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Clamp School article published in Animerica Vol. 9, No. 4, April 2001
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.

There's nothing wrong with being cute. Although some fans may debate this, the success of series like Card Capture Sakura (Cardcaptors) and Pokemon prove there's more to love about anime than martial arts and mecha. CLAMP Gakuen Tantei Dan (CLAMP Academy Detectives/The CLAMP School) certainly falls into the cute camp of anime, however, there's more to this series than its charming grade-school leads. The comic has everything you would expect from a CLAMP title: distinctive characters, humor, romance, action, beautiful art and designs, and dramatic moments of poignancy. The TV series features quality animation, solid direction and pacing, and top-notch voice talent. There's even some martial arts and mecha, for those who can't do without. Add to that fun mysteries for the heroes to solve in the eccentric setting of the CLAMP Academy, and you've got one decent little series.

Founded by the financial giant Imonoyama Group, the CLAMP Academy is located on a vast circle of land separated from the rest of Tokyo by a moat. Unlike a typical Japanese academy -where privileged children of the rich study from grade school through college- there's more to the CLAMP Academy than education. The Academy was designed to be its own city, a place where Japan's best and brightest could learn, achieve, and be inspired to excellence. There's a hospital and a zoo, gardens, a bank, shops, theaters, a stadium, dormitories, research facilities and more, with a high-tech, automated subway system connecting it all. Although most of the cast is exceptionally wealthy, the CLAMP Academy also offers scholarships to talented, intelligent students all over Japan. It's practically a utopia, but even the best laid plans have some flaws. This is where the CLAMP Academy Detectives come in.

The Academy is famous for its academic excellence, but it also embraces festivals and celebrations with equal enthusiasm. As a result, members of the various student councils are kept quite busy arranging parties and events. The Elementary Division student council is made up of three exceptional young men. The President, sixth-grader Nokoru Imonoyama, is a brilliant, charismatic young man capable of unbelievable feats of organization and paper work. His industriousness is tempered by his whimsical nature -Nokoru always likes an interesting challenge which will get him out of his office. He also has an overwhelming compulsion to aid damsels in distress. In order to solve everyday mysteries at the Academy and help ladies in need, Nokoru forms the CLAMP Academy Detectives along with his fellow council members, Suoh and Akira. Fifth-grader Suoh Takamura, the student secretary, is more serious than Nokoru and possesses remarkable athletic and martial prowess. Suoh's often stuck with the chore of reminding the student president of his bureaucratic duties. The student treasurer is fourth-grader Akira Ijyuin (long u), who is extremely sweet and thoughtful. Akira's special talent is his world- class culinary expertise, which even college students and instructors defer to. Naturally, all three of them have big followings among the female students.

The series begins pretentiously if innocuously enough. The boys are having tea on a flight in their dirigible as Suoh reports on the possibility of reserving Tokyo Tower for an annual CLAMP Academy party. While surveying the tower's main observation deck, Nokoru notices a lady in tears across the distance. He can not forget her weeping face, so he returns to Tokyo Tower to ask her why she was crying. Miraculously, she's still there, but before she can answer, a squad of dark-suited thugs springs from the elevators with evil intent. Fortunately Suoh and Akira followed Nokoru, and Suoh takes care of the ruffians with a little help from Akira. The boys escort the lady to her home where she explains, with a romantic flashback, that her loving husband disappeared years ago. The elderly woman is now regularly harassed by men hired by her brother-in-law, who wants her husband's estate. Nokoru insists on helping her.

Because the CLAMP Academy is so extraordinary, its students and resources are extremely advanced. Using the Academy's extensive database, the boys discover the lady's brother-in-law is a businessman in financial straits. Nokoru hatches a plan to deal with this ignoble lowlife. The comic and the TV show tell slightly different tales from this point -the comic involves Nokoru using his corporate clout to legally outwit the villain, while the TV version is more action-packed, ending with a confrontation at knife point on Tokyo Tower's wind-blown infrastructure- but the conclusion is the same. In the end, the elderly lady's estate, filled with memories of her beloved husband, is rescued permanently from the clutches of her brute of a brother-in-law. This is how the CLAMP Academy Detectives were formed.

For their second case, the mysterious Chairman of CLAMP Academy herself asks for their help. Nokoru and the boys are given the discrete responsibility of finding a stolen micro floppy disc. This is no minor task, for the disc is only one square centimeter in size and contains complete classified scholastic and personal data on all of CLAMP Academy's 10,000 students! The security at the Academy is first-rate, especially in the Chairman's office, so only someone from inside could have stolen the floppy. After a thorough investigation, including a sting operation, the boys finally discover the disc was stolen accidentally by a bird. In the end, we learn this case was opened so the Chairman might test the Detectives' abilities as much as it was out of any real need to find the floppy. The Chairman plays a part in several other investigations as well, though the boys (and audience) are never completely sure of her motives. Fans of Animerica Extra's X/1999 might have some insight as to why the Chairman is constantly pushing the boys to challenge and expand their already remarkable talents.

