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The Tragedy of (CLAMP’s) X

The Earth’s fate, whether it lives or dies, rests on the choices of an asshole. Will Kamui Shiro, the protagonist, become a Dragon of Heaven, fighting to defend the world as it is, or a Dragon of Earth, fighting to change the world (by purging humanity)? Joining him are twelve other superhumans fated to take part in the end of the world by either defending or destroying Tokyo. So is the main narrative of X, CLAMP’s tragic unfinished manga. 

Like Cardcaptor Sakurais a great manga. Indeed, I freaking love this series. There is a maturity and depth to the series that is, honestly, often lacking in other manga series. And there is a disturbing amount of gore, which ultimately proved the series’s downfall (in terms of publication).

What I find most interesting about the series, honestly, is how the apocalyptic forms the backdrop to the various human tragedies that befall both the protagonists and antagonists. Especially Kamui Shiro, the main protagonist who is, initially, a jerk. 

Until the tragic turn, Kamui is an uncooperative asshole. He is fighting his destiny and the attempts of his friends, both old and new, to (re)connect. He gradually begins to open up again and care about his loved ones. And then he makes the fateful choice to defend the world as it is.

Is Kamui truly an asshole in those early volumes or is he putting on an act? Is he trying to save his friends by pushing them away? 

The evidence points to an act. He does open up to his friends before making his choice. After the decision, he becomes positively passive. Indeed, as the arguably most powerful member of the Dragons of Heaven, he is cripplingly weak in fulfilling his mission. 

Has the trauma of his decision shattered his confidence, along with his unwillingness to attack Fuma? Or has some of Kamui’s darker personality traits been transferred to Fuma, the Kamui of the Dragons of Earth? 

Is the change in Kamui’s character a good thing or a bad thing? Would the series have been better or worse if Kamui kept some of his asshole character? 

Personally, I rather liked Kamui better earlier in the series. He is, I think, more interesting. He’s okay after the choice, but I find myself annoyed with him on numerous occasions. 

Kamui, however, isn’t the only character to let his personal drama detrimentally affect his mission as a Dragon of Heaven. Subaru Sumeragi, the main protagonist of the earlier Tokyo Babylon, has never recovered from the tragedy that befell him. He does manage to pull himself together enough to pull Kamui out of his catatonia, but his final confrontation with Seiishiro shatters whatever drive he still has left. 

Not even the erstwhile antagonists are free from drama. Kanoe, the benefactor of the Dragons of Earth, wishes to save her sister, Hinoto (the prophetic benefactor of the Dragons of Heaven), from her destiny as an oracle. Nataku, an adrogynous artificial human, sacrifices hir life to save a Dragon of Heaven from Fuma/ Kamui, thereby enacting a twisted family drama. 

Honestly, Heaven and Earth should be asking for refunds. In the end, it is human desire, so often self destructive, that will decide humanity’s (and the world’s) fate. Therein lies the triumph and tragedy of X

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The Innocently Disturbing World of Cardcaptor Sakura

CLAMP are among my favorite manga writers and artists. Among their works is Cardcaptor Sakura, which I binged on yesterday. I enjoy the series immensely. But, at the same time, I find the series, despite its innocence, greatly disturbing. 

By far the largest source of disturbance I have about the series is the depiction of romance. While some of the romances are perfectly sweet and innocent, many of the relationships are not. 

My biggest concerns lie with teachers having romantic feelings/ relationships with their students. In the series, there are three such relationships. Fujitaka (Sakura’s father) was Nadeshiko’s (Sakura’s mother) teacher when they fell in love (and she was sixteen when they married). Tarada, an elementary school teacher, is in love with his student, Rika. And, finally, student teacher Kaho has a year long relationship with her, at the time, former student, Toya. 

These relationships are represented as being okay. But they are, honestly, anything but. The relationship of teacher to student is inherently fraught with an inequality of power. The teacher, no matter his or her intentions, has a great deal of power over their students. So, whether or not Toya or Nadeshiko genuinely love their sensei does not matter. Kaho and Fujitaka abused their power. And the Rika/ Tarada relationship? Pedophile. Enough said. 

What Cardcaptor Sakura reveals is a disturbing trend in art that requires romance as an integral element of the story. Even when said romance takes away from the story. Or its presence, as in Cardcaptor Sakura and other literature for children, is wholly inappropriate baring school yard infatuations.

And therein lies the root of the matter, I think. Cardcaptor Sakura makes the mistake of treating innocent crushes as being equivalent to romantic love. But while those crushes may feel that way for the children involved, it is not the same as romantic love. 

And it is never appropriate for teachers to have romantic relations with their students. Period. 

CLAMP’s work is amazing. But often times their writing is more mature than the age demographic they are writing for. And I think this is certainly the case with Cardcaptor Sakura, no matter how innocent the series looks to be. 

Of Olympians, Reservoirs, and Some Questions

When it comes to YA (still hate that name) SF, I’ve missed a lot. Largely because the glut in the genre came when I was “too old” to be interested. And, now that I’m trying to make up, I really am too old.

Obviously, I’m not talking about Harry Potter but rather Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I recently checked out The Lightening Thief  from the library. And yesterday, I finally got down to read it.

And I got about three or four pages in before I closed the book. With no intention of opening it back up.

This time, though, had nothing to do with any preconceived problems with the text. Not even my position on Greek Mythology in popular culture.

It was the structure and tone of the opening that immediately turned me off.

Seriously, playing around with whether or not the novel is “real” or a “piece of fiction” in a meta sense made no sense. And Percy’s narration? Just no.

That said, Percy Jackson and the Olympians does raise in an interesting question. Why are the Olympians in hiding? I can see it with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but not with the Olympians. Why hide themselves? Especially if it is real?

Okay, then the series will be AU rather than Contemporary and demand more work. But still!

