Manic Manga: CLOVER (CLAMP)



Alternate Titles: クローバー (CLAMP), 클로버 (CLAMP), Trèfle
Author & Artist: CLAMP, Ohkawa Ageha, & Apapa Mokona
Year: 1997
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Shoujo, Supernatural, Tragedy
Volumes: 04 (1997; Complete/Discontinued) & 02 (2008; Complete)
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Kazuhiko is a young, but already deeply wounded, black-ops agent of a baroque, retro-tech world — pulled out of retirement to escort Sue, a mysterious waif, to a destination she alone knows. Sue and Kazuhiko have never met… yet she knows him, having grown up since the age of four with her only human contact being two distant voices: that of her elderly “grandma” — Kazuhiko’s commander, General Ko; and that of Kazuhiko’s dead girlfriend, the beautiful singer Ora.

And Sue has been kept in that cage all these years because of what she is, and what the Clover Leaf Project found her to be: a military top secret… and the most dangerous person in the world. All information came from Manga Updates. This blog post will contain spoilers please read after the cut if you’ve already read the manga.

Hm, where should I start with this review? I remember back in my early days on the Internet, I remember seeing pictures of Sue everywhere. I recognized the art as CLAMP but I wasn’t aware she was from a manga series until I actually started to read about CLAMP. I longed for the day to read it because I really loved their ideas for stories and I wanted to explore what other worlds they have created.

And, honestly, I’m not quite sure what I read. The setting takes place in a retro like world that has steampunk. I suppose that’s interesting in itself – I’m not that interested in steampunk but hey, it’s different so why not? What’s the worst thing that could happen?

Well… I got the basic plot down – Kazuhiko, an agent, was pulled from retirement to escort Sue to somewhere that she wanted to go. Alright, I get that.  The two start getting to know each other over the course of the story and, at the end, Kazuhiko realized the connection between Sue and Ora, his dead girlfriend…. except not really?

There’s also something about a guy trying to kill him (and gets off on the sadism) and chasing the two down only to give up after the first fight between them. Er.

There are other characters in the story as well – a comrade named Gingetsu who’s all mysterious and cool (and always has a visor on for whatever reason that’s not entirely clear), and a guy named Ran who’s experienced in computers and has a special sort of power. As you can see, the cast is kinda small if you don’t really consider the elder Wizards, or Generals, or any of the random characters that pop up here and there.

To be honest, I’m not sure if this particular story would work as a manga simply because there’s a song that keeps showing up during the course of the manga – the song Sue and Ora wrote together. It’s assumed that Ora has, or had, a really pretty voice that we’re supposed to imagine.  I feel something like that, if you’re going to include a singer, visuals and sound would help carry the story more. I suppose the simple message of CLOVER is that you have to make certain sacrifices to be happy or you have to take the first step towards that happiness.

The message is fine, but it felt that it got lost in its own imagery. After a while, I was wondering what we’re supposed to be doing. The art, as usual, is gorgeous in its CLAMP glory but the writing… It may have gotten lost for the sake of trying to be deep. It was hard to follow the story simply because a character could be talking about how hard it would be to get happiness again or if we ever attained it in the first place on minute and the next minute, we’re in the middle of a battle. Okay, but what just happened with the battle???

And that’s just the main story. It felt really rushed simply because, again, it wasn’t really clear what’s going on. Words are pretty but manga is also a visual medium – show, don’t just tell. Though, if we took out maybe a good chunk of the monologues, maybe it’d be easier to understand what’s going on. Oh yeah, and Kazuhiko apparently has an arm gun as a super weapon because, why the hell not?

Included are side stories about how Ora and Sue met as well as a backstory to Ran and Gingetsu’s relationship. These side stories go deeper into the Clover Leaf Project.

From what I can understand, the Clover Leaf Project started because people, particularly children, are developing psychic or magical abilities. Depending how high their level is, that’s how they rate them. For example, Ora was a one-leaf because her only power is predicting her own death (which was never explained who killed her or why). One-leaf is considered the weakest and the least threatening to the government. However, as the leaves go up, it becomes evident that the person is more powerful.

In Ran’s short story, it’s revealed that Gingetsu is a two-leaf and Ran was imprisoned (along with his twin) because he’s a three-leaf. Sue is considered a four-leaf which is why she was completely sealed off from the world. Ran and his twin are considered too powerful even against the five most powerful generals, or again, wizards. Forget Sue. She could destroy them all with little effort.

Apparently, the lower level leaves aren’t aware of the more powerful Clovers (in terms of who they are) but the higher powers can sense the lower levels. Interesting but there wasn’t much to it. In Ora’s short story, Ora and Sue interact over the phone. Sue didn’t realize she was actually an one-leaf until Ora told her  and yet Sue was able to pick up her voice.

But in Ran’s short story, Sue keeps interjecting with advice to Ran and the twin even though she knows they can’t hear her.

I feel a little torn about the short stories. On one hand, it’s really interesting to see how Ora actually was and what happened to her when she died. Not only that, it explained the connection between Sue and Ora – and why Sue chose Kazuhiko to escort her to Fairy Park. Ran’s story was interesting and it showed what happened to him and how he met Gingetsu.

On the other hand, were they really necessary? It shed some light but in the end, it doesn’t make the story any less confusing and still not clear what exactly its intentions are.

Don’t get me wrong – I really wanted to like CLOVER a lot, especially the connections between Sue, Ora, and Kazuhiko but it fell apart and it left me more confused than when I first started to read it. I suppose I can’t really recommend it to anyone if you’re looking for a concise story but it also feels lost in its own meaning to where it’s hard to really analyze where they really wanted to go with this.

I’m probably making it sound that it wants to be deeper than it actually is but the thing about it is – I’m sure it is! It’s hard to analyze it when they throw words at me and expect me to go along with it or to try to understand what they’re going for it. It seems the original meaning is somewhere in there (happiness, the costs, what it means) but it tripped and it refuses to get up.

There’s a lot of talk but there’s really not enough meaning for the message to get through. Perhaps another reader can gather its meaning than I can – my problem mostly stems from the fact that I want to analyze everything and not just one thing. And the problem with CLOVER is simply – for a simple escorting story, it talks a lot but it doesn’t really mean anything.


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