Monday, March 30, 2020

Missed it Monday - Wish by CLAMP omnibus (Manga Review)

A young man and a young angel embrace
"Missed it Monday" is the ongoing column where I review manga/anime that I didn't get to read/watch when they first came out.

Wish (Omnibus version) - 5/10 (*See below for full scoring rubric)

I wouldn't exactly say I'm a fan of manga supergroup CLAMP. I've tried to get into Cardcaptor Sakura a few times, but I'm not big on manga with little kids (tbh). However, I loved the art on their series Clover. I needed some stuff to read on a long and unexpected trip so I picked up the hefty omnibus of their series Wish (Dark Horse Publishing) because the art was very much my style - the super long, lean, "older" shoujo style that you don't see as much of today, at least not with what is getting translated into English.

The story itself is a pretty classic and tropey shoujo story: a young angel from heaven (Kohaku) is saved by a tall, reserved, but super handsome young man (28 year old Shuichiro). She promises him a wish, but he can't think of anything, so she decides to live with him until he comes up with one. Kohaku is supposed to be finding a missing angel, Hisui, who turns up having eloped with the son of Satan. The four of them share a house along with another demon and his assistants who frequently drop by as comic relief. Of course, it can't last, because God has other plans. But slowly, Kohaku and Shuichiro fall in love and Shuichiro's complex past an uncertain future come into focus. Will they or won't they end up together?

Let's put it this way, if that sounds like your thing, you'll probably like Wish. I had a lot of problems with it, but at the same time, one of things Clamp is great at is making you want to keep turning the page even if the story is problematic in ways.

First, Shuichiro is 28 and a well respected doctor. Kohaku, despite being, I don't know - millenia? old, is depicted as maybe 12 or 14 (especially in personality). She's really infantalized in both how she is written (naive and "young"), but also in how she is drawn - every night she goes into chibi angel form. I don't see how a 28 year old would be interested long-term in someone so immature. But maybe Shuichiro is a pedo, I don't know? But like so many other things that bother me in manga, "may-december" relationships between and adult and a child really really upset me. But, I will say, the way the entire series ends, does actually help this age thing a bit and makes it a little less problematic. So there you go.

But, Shuichiro was depicted as also having somewhat of a "complex" (to use the world losely) relationship with his "mother" as well. I don't want to give too much away, but there was some real Oedipal stuff going on. Again, thankfully, when we learn more, it is a little less icky, but still it isn't great. I mean, seriously, what is up with Shuichiro? But then I got to thinking of the other two Clamp series I've finished: Clover and Suki and both feature older men with child or child-like girls. Um, yuck. Does Clamp need therapy? Is there this sort of young girl/old man thing in their other series?

There are also certainly some plot holes and the whole thing has somewhat of a feeling of being written as it goes rather than really clearly plotted out in its entirety before hand. This was most obvious when various "rules" for heaven and hell were randomly introduced only to block progress and push the story. They didn't feel organically introduced or designed nor was there real world-building in any consistent way. It really came across as: "oh shit, the story is about to easily wrap up, let's introduce a new heavenly rule to block their progress."

The last problem I'll discuss, and there are probably many more, is with the quality of the dialogue. Now, it's hard to know what comes from the original text and what was lost in translation to English, but this is pretty low level dialogue. It might work if the target audience is grade-school kids (which it might be), but it won't give much back to adult readers.

Now, on the other side, it is a page-turner that propels the reader through. I might have had all the problems in the world with it, but I still found myself supporting and cheering for Kohaku. Also, the art is in a "classic" shoujo style where people are drawn with very long and lean bodies, Shuichiro is probably easily 10 heads tall. Also, his head is so tiny and shoulders so broad it would be comical anywhere but shoujo manga. It's a completely unrealistic way of drawing, but I've always liked this style. So it was fun to read a throw-back series (it was originally published in the 90s).

But even though I liked the art style, the line use is very simple. There isn't a lot of detail. But it is crisp and there is some screentone use with some nice examples of overlays and almost a double-exposure type thing happening at times. But overall, it's fairly simple art. Unlike Clover which has some really beautiful artwork, this was nice and stylistically cool, but not as complex as I would have wanted.

One visual choice, which didn't impact the story at all, that did stand out to me was Kohaku's choice in earth clothes. I don't know if this was the style of the era in Japan in the 90s but she was wearing what appeared to me to be fairly gender-neutral clothing. She wore pants, with tucked in shirts and neckties or simple jackets. They could easily have put her in cute dresses or other cute feminine clothes, but she really wasn't ever presented that way. Maybe it was to keep her from being looked as a sexual object, or maybe there is some deeper meaning to using gender-neutral clothing choices. But either way, I thought it was an interesting artistic decision and it worked.

You know what you like in manga and what you don't. If you want a pretty sappy, young-reader, romance with angels, and you like older art, then Wish will probably appeal to you. If you want more complex plot or characters, more emotional nuance, more modern artwork, or if the somewhat creepy "age difference" bothers you, then you might want to skip it. I'm in between on all of it, but was glad enough to read it even if it was hardly memorable. Wish (omnibus) gets a 5/10 which feels about right for a story that is very readable, but simple and very inconsequential despite its internal drama.

  • Story interesting (0-10): 6 - I like angels and humans together, I won't lie.
  • Characters interesting (0-10): 6 - Kohaku has her moments, Hisui and her son of satan boyfriend warrant their own series. Shuichiro is as bland and generic a handsome, reserved, nice guy as you'll ever meet. 
  • Quality prose/writing (0-10): 5 - its serviceable for a young audience, but hardly literary. There are plot holes and fly-by-your-pants writing in evidence.
  • Emotionally plausible (0-10): 5 - I struggled with both Shuichiros feelings towards Kohaku and his mother.
BASIC SCORE (avg.): 5.5/10

  • Emotional insight/depth (0-5): 0 - nope, its more or less what a 12 year old might write.
  • True LGBTQ+ representation (0-5): 0 - no but interesting choice of earth clothes for Kohaku.
  • Female agency (0-5): 3 - I'll give it points because both Kohaku and Hisui defy God's orders regularly.
  • Character growth/change (0-5): 1 - Kohaku does grow up a bit
  • Quality art (0-5): 2 - I love this style, even though its so out-dated. It has a nostalgic feel to me.
BONUS POINTS (sum/8): +.5

  • Homophobic/transphobic (0-5): 0
  • Misogynistic (0-5): 0
  • Fan service (0-5): 0
  • Child/adult relationship (0-5): 2 - Shuichiro is 28, Kohaku seems like she's 14. Also, child Shuichiro and his mom...
  • Exploitative (0-5): 0
PENALTY POINTS (-sum/2): -1



Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

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  1. I would use they/them pronouns for Kohaku. When Shinichiro Kudo comes to visit his grandson, he addresses Kohaku as a woman. Kohaku corrects him, and also tells him that they aren't a man either. The topic is left at that. Kohaku doesn't identify as a woman nor as a man.

    1. That's awesome and makes me love this story even more! Thank you!

  2. Kohaku is genderless or at least doesn't identify as female or man. Only the English translation uses pronouns for convenience. The Japanese translation uses gender neutral pronouns and Kohaku says they are not a woman nor a man.

    1. I really wish I spoke Japanese. This is really sad that the translators didn't pick up on them being genderless or gender-neutral. I love this story more for knowing that. Thank you so much for sharing. It definitely adds a really cool dimension to the story and makes me think higher of Shuichiro that his heart is open like that.


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