But yesterday wasn’t completely disappointing when it came to reading. After putting down The Lightening Thief, I picked up the first volume of CLAMP’s Tsubasa. And it was freaking awesome! Mind you, I am a fan of CLAMP . . .

Anyway, my reaction to both works reveals an interesting insight. I’m not overly fond of YA. Especially in prose. But I love shonen manga. What is up with that?

Part of the answer, I think, is that the graphic story telling element eliminates the usual stylistic tone of a lot of YA that puts me off. Excepting dialogue and interior monologues, the “narrator” has little chance to talk down to the reader.

Another part of the answer may be the ages of the characters. The closer the lead characters are to the later teens, the more I like it. Remember, I hate Naruto volume one, but love much of Part 2. So, there is that.

Am I disappointed that I didn’t like The Lightening Thief? Yes. But it doesn’t do to dwell. Rather, it is important to move on. So many more books to read.

Given my problems with YA, any ambitions I have to possibly write in that genre is suspect. Should I write a YA even if I don’t like it? Maybe write a YA SF novel the way I would like it to be done?

That is, however, a post for another day.

 

Cardcaptor Sakura Omnibus Book 3 Review

It has been a few months since I last read CLAMP’s Cardcaptor Sakura. I’m honestly still surprised by how much I liked the first two omnibuses. Now, I’ve finally read the third omnibus. To be honest, I am not as enthusiastic about the volumes in this book as I was about the first half of the series. Why?

Well, I think the problem with the second half of the series is that there is very little suspense. It is pretty apparent right from the get go that Eriol is the main antagonist of this half of the series. There is no attempt to hide what he is up to, although Sakura and her friends are unaware of what is going on. Though, perhaps, it should be apparent. I mean, who helped Sakura with Yuki’s teddy bear? And Ruby Moon is not very subtle in stating her intentions, is she?

Another issue I have with this half of the series, so far, is the fact that it mirrors the first half of the series. Yes, the first half of the series is about Sakura collecting the Clow Cards and proving her worthiness to be their master. And yes, the second half is about Sakura transforming the cards into her cards with Eriol forcing her into that necessary change.

My problem lies in the fact that both arcs are so heavily tied in with Clow Reed. Are there now wizards of note beyond those connected to Clow Reed in this world? Could Sakura not face someone with no connection to Clow Reed?

That said, the characterizations are still delightful. And, of course, the real dramatic quality of the series lies in the various comedic romantic entanglements that the characters find themselves in. Though the development of these plots are a little slow, it is nice seeing the recognition from Toya and Sayoran in regards to their romantic interests. The final image is especially powerful, I think.

I’m disappointed with this half of the series so far, but since there are only three volumes left, I will likely check them out of the library when I can. I hope the final volume sees a return to form. But I will have to save my final analysis of the series until then.

CLAMPed Out

I just read volumes 4 through 6 of CLAMP’s Card Captor Sakura in one sitting.

And it was awesome.

Three Reviews: The Walking Dead, The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane, and X

For Thanksgiving, I have three reviews that I want to do. In ascending order, I’ll review my least favorite and finally my favorite. So that means I’ll review AMC’s The Walking Dead, Robert E. Howard’s The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane, and X.

After watching the first four episodes of AMC’s adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, I am pleased to declare it my favorite new show of the year (keeping in mind that I do not watch a lot of television).

Taking place in a near present in which something, some virus, has caused the infected to rise again as decaying zombies. The series is amazing with its realistic depiction of the horror of a zombie inspired apocalypse, the struggles of survival, and the conflict of hope and despair.

The acting is superb with even minor characters having wonderful scenes. My only real complaint is that it seems too short.

I know, I know, I said I would not do another Robert E. Howard post for a while, but this is a review and I can’t control when my local library will have a title I want available. Anyway, reading The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane were a joy. Robert E. Howard is a master of the short adventure and fantasy short story. I found myself enjoying all of the tales, although some engrossed me more than others. “The Moon of Skulls,” “The Hills of the Dead,” and “Wings of the Night” were all amazing and enthralling. The pacing, the plot, the characterization, all of it. Reading these short stories reaffirmed my faith in Howard’s work.

But there is a problem. If you are sensitive to racial issues, the Solomon Kane tales may not be for you. While racism plays a part in the Conan tales, it is no where near as prevalent as in the Solomon Kane tales. Kane is a racist character (although one can argue that the events of “The Hills of the Dead” force Kane to reevaluate his opinions of Africans and wizards due to the heroic actions of N’Longa- indeed N’Longa is the real hero of that story).  There is a lot of racist imagery in the stories set in Africa, so keep that in mind.

Finally, X, the anime adaptation of CLAMP’s manga X/ 1999. Over the past few months, I have watched the English dub on Hulu. And I have loved every minute of it. I want this series. I want to buy it. The characters are amazing. The plot is enthralling. All around, I love it. From the visuals to the music, wow.

X is the story of Kamui, a high school student who discovers that in his hands lie the destiny of the world. Will he be a Dragon of Heaven, seeking to preserve the world as it is by leading the other Dragons of Heaven in protecting the barriers of Tokyo? Or will he be a Dragon of Earth, seeking to destroy humanity and bring a revolution to the Earth? It is this tragic choice that provides the impetus for the events to follow as Komui makes new friends and loses his childhood friends to both his and their own destinies.

Komui is initially an unlikeable protagonist, concerned more with getting the Divine Sword than in his duty either as an (initially unwilling) Komui or reconnecting with his friends. But when his destiny can no longer be ignored and he must chose, he steps up and becomes more approachable. But it is not Komui who is the sole focus of the series. The other Dragons of Heaven, and the Dragons of Earth, all have their own moments to shine. All in all, a great and highly recommended series.