12 Clamps of Christmas

12 CLAMPS OF CHRISTMAS

(The lesser-known anime adaptations)

RG Veda

RG VEDA

Watched via DVD

What can I say about RG Veda? It’s possibly the worst OVA I’ve ever watched, including that one time I tried to watch Eatman on VHS. In essence there isn’t a way for this series to do well without multiple seasons. The manga is a long running series that can’t possibly be summed up in a single season let alone a 2 episode special.

RG Veda is worth watching for four reasons:

1. The awesome main song.

2. The great early-‘90s character designs.

3. Making me want to read the manga.

4. And the THX sound that randomly shows up twice in the second episode.

Other than that, RG Veda’s a completely disposable, confusing OVA. It’s just long enough for them to introduce a bunch of characters, but they don’t get developed at all, and a bunch of plot points and names get thrown around as if they should mean something, but they don’t because I haven’t read the manga.

This OVA can’t possibly stand on it’s own and only works as advertising for the manga series. If you’ve read the entire manga it doesn’t even fulfill the need to see your favorite characters animated. The animation is super cheap. Even cutting it slack for being hand drawn and painted (pre-digital era), the line art is atrocious and horribly asymmetrical. The typical eye watering you see in emotional scenes looks like disturbing jittery movements. It’s as if their facial features could just crawl right off their faces.

Yup, this is a pretty ugly OVA. It’s got a ton of animation shortcuts and repeat animation. It even repeats lines of dialogue! When we encounter a lonely character, she tells us about a hundred times that she’s been alone and is so lonely. Additionally, Ashura yells “Yasha!” about a thousand times during these two episodes. For such a short anime, RG Veda wastes a lot of time in lazy “character development.” Maybe it cut their budget for voice acting? Regardless, RG Veda’s a pretty bad time, which is sad for Clamp’s first anime adaptation. It’s not even worth watching to make fun of it, so I can only recommend that you watch it if you’re a completist about their stuff. Otherwise, avoid this for all you’re worth.

FINAL SCORE: (3/10)

FINAL SCORE: (5/10)

Tokyo Babylon

TOKYO BABYLON

Watched via DVD

Tokyo Babylon is a step up from RG Veda both in plot as well as animation. Just like with RG Veda the story line for these two episodes is adapted from a long-running manga series that couldn’t possibly fit into a couple hours. Really we only get the opportunity to be introduced to the main characters and the general plot.

These OVAs were created two years apart, and so each one presents a separate story arc and basically advertises the manga. The first OVA doesn’t do much for me, but I really like the second one. Both have snazzy art, but the second one looks even better, and it brings in more of the manga’s main plot line along with a more interesting core narrative. Out of the one-off adaptations of Clamp’s manga, I think Tokyo Babylon’s one of the best available.

As advertising these episodes are junk. Sure you get to see how Subaru helps solve paranormal activities (mostly he does some flashy junk, passes out, then Seishirou comes in to save the day), but watching these two episodes didn’t make me feel like reading the manga any more than just knowing about it. In fact this made me want nothing to do with the manga series. Which is unfortunate because Tokyo Babylon is my second favorite manga series by Clamp (FYI, RG Veda is my number one).

You’re definitely wrong there. These OVAs make me hardcore want to revisit the Tokyo Babylon manga, much more than the RG Veda OVAs, because those were awful and didn’t carry over any of what I imagine makes their manga so great. On the other hand, these two OVAs are mostly good—the only negative comment I can really make is that the dub is awful. Really, whose bad idea was it to give everyone pseudo New Jersey accents? Tokyo ≠ New Jersey. I think watching these OVAs subbed would be best, but with that accommodation they’re definitely worth checking out sometime. If you can stand Hokuto, that is….

FINAL SCORE: (4/10)

FINAL SCORE: (7/10)

Clamp in Wonderland

CLAMP IN WONDERLAND

Watched via fansubs

Clamp in Wonderland is a charming little music video that pulls at your otaku heartstrings, that is assuming you’ve read their manga and can recognize who everyone is. Since it is a music video, the plot has nothing to do with any of the stories and is set up solely to create interactions between characters. What is nice, however, is that the video really goes to show how many cross overs Clamp series have, especially in their earlier works. The video even highlights lesser-known manga series, such as Shirahime-Syo and Duklyon. And as far as animation goes, this music video makes up for the horrible atrocity that is the RG Veda OVA and illustrates just how lovely the characters from the series can be. :)

As a Clamp fan, Clamp in Wonderland is a pleasant short that I don’t mind rewatching when I’m feeling down or want to remember the highlights from when I was super obsessed with Clamp. Part of its success lies in the balance it has between dark moments and levity—it tempts you with hints of what make X and Tokyo Babylon so great, but then it quickly moves on to visual gags and fan in-jokes to keep the mood light. It also makes me super nostalgic, which makes it a success, I think. Clearly it’s made for fans of Clamp, and it does a good job of appealing to us. Also, I think Whitney’s right that it gives Clamp another shot to see all of their characters animated well. This is a big deal for stuff like The Legend of Chun-Hyang and Duklyon, but it also helps out RG Veda and Tokyo Babylon, which never looked this good in their OVAs.

