A Puff Exclusive!? 🌸 The “I Pressed CLAMP About Their True Intentions ♡” Interview
We hate being thought of as “good people!”
Actually, it is incredibly rare to meet with CLAMP directly for an interview. They have been covered in written interviews, but to meet with all four members face-to-face, and what’s more, to have such a long interview—even for Puff, it has been over seven years since [their last interview in] 1993.
For that reason, this is extremely precious material. Because I have been very eager to draw out CLAMP’s raw voice and form, we visited the 24th floor conference room at Kodansha (what a great view!) as our interview location…
The members of CLAMP, intentionally or otherwise, “revealed their true intentions” eloquently and in rapid succession. Thus I, the interviewer, was able to draw out CLAMP’s true intentions without too much difficulty…
🌸In the end, many thought, “isn’t something going to happen?”
In any case, let’s start with Sakura. At the end of Sakura, which has been serialized for four years, had a TV anime, two animated movies, and has been the biggest piece in CLAMP’s career, what sort of feelings emerged for you for her and her friends?
Nekoi: The deadline for that last chapter was really rough (laughs).
Mokona: Because it was a horrendous crunch (laughs).
Igarashi: The last chapter of Rayearth was pretty rough, but this was even more so.
Ohkawa: It was really rough. So I handed over the draft and felt like I wanted to go straight to bed right then and there. That day I didn’t have any feelings or anything (laughs). Of course, the next day, we all joined hands.
The last chapter of Sakura was, as you drew it, a “lovey-dovey happy-ending.” “This is extremely rare for CLAMP” (laughs) has been echoing throughout the fandom.
Ohkawa: Especially because no one died and there weren’t any unexpected plot twists, there certainly were those calling it “rare” (laughs). There were those bracing themselves, [thinking] “isn’t something going to happen?” (laughs). The conclusion had been decided since the start of serialization. We also decided on the story’s composition from the start, and there weren’t too many places where things changed. Just, near the end, since Sakura and Shaoran were “lovey-dovey” the whole time since Volume 1 of the comic, we weren’t concerned when we were writing, but afterward, when we reread it, it really showed through (laughs).
We will not draw a sequel to Sakura
Mokona: We made it so “lovey-dovey” we didn’t know what to do (laughs).
Ohkawa: “Liquid lovey-dovey” isn’t running through my body (laughs)! I don’t really read or watch romantic manga or movies.
Nekoi: Me neither. Isn’t it scrawling only “I like so-and- so” forever? I keep thinking, “come on, get a grip!” (laughs).
Ohkawa: I keep thinking, “hurry up and decide on someone!” (laughs).
…Ohkawa and Nekoi are on fire about this topic for some reason!
Nekoi: But, in some ways, this is amazing. You like someone, a rival appears, you have a misunderstanding, you get interrupted… isn’t it a shojo manga that continues on and on like that for 10 volumes or so? There is one romance, and we could only make that come to a climax, and draw it so as to draw the reader in—that was quite a feat.
🌸CLAMP designed some 300 costumes!
This is a bit off topic, but (laughs) getting back to the previous topic, I’d like to ask you about your memories of Sakura over the last four years.
Ohkawa: From the very start of its serialization, there were reactions of, “it’s white,” or, “it’s cutting corners” (laughs). Those were things I was conscious of, but by no means did I ever cut corners. In the middle, there was an increase in readers who first knew of CLAMP through Sakura, and we received a lot of letters, especially from kindergarten-aged little kids, which we never had before, and it made us really happy. Personally, because I was working on the TV anime at the same time, it was difficult to make those deadlines every week.
Mokona: It was tough for me because I had to think of a lot of costumes. I designed maybe 300 costumes. About two-thirds of those were Sakura’s costumes. I did pretty well, didn’t I (laughs)?
Nekoi: I know someone mentioned this before, but “making the panels white” was the goal in this piece, and I struggled with [thoughts of] “don’t make it black, but I have to do something…” Although I made “white and gorgeous-looking panels,” I was frantic. Rather than making them black, it was weird doing just the opposite (laughs).
Mokona: Making the main lines thin and the panels white were some of the many things we decided to do throughout Sakura from the start.
Igarashi: There were also so many uniforms based on the season. Moreover, each was treated differently, but one time, I was supposed to paste tone in a particular place and wound up coloring the whole thing in. I remember crying while I fixed the whole thing.
Speaking with CLAMP, again, this is probably very obvious, but I feel that they have a very “professional” presence. For example, in both Sakura and X they employed completely different methodologies in accordance with their work’s intentions and their readership. Moreover, for that purpose, they totally changed their art style and the effects of their panels.
