When did you first come up with this story?
Ohkawa: When I was much younger. It was just something flitting around in my mind, a story about the end of the century that was coming on, so I came up with a prototype. But I never really came up with anything very concrete back then. Actually, the X characters we know now are totally different from the first ones that I came up with.
Tell us about the serialization process.
Ohkawa: Before X, we ran CLAMP Gakuen Tanteidan in ASUKA and it was well-received. And then our editor, Aoki-san (Seiichirou), told us he’d like us to try another series, a longer running one this time. And I thought that now maybe I could do my end of the century story since I’d been wanting to do it for so long, after all. I always loved stories like Hakkeden, where you’ve got a team of characters who come together, friends, you know? So I figured let’s do a story like that where we see both sides, both teams.
Mokona: We drew up the characters of Kamui and Fuuma and showed them to Aoki-san…
What was part of those original character profiles?
Igarashi: We sort of each just drew in all the aspects that we wanted to include in the final character in a bulletin-type thing. We drew it all up kind of like a New Year’s greeting card and sent it out.
And have the characters now retained the same feel as the originals from when you were younger?
Mokona: Oh, no, most of them are quite different.
Ohkawa: Yeah, a lot of changes were made. Especially to Fuuma. He was originally a lot brighter of a character… more like Segawa-kun. And he wasn’t really as tall, either. Closer in height to our Kamui back then.
Mokona: They were a lot like the boys in Gakuen Tokkei Dukylon.
Ohkawa: I’ve made a lot of the strong, silent types after we came up with that bulletin, actually… And our serialization started just after that.
There are so many different characters in X. Who would you say has been around the longest?
Mokona: Probably Nataku. Right?
Ohkawa: Yeah. I came up with him way back in middle school. It was a sort of, “Well why not come up with anime-style character designs for a big myth-type story”. Obviously it’s grown a lot from there, but that’s how it started out. And one of the characters I came up with then was Nataku.
Igarashi: Yuuto’s probably the oldest as a crossover character, though.
Ohkawa: Oh, yes, that’s right! Yuuto and Suoh came from an older story, Hagunsei Seki, but the serialization for that one fell through.
Nekoi: Nagisa-chan from CLAMP Gakuen Tanteidan was in there, too.
Mokona: Arashi’s pretty old, herself.
Ohkawa: We had a cute little “Romeo and Juliet” story that was never published, but the heroine there was Arashi. I mean, she was completely different, part of the Yakuza, she had a totally different temperament. Quiet, but really spontaneous. And the boy was sort of a Sorata prototype too, actually. He was a cop.
Igarashi: When was that, back in 1991, right? We were running those bulletins we talked about and we all came up with a calendar that we put in those. Arashi was in that, too.
Ohkawa: Yeah, that picture of her was in our X ZERO artbook. Nataku, Yuuto, Arashi… Those guys are the old, seasoned players and they’re still looking the same today. And I guess Kamui would be our baby. Our newest.
Crossing over characters like you do is a technique that was used often by creators like Reiji Matsumoto-sensei and Osamu Tezuka-senei. How do you feel about using it?
Ohkawa: Of course we’ve been influenced by people like Tezuka-sensei and Matsumoto-sensei, but really, we started it just by having fun back in our doujinshi days. We talked about it in our interview about CLAMP Gakuen Tanteidan (published with Volume 5), and we sort of touched on the subject, but when you’ve got a story where you have all these different, detailed characters that are so much fun, you just don’t like throwing them away. That’s really all there is to it.
Explain what “X” means, as a title.
Ohkawa: Well first of all, it represents an unknown number, an undefined that you need to solve for in a numeric equation. Secondly, it’s an oblique image of the cross, really. There are so many meanings that it holds. It stuck pretty quickly for one of our titles. We showed it to our editor and and that was that, “X” was decided.
Earlier, you said that Kamui is the newest character. What details did you pay special attention to when you were creating him?
Ohkawa: We had a lot of demands for Kamui. *laughs* He’s got a lot of good qualities, but he’s got loads of vices, too. That’s what we were looking to create. He stands out as an individual in his surroundings, but at the same time, we have a hero whose hairstyle, whose appearance, whose manner of speech is terribly average. And I think we also wanted his school uniform to have no buttons on it, didn’t we?
