The four women who make up the manga group CLAMP (Ohkawa Nanase, the scriptwriter; Mokona Apapa, the lead artist; Igarashi Satsuki, the layout designer; and Nekoi Tsubaki, the character artist) are to manga (and manga turned into anime) what Megumi Hayashibara is to voice acting. They began as doujinshi artists before breaking into the professional manga scene in 1989 with RG Veda. The original doujin circle was actually made up of ten members (one of whom was a guy), but six of them left (one in 1990, two in 1992, and three in 1993), resulting in the four-woman team we know today. That Other Wiki has a little more information on their contributions and accomplishments since in CLAMP's article.
Since RG Veda, nearly all of their work has been animated, a list which includes many of the staple series of anime.
A theme that runs through CLAMP's works is that love transcends everything, particularly that pesky little thing called gender. Note that this is not a "love conquers all" kind of thing, as gender/age/being a robot/being a ruthless assassin/etc can be insurmountable barriers to having a functional relationship. No barrier can stop people from falling in love but it may very well prevent that love from reaching a happy resolution. (See the relationship between Tomoyo and Sakura in Cardcaptor Sakura, or the one between Sakurazuka Seishirou and Sumeragi Subaru in Tokyo Babylon and X, or between Kazuhiko and Suu (or Ora) in Clover as prime examples.)
Their manga work is characterized by a highly-detailed Shoujo art style, though for budget reasons the designs are often simplified for animation. Their style underwent a noticeable change in the late 1990s when Mokona starting ceding more design responsibility to Igarashi and Nekoi. Nekoi's distinctive character designs are responsible for the "noodle people" description common in fandom. CLAMP also errs on the shojo side thematically (despite being published in an unusually wide range of magazines, including Shounen and Seinen), and thus are very prone to drama and painful Hard Truth Aesop. Their work also runs the spectrum with some being extraordinarily cutesy and lighthearted, others being horrifically gory and violent, and others still being a mix of the two or everything in between. Being former doujinka, their work is also notable for a deliberately high degree of fanservice. Aside from that, CLAMP loves inserting alternate versions of previous characters into other works, a concept somewhat connected to the fact that their works take place in a large, interconnected multiverse.
The question of "which of their works is Most Important" can be difficult and contentious; virtually all of their works from The '90s and the turn of the millenium have very devoted fans. The ones with the best arguments, however, are Magic Knight Rayearth, Cardcaptor Sakura, X/1999 and ×××HOLiC. Rayearth was one of the first Magical Girl Warrior stories to really escape the shadow of Sailor Moon, mostly by way of injecting some Super Robot and High Fantasy elements into the proceedings, and its influence is still felt to some degree today. Much more influential (and for many, the "best" candidate for importance) is Sakura, which became the final Trope Codifier of Magical Girl anime in the 90s; virtually everything produced in that genre in its wake owes something to it.
X is the most contentious, in that it was on the road to being massively influential - its movie version famously won over Roger Ebert - but its indefinite hiatus on a cliffhanger has more or less obliterated any affection it once inspired. When it was running, however, it was a massively influential work for its blend of Urban Fantasy and the apocalypse. Finally, xxxHolic... more or less defies classification. It's this strangeness and flexibility, however, that has left its mark on wider culture.
A quick note about the members of CLAMP: In July of 2004, they all changed their pen names slightly. Mokona Apapa became simply Mokona, Ohkawa Nanase became Ohkawa Ageha, Nekoi Mikku became Nekoi Tsubaki. Igarashi Satsuki simply switched her family name into hiragana, and her given name into kanji. Nekoi and Mokona had been wanting to change their pen names for awhile; Ohkawa and Igarashi just went along for the hell of it. Ohkawa has since reverted to Ohkawa Nanase for attributions. At least three of them have used their names (partially or entirely) for characters in series: Satsuki as Yatouji Satsuki in X, Nekoi as Nekoi Yuzuriha in X, and Mokona as Mokona in Magic Knight Rayearth, Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-, and ×××HOLiC.
