• Shojo Manga Pick of the Month

    Last month I introduced you to the first true shojo manga; this month I introduce you to one of the newest. CLAMP's new series, CLOVER, was born along with the new magazine it appeared in, Kodansha Publishing's AMIE (pronounced "AH-MEE"). It's not easy to talk about, not only because I've seen only the first episode of it (the March issue hasn't arrived in New York yet), but because the first episode, in defiance of all convention, does not condescend to explain such trivia as setting and central conflict. This is not to say it is incoherent: there is a definite but indescribable aesthetic coherence, and CLAMP gambles that it is this angle, rather than a traditional "I-wonder-what's-going-to-happen-next" angle, that will hook readers in.

    This aesthetic is groundbreaking not only for CLAMP, but for mainstream manga generally. CLAMP has always given us exquisite page layouts, but here each panel and speech balloon becomes an object, and each page becomes like a selection of curios arranged on a table-top by a clever child. The atomosphere suggests art deco, but is more firmly grounded in a turn-of-the-century Belle Epoque style. We also see shadows of the films of David Lynch and David Cronenberg, and maybe a hint of BLADE RUNNER, but without the grittiness and self-conscious ugliness of those films. If it wasn't so slick, I would expect to see it on the pages of the counter-culture manga magazine GARO, rather than on the pages of a magazine that Japan"s second-largest manga publisher (presumably) hopes will improve its standing in the difficult teen-girls market.

    That's the most remarkable thing about CLOVER: that the editors would approve it at all. Shojo manga editors--mostly middle-aged men--tend to assume their readers are idiots, but the editors of AMIE, by making a challenging title like CLOVER the centerpiece of the new magazine, may be signalling that they are genuinely trying to innovate in a market that desperately needs innovation. Let's hope it"s a lucky clover.

    CLOVER, published by Kodansha Publishing, serialized in AMIE since February 1997.

    Matt Thorn

  • Clover ©1997 CLAMP/Kodansha
    ©1997 Viz Communications, Inc.