Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Review: WISH

Let's turn from one of CLAMP's newest works to one of the many weird little short stories.  This is one was kind of overshadowed by their biggest works from the 90s, but it remains one of their most charming works.

WISH (Wisshu), by CLAMP.  First published in 1995, and first published in North America in 2002.


Shuichiro was walking home from a long surgical shift when he found what looked like a doll with wings getting attacked by crows.  He frees this being, who turns out to be an angel named Kohaku. Kohaku wants to reward Shuichiro's good dead with a wish, but he can't think of anything that needs a wish to fix.  Regardless, Kohaku is determined to stay by Shuichiro's side until he can decide on that wish.  Unfortunately, the forces of both heaven and hell are determined to break up their cozy relationship before it can truly start.


Wish feels like the happy medium between CLAMP's larger, more dramatic works and the fluffy bits of nonsense they put out in their early days.  It's as light and bubbly as its main character, even once the plot comes barreling in midway.

This is basically a magical girlfriend story, albeit more in the comforting vein of something like Oh! My Goddess than the pervier works that influenced something like Chobits.  Kohaku and Shuichiro are a true odd couple, even beyond the fact that they come from different plains of existence.  Kohaku is all ditzy optimism and joy in a cloyingly cute package, be it the androgynous full-grown daytime form or the adorable chibi nighttime form.  In comparison, Shuichiro is dark, terse, and distant, but shows that his stone-faced appearance hides both a good host and a good man.  It's as basic as you can get when it comes to odd couples and the beginnings of a sugary sweet shoujo romance, but sadly the twist to their relationship is literally lost in translation.

You see, angels in this universe are genderless by nature unless they choose to take one or the other.  The original Japanese text reflects this, since it allows for gender neutral pronouns and sentence structures that sometimes allow them to be skipped entirely.  English is not quite so accommodating, so translator Ray Yoshimoto chose instead to make all the angels in-story female and all the devils male.  This might make for a less convoluted translation, but this choice turns an intriguingly queer romance into a more conventional, hetero one.

Just before things get too aimless and treacly, CLAMP does remember that they need to bring in a larger plot.  In this case, it's Kohaku remembering that they were sent to find the missing angel master Hisei, a plan that only gets more complicated when it crosses the path of the demon Koryo and his snooping catgirl minions.  While it gets a little chaotic at times, it never gets too serious nor too silly to puncture the delicate mood.  It's this balance that makes Wish's story work, even if the translation bungles things a little.


Even compared to older CLAMP works, the character designs here look a little odd.  More specically, Shuichiro looks odd even by CLAMP standards.  He's got the long, lean & broad-shoulded silhouette of an old-school CLAMP lead, but he's also got a bizarrely triangular head and the harshness is only emphasized by his buzzcut and thick brows.  Some have theorized that this and Kohaku's weird haircut are recycled from their takes on Jotaro and Kakyoin in some of their more notorious Jojo's Bizarre Adventure doujin.  No one's ever been able to confirm it for certain, but it's a story that lingers to this day.

There's also a lot of chibis, even more so than usual for an older CLAMP work, since Kohaku and Koryu take on chibi forms at different times of the day.  Chibi artwork was all the rage in 1990s manga and it's long fallen out of favor.  That's a real shame because I've always loved how CLAMP drew theirs and I ADORED its use here.  Kohaku in particular is just too cute for words.  Otherwise, most of the cast tends towards the wispy, wide-eyed androgynes that are typical of their 90s output.  That wispiness extends to all of the art, what with all the wings, fluttering robes, and swirls of flowers, light, and water.  All those flowery details mean that the backgrounds take something of a backseat.  The only one we get a good look at is Shuichiro's backyard, a lovely and well-tended garden dominated by a beautiful, towering wisteria hedge.  Amazingly, this is still kind of restrained for CLAMP.  There are no one- or two-page spreads where characters pose dramatically as flowers and feathers explode around them.  Still, its airiness fits the story's tone and its heavy use of chibis and possible Jojo's references make it a unique specimen in CLAMP's library.


Wish has become something of a forgotten gem, lost in the sea of CLAMP's big 90s hits and mostly left out of their multiverse save for Kobato and Drug & Drop.  I'd explain how that works but it would spoil both.  Still, it's a real shame because I love its fluffy charms and feel that it deserves to be rediscovered by readers.

This series was published digitally by Viz, and previously by Tokyopop.  This series is complete in Japan with 4 volumes available.  All 4 have been published, but are currently out of print.  The series is currently available digitally through Viz.

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