Nekoi: While we say we’re bad at “lovey-dovey” stories, when we’re drawing, that is completely irrelevant. In my head, I’m only thinking things like, “What sort of facial expression should I use here? It has to come off looking lovey-dovey.”
Ohkawa: It’s the same when I’m writing the script. Certainly, I’m bad at “lovey-dovey,” but when I’m writing, it’s different. I think, “What should I do to make this more interesting, or how can I move the reader’s heart?”
🌸To young girls, Shaoran is a “prince”-like figure
In your opinion, Sakura has been the work that has had the most interactions with fans, including having reached a young audience and the readers you have never had before. I suspect you were careful to make “white panels” a signature characteristic of this piece from the beginning, but what was it like actually doing it?
Ohkawa: This was the piece where we dealt with “love,” but when we did it, and now that I think about it, the girls reading Nakayoshi magazine like “love.” Whenever we wrote one of those episodes, the amount of mail we got increased. For example, in the field trip to the ocean episode, there’s that scene where Shaoran gives a handkerchief to a crying Sakura (Volume 4). After that episode, Shaoran’s popularity spiked really suddenly (laughs). Maybe that was because everyone could feel how much Shaoran liked Sakura. Girls have truly strong emotions toward that sort of thing.
Shaoran is also popular with Puff readers. It seems the little girls reading Nakayoshi have a tendency to view things subtly…
Ohkawa: To young girls, Shaoran is a “prince”-like figure. He is a strong and kind prince who helps and encourages. From his older sisters’ perspective, you’d get a completely different impression (laughs). In addition, Shaoran was unexpectedly popular with boys. They sympathized with his feelings for Sakura. Actually, a lot of the anime staff empathized with Shaoran too. Feelings for a girl you like really are common ground.
🌸There is a rumor that Sakura will appear in X…
Ohkawa: Even concerning Tomoyo, little kids’ and, to a certain degree, mature (laughs) readers’ perceptions were different. To little kids, Tomoyo was simply a “fun friend.” A bit weird, but an interesting friend. But readers who have read CLAMP’s other works were able to read past that. So we had reactions like, “poor Tomoyo,” or, “please make her happy somehow.”
Sakura was supported by two types of fans: those who have been fans of CLAMP up until now, and new fans. I suspect this is a response you have never experienced before.
Ohkawa: Take X for example—basically, you may think that those who like X probably also like CLAMP, but in the case of Sakura, there were those who were purely fans of Sakura, and in an extreme case, there were many fans who did not even know the name of the author. Fans of the “work” do not equal fans of the “author.” This was the first time we had this sort of response. So, if the kids who read Sakura were to read our other works, surely they would be shocked to find how different Sakura is.
Of course, of course, what we must not forget is the great popularity of friends. The boys of the world have not let go of Sakura and Tomoyo’s cuteness.
Mokona: I heard a story that at a movie theatre, during the scene where Shaoran and Sakura are being all “lovey-dovey,” some young man said, “If they kill Shaoran, I’ll die too!” (laughs). It’s scary to think how serious he might have been (laughs). Was it “how dare you steal my Sakura away!”? That’s how much she was loved and how happy Sakura was… I guess (laughs)?
Anyway, there’s no doubt that this work was supported from a truly wide fan base. There are many who say, “What a waste it was that it ended like this!” but have you ever had any thoughts of a sequel?
Ohkawa: We have not (plainly stated). There have been those who have said “please draw a continuation” and we’re really happy [to hear that], but Sakura has reached its conclusion. We have no plans of making a sequel.
That’s unfortunate, but it sounds like there is no choice but to give up. Right, right, one more thing: there is a certain rumor…
Ohkawa: It seems there is a rumor on the internet, but Sakura will not appear in X (laughs).
Mokona: On the fan site, they’re talking about whether Sakura is a “Dragon of Heaven” or a “Dragon of Earth” (laughs).
Igarashi: It would be so sad if we put Sakura in X (laughs).
Nekoi: What would we do if she died (laughs)?
Well, I’m quite anxious when it comes to this, but your “new work”… First, the reveal: starting this fall, CLAMP will start on two new projects. And one of those will be serialized in a seinen magazine, and also, in Weekly Young Magazine!
Ohkawa: Since we’ve working been on Sakura for so long, I’ve built up a feeling of wanting to do “something for adults.” [Someone at] Young Magazine spoke with me, so I thought this was a good opportunity, I want to do something slightly “erotic” (laughs).
