).
Ohkawa: But the editor never told us that we absolutely had to adopt those standards.

There is a scene in which Mokona shouts: “Sakura is … !!”, and the phrase continues with “sleeping.” It is on Chapter 23, in the country of the Mist.

Ohkawa: After reading several letters from the readers of Shonen Magazine, we thought they would understand it as a joke. That they would be relieved more than anything else. When you have already managed to hook them, even if what comes next is not a key scene, with moments like this the tension is maintained and it is very authentic (laughs).
Nekoi: When we were with the Outo Country part, the editor asked us if Syaoran had nothing good ever happening to him. It left us perplexed (laughs).
Igarashi: He told us that it would be better if from time to time we gave some joy to the poor.
Mokona: The desire to get stronger came from the readers themselves.
Ohkawa: That is also typical of Shonen Magazine.

Could you explain the origin of the title?

Igarashi: Tsubasa is the first CLAMP title with 3 syllabes in katakana alphabet, isn’t it?
Ohkawa: We wanted it to be easy for children to read. But Tsubasa was very short, and we looked for something to add. “CHRoNiCLE” came out right away, but the middle title we picked from the many pages of notes that Nekoi had written. What we liked most was “RESERVoir”, which means treasure room, or place where a treasure is kept. We thought it worked well.
Nekoi: Although at first many thought it was a racing or sports manga (laughs).

And for the plot, what rules have defined your work?

Ohkawa: The first part is designed to be understood even by young children. And as I tend to complicate stories (laughs), I had to challenge myself to create a simple story.

© CLAMP/ 講談社

© CLAMP/ 講談社

The worlds by which the characters travel are defined beforehand?

Ohkawa: For the story to move forward they have to go through some specific countries. But the rest we are improvising on the fly (laughs). For example, we invented the world of Piffle because we wanted to draw something similar to crazy cars. And well, also to compensate that in the previous world, the Shura Country, a more complex plot had developed. On one hand, if we reload the argument a lot, it will become heavier for us and for the readers. And on the other hand, if we exceed the action scenes, there will be no way for the story to progress as it should.
Mokona: Action scenes lose strength if they are drawn in small frames, so you have to resort to large frames, with the increase in the number of pages involved.
Ohkawa: That is true. Piffle’s world was neither more nor less than a simple race, but it immediately filled an entire volume.
Nekoi: Although it seems to be liked by male readers.
Igarashi: And it also helped us to understand why these battles that go on for months are so frequent in mangas targeted for boys (laughs).

And is there still some country that you would like to take Syaoran and his companions?

Ohkawa: Probably somewhere that would give them “a good time”. For example, a tropical island or a spa where you shouldn’t fight (laughs). Of course, the concept that boys have of “good time” is not the same as that of girls. Because we are comfortable with the spa thing (laughs).

Where is the difference?

Ohkawa: For example, in the world of Piffle, Syaoran appears as a true hero. That’s what attracts boys, they want to be attractive to older girls (laughs).
Igarashi: Regardless of whether they already have their particular girl, they love being popular with women.
Mokona: Either be successful, or be at the top of a hierarchy (laughs).

Once the general argument is established, it is assumed that you would have had some difficulty in shaping the details. What problems have you had so far?

Ohkawa: It’s not exactly a problem, but it should be noted that we radically change the approach of Jade Country. At first we had thought about making a vampire story, but the editor proposed to introduce suspense elements. After hearing his suggestion, we were discussing how to put it into practice, and the result was the Jade Country we know.
Igarashi: We realized that a vampire story would take priority elements of terror…
Nekoi: And maybe that would scare the little ones too much.
Mokona: It seems that with the presence of the spirit of Princess Emeraude we had already filled the share of fear.
Ohkawa: Yes, because in a vampire story obviously bodies would have to appear, and that would already be too much… (laughs) Instead, the plot shift towards a mystery story allowed us to present a Syaoran, so to speak, with ways of World; with the experience gained thanks to having traveled with his father.

Have there been any characters whose characteristics or functions have changed as the story progressed?

Ohkawa: I would say that none in particular, although it is true that Mokona has given more roleplay than we thought at the beginning. As Yuuko is an almighty character, we ran the risk of decompensing the argument a lot if we gave her more prominence than she already has. That is why it was fortunate to have Mokona in her place.
Nekoi: And that when it appeared in Magic Knight Rayearth it did not utter more than a repeated sound (laughs).

Is that why you decided that in this new series it could talk? To fit the new paper?

Ohkawa: Indeed. And also for something that we realized when we did Card Captor Sakura, and in this genre the protagonist always needs to be accompanied by a talking pet with whom they can change impressions, because if the protagonist were talking alone all the time it would be very tedious (laughs)
Nekoi: That’s why Kero’s presence serves to prevent Sakura from being a monologuist (laughs)
Ohkawa: Mokona plays a similar role in Tsubasa.

Any other changes?

Ohkawa: Change of functions, no, but there is something about the fact that Kurogane announces his techniques screaming at the top of his lungs. At first we had thought he would perform them in silence, but it was fatal (laughs). It would be fine if this was X, but it felt strange in Tsubasa. Thinking realistically, the blow would have to be given before the end of the scream. But if there is no shout, it is as if there was no blow, and we saw it very clearly when we put it on paper.
Mokona: The noise must be represented in a striking way, or else the reader will not understand what is happening: a great technique requires a great shout.
Nekoi: Although unfortunately among the names of the techniques there are those that do not seem to be intended to be shouted (laughs).
Ohkawa: It’s true. We chose the ones that were well written, regardless of whether they were easy to pronounce or not. We are sorry in this case for the hard acting actor (laughs). Right now Kurogane is the only one whose techniques have a name, although we would also like to do the same with Syaoran’s moves.
Mokona: Then he would have to learn special techniques (laughs).

