Nanase Ohkawa Interview – X [ZE∅RO] (2000)

© CLAMP/ 角川書店
© CLAMP/ 角川書店

The mind behind the creation of all of CLAMP’s series, Ohkawa Nanase-sensei. Let’s take her great thoughts into account, along with the hardships that go into the process of telling her stories. What are her secrets behind the creation of this work!? We shall also draw attention to Ohkawa-sensei as the designer for each volume of CLAMP’s published works.

Even though she had great ambitions, she wanted to create a story that would enable her to put her personal thoughts into action.

First of all, how long ago were you struck with the idea for this story?

Ohkawa: When I was still young, I thought of a story that resembled X in its original state, and aimed towards that mark. In reality, however, when I tried to write out this idea, it ended up being completely different from that. [laughs]

And what was that original idea?

Ohkawa: At that time, there were many themes about self-sacrifice flourishing in both anime and manga. Even now, there are many themes like that. [laughs] However, I’m not good at expressing a theme like that. At that time, particularly, I felt embarrassed when thinking about something like the fate of the world. [laughs] As a result, it wasn’t so much “for the sake of the world” or “for the sake of mankind” — instead, the origins for what X became started with the idea, “I can write something with a more personal focus, can’t I?”

After it became serialized in the monthly publication ASUKA, where did you go from there?

Ohkawa: In the very beginning, another work of ours, CLAMP Gakuen Tanteidan, was written and released in three volumes through the same publication. Following that, the editorial department wrote to us to say, “Please write a longer work,” so we did a story where we could attempt to introduce the characters from our other series in a compilation. When we consulted Kadokawa to ask if it was okay to use characters from works serialized in other publications, they generously replied, “That’s all right.”

And what are your thoughts on the compilations of your stories?

Ohkawa: In the fantasy genre, several CLAMP series are joined on a vertical and horizontal axis. As a result of that, when each work is succeeded by the next, we want to create the sort of organization that will leave room for thoughts like, “Should this character be introduced here?” and “Is the dialogue from that time tied to this scene?”

What was the theme you wanted to express most in X?

Ohkawa: I believe that’s better to read and decide for yourself. It’s just that for us as mangaka, we were often writing while on the brink of consulting with magazines and the like, and weren’t really concerned with an issue like “the fate of the world.” [laughs] For example, if the sheets of your bed are dirty, that’s unpleasant, isn’t it? Yet if the roadside is dirty, it’s the sort of situation where you would think that it’s not really your concern. Still, in a world crisis, I think that people might feel concerned for the nearby roadside, rather than just their own house.

However, that doesn’t matter very much to me. You see, as a result of the hole in the ozone layer, the rivers have become polluted, and that’s awful. But even though I’ve gone so far as to say that, I don’t know what else to think. Because of that, I tend to focus on myself at the present, and am fine with just being able to continue that line of thought. It’s not about “protecting the Earth,” it’s about me and the people I care about being able to live happily in a clean place somewhere.

So if you think about this in terms of a place dear to yourself, there’s great meaning attached to the idea of wishing for “mankind’s happiness,” isn’t there? Now, in the middle of X, Kamui is beginning to think about that.

When writing the script, are you the type who visualizes everything at the forefront of your mind?

Ohkawa: Whether it’s the script for a manga or a movie, I always construct a visual image at least once in my head. When we split up the panels in our manga, I feel that we take the situation of a scene into account and reflect upon that.

When you discuss concepts with Mokona-sensei, aren’t there times when you slack off on work?

Ohkawa: Yes, because it takes a very long time from then onwards. [laughs] When Mokona does the drawings for the storyboard, I say things like, “What was so-and-so character thinking at this point in time?,” and we end up talking in the middle, but there are rarely times when we disagree on something.

Many people are captivated by their commercial art.

Since the volumes of most CLAMP series are designed by you, Ohkawa-sensei, could you tell me about some of the advantages and obstacles that come along with that?

Ohkawa: Well, there’s an advantage in terms of being able to arrange all of our works and coordinate everything together. The disadvantage is that when it comes to your own designs, you don’t feel anything no matter how often you look at them. [laughs] You only feel that the ideas you’ve imagined and planned out have finally been completed. There’s a certain sadness that accompanies the surprise of looking at a completed work and thinking, “Ah, I can do this sort of thing too.” Because of that, I plan to leave our next illustration collection in the hands of a different designer.

Do you use any reference materials for your designs?

Ohkawa: There aren’t really any references that I use. However, there was this one time when I drew inspiration from this perfume and drink package that I gathered together. There are a lot of wonderful sources. Out of the things I’ve seen lately, even though it’s a knockdown [laughs], within the traditional rooms of this new inn, there’s a teahouse that goes by the brand “Alan Chai.” Even though Alan Chai-san is a store designer, I love his sense of design. More so than books or magazines, it might be that I draw more influence from business art.

A busy 1999. This year will be busy too, but she intends to enjoy her work.

What are the mysteries behind your stories?

Ohkawa: Mysteries. [laughs] Even though I think about my stories a great deal, I don’t writhe in agony over them. In physical terms, if the phone rings incessantly, I can’t just sit behind my desk the whole time. However, when I’m creating a story, it’s better if there’s a firm vision behind it. And I have had incredible ideas, to the extent where these stories continually play about in my head. That’s the case even now. [laughs] Even though it’s bad to love your own characters blindly, it’s fun to think of those characters in the same way you would a real person. If you love the worlds you’ve made and enjoy thinking about those stories, I think that’s enough to satisfy the requirements of “a person who creates narratives.”

Please tell us about any further developments in X from here on after, and your resolutions for the year 2000.

Ohkawa: Certainly, there are too many repeating themes in X to count. For example, what will become of Kamui and Fuuma in the end? The circumstances of these fourteen characters will be revealed little by little, and with each change, I would be happy if you paid close attention.

My resolution is…last year, I was extraordinarily busy, which led to trouble in a lot of different ways, but this year, I’d like to enjoy my work while keeping myself occupied. Even if I were to say that I’m relaxing, it doesn’t mean that I don’t feel motivated…to the point of eventually not even knowing what I’m looking at. [laughs]

It’s quite difficult to define what relaxation truly is. As a result, rather than take a break, I think it’d be nice if I were able to enjoy my work. Also, since I’ll be working on a cute story, I’ll also be doing a slightly more adult-themed story. A naughty one. [laughs]

Translated from Japanese by coriolisky.


Interview originally published in X [ZE∅RO] (Kadokawa Shoten), released on March 31st, 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.