Mokona: To me, his individuality sort of comes from the way he’s been cast. *laughs* We designed him with a certain character type, a hero type, in mind. He’s definitely the kind of guy that fits as a hero in a manga dealing with psychic powers, really. He’s got these intense eyes and then there’s his hair. And his school uniform. *laughs*
How much work went into making volume one?
Ohkawa: I’d say I wrote out about 60 pages, maybe? We had loads of scenes, we knew we were going into a situation where we’d have a lot of two-page spreads, a lot of work to do. We wound up cutting a lot of the scenery images in volume 1. Actually, if I remember correctly, the first three volumes wound up like that, 60 pages, 60 pages, and 60 pages. Gosh, we were pretty young. There’s no way we’d ever be able to pull that off again. *laughs*
Nekoi: We really loaded on the toner back then, too, didn’t we? We had such sharp images.
Ohkawa: But the funny thing is how ahead of schedule we were then anyway… Especially with the color pages that we needed for our ads, they were done in a flash. There were character sketches all over the place around Mokona. As soon as you got to work, Kamui everywhere.
Mokona: It was a desert of Kamuis. Except they sort of looked like Ashura. *laughs*
So did you take the idea of the Promised Day, the Earth ending, from Nostradamus’ prediction that it would end some time in July of 1999?
Ohkawa: When I was younger, that notion was pretty popular. *laughs*
Igarashi: Well, it might be the subject of the story, but I never believed in it personally. *laughs*
Nekoi: Guess there are a bunch of stories like that, aren’t there? *laughs*
Mokona: I never believed in it either, but it interested me anyway. *laughs* I’ve read a bunch of books about it. I never rushed out to buy all my last minute, long lasting, life-saving groceries or anything, though.
Ohkawa: Yeah, I never believed it either. I just love stories like that; 1999 being the end of the world and the end of a century. There were things like that going around in 1899, too, but nobody ever explicitly marked the end of the century as the cause. There was just a lot of unpleasant stuff, err, how best to put it… There was this feeling that something big was going to happen. But I suppose the thing that gave us an idea for a Promised Day in 1999 really was Nostradamus’ prediction. *laughs*
What else influenced X?
Ohkawa: I don’t think anything we’ve ever done really presents the state of society today to the extent that X did. Well, really, as X still does.
Nekoi: Scenery in the cities has changed so much. Buildings keep on being built one after another after another. I mean, even the scenery that we’ve drawn in X, a lot of it has become inaccurate because there are so many new buildings today.
Igarashi: And what about cell phones? We never would have imagined they’d be as prominent and as common as they are today. There’s a scene in volume 2 where Yuuto uses a cellphone and another where Aoki gets a message on his pager. The pager scene probably feels so ancient today. *laughs*
Mokona: It’s got a big social message. The plot is very involved in society.
Ohkawa: We tried presenting a lot of our issues with society in the story. But obviously, it’s hard to just take a work at face value and ignore the subtext because our serialization’s been halted… We thought ASUKA would give us the freedom to create as we saw fit, but it seems there’s a line after all.
There are a lot of gruesome scenes in X…
Ohkawa: Kotori’s death is a big one. It’s particularly cruel and when it came down to it, our editors told us they’d rather not run it. But we felt like the point of the earlier dream sequences would be totally lost if the scene were cut, and somehow, they let us keep it in there. After that, we pretty much had the freedom to draw things however we wanted to draw them, to write about anything, drinking, the devil, you name it. But we got to wondering if we should really keep up like that. We felt a little lost. But we were making a choice to be honest with our readers, and that meant there were some unpleasant things that we’d need to show. As the years went on, though, those sorts of scenes kind of evaporated. And then we had Saiki’s death, which was a real turning point; we got an overwhelmingly negative reader
response to the scene. That’s when the editors approached us about the gruesome scenes we’d included up to that point, and how if we were going to continue in that vein, X wouldn’t really be a shoujo story anymore, could they honestly keep on serializing it as such, etc. We wound up getting lost after all. The honesty’s gotten lost and we’re sure something like that could happen to us again.
What other societal issues affected X?
