Let's take a quick break to take a look at a tiny little CLAMP one-shot put out by Tokyopop back in the day when they would literally publish anything with CLAMP's name on it.
THE ONE I LOVE (Watashi na Sukinahito), by CLAMP. First published in 1995, and first published in North America in 2004.
This anthology peeks into the lives of twelve young people united by a single concept: love. Some are trying to gain it by winning the hearts of others and some may be trying to maintain it in their relationships, but all are connected by the various ways they experience love.
This is CLAMP at their briefest and utmost fluffiest. Depending on your mood and tolerance for fluffy shoujo cuteness, it can be entertaining, but all that brevity and fluff comes at the expense of depth and drama.
These are very brief vignettes, with none of them numbering over 10 pages in length. As such, you only get the briefest sketch as to who our lead characters are. Many are so brief that their leads don't even get the benefit of a name. The conflicts within are also appropriately brief and simple, with most being variations on "Oh God, does he like me? Oh goodness, he DOES love me!" or "Oh no, he doesn't love me anymore! Oh, my mistake, he actually does still love me!" The stories are structured in a way that resembles the progression of a relationship, starting with stories about first love and building up all the way to a story about a bride with a case of pre-ceremony cold feet. True to form, CLAMP did include a same-sex couple amongst these stories, and to their credit their story is treated no differently than the hetero ones.
All that being said, the collection is ultimately hurt to some degree by being so short and sweet. In many ways, this anthology is like the manga version of cotton candy. All that fluffy sweetness can be fun in the short term, but the pleasure is fleeting and there's little to no substance behind it. This collection feels like CLAMP just took a bunch of half-baked outlines for scenes and draped the barest minimum of storyline upon them. They didn't bother with character or drama, they simply threw out what they had so they could fill up a few pages, make a few yen, and then move on with the rest of their day. The One I Love may be a pleasant read, but without anything serious to anchor it down it simply passes out of one's mind the moment the reader puts down the book.
The artwork here is just as cutesy as the story. It's very much in the same vein as manga like CLAMP School Detectives, with lots of delicate linework and loads of chibis. Backgrounds are rather minimal, with just a hint of floating petals or light washes of color or pattern to frame the characters. Despite the small size of the book, the panels are large and spacious, which supports the overall lightness and airiness of the artwork. The art may not be all that much more substantial than the story, but it's beautifully drawn and matches the sugar-sweet tone to a T.
Despite being such a small, slender work, Tokyopop put some effort into making it look good. The first few pages, along with the first chapter, are rendered in full color watercolors on heavy, textured paper. There are notes from the members of CLAMP after each chapter, along with the chibi-heavy omakes that they made so frequently back in the day.
While The One I Love is a sweet little confection with lovely artwork, all but the most dedicated CLAMP fans will consider this more of a curiosity than anything else. It's enjoyable to consume, but lacks the substance needed to stick in one's memory.
This volume was published by Tokyopop, and is currently out of print.
This volume and many more like it can be purchased through RightStuf.com!