X 4 (omnibus ed.)

September 20, 2015

CLAMP – Viz – 2012 – 18+ volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 10-12

Another one from my read-but-not-reviewed pile.  But I’ve read X so much, it doesn’t matter.  Still, I re-read it anyway, because it’s one of my all-time favorites.

The art is so good.  I say this every time, but it bears repeating.  CLAMP has drawn some very beautiful series over the years, but X is really a labor of love.  It breaks my heart that this is still unfinished, when sequels to Tsubasa and xXxHolic are ongoing.  Sporadically.  Though not Gate 7 or Drug and Drop.  I should try the latter out again.  I’m a little scared of the former.

Anyway, most of volume 10 is fallout from what happened last time.  A little downtime, if you will, after the intensity last time  There are two swords, and now both Kamui have one.  We also get to see the members of the Dragon of Earth react to the new Kamui.  Kamui goes to talk to Hinoto, whose dream with Kamui is hijacked by Kakyo.  As it turns out, after the terrible events, The Earth’s Final Saga Has Begun, and Kamui Is Going To Get Fuma Back.

God, I wish this manga had been completed.  I always imagined the movie, TV series, and manga having different endings, and I would have loved to see it here.  It was SO CLOSE.

Anyway.  The second volume is some cute stuff with Kamui at school.  A look at regular life.  He has his cheerful, upbeat friend Keiichi to offer him a little bright spot in an otherwise bleak life.  He’s being tutored by Subaru, who definitely doesn’t provide any sort of cheerfulness.  We learn that Keiichi is afraid of earthquakes after one caused by the Dragons of Earth kills his father, and during one, Kamui leaves him when he realizes the Dragons of Earth are attacking another barrier.  There’s some Nataku drama, and another meeting between Fuma and Kamui thrown in for good measure.

Aahh… volume 12 has a “If thine eye offend thee” act between Fuma and Subaru.  Most heartbreaking, especially when Subaru has to explain to Kamui it was his wish.  Fuma is, after all, all about granting people’s wishes.  But just not Kamui’s.  As a result of that cruel twist of fate, Kamui of course can’t produce a kekkai, which is discussed here.  Also discussed is that tragedy also strikes cheery Keiichi, who continues to be cheerful, but now also horribly depressing at the same time.  Thanks, X, for making even the happy character horribly sad.

X 3 (omnibus ed.)

April 21, 2013

CLAMP – Viz – 2012 – 18+ volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols 7-9

I always forget that the Twin Star bit doesn’t happen until much later in the series (the end of volume 8/beginning of volume 9! So late!). I sit and wait impatiently for it every time I re-read it, knowing that things can’t really get going until it happens. It’s the catalyst for Kotori meeting the last Dragon of Earth, and with generals all around, the battle truly begins.

After some rather heavy stuff at the beginning of the volume, we get little snippets of what every character in the series is up to, particularly in a “I was here when it happened” moment for X. Again, this series probably has way too many characters for its own good, and that’s without the very minor characters that we’re still keeping track of, but still. Zooming around to check all of them out was a nice touch.

Lots of Fuma, Fuma, Fuma in these volumes, and for good reason. It took me a minute to get used to this when it happened, but later on, I kind of liked it. One of my favorite scenes in the series wouldn’t be possible if this wasn’t the case, and I’ll talk more about that later.

Speaking of favorite scenes in the series… Subaru becomes more of a major player here. We get to see a rather heavy fight with Seishirou, though not the fight we really want. He’s a surly, depressed adult here, but towards the end of the volume he gets to do his Tokyo Babylon trick, and opens up to Kamui in a way that only he can. Not only because of his powers, but because he’s been here. This part always struck me as rather beautiful, even in the ridiculous context of X.

We also get to see one of the Kekkai landmarks fall here, just before all the big stuff goes down. I love that Seishirou is in charge of this, like he’s just enjoying the rampant destruction immensely. Though one wonders, if it’s that easy to rock the balance, couldn’t you just keep doing this for most of the landmarks, knowing that a Dragon of Heaven isn’t going to show up to stop you until you’re done? Whatever.

