Post Reply Interview with Clamp
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F / Clamp Land
Posted 8/3/08 , edited 8/3/08
Taken from CLAMP's artbook "North Side"
Please, if possible, buy the original version to support the artists! thankyou ^^~

Part One: Opportunity
How did you end up creating manga?
Mokona: During high school, a friend of mine from one of those high school clubs told me about fan comics and asked me to draw one picture. Soon after that i started working for the fan comics by drawing multiple-framed comic strips.
Mick: I had a friend in middle school who loved manga, and we both collaborated on pictures. Since our favourite cartoonist aws Moto Hagio, we wrote science fiction like Star Red. We didn't really plan the story ahead of time, so we ended up graduating before the work was done.
Satsuki: I was in middle school when i drew my first manga. My pen name, Satsuki Igarashi, was the name of a character from a small book that i created with some friends at school.

Have you been involved in creating fan comics since middle school?
Satsuki: When my friend took me to an exhibition, i learned that my books could actually sell. I remember being more impressed with her enthusiasm for the project than anything else. Since offset printing was very expensive back then, we used mimeograph printing. we were able to borrow printing equipment from shcool, under the condition that we would print school materials as well.

How did the four fo you get together? Did you go to the same school?
Nanase: These three were in the same school, but not me. when they published the fan comics during high school, a friend of mine bought some goods made by Mokona. They became friends, then we met and became frienda and so on.
Satsuki: We were good buddies, and did things together other than just magazine stuff.
Nanase: Yeah. We would go to the movies and eat out together. We even set off fireworks in the summer.
Satsuki: we woud also race boats. Oh, and we once did karaoke for six hours!

How often did you get together, given that you were living quite far from Osaka and Kyoto?
Satsuki: At the time, there was at least one event a month in Osaka or Kobe, and we would always come out to see it. We always tried to do stuff together then.

When did you start working together as CLAMP?
Nanase: The group that Satsuki, Mick and Mokona were in, as well as my group and many others, decided to collaborate on a book -- and the book was titled CLAMP.

How long did you work for the magazine?
Satsuki: Until a little after we debuted as professionals.

Part Two: Debut
When did you think about becoming a professional comic writer?
Mokona: I don't actually recall. Heck, I'm still thinking about it.
Nanase: When we decided to first print the fan comic titled Seiden (Holy Legend), we decided to publish a digest review first, because it was such a long story.
Mick: An editor over at Wings magazine saw the review and asked us to work for them. Of course, it didn't appear in the magazine right away.
Satsuki: To start, we wrote one story just to give them a demonstration of our talents.

Was it poor art? Or just a bad story?
Nanase: Everything was bad! First of all, we had never actually completed one story as a group before, so we didn't know how to unite our ideas into one cohesive concept. Secondly, all of our skills (writing, construction, technique, etc.) were still very green. So, we were told that it was impossible to put the work into Wings as it was. Even still, we were told that if we came up with a new story and submitted a rough draft that they liked, then they might consider publication. That's when we submitted Seiden.

Did you always envision it as a series?
Satsuki: No, it was originally a single story. We were told that if readers' responses were good, we could run three more volumes. Well, they were, so we did. The three stories we wrote were the first part of Seiden that we included in the first volume of the book. They told us again that if the demand was stil there, we could write even more. And it was. So, we were albe to continue Seiden as series.
Nanase: The first volume was published, and sales of the book were more than the editors expected. So they decided to continue the series.

So, it wasn't an overnight thing?
Mokona: No, it wasn't. after each chapter, we were always threatened that the series would end if its popularity fell.

Did you live together?
Nanase: It was a two LDK (two bedrooms, living room, dining room, and kitchen). I thought i was gonna die there.
Mokona: There was no privacy.
Mick The only private space we had was under our desk!
Satsuki: I even slept under the desk when i wanted to sleep alone.
Mick: I think someone was sleeping in the closet.
Nanase: Just like Doraemon. (note: a popluar japanese cartoon character....if you dont know it and are an anime fan.....shame on you!)
Mokona: Hey, it was very comfortable in the closet.

Part Three: Writing process

Could you please guide us through your working process?
Nanase: It's kindda hard to explain. I come up with a story first. THen, we all get together as i explained before, to discuss the purpose of the story and its main characters.

So, Ms Ohkawa writes an outline, right?
Nanase: Not right away. After we get a good feel for a story, I'll start to write things down.
Statsuki: First she just tells us the story.
Mick: As if she she were a storyteller at a campfire
Mokona: It's actually pretty good. Her sad stories can really make you choke up.
Mick: Nanase is also really good at telling scary stories.
Nanase: When i was a kid, on Health-Sports Day, if it rained, a teacher would ask me to tell a story to the class. Anyway, i also map out any location ideas or character designs i've envisioned to the designers or whoever else is in charge. It just dpends. Sometimes, I may even draw them myself. But that's only scribbling, really.
Mokona: At this phas, Nanase has decided characters' figures, hairstyles, and even cloths. Our job as designers is to see how close we can get our art to match her original version.
Mick: Story setting is also determined when she completes an outline. She tells us about it, and we give our thoughts.
Nanase:Plus, in the meantime, we decide on each character's birthday and height.
Stasuki: Once it's done, we create a character's profile sheet. With this chart, we wont get confused later.