Some of their works:
- RG Veda (1989-1996)
- Man of Many Faces (1990-1991)
- Tokyo Babylon (1990-1993)
- Duklyon: CLAMP School Defenders (1991-1993)
- Clamp School Detectives (1992-1993)
- X/1999 (1992-2003; on hiatus)
- Legend of Chun Hyang (1992-1994)
- Magic Knight Rayearth (1993-1996)
- Miyuki-chan in Wonderland (1993-1995)
- Wish (1995-1998)
- Cardcaptor Sakura (1996-2000)
- Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card (2016-present)
- Clover (1997-1999; on hiatus)
- Angelic Layer (1999-2001)
- Suki A Like Story (1999-2000)
- Drug & Drop (2000-2003 as Legal Drug, 2011-2013 after restarting as Drug & Drop; on hiatus)
- Chobits (2000-2002)
- ×××HOLiC (2003-2011)
- Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- (2003-2009)
- Kobato. (2005-2011)
- Gate 7 (2011-2013; on hiatus)
- Yumegari (1996)
- The anime of Blood-C and its movie sequel, Blood-C: The Last Dark, in collaboration with Production I.G
- An untitled anime project based from Grimms' Fairy Tales, in collaboration with Netflix and WIT Studio
- Character designs for Code Geass
- Character designs for Mouryou No Hako
- Character designs for Sweet Valerian
- Character designs for Kabukibu!
- Character designs for Cardfight!! Vanguard overDress
Tropes common across most of their works:
- All Deaths Final: By Word of God, there is no way to bring back the dead. Ever. That being said though, reincarnation is possible and has occurred in a few of their works, with stress on the fact that even if the soul is the same, they aren't the same exact people as who they were in a previous life. However, in Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-, if a certain Evil Plan is successfully carried out, apparently it will become possible to negate this trope... Even if it costs the stability of the whole of space-time.
- Art-Style Dissonance: CLAMPs art style is usually cutesy with a hefty dose of good-looking men and can be commonly associated with Shoujo, but not all of their works are aimed at young girls. Several examples are Chobits (published as Seinen and has a fair amount of Fanservice and existential themes), Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- (the later arcs went Darker and Edgier with heaping dose of Mind Screw), X/1999 (published as Shoujo but it deals with the apocalypse and contains violence and tragedy) and Blood-C (the Bloodier and Gorier spinoff of the Blood franchise). Even Magic Knight Rayearth gets in on this, as the original deals with themes that were, at the time, uncommon to Magical Girl shows, and the Rayearth OVA is just full-on seinen.
- Author Appeal: They have a thing about Cherry Blossoms in their works such as Cardcaptor Sakura, Tokyo Babylon, X/1999 and Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- and angelic (and devil) wings which is no surprise that both ED animations (here and here) of Code Geass R2 (for which CLAMP is responsible for the character design) featured the majority of the characters wearing wings. And of course, there's the occasional Eye Scream.
- The Beautiful Elite: In their works, if someone is good-looking, they are usually powerful in some way, and vice-versa.
- Because Destiny Says So: Hitsuzen, a concept introduced in ×××HOLiC though its general themes appeared in earlier works. In particular, Cardcaptor Sakura, Tokyo Babylon and X1999 touch on the inevitability of fate and prophecy.
- Bishounen and Bishoujo: A staple of their style. Everyone looks good in a CLAMP work.
- Canon Welding: Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- combined the Plot of ×××HOLiC, Cardcaptor Sakura and numerous other CLAMP works into one huge Gambit Pileup. Along with that, CLAMP tends to use a few shared universes for many of their works.
- ×××HOLiC is canonically in the same world as Drug & Drop, Wish, Kobato., Suki A Like Story and Blood-C. Also, its story has a pair of connections to the world of Cardcaptor Sakura (which in turn has one to Magic Knight Rayearth's) and possibly a minor one to the world of X/1999.
- X/1999 takes place in the same world as Tokyo Babylon, Clamp School Detectives, Man of Many Faces, Duklyon: CLAMP School Defenders and Miyuki-chan in Wonderland (in the last two, bizarrely enough, X/1999 happens to be an anime film; given the kind of series they are, they might or might not be entirely canonical). Also, the background of Magic Knight Rayearth hints this is the original world of its main cast.
- Angelic Layer and Chobits are implied to be in the same continuity, in which Magic Knight Rayearth is a popular anime series.
- Costume Porn: With long, lacy ribbons being a particular hallmark in their promotional art. Oddly, it only occasionally shows up in the actual stories themselves (and almost never in animated versions due to the cost of animating all that billowing ribbon properly). It's also not restricted to their female characters. The prettier male characters in particular get stuffed into elaborate and pretty outfits no one should by rights be able to move in.
