Saturday, January 27, 2007

XXXHolic Volume 3: CLAMP

Having heard a bit about manga (the Japanese word for comics), I decided to try one. Some say that manga, in the true spirit of it, is not a graphic novel – may be I’ll read a graphic novel to figure out the difference. (I suppose Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana and Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul don’t count as graphic novels, notwithstanding the former’s claim to be one.)

It was an interesting experience reading a manga. The format took some getting used to – the back-to-front reading, the speech bubbles in different sizes, differentiating between asides and explanations – I had to read the book more than once to understand it. A lot has been said about how good the graphics are in manga. And at least as far as this book is concerned, it’s completely true. Despite being (or may be because they are) in black and white, the graphics are very evocative and capture the mood of the characters extremely effectively.

The creators (they are referred to as creators, not authors) of the XXXHolic series is CLAMP – the name adopted by, as the blurb says, “a group of four women who have become the most popular manga artists in America—Ageha Ohkawa, Mokona, Satsuki Igarashi, and Tsubaki Nekoi.”

As far as the story is concerned, it is fairly simple (once you get the grasp of the format, that is) and the narrative, fairly linear. What makes it interesting is how it manages to blend in diverse elements like spirits, college life, and jealousy and produce a gripping tale. The touches of humor and the philosophizing are interesting – they make you concentrate on the dialogues more than you tend to in a normal comic book. References to Star Wars and the war in Japan add a touch of the real world to the book. The language is very modern and the dialogue, pithy. Considering the entire narrative is dialogue-based, that makes it a very racy read indeed.

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