From now on, CLAMP is headed in a laid-back direction (laughs)
🌸CLAMP are generally thought to be authors of irreproachable conduct
At any rate, you’ve had a drastic image change since Sakura. You have readily stripped off the popularity you’ve gained through Sakura and have dressed yourselves for a new image. It’s fresh, but it’s also an adventure.
Ohkawa: Because we’ve continued with cute works, CLAMP is thought of as “good people” in spite of ourselves. But we hate being thought of as “good people.” Actually, we’re not “good people” at all (laughs)!
Mokona: I only say “break up with that sort of man!” (laughs).
Igarashi: When a “good person” does something even slightly bad, the whole thing falls apart. But when a “bad person” does something slightly good, people will think, “they’re actually a nice person.” Being a “bad person” is definitely beneficial (laughs).
Nekoi: It’s the sort of thing where when a delinquent is nice to a stray dog, everyone falls in love with him (laughs).
Ohkawa: It’s probably because we did Sakura, but there are a lot of readers who think that we really do have irreproachable conduct, that we’re serious, nice, good people.
Igarashi: A while ago, we all dyed our hair blue or white or pink, and when I said that, there were reactions like “I can’t believe that,” so we really are thought of as people of irreproachable conduct (laughs).
Nekoi: From now on, we’re thinking of breaking that image a bit (laughs).
🌸We want to be frivolous and laid-back
Ohkawa: Even with regard to our work, I feel like we’ve been a bit too serious. We’re too tense. Assessments that CLAMP’s works have done well, and are steady successes, come, in part, with an expectation of, “It’s CLAMP, so of course it’s like that.” Saying “It’s CLAMP, so it’s x-y- z” can be cumbersome when it’s a positive assessment, and frustrating when it’s a negative assessment.
In a previous Puff feature (August 1996 edition), there was a comment that “CLAMP’s works are drawn from ‘god’s perspective’” Of course there are good parts to doing things that way, but recently I think it also leaves the readers behind and pushes them aside.
There are many places in your work where you move characters from “god’s perspective,” such as in X or RG VEDA. That brings about a depth and breadth in the work. Also, as Ohkawa so eloquently stated, the conclusion to CLAMP’s works are all decided at the beginning of serialization. Drawn out foreshadowing, an unexpected, shocking conclusion—these are major characteristics of CLAMP’s works.
Ohkawa: Of course, it’s not like I’m denying our way of doing things up until now. It’s because we have been doing this for 11 years that we are able to do this. Starting with doujinshi, while refining things in the major direction, there are things you stop doing and discard. Actually, I think a number of fans left in the beginning. I think I want to try that maniac part, that, in a certain way, doujin-like part, one more time. Getting excited with the readers over the latest fads, or having that common secret consciousness.
I feel like, what if the readers are pressured the way we put ourselves under pressure—and from there, I think, alleviate [that pressure] once, and try doing things in a laid-back fashion without being tense at all (laughs).
Of those who have been fans since their debut, of course there are probably people who have felt loneliness at some point with regard to CLAMP gradually becoming a major presence. This statement could be called a type of “declaration of returning to origin.” Are there not many fans who would welcome your return?
🌸A maid, a robot, and a young bride are Ohkawa’s targets!?
Well, just what sort of new story do you plan to start in Weekly Young Magazine with this change in mentality?
Ohkawa: A story where a “maid” and a “robot” appear. Both of those are my targets (laughs). I love them both, maids and robots. I love that they depend on something and that they are unopposable figures. But, there has to be “love” in there (laughs).
Igarashi: CLAMP also likes “young brides” (laughs). We ordered The Young Brides Manga Anthology, which was drawn by a female author, on purpose.
Nekoi: That’s right. In our opinion, the fact that a young bride is unopposable because of love makes her a lovable presence. But, when we were moving I inadvertently got rid of that anthology. It was a book from seven or eight years ago, and I was sure it was from someone at Ōtō Shobō. It was quite frustrating!
If you suddenly recall that you have the book and would not mind giving it to CLAMP, please give your information to the Puff editing department (laughs).
Ohkawa: I won’t say anything too specific about our new work, but anyway, I think it will be an “erotic” story (laughs). Well, even if I say “erotic,” it’s CLAMP, so it’s not going to amount to much anyway.
Mokona: It’s my artwork (laughs).
And the other new work you’ve decided to start this fall?
Ohkawa: Nekoi’s work is going to start in [Asuka] Mystery DX. It is going to be a hard story where only men appear (laughs). It’s going to have a bit of an old-school CLAMP-ish feel to it.