FINAL SCORE: (9/10)

FINAL SCORE: (7/10)

Miyuki-chan in Wonderland

MIYUKI-CHAN IN WONDERLAND

Watched via DVD

There is probably a reason why my husband never knew that I owned Miyuki-chan in Wonderland; its mere existence is rather embarrassing. Clamp even says that the whole reason they originally made the manga is so they could make fan service. There isn’t a single moment where a girl isn’t rubbing up on Miyuki. The plot moves super fast and you barely get time to enjoy all the badly altered plugs from Alice in Wonderland before the scene spontaneously shifts. The music is repeated over and over, which highlights the theme of being stuck in a world that never changes, but gets very irritating at the same time.

What I think is the worst thing about Miyuki-chan in Wonderland is that it doesn’t even work as an homage to Alice in Wonderland. A cultural studies person would have a field day with it, as every “reference” is an empty referent with no connection to the original except for a few similarities in appearance. Since I’d recently reread the Alice books, I was hoping to catch references to it during our rewatch, but there are none there to catch! A “hatter” shows up, but it’s just a sexy lady in a top hat who wants to molest Miyuki. A “Cheshire Cat” shows up, but it’s just a sexy lady in a cat costume who wants to molest Miyuki. Get the drift? There is no plot to connect together each encounter, unless you count the continuous attempts to molest Miyuki. And what’s worse? This was created by four women. Get with the picture, Clamp! Molestation is not a joke! I feel really bad for Miyuki, getting felt up all the time.

FINAL SCORE: (5/10)

FINAL SCORE: (4/10)

X the Movie

X THE MOVIE

Watched via DVD

X has a wonderful movie budget. It is spectacular to watch, if you don’t mind the gore. This film doesn’t quite fit into the typical action movie, it’s a shoujo series adaptation, but it is packed to the brim with battle sequences and lovely shots of buildings exploding and falling apart. If you want to watch stuff blowing up, this is a film for you. I will say, I think the sound effects, at least for the dub, were too disgusting. I realize that if you really were to pull a sword out of your stomach, that it would probably make a certain sound, but I don’t need to hear all the subtleties of it.

I think the sound effects are the same for the dub and the sub tracks. In fact, they’re all so gross that I was left wondering how the heck our mom let us watch this when we were tweens. Didn’t it come with an age rating of something equivalent to R?! Outside of those sound effects, X is still a movie full of shortcomings. The unfinished manga series stands at 18 volumes, so there’s no way the plot could’ve been adequately compacted into this 100-minute movie. I guess that means the director (Rintaro, who’s famous for Galaxy Express 999 and Metropolis) decided to focus on throwing in just enough exposition for you to guess how all of the deaths are meaningful without actually feeling the appropriate emotions. This movie’s like a Transformer movie: all flash and action without the plot and character development to make anyone give a damn.

So true. What makes X my third favorite Clamp manga series is the character development and interactions. This movie gives you absolutely no background on who everyone is and why they are fighting on either side. In the manga we at least get to see the two sides arm up and prepare for the final battle; in the movie adaptation we just see some random buildings explode. The movie even opens up with the two cross over characters from Tokyo Babylon settling their unfinished business from that series, but we don’t really find out how or why it matters in the X universe. The other characters are just left as creepy stereotypes, like Kanoe, whose love for her sister is super touching in the manga and TV episodes. In the movie, however, she just appears as a hyper-sexualized villain.

All of the characters in X made me want to rewatch the TV anime, which does a pretty good job of developing everyone and showing their backstories. Really, backstories are what make Clamp characters, so having them all left out of the X movie is a death sentence for it. The only thing it has going for it is the animation, which I avidly wanted to watch at first. After five minutes, though, the incomprehensible plot got so bad that the movie lost my interest at all, and I had to refrain from checking my phone throughout the entire rewatch. X, how can you be such a bad movie?! You’ve got such fun source material! As a final note, the dub’s also awful. If you watch this tragically-bad movie, watch it subbed so that when Kamui yells “Kotori!” and “Fuuma!” all the time, at least you’ll think he means it.

