I’m not going to lie, this is one of the most confusing manga’s that Clamp produced and I have heard that isn’t even done yet. I’m somewhat glad its not because as it is, there really isn’t any definitive ending to the plot or answers as to what it was supposed to be about. Nanase Ohkawa has actually explained that there are two books left that are needed to complete the story but unfortunately, there is no date to when those would be released.
We follow a girl named Sue and her protector Kazuhiko as they travel the land in search of something. A running fraise that seems to always come up is ‘I only want your Happiness but I cannot be yours,’ and saying about 4-leaf clovers. To tell the truth, I couldn’t figure out very much of the story because much of it was cryptic. There was also a strange male who seemed to be rather interested in Kazuhiko. I can understand many of the stories and philosophies that clamp normally uses, but in this case, I can’t understand. It’s sad that this isn’t even done because it probably would have the answers we were searching for. Sadly, at the time of this review, it has been about 13-14 years since it came out and they still have it considered on hold.
The artwork is so beautiful even if the characters look like their from xxxHolic in how long armed and small headed they are. It has an interesting fantasy aspect to this as well where we have talking rabbit’s dolls walking around and they seem more from the world of wonderland how they are drawn. There is a lot of steam punk cyber style images, especially how the wings are drawn. I love this style in how charming and fine detailed it all is down to some of the strains of hair.
I've never done a manga review before, and I don't plan on doing it regularly. However, this manga, which I picked up with my Christmas money during a Barnes and Noble sale, was one that I had wanted to read for a while considering my enjoyment for the group CLAMP. On the other hand, I've never truly enjoyed their shounen series, prefering their more lighthearted works like Card Captor Sakura and Chobits. However, I decided that since I could buy the work in its entirety for a relatively low price, it'd be worth my investment. Unfortunately, while I don't regret buying the manga, it left me mostly disappointed.
I don't like giving synopsizes, so the one provided is sufficient, although I find it a bit revealing. Especially for this work, one should enter the story knowing no more than the most basic of premises, perhaps nothing at all, about the story, as much of the enjoyment comes from figuring out elements of the story. For example, the significance of the title "Clover" is not immediately obvious.
In CLAMP shounen fashion (e.g. Tsubasa Chronicle), the story is told in a non-linear style, which opens the door to many surprises, paradoxes, and just plain bizarre happenings. If one is interested, the linear progression of the volumes is 4 then 3 then 1 then 2. However, I would recommend reading the story in the order given as, once again, most of the enjoyment of the story stems from figuring it out.
The problem with such a series is that a non linear order begs the answer to every single question proposed. In this aspect, CLAMP fails to deliver. There are gaps in the story that the reader very much wishes were explained, and the relationships between many of the non-core characters are ambiguous. Also, the setting does not seem fleshed out enough, and the reader stumbles around much of the story just figuring out how the world works. Due to this confusion, combined with a ridiculously fast pace, the impact of certain scenes are lost. I think one of the artists admitted that the story would have required another volume to truly complete, and it certainly read that way. However, if you don't mind lingering plotholes, the story is quite enjoyable.
I am not qualified at all to assess this section, but I enjoyed the art of this manga. It at times was abstract and confusing, but the characters were classic and relatable, and the action scenes were well done. It did seem like typical shounen at times, but most of the time it felt very uniquely CLAMP. If you like the art style in CLAMP's other shounen series, you'll like this one. It's strange though to use such shounen elements in what's labeled as a "shoujo" manga, a label with which I very much disagree.
Due to the rushed nature of the narrative, the characters don't get enough development. As I noted earlier, their relationships are quite confusing at times. Sue seemed like a unique character, CLAMP's unique spin on a character who's been broken by circumstance. She simply accepts it as a fact at first, but slowly grows to know the world and therefore wish to escape her cage. Her reaction to this wish is what makes the manga so interesting and is at the heart of the manga's story. Everyone else seems to revolve around that, except for one tangential yet connected romance subplot. Still, I long for more rounded character development in this manga.
I really wanted to enjoy this manga a lot more than I did. There were simply too many inhibiting negatives for me to place it a "solid" rating, however I do highly recommend that any fans of CLAMP read it and decide for themselves. As for anyone else, proceed with caution. If you're buying it as a shoujo work, it will change your perspective on the genre forever.
Out of the handful of Clamp series I've read so far, Clover is by far my favorite. In fact, I must look into getting my own copy of the compilation book, as I've nearly ruined the one I checked out from the library. You're probably wondering why I've nearly destroyed the book (actually, it isn't that bad, but it's certainly not in the brand-spanking condition I checked it out in). I can't help reading it, for three main reasons.
First, it's one of those stories that needs to be read several times to ensure you've captured all the details. Read it once, and you have a decent idea of what happened. However, the Clamp ladies came up with the ingenious idea to tell the story backward. Not completely backward; more like the Seinfeld episode with the wedding in India backward - in an episodic fashion. In a way this makes Clover even more tragic, blatantly foreshadowing death and destruction.
There are three "episodes" that make up Clover, told from the most recent then going back in time. Each involves the same set of characters, revealing how they die, part from each other, fall in love, the promises they make and meet one another. Because we read it in that order, nuiances that made no sense in the first chapter make perfect sense by the last.
Another reason I keep rereading Clover is the art. Not only can the mangaka tell a story, they can draw one, too. And as I have the 20th aniversary (of Clamp) "omnibus" edition, there happens to be bonus color illustrations that are fantastic. I want to run to Kinko's to make full-sized copies and hang them on the wall. (Sorry, if you heard weird, school-girl-like giggling, it was probably me.)
Finally, each "episode" has a poignant poem, lyrics if you will, that flow throughout each chapter. My own brain has already been setting music to the first poem (I just need to find time to write it down). I imagine a soprano part with plenty of colloratura...well, nevermind the technical detail, but every time I pick the book up, it's as though music floats into my mind.
What I didn't care for too much were certain unexplained minor characters and unexplained situations. It seemed like perhaps there should have been a fourth "episode" that involved some kind of background between one of the protagonists and one of the antagonists (ie, Kazuhiko and Bols). It would have been great to know the history between those two.
Also, sometimes it is difficult to tell who is speaking - yet another reason to reread and make sure you go over the dialogue carefully. Of course, it could have just been me that was confused, but personally I think maybe the editors had a dip in the bottle before OKing the book. (Joke! Joking! Don't sue me for liable or slander!)
Anyway, Clover is definitely a top-notch manga, full of food for thought, and certainly not your typical shoujo. The girls from Clamp definitely score an A for this piece!