Kobato 6

CLAMP – Yen Press – 2012 – 6 volumes

Speaking of the ending of CLAMP series! I was never, ever a big fan of Kobato, though the ending did make me reconsider. Perhaps I should re-read Wish and throw away the first volume of Kobato before I pass judgement too harshly. Yes, it uses every single one of the themes CLAMP has been harping on for the last 20 years, and it doesn’t really use them well or subtly. But it’s what CLAMP does, and perhaps I should judge it next to Wish, which it ties in to. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve read Wish, and for all I know the themes are just as unsubtle in that. In my defense, Wish is actually a romance, though.

The other problem with the end of Kobato is that it unveils all this stuff right at the end. None of this really makes sense in the context of the series. I mean, we know “something” is up with the talking animals, but all this stuff is dumped in our laps right at the very end, and it doesn’t really have any bearing on the series. I can’t comment too much, but it explains Kobato’s condition, and what Ioryogi is doing with her, and how it ties into Wish… but that’s it.

Ultimately, it is a love story, and Kobato falls in love with Fujimoto. But there’s so much other stuff going on that it gets lost in the shuffle. Not to mention the fact I never really warmed up to Kobato. She wasn’t nearly as awesome as Ioryogi, and his love remains unresolved more or less at the end of the series.

But! It does have the kind of lovey-dovey ending that CLAMP does so well. It doesn’t ever happen as well as the end of Cardcaptor Sakura, but it still feels good to see it, even in Kobato.

Ultimately, I was very unsatisfied with Kobato, but perhaps it’s not nearly as terrible as I judged it initially. It’s… all right. But CLAMP’s older work is so good that even something like this, that’s only okay, feels wrong next to Cardcaptor Sakura and X and whatnot. And I hate saying that, because I hate being one of those people that lives in the past. But man. I’m just saying. I read the end of xXxHolic. I’m reading Gate 7. I read Tsubasa. I’m losing faith fast.


Kobato 5

CLAMP – Yen Press – 2011 – 6 volumes

Sigh. I’ve said before that Ioryogi is the only reason I like this series, and that continues to be true. I liked this volume a lot, because it explained exactly what was going on, and it is more deeply connected to Ioryogi than it is to Kobato.

This book is tied pretty tightly to Wish. Kohaku appears a couple times here, the world of angels and demons seem to overlap, and the theme of waiting for your loved one to reincarnate over and over again and being happy as long as they are happy. I like it… but I’ve read it before, and it definitely isn’t my favorite thing. I might just have to give up on these Nekoi series. Wish, Suki, Kobato, and The One I Love are all pretty similar fluffy, low impact feel-good stories, and none are favorites by any stretch. They just aren’t for me. Then again, neither is Lawful Drug, and that’s a completely different kind of Nekoi series.

Oh, this volume is all about looooove. Kobato realizes she’s fallen in love with Fujimoto, and there’s some question about what her wish will be when she fills the jar now. Fujimoto just might be in love with Kobato, too. But the big news in this volume is all about who Ioryogi is, who Kobato is, and how all these animals got to be wandering around. I was shocked when I learned that this all ties back into love as well. Ioryogi fell in love with an angel, and many bad things happened. CLAMP’s insistence that some people can be the same, but not the same pops up here in a rather annoying way, so I’m not sure… of the link between two of the characters now. Are they the same character? Are they not? Does nobody care about the difference? That’s what it seems like by the end of the volume.

All the same, even though I was a little tired of all the loving, I did like Ioryogi’s flashback and the explanation about what happened between the worlds. While none of the other characters have grown on me over the last five volumes, I do hope that Ioryogi puts in an appearance in another CLAMP manga, and that the big reveal next time won’t show him to be Syaoran or something.

And… yeah. One more volume of this to go.


Kobato 4

CLAMP – Yen Press – 2011 – 6+ volumes

Hmm… there’s more story to my liking in this volume. Rather than following the issues surrounding the kindergarten, Sakaya, and Fujimoto, we actually get some information on Ioryogi, the bear, and other creatures inhabiting the world. It’s still not quite clear what’s going on, but we know that Kobato’s time to fulfill her wish is very short. We still don’t really know what that wish is, though, nor what’s under her hat.