And the artwork. Do I really have to tell you it’s the best shoujo artwork there is? I’m a huge fan of CLAMP, and while their current stuff hasn’t been good to me, I still say that Mokona draws some of the absolute best shoujo artwork there is, and X is her best series. It’s just so pretty to look at, even if the whole thing is a bit complicated and difficult to work out.

Oh, X. My heart will always belong to you.

X 2 (omnibus ed.)

September 9, 2012

CLAMP – Viz – 2012 – 18+ volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 4-6

Really. I love this series so much! I’m saying that a lot tonight, and to be honest, I probably love this one about as much as Dorohedoro. But they are good for different reasons. This is the most shoujo of all shoujo manga, with it’s pretty art, angst, drama, prophecy, and bosom friendships. It absolutely fills me with nostalgia, and it makes me so happy. Keep that in mind, and take my praise for this with a grain of salt, because it is still way convoluted and complicated, probably overly so for many. But man. X. This is probably how other people feel about Sailor Moon. I’m sorry, she just doesn’t hold a candle to Kamui.

It’s hard for me to read through these first volumes, knowing what comes next. I’m getting impatient, and I really want to get to the good stuff. I mean, seriously? How is the Kotori/Kamui/Fuuma relationship still intact in volume 6? That should have altered dramatically in, like, volume 2. But the exposition works its slow magic through these volumes, and I still adore every page.

Kamui meets Hinoto, the dreemseer below the Diet Building. She explains how he can choose sides and essentially swing the fate of the Earth and humanity either way. Would he like to destroy Earth by letting humans live and pollute the environment, or would he rather save the earth by eradicating humanity? Ultimately, though he’s got a bit of a bad boy edge, his heart lies with Fuuma and Kotori, so we know where this is going. The story hints that things may very well get ugly from here. I think it may be right.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to more of the Dragons of Heaven and Earth. Kanoe, Kusanagi, Seishirou, Karen, Yuzuriha, and maybe a couple others are introduced. Again, I know this is a little much for people, and I understand. It took me a lot of study to wrap my brain around all these characters, and I know it’s not going to be worth it for most. But I know them, and watching them enter the story makes my heart glad. Elsewhere, we learn about Sorata and what his deal with destiny is, and what it has to do with Arashi. They also try to determine the rest of the Dragons of Heaven by going through powerful priests/priestesses at prominent Japanese shrines. I love that Karen steps in right then.

Hmm… what else? Fuuma is struggling with what his father told him before he died. So is Kamui, for that matter. More and more people pick up the chant, leaving the vital last bit, “Fuuma… you… are Kamui’s…” maddeningly incomplete. But! Ultimately, there’s nothing that can be done about that.

And that’s basically all the brief commentary I have on this omnibus. I love every freaking page. On top of all that, it’s pretty. It’s honestly the prettiest manga I own. I have three different editions of it… four, if you count Animerica Extra. It’s just so nice to look at, which is a big part of why I put in the work to figure all the plot and characters out. And years later, it still rewards me. It is, and will always be, my favorite CLAMP manga. I just wish it had an ending. Honestly!

X 1 (omnibus ed.)

November 12, 2011

CLAMP – Viz – 2011 – 18+ volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 1-3

As I explained last night, I love X with a passion. Over the years, I’ve analyzed this with maniacal fervor. I can go on and on about all the characters, their relationships with one another, the different meanings behind certain plot elements, the symbolism, and just about everything else about it. I wore out a VHS copy of the movie. Every time I log onto the internet, it’s to see if there’s an announcement about CLAMP finishing the series.

It’s a little sad. Needless to say, I was very excited when this re-issue came out. Now a whole new generation of fans can read it!