Both of your new works sound like they are going to show a side of CLAMP very different from what you showed in Sakura. That does not sound like too much of a loss; I can’t wait for either of them.
🌸The Incident of Mokona Spilling Herbal Tea on the Draft♡
By the way, Ohkawa has said her targets are a maid, a robot, and a young bride, but what about the rest of you?
Nekoi: A black overcoat, a motorcycle, and an old man (laughs).
Mokona: I like senior citizens (laughs).
Nekoi: We can’t have youngsters (laughs).
Ohkawa: Nekoi also likes people who are well-versed in the structure of society.
Nekoi: Someone who can tell you the difference between local tax and income tax would be nice. Also, someone who throws out the trash for you (laughs).
Ohkawa: Everyone loves that (laughs).
Igarashi: I’d like someone who does some bad things. Like a smuggler (laughs).
Nekoi: Is that really “some” (laughs)?
Mokona: I like beauty of form, and ritual (laughs). I’d start with the shape (laughs).
Maybe it’s because they are all from the Kansai region, but when you leave the members of CLAMP alone, they start talking like a stand-up comedy routine (laughs). They skillfully employ being both the straight man and the funny man; words fly at each other like machine gun fire. You can imagine their lives together are certainly a lot of fun.
Ohkawa: We live together, but we each have our own rooms. It feels a lot like a dorm. Rather than taking trips together, because we love our house so much, during vacations we often drink while watching movies on DVD.
Nekoi: Occasionally we start drinking during the day. Not being yelled at by anyone even if we start day drinking is one of the good parts about this job.
Ohkawa: Mokona is a person who falls over in the hallway when she’s had too much to drink. We didn’t know where she went so we were all worried, and when we went looking for her, she was lying down in the hall (laughs). Furthermore, when we talked about it the next day, she insisted that she didn’t remember (laughs).
Mokona: Because I really don’t remember (laughs).
Igarashi: Mokona has also spilled herbal tea all over a color draft of Sakura. She thought we’d get mad at her so she didn’t say anything (laughs). When we saw the color proof (a test print to check colors), the stain showed through so I thought it was a bad print, and when I called the editing department to check, they told me the draft had a stain on it. I was so embarrassed (laughs)!
So let’s bring this to a close with a message for the fans.
Mokona: Thank you so much for always reading Sakura.
Ohkawa: Sakura was a ton of fun to work on. Thank you so much.
Nekoi: CLAMP might be going in a laid-back direction now (laughs), but please continue to always love Sakura.
Igarashi: Thank you for your continuous support.
Ohkawa: Alright, we’re done! (laughs).
“CLAMP” is the name of a creative group made up of four people: Nanase Ohkawa, Mokona Apapa, Mick Nekoi, and Satsuki Igarashi. By the way, “CLAMP” means “a mountain of potatoes.” The four met when they were in high school. Mokona, Nekoi and Igarashi were all part of the same astronomy club; Ohkawa, who went to a different school, was added to the group by a [mutual] friend’s introduction, and they got along well. After that, they started working on doujinshi and increasingly gained popularity. They debuted in 1989 with RG VEDA in South no. 3 (Shinshokan). RG VEDA was serialized in Wings (Shinshokan), where they became famous authors.
After that, starting in 1990, TOKYO BABYLON was serialized in Wings, and starting in 1992, their hit series X was serialized in Asuka (Kadokawa Shoten). CD’s, OVA’s, and other such media followed, and CLAMP was acknowledged as a new kind of manga artist. Self-sponsored events such as “CLAMP IN WONDERLAND” distinguished them from other manga artists. In 1994, Magic Knight Rayearth became a TV anime, and in 1996 X became an animated movie. Furthermore, in 1998, Card Captor Sakura was made into a TV anime.
🌸CLAMP and Puff
This is the fifth time CLAMP has been the opening special feature of Puff. And as far as manga artist exclusive special features go, this is the record for the most in Puff history!
By the way, the previous four special features were the June and July 1993 editions (two month back-to- back “CLAMP” features, including deluxe content from an interview with all four members of CLAMP, a talk with Yoshiki Tanaka, and a talk with George Iida. Unfortunately, these are out of stock), the August 1996 edition (special feature: X), and the May 1997 edition (special feature: CLAMP), and back issues are in stock. See page 143 for how to order.
Translated from Japanese by Silano Sepiæ.
Interview published in Puff October 2000 issue (Zassosha), released on October 1, 2000. Original text available upon request.
If you found mistakes in this translation or would like to contribute with translating other interviews, please contact me.