Gate 7, Vol. 1

By CLAMP. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Jump Square. Released in North America by Dark Horse.

It’s been a busy fall for CLAMP here in North America. xxxHOLIC is finishing out its run at Del Rey, The re-release of X is out this week from Viz, and their new series, Gate 7, has come out from Dark Horse. This one runs in Shueisha’s Jump Square, which is still shonen but is well known for experimentation. And, like its parent magazine Weekly Shonen Jump, also has a large female readership. Which plays right into what CLAMP does best.

The trouble with giving the audience what they want, of course, is that they do not particularly want originality, or experimentation, or new things. What an audience typically wants is the same story told over and over, only with the names changed so we can pretend that they’re different characters. Heck, sometimes CLAMP even bypasses that, relying on using tried and tested characters in new situations (Tsubasa, X…). Of course, the problem with this is that reading the first volume of a new work of theirs can feel a bit like making ticks on a list.

Let’s see, straight man hero who seems to exist to be exasperated, befuddled, and ask questions: check. With a supernatural secret: check. Meets up with two complementary hot, long-legged and tall guys who may or may not be lovers but the fandom will have decided they are from panel one: check. And a mysterious person of ambiguous gender to hook up with the hero, again giving a frisson of BL while still having an out if the creators do decide they need them female for some reason: check. And the entire plot, about a war between two sides to see who can gain the powers of demons.

So I think we’ve established that this is The Pick Of The Best Of Some Recently Repeated CLAMP Hits Again, Vol. 2. That said, CLAMP would have to work much harder than they are to tell a boring story, and the whole thing ends up being interesting and a page-turner almost despite itself. Working in the Edo period history is not only a good way to ground everything, but quite timely given how many Edo period manga are coming out here these days. The lead is nice enough, even if his “history buff” trait screams of a plot device. I wish he’d have more personality, but I suspect if he got upset he’d be a complete Watanuki clone, instead of just half of one. Hana is Hina from Suki with added powers: still having that same sense of childlike naivete that everyone wants to protect. Tachibana and Sakura are any number of types, but in this volume I was most reminded of Kurogane and Fai.

See how I try to talk about how I still found the manga enjoyable, but ended up drifting off into how everything reminded me of something else again? Yeah, I think I’ll have to go with that. CLAMP are now marketing nostalgia for CLAMP. And this title is for everyone who liked X and Tokyo Babylon and RG Veda and Tsubasa and wants to set their empty glass down on CLAMP’s bar and say “Another, please!” And y’know, it’s still pretty tasty, even if you know exactly what you’re getting.