As crazy as I am about it, I know X is flawed. X was probably the first shoujo series I read that I really, really liked. So there’s definitely some nostalgia tinting the experience. And since I was in high school when I was reading it, with not a whole lot of other manga available in English to fill my time, I read X over and over again. I memorized every one of the dozens of characters and insane plot details. I had time to parse it all and keep it straight. It’s a worthwhile endeavor, to be sure, but I’ll be the first to admit that the task of really getting into X is a daunting one.

Kamui Shirou… is the main character. He’s The Kamui. He’s at the center of two organizations, the Seven Seals and the Seven Angels, who each want to save the world. Except the Seven Seals believe in saving humanity (at the expense of the Earth, which humanity is slowly killing), and the Seven Angels believe in saving the Earth (at the expense of killing off humanity). The balance of power rests with Kamui, and whichever side he decides to join will be the victor in the impending, and foreordained, apocalypse. The players in this war game begin to gather in Tokyo after Kamui returns at the beginning of volume one.

Kamui has no interest in this war, however. He returns to Tokyo on the advice of his mother, who tells him he needs to protect those who are most important to him. So Kamui shows up to protect his two childhood friends, Kotori and Fuuma Monou. As he is constantly under attack from those wishing to test his strength to see if he is The Kamui, he keeps Kotori and Fuuma at arm’s length, gives them the cold shoulder, and even tells Kotori to keep her distance when she tries to get close. But the Monou family’s destiny is inextricably linked to Kamui and the apocalypse, and by the end of volume three, fate has drawn Kotori, Fuuma, and Kamui into the fight against their will.

These three volumes introduce a lot of characters. There’s… 18 characters, I think, by the end of volume three. Most of them are dead before too long, but even still, each side of the war has seven people, so there’s at least 14 main characters, plus the two dream seers. It can be difficult to follow along, especially since the early parts of the manga move very fast to introduce the convoluted plot. Kamui fights shikigami, then a character named Daisuke, then two characters named Yuuto and Sorata fight, then everything takes a break so that Fuuma and Kamui can have prophetic dreams… fights happen, are put on hold so that the characters can explain yet another aspect of the story, then more fights happen. There’s a lot of ground to cover, and X moves fast.

Strangely, the pacing lingers in the strangest places. The dreams, and flashbacks, are slowed down, and CLAMP uses highly decorative double-page spreads to slow things down and make you look and think. While the character lectures do contain vital information, the dreams and flashbacks are very important, and foreshadow one of the biggest twists in the series, coming up in a few volumes. Foreshadowing is very important in this series, and one of the things that’s emphasized the most in these first few volumes is that some of the characters can see into the future, and they know what’s going to happen. Kamui, Fuuma, Kotori… Their Destiny is Foreordained. So says the cover of every volume.

The art in this series is what caught my eye when I was younger, and to this day, there are very few series I can point to that have nicer art than X. It’s the best-looking of CLAMP’s series, and the lead artist, Mokona, pulls out all the stops. Every page is beautifully composed, but she uses sparse panel layouts with splash illustrations to great effect. It’s better here than it is in Clover, because while Clover is very sparse, Mokona fills all the spaces in X with shattering globes, clock gears, blowing flower petals, flowing blood, moving air, and everything else. No space is wasted, and all of it is highly detailed. The character designs are also fabulous. They date it slightly, as some have a very early 90s look to them (Sorata in particular), but most of them are fairly ageless. One of my favorite details is the completely opposite character designs of Kamui and Fuuma. Fuuma has a very old-school manly look to him. Tall, square shoulders, short haircut, stoic. Kamui fits into modern bishounen tastes, with his smaller build, longer hair, big eyes, and clear affection for Kotori.

And the art is used to emphasize dramatic moments wonderfully. It’s been a long time since I’ve re-read this, but the early double page spread, where Kamui and Kotori’s eyes meet across the school yard, still gets me. Watching Kogoro pull out the shinken in Togakushi shrine, knowing what will happen, is also a great illustration. And there are at least two disembowlings in this omnibus, and Mokona draws both with a strange level of detail for a shoujo manga.