How about actual work?
Nanase: After we finish the initial preperations, we dra a simple short story to show the editor. If the editor thinks it's okay, i write the story. Then, whoever is in charge will draw a rough sketch.
Mokona: An original comic story is quite like a script for a movie or anime. It even explains what's included in each frame.
Mick: What props they have, even how they turn around and more.
Mokona: the emotions of the characters within the panel are included as well.

What determines the size of each panel?
Nanase: with a story like CLOVER, i provide a rough draft.
Mokona: So any impressive dialogue or scenes will have a big space in between sentences, and therefore we'll know she wants some elbowroom in the art.
Mick: On occasion, she may suggest we use a two-page spread.

Do you all take turns at completing the rough sketch?
Satsuki No, it depends on the story.
Nanase: Sometimes, different people do characters and backgrounds, but then on other occasions, one person may draw everything.
Mokona: And sometimes, it's a little of all of the above! It's like this character is done by so and so, and this one by such and such.
Mick: It all depends on the story.

Do you have meetings?
Mokona: We all work at one place together, sometimes during lunchtime.
Stsuki: We don't actually set aside time for a meeting, but we really don't need to. During work hours we discuss whatever needs attention.

Part 4: Creating Process
Do you have trouble creating names?
Nanase: The last time i had name difficulty was on Angelic Layer. I already had planned out an order of battles, a beginning and ending for Angelic Layer. However, I had a real hard time, as i didn't plan the rest in advance. It reminds me of a story i heard once. When Shotaro Ikenami (a well known novelist as well as a playwrite) worked on a series in a newspaper, he wrote: "Someone is coming from the dark!" Then, his editor goes "What an impressive cliffhanger! So, who is really coming?" His reply was, "i'm thinking about it now." I was so impressed by this attitude that i wanted to try it.
Satsuki: As a result, it took longer than the usual time she spends writing a story.
Nanase: That's exactly right. I'm so sorry.

Since you were working on a fighter's story, it flows differently than it would with something vague, right?
Nanase: That's not necessarily true. When i talked to the author of a martial arts story, he said, "i dont think in advance all the time." So, i asked how he does it, and he said: "A story kinda pops up right before a deadline, just like that." I believed him, although nothing popped up for me.

So, there's no way your characters inspire you to create or develop a story as a story goes along?
Nanase:I wish they would, but it hasn't happened to me yet. Maybe someday, when i become more experienced, it will. I thought maybe after ten years it would happen, but i was wrong. My fingers are still crossed, though.

Part 5: Production
Your books are punctuated with a large number of climatic moments. Is this because they were developed as serial stories in magazines?
Nanase: In the case of Chobits, there's only thirteen pages, excluding the cover page. So you need two or three episodes to complete one chapter.

Part 6:Creating characters
Isn't it easier to draw when a story is already determined?
Nanase: Not always. THe people in charge of drawing don't always know how a story develops in advance.
Mick: Everytime i recieve a script, i find out the story for the first time. For instance, suppose it says, "The person behind the door wil be revealed next time!" Then, i ask Nanase, "What's gonna happen?" Her reply is, "Find out next time!" So, Mokona, Satsuki, and I are the first readers. I'm drawing the rough draft and simultaneously thinking about where the story is going, as well as looking forward to next month's script.
Mokona: She's absolutely right. I don't know how many times I've cried when i read an original script.

Have you ever made any additions or corrections when publishing a comic book?
Satsuki: We tweaked a lot for Seiden and Tokyo Babylon.
Mokona: There are some that are totally different from the magazine series.
Nanase: We weren't really experienced back then.
Mokona: We had many books that we would read later and say, "This is terrible!"
Satsuki: There aren't too many of those anymore.
Mick: The only changes we make now are because of mistakes, not style.
Satsuki: It's better not to even have mistakes, but that's very hard.

Part 7:Drawing
Are there arny artists that have influenced your own creations?
Mokona: I'm not sure there's any one influence, but i did mimick pictures by Reiji Matsumoto when i was younger. So , my early character drawings all had slanted eyes when they were facing forward. Maybe it was because of him that i used to draw some of my characters with long arms and a bit of a potbelly.
Mick: I dont know if there are any influences left, even now, but i started out copying Sinji Wada and Rumiko Takahashi.
Satsuki: I think you copied Rumiko Takahashi's art at one time or another when you wanted to draw girls' legs.
Mick: Even though i was very careful, i always drew them thick and big. The legs were long until the knees, and then there were short feet with a bit of a curved joint. I liked that style.

