Clamp: The All-Female Manga Artist Supergroup

Clamp: The All-Female Manga Artist Supergroup

As a counter to the oft-maligned maleness of the comics sphere (both its authors and readers), Clamp, an all-female group of manga artists and writers from Japan, have risen to become well-known comic artists around the world.Originally a group of 11 doujinshi (self-published) artists, Clamp formed in the mid-1980s. Most of the group dissipated soon after, leaving the iconic four-member team (Nanase Ohkawa, Mokona, Tsubaki Nekoi, and Satsuki Igarashi) that is still working today. Their success wasn’t an accident; they’ve published an impressive number of titles, many of which have received critical acclaim. Their works have sold nearly 100 million copies worldwide.Varied but unified, Clamp’s art is recognizable but carries stylistic differences specific to each work. Characters designs are highly stylized and drawn in to connote plenty of flow and flourish on the page (think lots of implied movement). However, art alone doesn’t bring success. Not content to stay within any particular category, Clamp’s work often runs out of bounds, picking up conventions of different genres and working them into their own, from parody ( Duklyon: Clamp School Defenders) to romance ( Chobits) to an adventure crossover ( Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle). Clamp’s series all take place in a loosely established universe, with characters or items from one series making cameos in another, to the delight of fans. Here’s a primer that’ll get you into the best of Clamp.

  1. Book

    1. Cardcaptor Sakura Volume 1

    Cardcaptor Sakura, one of Clamp’s most popular works, is also one of their most kid-friendly. The story follows Sakura, a grade-schooler who accidentally releases a set of magical cards from a book. Tasked with defeating and sealing them away to avoid catastrophe, the series follow Sakura and her relationships with friends and family. The series deftly explores different types of family structure and the many forms love takes, examining same-sex and taboo relationships. Seamlessly combining magic battles in elaborate costumes and exploring character relationships is what helped cement the series as a classic.

  2. Book

    2. X, Vol. 1

    One of Clamp’s most significant works is also one that might never be finished: X, originally serialized in 1992 and set in the then-near future (Tokyo in 1999), is about the coming end of the world and the fight for humanity’s future between the Dragons of Heaven and Earth. Drawing on both Christian and Chinese mythology, X is Clamp’s epic. However, after 11 years of serialization, the series went on hiatus in 2003 because editors feared it had become too violent. If you’re interested in giving it a shot, start with one of Clamp’s earlier series, Tokyo Babylon, which is set earlier in the X timeline.

  3. Book

    3. Chobits Omnibus Volume 2

    Clamp began Chobits in 2001, at a point when manga started peaking in popularity in the west. Something of a sci-fi romantic comedy, Chobits tells the story Hideki Motosuwa, a struggling student who happens upon an abandoned AI “persocom” (advanced robot) named Chi. The story revolves around their relationship, and with learning basic human tasks, showing implications of relationships between man and artificial intelligence.


Leave a Reply