This new edition makes me happy. That it’s three volumes in one is great, because X reads best in large chunks. The cover design uses the unusual graphic “X” of the Japanese editions (I think this is the only manga I own with no illustration on the cover), and the original color illustrations and tarot cards (all the major arcana featuring the main characters) are included with each “volume” in the omnibus, along with bonus illustrations and commentary on all the illustrations in the back. There’s also some translation notes. Plus, it’s a beautiful book to begin with. You can’t go wrong.

X is a series that requires a lot of patience, and a lot of re-reading to understand. I was baffled by a lot of things my first time through, and maybe if I came across it now, knowing more about how shoujo manga works, it would be less puzzling. And this is also tinted by nostalgia. I mentioned this while I was talking about Peach Girl not too long ago, but I read this while I was still the target audience, and there’s something to be said about the fact that I just can’t enjoy comics for teenagers like a teenager anymore, and cherish those that I liked back then. But X is still a fine series. It’s worth checking out for the art alone, and if you have the patience for a detail-heavy plot with a lot of characters (I usually don’t), it’s worth the time investment. The later volumes pay off in spades. Thinking about the volumes in the teens is making me smile like nobody’s business at the moment. I can’t wait.

X 18

August 28, 2005

And here it is, the end of X for awhile. Poor, poor Nataku/Kuzuki, and poor Karen. Poor Arashi. Poor EVERYONE, really. I like how the characters are getting more and more to the point, again. Fuma being slightly less creepy and slightly more sad as people begin to ask him what he wishes for and he seems to be very insistent that people always wishing to die for someone just don’t get it.

Dragons of Earth: 2 down, seven to go
Dragons of Heaven: 5 remain, though they’re not as obvious about… the sixth one… you know.

As for what happens after this volume… spoilers.



I wouldn’t look for Kanoe too much longer, really. I don’t know when it happens, but someone just out-and-out kills her. Arashi really DOES switch sides, too. She becomes a Dragon of Earth when she looses her powers as the hidden shrine maiden of Ise, which is sad. Really sad. I wouldn’t look for Satsuki or Yuuto too much longer really, either. And quite frankly, based on that first page of the series, I’d have to say that Kamui will soon be getting some serious hankerings for killing.

But what it comes down to, really, is that the last published scene in X was one of Fuma dangling a sword over Kamui’s face with a “to be continued in two months!” message at the bottom. Dammit, CLAMP.

X 17

August 28, 2005

Ah, we’re drawing toward the end of what was published now. This volume is notable because of the Subaru/Seishirou’s eye scene, which is truly one of the “eww, Jesus CHRIST” moments of manga. Also notable, be it in English or Japanese, is Sorata’s “can I have another one of your firsts?” line. You so goddamn suave, Sora.

Some other stuff happens, certainly… it’s in these later volumes that I finally feel the plot goes somewhere. The beginning of the series meanders so much as they explain things that this plot development at the end feels so great. You have a bunch of conflicts springing up as the characters need to die, many other things.

I wish it would be finished. Rumor has it that it was too violent to publish in Asuka anymore. That just makes me wanna see it more.

X 16

June 26, 2005

Anyone with any foreknowledge of the X series knows why I have this volume, but may be puzzled as to why it took me nearly a year to purchase it. By the time this volume came out, I was reading each chapter as it came out in Asuka, and this one’s no exception. The climatic chapter came with the most georgeous illustration of the pair in question.

And for the unitiated, this is the volume that has the decisive battle between Subaru and Seishirou. THE climax of X at this point, since the series still hasn’t ended yet. Hopefully the end will bring a slightly more exciting moment, but it will be hard pressed to surpass this battle, which is probably one of the high points in CLAMP’s writing thus far. And I say this as a closet CLAMP dissenter who owns all their series in English and most in Japanese.