CLAMP has plenty of long running series, but they also have a lot of one-shot manga, some that were cut off before their time due to a magazine ending, and others simply meant as self-contained works. Today we look at one of their more self-contained works as not only a One Volume Wonder, but as part of:
MIYUKI-CHAN IN WONDERLAND (Fushigi no Kuni no Miyuki-chan), by CLAMP. First published in 1993, and first published in North America in 2003.
Miyuki is an ordinary girl who can't seem to stop getting swept up into strange new worlds, be it an all-girl version of Wonderland, a mah-jong manga, a JRPG, or even the world of X. Every time she enters one of these alternate worlds, she is all but assaulted by beautiful, scantily clad women who flirt with the clueless Miyuki and try to take her clothes off. What on earth can a normal girl do to survive with her sanity, virtue, and wardrobe intact?
Rarely have I ever read a work by CLAMP that felt so half-baked. Most of these chapters could be summed up in a single phrase, and they're so brief that there's barely any action (in every sense of that word).
Miyuki is a cipher - all we know about her by volume's end is some of her taste in media and that she tends to be late for just about everything. She's also completely passive in her own story, always sucked into a world against her will, passed about, and abused. She might as well have been replaced with a mannequin for all the action she takes.
I'll admit that I was initially sold on this series due to usually being summarized as a 'yuri sex comedy.' After all, there's plenty of male-oriented ecchi titles out there, but rarely any that are yuri-oriented and rarer still to be connected to such a well-known mangaka group. Sadly, the stories are all too brief and all too tame to live up to that phrase. Miyuki just keeps getting passed from one scantily-clad woman to another, all who are dressed according to the theme of the chapter. The sauciest the story gets is when Miyuki gets stripped or has her clothes torn off, something which happens with startling frequency. It's a strange thing to find myself complaining that a story doesn't have ENOUGH fanservice, but a sex comedy without much sexiness feels weak and even a bit empty.
The worst chapter is the one that I initially had the most hope for: Miyuki in X Land. There, Miyuki is sucked into the X universe while watching the movie adaptation in the theater (and frankly, she should be thankful for that, considering the X movie is a beautiful, shallow, confusing mess). I briefly hoped that CLAMP would take this chance to have some fun or at least make some fourth-wall breaking jokes about their own super-serious, dramatic, and violent series, but my hopes were soon dashed. Instead, the various female cast members believe her to be the Kamui and beg her to join their side, only for her to pop back out of the screen.
It's clear that while CLAMP at least had an idea or gimmick for each chapter, they had NO IDEA how to end them, which is why the vast majority of the chapters end with Miyuki just snapping out of the alternate world for...er...um...reasons, followed by "THE END...OR IS IT?" It's insanely lazy, but then why put effort into an ending when so little effort was applied to the beginning and middle of the story? Miyuki-Chan doesn't work as yuri, as a comedy, as a fanservice piece, or as a manga. It's just a half-finished bunch of story sketches with a bunch of sexy set dressings.
The character design is very much in line with CLAMP's classic style, so everyone is very willowy, pointy, and broad-shouldered with dark, lush eyes. CLAMP was clearly using this manga to clear out a backlog of unusued female character designs, and each one is distinct and pretty. If I haven't made it plain by now, there is a lot of cheesecake in this volume, with plenty of cleavage, bondage, and suggested nudity.
The panels are surprisingly cluttered for CLAMP, as they are filled to the brim with swirling hair, magic, and speed lines but the panels are too small to give those effects the space they need. The page composition is also rather packed, which again is unusual for CLAMP, so the art just has no space whatsoever. In the end, the artstyle might appeal to those who enjoy CLAMP's classic style, but they damn near drown in the overly busy pages and the whole work comes off as cluttered.
Like most of CLAMP's older works, there's a cute omake comic where CLAMP in chibi form discuss working on this and the Miyuki-Chan OVA. There are also quite a few color splash pages in the front, as well as color pages of character designs and story art for the OVA in the back.
This odd, pointless little work is not all that sexy and definitely not funny. Maybe we can all hope this manga was just a strange dream...OR WAS IT?!
No, wait, it was real, and it sucked.
This volume was published in the USA by Tokyopop, and is now out of print.
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