Tempest’s Breakup Letter to CLAMP

Posted on Oct 03 2010

Please note, the following article holds spoilers for the manga and/or anime Tokyo Babylon and Tsubasa Chronicles.


I first spotted you when I was still a child attending summer camp. Your favorite work of art, Card Captor Sakura, had become a program that helped break down the difficult barrier around America that kept out foreign TV. Sailor Moon and Pokemon helped soften the landing for you, although American censorship destroyed your art for the sake of marketability.

I will admit, I wasn’t exactly taken with you. The episodes were played in no particular order and had been stripped of all cohesive plot. You were wronged, but I was oblivious to your original intent. We were from such different worlds back then.

Even the title was changed to “Cardcaptors” to take the spotlight from Sakura.

It was easy to forget our first encounter, but eventually you became the one who helped me define my life. My friend reintroduced me to you in the eighth grade, as we sat down to watch a program tailored to us: Magic Knight Rayearth. The story revolved around three girls our age (and one fluffy pink fairy) who fall into another world and embark on a quest that teaches them about their own strength and the power of friendship.

My friends and I each claimed a character and to our equal joy and horror we discovered that these characters seemed to be based off us. What’s more, it was all done in that strange foreign animation style I’d seen on TV so much in the latter half of my childhood. Sailor Moon was still a fan favorite of mine, and the idea of owning my own copy made me shiver.

From left to right: Mokona, Fuu, Hikaru and Umi. Each of them resembled my friends and myself.

“You mean you can BUY this stuff on TAPE?” I remember exclaiming.

“Yeah, it’s called anime.”

My reaction was to buy every VHS tape of Ruroni Kenshin as it came out, over the course of the next four years. I was an anime fan. It was so simple. My artistic interests had merged and there was a definition floating somewhere in there. I easily defined – and still define — myself by my taste in anime, and you were the one who paved the way.

CLAMP, you guided me through the next few years with our beautiful relationship. However, it couldn’t stay platonic for long. As a curious young woman in high school, I began to explore stories I hadn’t encountered before. Anime was an easy way for me to break cultural boundaries, and you offered something so temptingly Japanese that I couldn’t help falling in love.

I had just encountered my first yaoi story, Gravitation, and was intrigued by such elements. Though I was still shy to admit it, I’d noticed hints of boy’s love in your stories in the past, and you made the theme in this next one unmistakable.

Clockwise from left: Subaru, Seishiro, Hokuto. They look so innocent.

Tokyo Babylon is about a young onmyouji (a professional spirit-speaker of sorts), Subaru, with an overbearing but loving sister, Hokuto, and an older gentleman friend who tends to flirt with Subaru and yet drives the plot in a strangely distressing direction, Seishiro.

I was enchanted by the otherworldly elements and the harmless flirtation, though I knew from the start that there was something terribly wrong. Still, I threw myself head over heels into this summer love, and took thrills in every soul-shaking development. I remember long evenings passed with me curled on the couch, surrounded by the penetrating smell of ink coming from the fresh book.

And when the suspense built to its peak and alarms were flashing in my brain, you finally showed your true intent from the start: Seishiro betrayed Subaru with acts of cruelty, from torture to killing the boy’s own sister. And then that was it… there was no more.

Seishiro’s true color is red.

I cried for days over the loss of my new love. It took quite a bit of time for me to wipe my face and come to terms with the fact that our relationship was over, but I still had fond memories to fall back on.

During this rather depressing phase in the beginning of college, a friend found out about my reaction to you as a child. She brought it upon herself to show me how Card Captor Sakura was meant to be seen: entirely in its original Japanese.

I was reminded of why I found you so attractive in the first place. I was charmed by your creativity, innocence and love of fancy costume. More than that, I loved the way you told your stories. You inspired one of my finest cosplays that year (Akizuki Nakuru) and helped me settle my feelings.

How Card Captor Sakura is SUPPOSED to look.

This same friend attempted to get me into Chobits, but I wasn’t ready to accept your bawdier sense of humor. And so, CLAMP, it seemed that you and I were going our separate ways.

You couldn’t accept that, though, as you found out about my growing curiosity regarding yaoi. That year you left Legal Drug in my path, and I felt a spark of my old love for you. You also dangled the offer of a darker sequel to Tokyo Babylon by the name of X/1999 just out of my reach, and I was beginning to take interest. But I missed the innocence of our youth, and the beauty of the world that seemed so fresh when I was young.