By the way, there’s also an animated short, X – X2 Double X, that supposedly takes place before the movie and introduces you to the characters. Really, it just flies past awesome-looking scenes of the characters and promises a lot of badassery during the movie that never really gets delivered on. I actually enjoyed it more than the movie, but your mileage may vary.

FINAL SCORE: (6/10)

FINAL SCORE: (5/10)

Rayearth

RAYEARTH

Watched via DVD

Rayearth is all over the place, both in animation and plot. The story is very loosely based off the manga and television series. The characters are the same, but the plot and motivations of all the characters are drastically different. Eagle is Emeraude’s younger brother who appears to be the true evil master mind behind everything. The worst part is that the resolution of the OVAs makes the entire premise of the show pointless, which heightens the feeling that you’re wasting your whole afternoon watching this.

Even though I watched this whole OVA, I really couldn’t tell you what the main action-y plot is about. For some reason people from the parallel world of Cephiro come to Earth and start destroying stuff; to counter them, the three main girls gain powers and fight them, eventually winning. Sounds simple, right? It is, but I don’t understand any of the motivations behind the people from Cephiro. Why are all of these good people from the manga evil now? Why does Eagle want to destroy Earth? Why is Emeraude singing hauntingly all the time? How does this all connect to Hikaru’s wish? I understand that the three main girls are scared of losing each other, but I have no idea how that connects to Cephiro’s attempts to destroy the world. I think that narrative would’ve been better served by a slice-of-life OVA, not a bad Evangelion rip-off.

The animation is also all over the place with a spectrum spanning from amazing close ups of characters to horrid stills for action sequences that last at least 30 seconds (as pictured above). What I liked most about the show was the ill fitting Evangelion allusions during battle sequences. The mecha were obviously influenced by other mecha shows of the time. I can’t deny I liked the link, but it clashed with the original essence of this series. What bothered me the most was how badly the characters fit into their own series. I get that this is an alternative retelling of the series, but they could have at least made the characters act similarly to the originals. Not to mention the acting is pretty bad, and not just because it is dubbed. Really I couldn’t care less if the three stay friends, and I don’t see how protecting the world helps with any of that in the end anyways.

Unlike Whitney, I really didn’t like the obvious efforts to make the Rayearth franchise more like Evangelion. That’s not what it excels at, so why even go there? Instead, I think this OVA should’ve focused on developing the narrative between the girls. My favorite parts were the flashbacks to when Umi and Fuu befriended Hikaru and the moments of insecurity they all feel about their friendship. If Rayearth had dealt more with those elements instead of becoming a crummy apocalyptic anime (and really, Clamp already has a good one with X), it could’ve been much better. As it is, Rayearth’s only contribution to the anime world are its character designs. This style might be my favorite anime style ever, and I love seeing the standard characters from MKR reimagined here and (sometimes) drawn beautifully. If only the rest of the OVA were as good as that small element of it. Alas, fate was not so kind.

FINAL SCORE: (6/10)

FINAL SCORE: (6/10)

Wish

WISH

Watched via fansubs

Sooo…this “anime television film”, according to Wikipedia, is more of a music video split in half. So essentially an opening and closing for what never was. You get to see the characters run after each other and get enough of a gist to know that there is at least a demon and angel who bicker with one another. Aside from that there are lots of flowers and cute bunnies. Really it’s just about as informative as the whimsical manga covers that are equally uninformative of the real plot.

If this was shown on TV, I hope that all of the viewers just went, “What? Why’s this thing mostly credits?” and then went on with watching whatever late night anime was on. This really seems like the kind of thing that should be added in with the manga or the drama CD to make fans all giggly about seeing the angel Kohaku in both her chibi and full-sized forms, all while animated! Squee! If you’ve read the manga, it’s not a bad reminder of the main story and its cute moments. Otherwise, it’s got a song by Ali Project (of course!) and has pretty nice animation, though the ending credits manage to use repeat animation…. In a nutshell: watch it if you really liked the Wish manga (which I did), but otherwise, this is so not worth it.

