Important Importables Review: Clover by CLAMP

June 6, 2010 - 2:00 am No Comments

Hot Japanese Imports Review: Clover by CLAMP

Section: Reviews, Exclusives, Originals, Features, Columns, Japanese Imports, Gear, Comics-and-Graphic-Novels

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CLAMP Clover

Title: Clover Omnibus Edition
Author: CLAMP (Satsuki Igarashi, Ageha Ohkawa, Tsubaki Nekoi and Mokona)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: May 13, 2009
Price: $19.95
Rating: Two thumbs up, 100/100, A+, * * * * * out of 5
Pros: Gorgeous zen presentation and color scheme. Engaging story that focuses on characters and touches on the world’s mythology. Affordable price. Easy to read despite it’s massive size. 29 full color illustrations.
Cons: The Suu and Kazuhiko story arc leaves off on what can be considered a cliffhanger. The two page color-spreads that appear before each “book” can become worn, and even feel like it’ll fall out, after frequent readings. 7 pages of ads in the back of the book.


In 2001, Tokyopop released the four volume, unfinished manga series, Clover by the mangaka group CLAMP. It was a unique release and stood out among the company’s other titles – the books were thin, oversized and more expensive than Tokyopop’s other series. Each also had a unique, paper-thin, transparent slipcover.

In 2008, the four volumes of Clover were rereleased in Japan. Dark Horse Comics then took it upon itself to reintroduce North America to what could be considered CLAMP’s most experimental work, the Omnibus Edition of Clover. This massive tome contains all four existing volumes of the series, along with a full-color bonus art gallery.

“I only want your happiness.”

In the world of Clover, the government conducted experiments on children with special abilities, with varying success. The goal was to create soldiers with supernatural and extraordinary powers that would be called Clovers. Depending on their results, these Clovers would be ranked by “leaves,” with one leaf Clovers being the least powerful, and four leaf Clovers the most. Each Clover is tattooed with an easily recognizable mark, a clover tattoo with one to four leaves.

Clover looks at the lives of five of these Clovers. We see what their lives have become as a result of the experimentation, see the way they interact with the important people in their lives and also look at the political intrigue that surrounds people with extraordinary powers. We also see the tragedy that comes from being Clovers, experimental subjects, and each of their desires for happiness not only for them, but the people they love.

CLAMP Clover

One of CLAMP’s most creative literary experiments.

Clover is very striking. There is very little use of screentones, like you see in other mangas. For the most part, the entire story is presented in black and white, with an occasional rare touch of grey. Every detail stands out, and nothing is left hidden or obscure. Speaking of details, CLAMP spent an extraordinary amount of attention on Clover and one could spend hours pouring over all of the details on each page, like the way shadows fall in a scene or the layout of birds’ mechanical wings.

It also has an unorthodox presentation. There are no limiting grids or enforced panels, and many of the actions take place in open expanses. Dialogue can appear in bubbles outside of and next to the characters, or even in blank space. Instead of feeling sloppy because of this, things actually seem more clear and enforced. It feels more natural, as though you’re watching events that are actually taking place. Chapters also vary in length, with some taking place on a single page and others spanning multiple pages. Each chapter also has a very simple, yet descriptive title, that is poetic yet alludes to the content of that particular moment.

Then, there are the stories. While the first two volumes of Clover focus on the adventures of Suu and Kazuhiko in the “present”, the third and fourth volumes are flashbacks that focus on the other Clovers, the characters Ora, Ran and Gingetsu. Nonetheless, every volume focuses on connections. It looks closely at the relationships that form between friends, brothers and lovers and the triumphs and pitfalls that stem from each one.

More than just a graphic novel.

Clover is an example of a graphic novel at its finest. It’s not only a work of art, one which space, light and dark is explored on each page, but also an analysis of human emotions and interactions. Dangerous plots and political intrigue lurk in the background, as well as a haunting look at what happens to human experiments, but the focus is always on the characters. Political conflicts are hinted at, rivalries suggested, unrest obvious, but all of that takes a backseat to the connections that form between characters like Suu, Kazuhiko, Ora, Ran and Gingetsu.

Clover is a series that strikes a chord and leaves an impression on the reader. One reading is never enough – you’ll find yourself returning over and over, discovering new things about the characters and their world each time. It’s a haunting tragedy.

Image Source: Dark Horse Comics

COMING NEXT WEEK: Hot Japanese Imports reviews Alice in the Country of Hearts Volume 1 by Quinrose and Hoshino Soumei.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week Hot Japanese Imports talked about the unique features of each entry of Bleach: Heat the Soul.

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