Ohkawa: Earthquakes. In Awaji, there was a huge earthquake that did a whole lot of damage. And then this year, there was another in Niigata and there was the tsunami in south-east Asia. Natural disasters like this happen, it’s a part of reality, and it can be a really difficult problem to deal with. And since X is set in the present-day, we can include concerns about current events like those. We’re able to throw in a message about society today much easier than a lot of other works are. It’s set in real, modern-day Tokyo, so we can inject a lot more reality into it.
And what sort of things did you enjoy about creating X?
Mokona: We did a lot of experimenting with X. Lots of feathers on the cover, a real right to left flow in our facing pages and our scenes, a little more organization. And the colors, too, we painted with some new materials and a lot of contrasting colors.
Ohkawa: Whenever you’ve got a new serialization, before it starts running, you decide on all the materials you’re going to be using. But with X, we didn’t.
Mokona: We used color screentone, we used our usual color ink, and we used GASH and PASTEL products, too.
Mokona: We even drew right on our boards, at times. *laughs* I think what we mean to say is that X is a big work for us because we met a lot of challenges and we saw them through.
You mentioned before a change in scenery and you talked about the new prominence of cell phones. What other works can you think of that include that, that demonstrate a change over time?
Igarashi: You can tell if a comic’s been running for a long time just by checking out the color illustrations. *laughs*
Ohkawa: Dragon Ball (Akira Toriyama) is one manga where you can look at it and tell that it’s older, but a lot of the background and scenery was white, so it stayed nice and tidy.
Mokona: Meanwhile, X had a lot of heavily colored backgrounds. And we started out thinking it’d only run about 4 volumes before we wrapped it up, so those are a lot tidier. But from volume 5 on, we started getting busier and messier; we’d just spread things all over the place on the page. *laughs*
Igarashi: And there’s a difference in colors, too, between the first printing and subsequent printings. The cover for volume 12 was very grey, originally. And then one day, we just casually noticed it in a book store and we realized something was different. It’d been printed in more of a silver, metallic color. *laughs*
Ohkawa: It turned out Kadokawa had made a mistake with the color we’d specified for the cover. *laughs* We planned to use silver on a later cover, so we had a little bit of a problem there.
Nekoi: And it happened to volume 8, too, the first printing ran in a different color from the rest. We had asked for a milky orange, but you can see the orange on the covers now is more of a fluorescent orange…
The X covers certainly are bold, eye-catching. Who comes up with their designs? Is it a group decision?
Ohkawa: Yes. And we realize that black isn’t really a typical shoujo manga color. We originally thought of going for a more traditional shoujo cover design, but in the end, we were assertive, we decided we wanted to do something really cool. *laughs* And we decided that we would change it if it was met with a lot of complaints. We did a trial printing and handed it over to our editor, Aoki-san, who told us that he liked it, actually, and that it was safe, so we ran it like that. And interestingly enough, overseas, the covers have been reversed. The front cover, rather than the back, carries the main illustration.
Nekoi: We started X just before manga began needing a place to put those big barcodes, on the back, where nothing would get in their way.
Igarashi: The first edition of volume one ran with no barcode, but we knew we’d need room for them eventually, so we designed the cover with compatibility in mind. We left a space for it. And those first editions had a big “X 1” written up there for that reason.
In X, we’ve got the Dragons of Heaven and the Dragons of Earth… That leaves a lot of characters that are introduced. Are there any characters that are easier to work with than others?
Ohkawa: There aren’t any especially easy characters to use, really. There were some tricky ones, though. Like Fuuma, before his change. He was a character whose individuality we couldn’t really push until he became a Dragon of Earth, so he had to stay just a wholesome big brother type. He had a very vague sort of personality. We thought we’d make him a cool guy, but we were really worried that we didn’t pull it off right.
After his change, Fuuma has the ability to look like different people…
Mokona: In Ohkawa’s original, it was meant to be that Fuuma smiles like Kusanagi-san. And we weren’t quite sure how to go about that, unless we made the faces look similar.
Ohkawa: We thought it’d be really hard to draw in the notion that Fuuma can look like the person someone loves the most if he didn’t bear physical resemblance to them already. I mean, when Fuuma met Aoki-san, we thought it’d be a little odd to have Fuuma looking like his wife. *laughs*
How about appearance wise? Any tough characters there?