Because this is a CLAMP series, love enters the picture here. What can you do? I’m not really sold on the relationship yet, nor do I expect to be. I am curious, though, since Kobato seems rather ignorant of the whole process.

I’m curious how the kindergarten plot overlaps with the rest of the series. With this new twist, it seems like the characters will stick around. Kobato can fill her jar while still helping them. So are Fujimoto and Sakaya relatively permanent fixtures now, and their problems will be resolved at the bitter end?

That only raises more questions. That’s a good thing, given the fact that this was boring me with how predictable everything was in the earlier volumes.

We do see some cameos. Usyagi make an appearance (and, in an awesome chapter illustration, we see Ioryogi in a vending machine with Usyagi, both Mokona, and both Atashi), as do some of the characters and elements from Wish. Some definite structure to the planes of existence were spelled out too. I had thought Ioryogi was a reincarnation of one of the demons from Wish, even though the personalities weren’t a match. Apparently he and the other animals are new…? I wonder why their identities are such a secret, then?

This volume’s better than the others, but I’m still fairly disappointed with this series so far. Neither the plot or the characters have caught my interest yet. But perhaps it is an appropriate follow-up to Wish, which was very similar to this series and also not one of my favorites. I intend to keep reading, because I can’t stay away from CLAMP or their crossovers, and I do hope my patience will be rewarded. CLAMP hasn’t been very good to me lately.

This was a review copy provided by Yen Press.


Kobato 3

CLAMP – Yen Press – 2010 – 5+ volumes

Sigh. So I just read a manga about textbook shounen manga, and what they are made of. If such a thing existed for feelgood shoujo manga, this would be it. It’s formulaic to a fault. The characters are boring, I can’t get into the conflict here, and the mysteries offered just aren’t enticing enough yet to make me want to continue. And yet here I am, three volumes in, and I’ll probably keep reading because I like CLAMP that much. They wrote X, after all. Maybe they’ll finish up that series after they finish work on this.

Anyway. While nowhere near as rotten as the first volume, there’s still not a whole lot going on here. The loan sharks are still closing in on the daycare, that much hasn’t changed, and it doesn’t get resolved by the end of the volume. We only find out that they are very determined, and that the head loan shark has a vested interest in the company. We also find out what Fujimoto’s link to Sakaya is. All of this is really… gripping stuff.

More interesting are the hints dropped by Ioryogi about his true identity and that of all the other vicious little animals he hangs out with. The more they talk, the more I want to know, and the more certain I am that they are somehow connected to Wish, especially since they discuss Usyagi (or Ushagi here, I guess) at length in this volume. That, more than anything else, is what makes me want to keep reading. Well… also, the art is still really amazing. I can never fault CLAMP for that. But art can only take you so far in a continuing series.

But all the other talk about love and helping people with their sad feelings and their wounded hearts and whatnot is putting me to sleep otherwise. Ioryogi keeps it from getting too stagnant, but I’m really hoping this daycare plot resolves itself sooner rather than later so that we can move on to something else.


Kobato 2

CLAMP – Yen Press – 2010 – 4+ volumes

The second volume does improve on the first, but the first volume was terrible.  It was like biting into an onion: it didn’t taste good and ultimately made me cry, and I probably should have known better.  This volume does change the story formula from one-shot stories to an ongoing plot, and is significantly better, so that might explain why the first two volumes were released together.  Kobato is still nowhere near a strong enough heroine for me to get behind, but an ongoing story is doing the series good.  A loan shark plot isn’t necessarily the best fit, and it’s even stranger that a kindergarten is having these problems, but at least I’m not watching Kobato trip all over herself while she tries to figure out appropriate behavior for Christmas.

Well, she still trips all over herself, and characters are constantly pointing this out when it happens, as if the illustration wasn’t enough.  But at least it’s mostly the little kindergarten students that are doing the bullying.  Kobato is still full of bad jokes that make me angry.  And the whole “fill your jar with broken hearts you’ve mended to get your wish”  is still a constant reminder that Kobato probably isn’t going anywhere in a hurry.  But I did like this volume better.  Maybe it can pull off Kobato’s dopey charm over time.  I’d love to see if that’s possible, you know?

