Drug & Drop, Vol. 1

By CLAMP. Released in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Ace. Released in North America by Dark Horse.

And so, after a 10-year hiatus, Legal Drug returns, with added plot! It began right about the time that xxxHOLIC was wrapping up in Young Magazine, which is appropriate given the similarity between the two series. Indeed, CLAMP underlines this by having Watanuki show up in the middle of this first volume, assigning the team a task that he, being unable to leave the shop, cannot accomplish himself. It’s somewhat disappointing that the Watanuki we see her is the post-series calm, reserved, smirking Watanuki, as of course during most of the best parts of xxxHOLIC, he and Kazahaya were like peas in a pod – little balls of frustration and anger who screamed at their close friend/rival whenever life became too much for them, which was all the time.


I had thought that the art style would be greatly changed from the first 3 volumes in the past, but it turns out that’s just the cover, which has our heroes prettied up and I suspect is drawn by another member of the team. Once inside the art is much the same as it was before, although 10 years more experience has made Nekoi’s eye for composition even better than it was before. As with so much CLAMP, this is simply pretty to look at, with even noble suffering being given a languorous tone, and where smoke wafting around the room can have a smirking quality to it, just like its owner. And, of course, where a crow being ripped apart by human hands can also looks quite pretty, if devastating.

One problem with Legal Drug is that its main ‘plot’, so to speak, was very much held back, with the series kept on as a ‘monster of the week’ sort of story till it found its feet – and then, of course, came the hiatus. Now that it’s returned, we thankfully don’t need that incubation period, and a lot of what was suggested in the first series is brought into sharper relief here. Rikuo has someone (sister or lover, I’m not sure), who he keeps searching for even though all signs point to her being dead. Kazahaya has a sister he loves dearly but who he is desperately hiding from, and the cliffhanger of the book shows us why. And the shop the two work in seems to have been created as a place for the two of them to have their Big Destiny together – Kakei and Saiga are just helping them along.

There’s a lot less humor here as well, sadly – the amusing overreactions are kept to a minimum, and Rikuo outright gets a prophecy that says he has to make an impossible choice and will fall into despair no matter what. It works out, though, because the two leads seem better equipped to deal with whatever tragedy comes their way. Kazahaya is still impulsive, but not to the point of being socially inept like in Legal Drug. Rikuo is stoic, but is actually bothering to explain things to Kazahaya this time around instead of merely rescuing and smirking at him. They FEEL more like the two chained by destiny that they’re supposed to be.

So in the end, Drug & Drop is much like its earlier incarnation, only more serious and with better written characters. I can’t guarantee it will end well, given my experience with CLAMP’s endings over the years, but for now let’s just enjoy the ride.

Legal Drug Omnibus

By CLAMP. Released in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten, serialized in the magazine Asuka. Released in North America by Dark Horse.

I had first read Legal Drug when it came out from Tokyopop back in the day, but I have to admit it didn’t leave as strong an impression on me. Possibly it was too BL for my tastes (I was so much younger them), or possibly I wasn’t taken with the lack of forward plot progression. These days, though, it’s hard not to read Legal Drug and think to yourself “…this is just xxxHOLIC, only a lot gayer, right?” Legal Drug went on ‘hiatus’ in 2003, right around the time CLAMP were arguing with Kadokawa about the ending to X. Coincidentally, around the same time, xxxHOLIC started in Young Magazine, and also featured a grumpy hero who likes to shout and his cooler, more stoic friend solving supernatural mysteries at the behest of an eccentric mentor.


When this series first came out, CLAMP’s work sort of subdivided into two main groups separated by art: there were the books that looked like Magic Knight Rayearth and X, and the books that looked like Suki and Legal Drug. The latter have Tsubaki Nekoi as their chief artist – as did xxxHOLIC, come to that. Her style has evolved a lot over the years, though, and it felt nostalgic to go back and see the cuteness in the character designs for Kazahaya and Rikuo. This isn’t as fluffy as Suki, though – there’s a lot of deep subtextual backstory here, very little of which is actually wrapped up. Rikuo is desperately looking for a woman everyone thinks is dead. Kazehaya is hiding from his sister, who he seems to love dearly, and who loves him just as dearly – in fact, possibly a bit too dearly? As for the owner of the shop where they work, Kakei, he seems familiar, and you might find yourself wondering if he’s from another CLAMP title.

Speaking of which, there was actually less crossover from other CLAMP works than I’d expected here. The most obvious one is from Suki, but that makes perfect sense in a meta way: the plot requires Kazehaya to have a high school girl give him her uniform at graduation, in exchange for a cute outfit. There is literally NO ONE IN THE WORLD who would be naive enough to do this – except Hina, of course. CLAMP readers who might have found this unbelievable now smile and nod, as all is right in the world.

I joked in some earlier posts about the BL quotient of Legal Drug compared to xxxHOLIC, but re-reading it really brought it home. Compared to this series, xxxHOLIC is straight as an arrow. Kazehaya is a social misfit (from what little background is revealed, he seems to have grown up with only his sister and no one else till about 6 months ago), and Rikuo doesn’t seem to care about much (though does show a preference for teasing Kazehaya). But Kakei and Saiga are clearly a couple, which is why I was trying to figure out what series they’d been in before, and the last third of this omnibus is set in a boys’ school where one of the students straight up admits they all get into relationship0s as there are no girls around. (Given the sheer amount of yuri titles that use the same approach, it’s nice to see things reversed here.)

The supernatural mysteries are excellent, and sometimes creepy, as you’d expect from a series whose spiritual sequel was xxxHOLIC. But the main reason to read Legal Drug is the character interaction, which can range from hilarious to heartbreaking. And now, of course, we get to see the actual sequel, as Drug & Drop began in Young Ace (thus changing genres from shoujo to seinen, though there appears to be no difference in content) in 2011. We’ll come back here soon to see how the years have changed our two leads.