Are there any particular preferences when it comes to suggestive scenes?
Nanase: We like sensuous and suggestive scenes.
Satsuki: Yes, we do like erotic drawings.
Mick: But, I've heard male readers say that the erotica that female cartoonists draw is beautiful, but not actually erotic.
Mokona: Therefore, I think all we can do is draw something we personally think is beautiful and sexy.

What do you think is both beautiful and sexy?
Nanase: I assume everyone has different preferences, but to give you an example, i think it's very sexy when something beautiful is also a little bit vague.
Mick: Like a lady makes her kimono all neat, but its hem is pulled up, and her legs are revealed.
Mokona: Or, like seeing a little bit of cleavage through a half-opened shirt.
Satsuki: It's better when panties are glimpsed, but not fully shown.

Do you have any assistants?
Mokona: Yeah, me, myself and I.
Nanase: All of the art is drawn by Satsuki, Mokona and Mick, and the designs are handled by Satsuki and me.

But wouldn't assistants help ease the heavy workload?
Satsuki: Honestly, i think that if we hired assistants, we wouldn't be able to complete each book as fast as we do now.
Mokona: They probably wouldn't be able to understand the ten years worth of jargon we created among ourselves.
Mick: Plus, they wouldn't understand when we would tell them to just do the same thing as before.

Do you play background music at work?
Mick: We all share one workplace, but each of us plays different music.
Mokona: Most of the time the television is on MTV, FOX, or just the news.

Part 8:Colouring
What kinds of materials do you use?
Mokona: For both colour and monotone work, Nanase advises us on which to use for what. For Cardcaptor Sakura, we used colour ink to create a clear image. Or, for Chobits, we used acrylic gouache.

Do you use digital equipment?
Mick:I used digital equipment for the first time for Gouhou Drug (Legal Drug) by Kadokawa Shoten, which will have appeared in Asuka magazine by the time this interview is published.
Mokona: She has had really great instructors. They are Takeshi Okazaki and Katsuya Terada. (in the book they spelt Takeshi as Takesi. since i've never seen Takesi in japanese before, i'm assuming it's a typo.)
Mick: Okazaki has taught me the basics, whereas Terada has shown me the spirit.
Mokona: Satsuki is into Adobe Photoshop.
Satsuki: Director Takeshi Yamazaki kindly gave me lessons in Photoshop.

Mokona, don't you used digital equipment?
Mokona: At the moment, I don't. I don't get along with machinese in general.
Nanase: Digital work is only one of many artistic materials at her disposal, so there's no rush for her to learn new techniques right now. But, even Mick will probably experiment with other materials once Gouhou Drug is done.

In 2001, at the Chobits exhibit, your colour work was very distinctive.
Mokona: Thank you. But they were small. Everyone was surprised at how small original works are.

Having them small makes the work more efficient?
Nanase: That may be true, but improvment of printing technology has more to do with it.
Mokona: A long time ago, i thought a B2-size poster had to be done bigger than the artwork for the B2 itself.
Satsuki: Actually, it would have been difficult if we didn't do it.
Mick: The end result is beautiful now. Even without any special colouring.

How did you do such impressive bacgrounds in Seiden?
Mokona: It's because i used to like H.R. Giger and used lots of airbrush techniques. actually, I like Gerard Di Maccio more. He was a popular artist at the same time as Giger.

Part 9:Design
Do you design a cover page by yourself?
Nanase: Except for 100% Comics from Kadokawa Shoten, Satsuki or I work on the design for the cover page of a comic from the beginning.

Why is that?
Nanase: We believe everything in a comic, from front to back cover, is important to the story. So we want total coordination.
Lately, I’ve noticed there are many more progressive designs in books published by the traditional brand name companies – like Cardcaptor Sakura, for example.
Satsuki: Our editor had a very hard time getting approval for that kind of design.

Did you know that readers were thrilled to have your works?
Nanase: We were glad to hear that.
Satsuki: That really makes all the hard work worth it.

So everyone tries to stay as close as possible to Nanase’s original design?
Mokona: That’s right.
Mick: Especially for comic books and anything related to cover pages.

When did you web page launch?
Satsuki: It officially started in April 1997. The website address has changed once since then.
Is it difficult to chronicle your everyday efforts?
Satsuki: It was really hard at the beginning. Even we didn’t remember all the details.

Has it been updated lately?
Satsuki: It’s been downsized to provide only information, now. It also was updated in May 2002. This time, we featured a TV program. Let me know what you think.

owari/end thankyou for reading ^^~
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Posted 8/3/08 , edited 8/4/08
This is great! Thanks for posting the interview. I'd love read what they have to say about Tokyo Babylon.
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28 / F / The great not so...
Posted 8/7/08 , edited 8/8/08
wow thank you for posting!!
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30 / F / can you see me?.....
Posted 8/9/08 , edited 8/9/08
(*O*)d *thank you for the post!!
*time to time i got lost a bit* (>////<)
Posted 8/12/08 , edited 8/12/08
Thanks so much! I've always wanted to read an interview with CLAMP themselves.
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