Also good: the loan shark looks and acts like a dark-haired version of Fai.  He would make an excellent loan shark.

Unfortunate: Ioryogi has been relegated to a mascot that spews punchlines.  His angry face is wasted on that.

I’m still trying to pick up on any sort of original vibe on the two staff members at the kindergarten.  They are so far CLAMP stereotypes, one nice and put-upon, the other gruff but kind.  I have no opinion of them, or the rest of the story really, at this time.

Hmm.  Let’s see where this goes.  It’s CLAMP, so I’m going to keep reading, regardless of whether it gets good or not, but… I mean, there are only so many excuses I have left for CLAMP now that I’m embarking on the end of Tsubasa.

Plus, it makes me cry a little that they are drawing this instead of the end of X, but on the other hand, would I really want CLAMP to finish X if they are… er, in the mood to draw something like this?


Kobato 1

CLAMP – Yen Press – 2010 – 4+ volumes

So.  This series has an interesting publication history, which will bore the pants off most people but I will relate anyway.  In Japan, it started as a series called Kobato (Temporary) in a magazine called Monthly Sunday Gene-X at Shogakukan.  Then it went on hiatus for about a year, and came back to run monthly in Kadokawa Shoten’s Newtype as Kobato, but the storyline started a little bit ahead of the material that had been in Sunday GX.  The first chapter in Sunday GX is the last chapter in this first volume.  In America, it ran in ADV’s Newtype USA from 2007-2008, until the magazine ceased publication.  Yen Press picked up the license last year, and released the first two volumes together this month.

Whew.

And after all that, and along with the confession I’ve read every single one of CLAMP’s works without exception over the years and own most in both English and Japanese… I’m just going to go ahead and admit I really don’t like this.  I have the first two volumes in Japanese, but only read the first one.  My Japanese is terrible, and I thought I wasn’t getting the jokes, so I was looking forward to reading it in English.  The jokes… yeah, still not good.

It’s clear that this series ran on a monthly schedule, because for most of the volume, Kobato is quizzed largely on monthly holidays and what is considered “appropriate” behavior for each (Kobato and Ioryogi’s origins are not revealed, but they are clearly not “of the times” here).  Chapters on Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, flower viewing festivals, and the heat of summer are included, chock full of comic misunderstandings based on pop culture and hilarious punishment from Ioryogi.  The first chapter includes lessons on how to take out the trash and how to cook a nabe pot.

Yeah.  Basically, none of the jokes are funny, and the material is all pretty tired.  It apparently reaches out into parody territory, but just isn’t pulling it off, coming off more as one of the most cliche-ridden stories I’ve seen in awhile.  Ouch, CLAMP.

The crossovers are still here, which would be great if Tsubasa didn’t exist.  Well, who am I kidding, I still crack a smile when I see Chitose and the persocoms or Hikaru from Angelic Layer.  Yeah, I do kind of like that part.

If the terrible, tired jokes weren’t enough, Kobato is trying to pass the “normal behavior” test in order to get a jar to fill with broken hearts in order to grant her wish.  This is ripping off the worst of several CLAMP plots, or is somehow a generic version of every series they’ve ever done, I can’t decide.

Mercifully, the last chapter leads us into a different type of story, and while I’m sure the same silly, unfunny jokes will keep appearing, at least we won’t be waltzing through the hilarity of “common sense” anymore.  I’m looking forward to the shift in story, but… somehow I don’t anticipate this pulling off the charm that made other sugary titles like Wish work.

The best thing about this volume was Ioryogi, the angry blue dog that acts as Kobato’s mentor.  There’s just something awesome and completely out of place about a scowling, screaming blue dog in Kobato’s otherwise pristine, happy-go-lucky life.  Not even Ioryogi’s jokes are funny, but the fact he exists makes Kobato a little better than it ought to be.  He has a secret identity, so I’m rooting for either an old CLAMP character, or… yeah, an old CLAMP character.  Maybe he’s a re-skinned Kero-chan, though Kero was never that angry (but neither was Sakura as dopey as Kobato).  Maybe his eyepatch bunny friend was Spiniel Sun.  That would be great.


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