- Chastity Couple: Only a very small minority of Official Couples have ever been given a kiss scene, much less anything beyond that. Affection between individuals tends to instead be expressed through gentle gazes, hand-holding, hugging, and kisses given in places that aren't the lips (such as the forehead or cheek). In darker circumstances, affection can by shown by giving blood, some sort of heavy sacrifice (especially when that focuses on the eyes in some way), or cutting off limbs.
- Dream Walker: Character that have powers related to dreams appeared as earlier as Tokyo Babylon. Ever since X/1999, and later cemented by Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-, Prophetic Dreams or walking into other people's dreams became a standard yet valuable power in their future works.
- Everyone Is Bi: Very prevalent among their characters, though Cardcaptor Sakura takes the cake with most of the characters (self-consciously or not) displaying attraction to other characters with no regard for gender.
- Eye Scream: Because it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye.
- Fanservice: Their works are prone to having this, though Miyuki-chan in Wonderland has the most fanservice by far. However, it can become downplayed to almost non-existent when the story becomes more serious, with Chobits being one such example.
- Fantasy Kitchen Sink: The CLAMP multiverse features all kind of fantasy and sci-fi elements coexisting with each other, including Gods, Angels, Devils and Squid, Ritual Magic, Hermetic Magic, Onmyōdō, Magitek, Soul Power, Psychic Powers and even Magic from Technology. Some of them share the same setting, and rarely if ever is a clear line drawn between them.
- Flowers of Romance: Any of their series will feature these at some point or another.
- High School A.U.: The Horitsuba Gakuen omakes, which sics the entire CLAMP universe in an Elevator School, but focuses on the cast of Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- and ×××HOLiC.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Not universal, but fairly common.
- Impossibly Cool Clothes: They're really fond of making these. In fact, they're even requested to make clothing designs by other companies.
- Maybe Ever After: Their favorite ending... even in denouements. Chobits is probably the work which is closest to every featured couple having a Happily Ever After.
- Mind Screw: Deserves a special award! Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- and ×××HOLiC have fried brain cells across their fandom and leaving a probable legacy of several decades worth of forum discussions, all of which add to the confusion even more. After overdosing on this trope, things have reached a point where, after the end of Tsubasa & ×××HOLiC, even Word of God has admitted that they too are rather confused over how everything turned out and want to re-read it.
- Missing Mom: Characters in their works will often have dead or absent mothers, sometimes plot significant, other times not. Nadeshiko Kinomoto in Cardcaptor Sakura, Chu'nyan's mother in Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-, Shuko Suzuhara in Angelic Layer and Saya's mom in Blood-C. are some examples.
- No Biological Sex: Sexless/genderless characters tend to pop up in their works. Usually a Justified Trope through various explanations:
- Ashura in RG Veda is explicitly said to have no physical sex as part of a curse to end the line of the Ashura clan with them. They don't identify with a gender, either.
- In X/1999, Nataku is similarly sexless as a result of cloning. In the manga, it's implied that they are female, likely because their genetic source was a young girl named Kazuki.
- In Wish, all angels are explicitly genderless (because of, well, being angels, there is no need for having a traditional dichotomy), although many international translations incorrectly used gendered pronouns, with the Tokyopop translation in particular making them all female.
- Ruby Moon from Cardcaptor Sakura is technically genderless (due to being from a line of beings who are all genderless), but chooses to present herself as female because, as she puts it, girls get to wear cuter clothes and uniforms.
- Hana from Gate 7 is strongly implied to be genderless - Sakura calls into question whether or not Hana is female, and then, in response to Chikahito's confusion, neither confirms Hana's masculinity nor offers any form of clarification.
- A Shrug of God has also hinted that the Zashiki Warashi from ×××HOLiC may not necessarily be either male or female, playing off old portrayals of the spirits in mythology and artwork, where their gender was often unclear.
- No Ending: Quite well known (and well criticized too) for open ended and unresolved closures. Some works fared even worse and were left incomplete.
- Only one of their works has an explicit ending on the lines of "Are Happily Ever After". In many cases, they stop short of actually showing it, leaving readers guessing and wanting more. See Maybe Ever After above.
