For Women’s History Month, we’re featuring the incredible women of anime, from studios to characters and timeless creators.
By Austin Jones
The all-female manga collective CLAMP holds a special place in anime history for attaining crossover success, deftly blending conventions of both shoujo and shounen to appeal to a wide audience.
Their extremely varied oeuvre belies a complicated universe, with multiple series featuring reimagined versions of characters from previous works and mysterious, recurring elements that even reference events from other continuities!
While most of CLAMP’s anime adaptations are quite accessible, there’s a lot you might have missed if you aren’t familiar with their entire body of work. One such work is X, CLAMP’s apocalyptic thriller, which canonically takes place after their spooky detective series Tokyo Babylon.
Though Tokyo Babylon received an OVA back in the ’90s, the manga never received a full adaptation. Back in October, studio GoHands (K) announced they would be producing a Tokyo Babylon 2021, a vital piece of the puzzle for anime-only CLAMP fans.
In celebration of the show’s impending 2021 release in Japan, we’ve put together a guide for some of CLAMP’s most essential releases to prepare you for the mystic world of Tokyo Babylon.
Cardcaptor Sakura (1998)
Cardcaptor Sakura is perhaps CLAMP’s most enduringly popular series, and it’s easy to see why. Riding the wave of new, more modern magical girl anime alongside Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura follows the effusively likable Sakura Kinomoto, an elementary schooler who accidentally releases the enigmatic Clow Cards wedged into a book in her basement.
The anime is a protracted adaptation of the manga, featuring 52 cards for Sakura to recover instead of the manga’s 19. This isn’t a problem, though—this just means Sakura has access to triple the powers and even more outfits, lovingly provided by Sakura’s best friend Tomoyo.
CLAMP’s dedication to portraying queerness in casual ways is prominently displayed in Cardcaptor Sakura. The show features a sensitive love story between Sakura’s older brother, Toya, and his best friend Yukito, which is later followed up on in the sequel series Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card.
The LGBT themes don’t stop there, though—CLAMP has been very clear about Tomoyo’s attraction to Sakura, and Sakura and her love interest Xiaolang Li express crushes on older peers of the same gender. Cardcaptor Sakura is quietly revolutionary not just for the shoujo genre, but for queer representation in anime as well.
X is emblematic of CLAMP’s early works. With a darker tone than some of their more recognizable shows, X became a cult favorite among male and female audiences for its rich, haunting mythology, inspired in part by Christian theology.
The series was partly inspired by head writer Nanase Ohkawa’s own middle school story about the end of the world. This merged with influence from Go Nagai’s Devilman, which, coupled with the sensuous art direction of lead artist Mokona, gave the story a brilliant contrast between hyper-violence and angelic beauty.
Kamui Shiro, a psychic, is tasked with either joining the Dragons of Heaven, a group dedicated to the upholding of humanity’s survival, or the Dragons of Earth, who represent the primordial chaos of nature.
The two are destined to battle to the death on the Promised Day, when the victor will determine whether humans will live on and potentially destroy the planet or if humankind will be wiped out and the Earth can be allowed to heal. Both, in a way, signify an impending apocalypse.
Much of the show is a battle of wits and will between Kamui, who joins the Dragons of Heaven, and his best friend Fuma, who develops a twisted alter ego because of his frequent interactions with Kamui. Fuma eventually becomes the “Kamui” of the Dragons of Earth. Emotional and brooding, X is perfect for fans of Shin Megami Tensei and Dune.
Watch X on Funimation!
It’s very possible that Chobits has one of the best anime openings of all time. One of CLAMP’s more controversial works, Chobits explores the relationships humans have with machines in sometimes sensitive, sometimes perverse ways.
In a world where having a personal android assistant is a sign of status, Hideki Motosuwa feels blessed when he stumbles upon an abandoned persocom (or personal computer) in the shape of a beautiful woman.
Unfortunately, on booting her up (through questionable means…), it seems the persocom is unable to perform any particular tasks, only muttering “chi” over and over again. He decides to name her Chi and keeps her despite her faulty programming.
Mostly a romantic comedy, there are some mysteries hidden within Chobits that slowly unravel and even crossover into some of CLAMP’s other series. Though one of their less essential works, it’s interesting to see the studio’s take on seinen as well as Madhouse’s beautiful animation.
Watch Chobits on Funimation!
Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE (2005)
Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE features some familiar faces. Starring reimagined characters from Cardcaptor Sakura, xxxHOLiC, Tokyo Babylon and X, Tsubasa follows an archaeologist from the Kingdom of Clow named Syaoran.
To save his childhood friend, the princess Sakura, Syaoran sacrifices Sakura’s memories of their time together to the Dimensional Witch Yuko.
Tsubasa is a quintessential adventure story, starring an ensemble cast who tour different dimensions seeking Sakura’s feathers, which can restore Sakura’s memories as well as provide supernatural abilities to whoever possesses them.
Tsubasa is dreamlike and tragic, often confusing but always beautiful in how it renders trauma and love in visceral ways.
Watch Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE on Funimation!
Let’s just get this out of the way: Yuko Ichihara might just be the best character CLAMP has ever written. Published almost simultaneously alongside Tsubasa, xxxHOLiC follows the Dimensional Witch, who owns a wish-granting shop in modern-day Japan.
The show also stars Kimihiro Watanuki, a high schooler plagued with visions of spirits who works part-time at Yuuko’s shop in hopes that she will eliminate his supernatural abilities.
If you’re coming into xxxHOLiC after Tsubasa, you might be shocked by just how funny it is. There’s a duality between the two series and how they are meant to complement one another, with xxxHOLiC shining some light on Tsubasa’s more enigmatic cast members. This results in a time-spanning story that gradually becomes more and more surreal.
Though xxxHOLiC is perfectly watchable as a standalone show, we recommend watching it back-to-back with Tsubasa in any order for a more rich understanding of the world. It’s what Yuko would want you to do.
Watch xxxHOLiC on Funimation!