And then you gave me the most pleasant surprise of my life: Sakura, Syaoran, Mokona and all the other CLAMP characters were coming back in an alternate universe story called Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. You introduced it to me like it was the finest fanfiction ever made, and I happily proclaimed myself its biggest fan.

Tsubasa looked so pretty…

I was giddy beyond reason as I watched old characters interact with new characters, and I fell so madly, desperately in love with you again that I couldn’t speak a thought that didn’t revolve around you.

I followed the strained love between Sakura and Syaoran, watched Fai and Kurogane unmistakably flirt with each other, and devoted so much time to researching characters from your previous works that I’d never seen that I deemed myself a foremost expert on everything CLAMP.

Time passed once more, but our relationship extended beyond just a summer fling into a full-fledged affair. I always spent time with you and found any excuse to talk about you to my friends.

And then, the unthinkable happened. When our relationship was still ripe, you betrayed my trust. I thought it was a momentary lapse in judgment, this bizarre plot twist you created that revolved around my favorite character, Fai. You’d promised to reveal his back-story, but this… this had to be a foolish prank.

Fai’s secret backstory involves a twin brother? On what planet does this even make sense?

I thought for certain it was a momentary flee from sanity. I made excuses for you, defended you to my friends. But then it happened again…. and again… The plot unraveled around its own spool into a heap of knots. And you left it there, like that.

Now that I’ve had time to think back, I should’ve noticed sooner. You’d broken so many promises: “I’ll finish Legal Drug; I just need more time.” “I’ll finish X/1999; I just need a new publisher.” Meanwhile, fans begged and pleaded for updates that have never come.

You’ve finished Tsubasa Chronicle: drained it of all its life so that not even good fanfiction could revive it. But you couldn’t leave it there. You had to take down its sister too, xxxHOLIC. You dragged it into your sinister concoction of a “plot” and ripped away any elements of mystery and otherworldliness. You took all that I loved about your writing and stripped it away.

The two stories are linked, so when Tsubasa went down it took xxxHOLIC with it.

Why don’t you go destroy Legal Drug and X/1999 now too? Spill their blood on your fans and laugh in the face of narrative decay. No, instead you’re back to making excuses for yourself as you continue to toy with xxxHOLIC – you drag around the poor dead thing as if it has anything left to bleed.

To this day, I question whether you did this to punish your fans or the deadlines. Maybe you don’t care about your own stories anymore.

All I know is, I’m done making excuses for you. You have betrayed every last ounce of trust I had in you. Your once gentle hand that guided me through the early stages of anime fandom has turned to slap me. I doubt very much that there is anything you can do to take back your offense.

CLAMP’s newest rose, Kobato.

I swear to be strong, and hold out against whatever roses you mail me. I wash my hands of whatever new things you have to offer. From this point forward, I have my inky copies of Tokyo Babylon and the first half of Tsubasa Chronicle to offer me nostalgic memories, and my CLAMP in Wonderland-themed computer wallpaper will likely stay up for another eight or nine months, but don’t take that as a sign. You and I are different people now.


Tempest Wind

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  • EagleEyes October 3, 2010 at 8:41 PM

    I liked cardcaptors <.<

  • Jubilee October 3, 2010 at 8:45 PM

    I loved this article…

    can I 5 star this?

    This made my day ^_^

  • Llian October 4, 2010 at 9:18 AM

    Poor Tempy, CLAMP really wronged you ;_;

    X the movie and Cardcaptor Sakura were their best works in my opinion.

  • toyNN October 4, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    Girls will be Girls?
    Ok that’s not fair but its interesting to ready why X was put on hiatus – in part because it was getting too violent and they were asked to censor. I just don’t associate CLAMP with something too violent to print.

  • AnarchoElk October 4, 2010 at 4:37 PM

    Well I have to politely disagree, I like CLAMP very much and I can’t think of any reason not to continue liking them.

  • Asterose October 6, 2010 at 5:26 AM

    Very heartfelt and an enjoyable read, I still love the style you used here. Personally, I still don’t intend to swear off Clamp (and they’re VERY much worth studying to learn solid art and manga making *-*), but then again I don’t even read or watch the series I’m into right now as it is. If I get into a Clamp series, I guess we might butt heads about it XD

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