Ohkawa: Well Kotori was some trouble, wasn’t she?
Mokona: When Ohkawa saw the manuscript copy of chapter 1, she was a little shocked. Kotori sort of looked like udon. *laughs* I did her in pencil in the rough draft and she looked very soft, sort of limp. But when I added pen, she got thicker.
Ohkawa: In order to really get the hang of the character, we had a lot of work to do.
Mokona: In thinning down the lines, her body became less solid. She sort of floated around, became lighter, more impermanent. But when you thin everything down, she starts to look like udon. *laughs* So we started using the tip of pens instead.
Anyone else besides Kotori?
Mokona: No, not really. I mean we have the Dragons of Heaven and the Dragons of Earth, which are 14 characters in themselves, and if you’re drawing them all in one picture, of course there are parts of each character that give you trouble, that you confuse with others. But individually, they’re all fairly easy.
Igarashi: There was one picture, a scene where everyone was wearing black, and painting them got really tough. We all couldn’t wait to be done with it. *laughs*
Ohkawa: When you’ve just got characters popping up all over the place, the images can get really muddled and confusing. You start to wonder why you needed to put two teams of seven against each other. If we had to do it again, I bet we’d do two teams of three. *laughs*
When X started in 1992, your line up included RG Veda, Tokyo Babylon, Gakuen Tokkei Duklyon and CLAMP Gakuen Tanteidan. And then in 1993, Magic Knight Rayearth started running. Weren’t you busy?
Igarashi: We were young. *laughs* We’d pull an all-nighter and then sleep a little, and then pull another and sleep the next day again… If we were up two days without sleep, it wasn’t really a big deal.
Nekoi: I remember going to bed at 2 in the morning and waking up again at 6 and watching Ugo Ugo Lhuga on TV while I applied pen. *laughs*
Igarashi: It’d be totally impossible for us today. *laughs*
X came with a lot of goodies for people who had subscribed to the magazine, a lot of free stuff for readers. You came up with a lot of prizes.
Ohkawa: ASUKA is a little like Nakayoshi in that respect, but it’s never given away quite as many freebies. So we weren’t sure if we’d even need to, but our editors told us we would. They planned everything out for us, gave us suggestions, and we put it all together. We made some pretty weird, impractical things, though. We got so into it. *laughs*
Nekoi: Yeah, we did some strange stuff. We drew life-sized versions of the characters, real big, so that you could lie down and sleep next to them. Dumb stuff like that. *laughs*
Igarashi: We made a pair of Kamui and Kotori-chan mugs, a little set, and if you put them together, it looked like they were kissing. *laughs*
Ohkawa: Lots of other stuff too, like little paddles for badminton, or lyrics to Christmas songs and silly things like that. Loads of them. *laughs* And parts of the story can be so brutal, but we’ve got these cute, warm little goodies. Looking back on it now, almost all of those freebies were cute.
Lastly, could you please tell us what one thing about creating X left the biggest impression on you?
Nekoi: I’ve never had so much trouble using screen tone in my life. *laughs*
Igarashi: Not everything was bad. Doing some of the scenes with the characters’ pasts were neat. Making the copies, doing the cut and paste job, it was actually a lot of fun.
Mokona: Definitely the way the scenery and buildings have changed… Especially Roppongi Hills, that place changed so much, we really weren’t sure what we should do. *laughs*
Ohkawa: For me, it’s the fact that X really is a piece that speaks for the times. But we definitely want to see it through to the end, and we want to see it serialized again as soon as possible.
 Translates to roughly The Legend of Nansou Satomi and the Eight Dogs, according to what I looked up. A massive, massive Japanese literary epic.
 Called “nengajou”, cards sent out during New Year’s with good wishes for the upcoming year written on them.
 This was a weird weird children’s show that was fast paced and included super short, semi-educational sequences.
 A commercial area in Tokyo that’s been the concentration of a lot of development in recent years.
Translated from Japanese by Jamie.
Interview originally published in CLAMP No Kiseki vols. 8-9 (Kodansha), released on April 22 (vol. 8) and May 20 (vol. 9), 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.