Multiple characters appear from your older works. How does it feel to draw them again?

Ohkawa: It’s fun. We review our previous production looking for more characters to draw.
Igarashi: Although we have to be careful, because sometimes there are characters that we have completely forgotten (laughs).
Mokona: And that’s why they end up talking differently (laughs).
Ohkawa: It is done deliberately, because we have placed them in a different world (laughs).
Igarashi: We often have to recover old notes, because we don’t remember the screen tones we used for a character.
Nekoi: Yes, it’s true. None of us remembered what screen tone number was in Primera’s hair (laughs).
Mokona: It was nice to recover characters after so long.
Ohkawa: While we agree on how much fun it is to rescue so many old characters from oblivion, sometimes I have the feeling that it is not so much for readers. Surely there will be those who think that the Primera character was Tsubasa‘s original.
Nekoi: Well, nothing would happen because of that (laughs).
Ohkawa: On the contrary. Anyone who knows our previous works will surely enjoy it as much as we meet again with such endearing characters. But those who don’t know them I’m not sure if they will understand the relationships established between them (laughs)
Mokona: In addition, the drawing style has also changed. And there are characters that are not easy to draw, such as those with loose eyelashes.
Ohkawa: With Ashura we defend ourselves, although it is as difficult to draw as a spectacular feminine beauty.
Mokona: In Tsubasa we decided that we wouldn’t draw the lower lashes, and that makes the faces very stiff.
Ohkawa: And that was evident above all in the case of Princess Emeraude, with that western aspect, like fantasy.
Mokona: That’s why, to make her more graceful, we changed her hair and put some curls on her.

Were there any difficulties when drawing?

Mokona: In Outo Country, in the scene where cats and girls at the reception multiply (in Chapter 43), we didn’t know how to represent exactly that this was due to a programming error in the game.
Nekoi: Being a game, it had to seem as natural as the same character appeared repeatedly.
Mokona: And we could only get that with a shocking image, like all the characters around are the same girl.

Of the two works you are publishing at the same time, XXXHOLiC and Tsubasa, which one is easier to draw?

Ohkawa: XXXHOLiC, without a doubt. Regarding the difficulty of writing the scripts, it can be said that both series are even. However, Tsubasa also has to be compressible to the younger audience, and that increases complexity. For example, if a sword is broken it is not enough to just draw it; It also has to be reflected in the dialogues. When a character comes out again after a long time, its name must also be included. When Princess Tomoyo appears in Kurogane’s memories, her name has to be present in the dialogues. If not, the youngest will not know who she is, or they will not remember.
Igarashi: That happens also because this series is published in a weekly magazine; and as our editor reminded us, readers tend to forget the argument after three weeks.
Ohkawa: Being even more strict, the argument has to be understandable even to readers who only read the chpater of that week. In addition, in the case of a manga for boys, the plots cannot extend beyond a full volume. Of course, people who are not used to reading manga, or those who have read a chapter by chance, deep plots care very little. And yet we have to ensure that all those readers also enjoy reading it. Therefore, although at the beginning we had the story well ordered and under control, what remains from now on will be more difficult. In addition, as we have defined quite well the nature of the characters we can no longer skip anything.

Since this is your first foray into the world of weekly magazines for boys, it is understandable that at first you faced fears and doubts. What balance do you now make of that experience?

Ohkawa: First of all we are satisfied that we have been able to enjoy complete creative freedom. The publisher insisted that the content had to conform to the shonen manga style, and that we do our best in that regard. Although I would also have much to object about it; The fact is that they have let us work our way, and that is appreciated. It is the first time we created a series aimed at a younger audience than usual for us, and that has helped us learn many things. We have finally realized what it costs to understand our work (laughs). But at the same time we also realized that if we simplified the argument too much, then it ceased to be a CLAMP manga (laughs).
Igarashi: It seems that at first the children did not quite understand what that dimensional displacement consisted of.
Nekoi: Or when a character with the same face changed the world, that it was actually a different person. However, since this is something that is repeated throughout the series, I suppose they must have finally understood it.

How would you like the story to continue?

Ohkawa: We would like to take a radical turn after ending the Piffle world; Give it a more serious tone. Perhaps the readers who have enjoyed the casual tone we were carrying lately will feel a bit surprised.

Does that mean it will become more complex?

Ohkawa: What it means is that we will add elements as they are characteristic of our works. Until the world of Piffle we have been explaining to the reader everything that had to be explained, and some points that were necessary to understand the argument have been touched. For example, why the feather in Jade Country had ended up going to the past, or how in the country of Shura time travel takes place within the same dimension, and how changing the past can impact the future… However when a person dies, the past can be changed, or even played over time to alter history, but despite that it will be impossible to resurrect them. That is a very important point, which will greatly affect the plot from now on. Then readers who already know us by other previous works will weigh that it is something typical of us.

Should we look at something from now on?

Ohkawa: Xing Huo, a character that accompanies Fei Wong. Her name has been revealed earlier in the anime than in the manga. You should keep an eye on her.
Mokona: Also on the new and successful publication of Maganyan[1] (laughs).
Ohkawa: It didn’t come out in Piffle’s world, but even if the world changes, the content remains the same. We intended to touch it, but in the end we couldn’t do it. We will leave it for “The Untold World”[2].


[1] Fictional manga magazine that Kurogane reads.

[2] Series of extra short stories published in guidebooks, artbooks and other Tsubasa publications.

Translated from Spanish by Chibi Yuuto.


Interview originally published in CLAMP No Kiseki vol. 11 (Kodansha), page 05, released on July 22, 2005, and CLAMP No Kiseki vol. 12 (Kodansha), pages 05 and 07, released on August 22, 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.