FINAL SCORE: (8/10)

FINAL SCORE: (7/10)

Clover

CLOVER

Watched via fansubs

This animation short was created to play before the Cardcaptor Sakura movie in theaters. Clover, the animated short, perfectly captures what the manga is all about. The only downfall is that I would very much love to see this as a full length feature film. Out of all the series Clamp has created, this one has the most potential for film adaptation as there are few characters and a very simplistic plot. Not saying it isn’t powerful or moving, much to the contrary. Unlike X and RG Veda, Clover isn’t overpowered with an army of characters and story arcs. What really makes this animation short worth watching is the early 20th century style music track and matching animation shots which fully capture the minimalistic style of the manga series.

I think this is actually one of the best Clamp adaptations out there. It seems pretty accessible to me, in the artsy, abstract way of the manga. It shows just enough to actually complete a story arc, which is a big feat for a such a short film (and a strong contrast to most of the adaptations on this list). Moreover, it does an excellent job of recreating the style of the manga, which contains a good deal of empty space and makes the reader put a lot of the narrative together. This short really makes me want to revisit the manga, but it also stands on its own merits. It has excellent animation curtesy of Clamp’s beloved Madhouse, and the main song perfectly conveys the melancholy feel of the manga. All I can say negatively about Clover is that I wish it were longer, just like the manga, so that it could further expand on the ideas and art it presents.

FINAL SCORE: (9/10)

FINAL SCORE: (8/10)

Leave It to Kero! Theatrical Version

LEAVE IT TO KERO! THEATRICAL VERSION

Watched via DVD

Leave It to Kero! is bat-shit crazy! It’ll make no sense whatsoever if you haven’t watched Cardcaptor Sakura. However, there is no way you can walk away from this short without falling madly in love with Kero and Suppi as they duke it out over the last takoyaki. Since I have watched and read all of CCS I just loved it all the more as I got to see the two mascot characters of the series showing their true adorable personalities. You even get to watch Suppi as he turns into lightning-bolt-spitting mode after eating some cake. What’s best is at the end when Kero gets more takoyaki, he still hoards almost all of them for himself. :3 This really brings back happy memories from when I first watched the series in middle school. Definitely worth a watch!

As Whitney said, the theatrical version of Leave It to Kero! is awesome if you’re at all familiar with Cardcaptor Sakura. I’ve got soft spots for both Kero and Suppi, the adorable, chaos-wreaking mascot characters, especially when they fight over food, so this short seems made just for me. Additionally, it features Yamazaki and his crazy stories, which are some of my favorite parts from the series. As a compilation of the funny elements from CCS, this short definitely succeeds and makes me crack up laughing every time I watch it. Furthermore, it’s convinced me that takoyaki’s one of the best foods ever. I desperately hope that I like it when I finally get to try it, or else all of my hopes and dreams will seem like a lie. *sniff* So, if you know anything about CCS, watch this! If you like takoyaki, watch this! Even if you don’t know who any of these characters are, watch this! It’s too great to miss.

FINAL SCORE: (10/10)

FINAL SCORE: (9/10)

Tsubasa movie

TSUBASA RESERVOIR CHRONICLE THE MOVIE: THE PRINCESS IN THE BIRDCAGE KINGDOM

Watched via DVD

The Tsubasa movie is really more of a random episode. We get thrown into the plot with little idea of what the cast of characters are doing. There is a brief introduction that shows us that there is something wrong with Sakura, and that they are going on a journey, with two other guys joining them. We never really find out what Mokona is and why he, she, it… is even there (except a little side comment about him acting as a translator). The group looks for one of Sakura’s feathers (no real explanation on that), and we see them battle the evil dictator of the area. With some ridiculous deus ex machina, the group saves the day. Really I didn’t understand how they really made an impact on the victory. I suppose Syaoran kicks a hole in giant evil bird, but that seems like the sort of thing anyone could have done.

Understanding, much less enjoying, the Tsubasa movie heavily depends upon knowledge of the manga series. Quick flashes “tell” the narrative of the first volume of the manga, but it all goes by so quickly that it serves more as a reminder for people like me who haven’t read it in a while. This movie is so fan-only, though, that they never stop to properly introduce the characters or explain any of their goals and limitations. Who are Fye and Kurogane, and why are they with Syaoran and Sakura? Why are Sakura’s feathers missing? Why is Syaoran so devoted to Sakura? These questions never get answered. Instead, this movie focuses on its nonsensical excuse for a plot that just moves characters around for no real reason.

There are also many story elements that just don’t mesh. For example, the princess, Tomoyo, has a ring that gives her the power to save herself from being literally used like a key to open the world to darkness. However, that same ring is the only way for them to open the portal to create the darkness (she has to be wearing it while being shoved into the key hole). Seems to me there is really no valid threat so long as the ring isn’t within either the princess or king’s reach, but of course they bring it to the battle. We never really learn why the villain wants darkness or how Tomoyo can be used to open the lock. Seriously, they use her as a key. Just shove her in the key hole and twist.