- The worst offender might be Man of Many Faces, a short manga series which opened a lot of weird mysteries and didn't close a single one of them (earlier chapters even lampshaded it). Even although its main characters were incorporated to the storyline of another manga, Clamp School Detectives, the matter never received closure.
- Noodle People: Characters in their works tend to be this whenever Nekoi is in charge of the art, as she often draws people with long, slender limbs. When several of their works are in animated form, the character animation design are either good (several works animated by Madhouse) or bad (×××HOLiC animated by Production I.G).
- Omake: Lots of it in their works. See Side-Story Bonus Art for the extent in just one aspect.
- Only Six Faces: They are masters of this trope.
- Phrase Catcher: "It's CLAMP." is often used when describing why certain aspects are present in most works.
- Another one is "No one is straight!" in regards to Clamp treating gender as unimportant when it comes to love. Whenever someone unfamiliar with Clamp works insists a character to be straight this response is bound to pop up.
- Pimped-Out Dress: Especially in the omake art.
- Recurring Element: Mokona is frequently seen in several works. And now, Watanuki is present in their most recent works, even beating his predecessor, Yuko, to boot.
- Screw Destiny: Many characters in their works like to give destiny the middle finger. Whether they actually succeed in changing their fate is another story.
- Shōjo Demographic: Most of their works are aimed at this demographic. Despite being primarily associated with shoujo, they have made shonen and seinen manga as well.
- Significant Birth Date: April 1st is a birth date shared by a number of their characters, it's also the day CLAMP was formed.
- Side-Story Bonus Art: Enough to fill whole libraries.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Depends of the work, but their most notorious works (Such as Cardcaptor Sakura) tend to be on the idealistic scale. Other works, such as X/1999 tend to be more cynical.
- Stealth Sequel: Drug & Drop turned to be one to Wish. X/1999 also concludes Subaru and Seishirou's story from Tokyo Babylon.
- Tangled Family Tree: Sakura and Syaoran in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles. See Mind Screw for more details.
- Teacher/Student Romance: A few of their works feature this:
- Cardcaptor Sakura features quite a bit of it; Sakura's parents met and fell in love when they were teacher and student, Toya had a previous relationship with his student teacher Kaho Mizuki (though they didn't start dating until after she quit), and in the manga, Sakura's friend Rika is in a relationship with their homeroom teacher (though in the anime, she simply has a Precocious Crush on him that he's oblivious to).
- In Chobits Hiromu Shimbo/ Shinbo falls in love with their Prep School Teacher Takako Shimizu and ends up eloping with her, and marrying her.
- In Suki: A Like Story, main character Hina has a crush on her substitute teacher, though he rejects her feelings out of guilt from his past.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: Especially in their more recent works, such as Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-.
- Tokyo Tower: The tower's been used as a key locale in several of their series.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: Only for their non-Japanese fans. Chobits assumes that the audience has some knowledge of how information technology has a divergent development path in Japan compared to the rest of the world, and awareness of some social issues facing the country. Gate 7 requires readers to know their history on the Sengoku Period.
- Unlimited Wardrobe: Several characters tend to wear different sets of clothes. Sakura Kinomoto, Yuko Ichihara and Kimihiro Watanuki (who later inherited the shop) are usually the ones who wear different clothes frequently.
- Wise Beyond Their Years: Several of their youngest characters exhibit wisdom far beyond what their age would really allow.
- White-and-Grey Morality: Completely evil villains are rare in their work. Most of the time, the antagonists are portrayed having very sympathetic motives, being Not Evil, Just Misunderstood, and plenty of them are genuinely good people who are forced to fight against the heroes due the circumstances.
- Yaoi Fangirl: They were originally a yaoi doujinshi circle (with much of their doujinshi focusing on series such as Captain Tsubasa and Saint Seiya) before they became professional manga artists. While none of their professional works are officially in the Yaoi Genre, many of them feature at least a bit of Ship Tease between two male characters, as seen in their own Ship Tease page. One of their more infamous works is a doujin of Jotaro and Kakyoin having a son that hatched from an egg that Kakyoin somehow laid. They're also Yuri Fans and some of their works also have ship tease between female characters, though their doujinshi doesn't focus on yuri as much and their only true yuri work is Miyuki-chan in Wonderland.