This movie’s only merit is in how pretty it looks. I found myself somewhat entertained for the first ten minutes or so by the slick animation from Production I.G and the hints of Yuki Kajiura’s soundtrack that I remember from the disastrous TV anime. After that, though, the story just kept getting more ridiculous without explaining anything or giving anyone proper backstory. Seriously, what kind of a guy wants to make a birdcage kingdom completely dark? What’s in it for him? And how is Tomoyo at all like a giant key?! Even if you like Tsubasa, if you value your sanity, please stay away from this movie. It really just makes no sense at all, beyond making me question why the TV anime didn’t look better.

FINAL SCORE: (5/10)

FINAL SCORE: (6/10)

xxxHolic movie

XXXHOLIC: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

Watched via DVD

The xxxHolic movie is essentially an episode that is drawn out to last the length of a full feature film. There is no background information on the overall plot of the main series or the characters, so if you’ve never seen or read anything xxxHolic before, you’re bound to be very confused, especially when there are inside jokes such as the frenemy bond between Watanuki and Doumeki or Watanuki’s over enthusiasm every time Himawari shows up.

I disagree with you about the exposition in this movie, as I feel it does a pretty good job of setting up the necessary backstory for understanding the main character dynamics. You get that Watanuki’s in love with Himawari and irritated by Doumeki, and you also get how Yuuko helps alleviate Watanuki’s many spirit problems by making him work part-time for her. Really, all of the basic character interactions are there, and the plot doesn’t need anything more to execute its plot, since it’s basically a stand-alone episode.

What stands out the most is the directing style and animation. While the typical drawing style of the manga is very unique and elongated, the movie takes these characterizations to whole new limits. Often characters are 15-20 heads tall and very bendy. The atypical camera shots and angles in conjunction with the character movements help heighten the sense of drama, which is beneficial as the actual action of the plot seems a bit plain. Really this “movie” seems to fit perfectly into the many examples of Clamp plots that are unrealistic and/or should be solvable by much simpler means.

I sincerely believe that xxxHolic’s characters should never have been animated. In the manga they look sleek and beautifully stylized, but when animated they just look rubbery and noodly, even in a movie with an obviously good-sized budget. The character designs make the movie look ugly, even when the backgrounds are very detailed and, as Whitney said, the movie’s full of unexpected shots and camera angles. The plot’s pretty standard for the kinds of mysteries that appear in xxxHolic, so it feels a lot like a short story that’s been pulled out of the manga. As a sample of what I love so much about the xxxHolic manga, this movie’s a good entry point, even if it doesn’t have the most exciting narrative ever. It has fun character interactions and a sense of cool mystery, even with the wonky-looking animated characters, which is all I ask of xxxHolic.

FINAL SCORE: (5/10)

FINAL SCORE: (7/10)

Clamp in Wonderland 2

CLAMP IN WONDERLAND 2

Watched via fansubs

The underlying message of Clamp in Wonderland 2 is “BUY THESE!,” which is made super obvious at the ending when you see all the works on a bookshelf. Unlike the previous wonderland short, this one manages to have a plot by having the two Mokonas, from xxxHolic, travel through the various worlds of the Clamp universe. I probably like this music video more than the last just because it shows even more of the characters I’ve grown to love from reading Clamp’s works. This is worth watching at least once for the initial waffy feeling you get from seeing all the nostalgia.

Because of the amount of manga represented in this video (Wikipedia says there are over 100 characters in it!), this short’s much more of a checklist of Clamp characters than a proper advertisement for reading the manga series if you aren’t already a fan. Since I know everyone, it’s a hoot, but this doesn’t hint at any of the dark moments or actual substance of the series it alludes to like the first Clamp in Wonderland does. RG Veda’s cameo is purely a joke about Ashura growing up to be sexy and Yasha being overprotective, and Tokyo Babylon and X both receive similar treatments with goofy and OOC character interactions. If you know all of Clamp’s works back to front like I do and just want to see Hinata from Suki animated, then watch this for the good fan feels. If you know fewer of Clamp’s series, you might be less entertained, but it’ll still let you know just how much of Clamp’s manga is out there. Disclaimer: it’s not all very good, especially if you started out reading xxxHolic or Tokyo Babylon.

FINAL SCORE: (9/10)

FINAL SCORE: (7/10)

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