These two cases offer a good sample of the mysteries the Detectives must unravel. In typical CLAMP fashion, the stories vary in seriousness, from investigating the art museum's ghost to kidnaping. The comic only ran for three volumes, so there weren't enough stories to fill a twenty six episode TV show. This meant Bandai Visual, the TV production company, had to come up with new stories to fit into the CLAMP Academy world. They did an excellent job of it, matching the new stories to the light-hearted spirit of the comic and bringing to life the dramatic beauty of CLAMP's art. They also drew on other titles which take place in the CLAMP Academy universe and elaborated on Suoh and Akira's love interests.

WHAT? Preteens with love interests!?

Remember, the characters in this story are all exceptional, with skills and knowledge beyond their years, so it's not surprising if they act beyond their years romantically, as well. Also, despite the age of its heroes, CLAMP School was published in Asuka Comics, a manga anthology aimed at teenaged girls, not preteens. Besides, it's fiction! The romance in CLAMP School is as sweet and delightful as the characters.

Suoh comes from a long line of elite ninja. Because of his traditional Japanese upbringing, Suoh is very solemn and industrious, and classic Japanese attributes suit him well. In Suoh's case, his romance begins like an enchantment, for he becomes obsessed to distraction by the haunting melody of a Japanese flute and the mysterious, elusive girl in a kimono who plays it. Being the mischievous sort, Nokoru learns the identity of the flautist and arranges for Suoh to meet her, with the help of the Kindergarten Division student president, Ms. Okawa (long o). The delicate, demure Nagisa Azuya is a quintessential Japanese maiden and can't help but fall for the brave and serious Suoh, especially after he saves her life.

Like Suoh and Nokoru, Akira also has an auspicious ancestry. His father is a world renowned thief and chef, but Akira's never actually met him. Instead, Akira was raised by his mothers (yes, he has two), so he's predisposed to strong, determined women. He also has a secret identity -as the thief 20 Masks, Akira steals things to make his mothers happy. This is how he met the talented and capable Ms. Utako Okawa (long o). While hiding from a chase, Akira ended up in Utako's spacious bedroom. Having recently been rejected by the teacher she was infatuated with (she didn't think the seventeen year age difference should matter), Utako demanded her unwanted guest's company as retribution for his intrusion. Akira's sweet charm and sincerity quickly put Utako at ease and even cheered her up. Utako is an astute young woman who knows what she wants, and it didn't take long for her to decide she wanted Akira. The pair of CLAMP School episodes involving 20 Masks recaps the tale of their first meeting and their continuing romance. After this point, both Utako and Nagisa have reoccurring minor roles in the series, unlike the comic.

What about Nokoru? Well, it wouldn't be any fun if all three of them were attached! You have to give the guest characters someone to fixate on. Besides, Nokoru feels his obligations and duties too strongly to devote himself to any one lady, unless perhaps it's his mother. Many of you have probably noticed that Nokoru's last name and that of the financial organization which created the CLAMP Academy are one and the same. Nokoru is the youngest member of the wildly wealthy Imonoyama family, and his mother is the Academy Chairman. Any chapter or episode with the Chairman in it will show the apple doesn't fall far from the tree -both Nokoru and the Chairman have an uncommon affinity for folding fans, eccentricity, and fun.

Actually, fun is a word which pretty much encapsulates both the CLAMP School comics and TV show. This series is not an epic drama or a life and limb quest, it's a capricious romp through the CLAMP Academy with three charming characters as tour guides. Although a couple of the extra stories in the TV series are fairly serious, most of the CLAMP Academy Detectives' cases are humanistic, feel-good stories with comedic, clever or ironic twists to keep the audience engaged. CLAMP School is certainly not for everyone. It's aimed squarely at a young, female audience, but young ladies and CLAMP fans are not the only ones who can enjoy this precocious series. After all, the TV show was given a PG-13 rating in the US because of all the action. The original comics were published between 1992 and 1993, then rereleased in 1997 to coincide with the airing of the TV show. Anime Village has since produced English videos of all twenty six episodes, spread out over eight volumes, but so far only subtitled versions are available. There are currently no plans to release CLAMP School on DVD in the US or Japan. Maybe one day, with the ever increasing popularity of CLAMP's work in the US, the entertaining adventures of the CLAMP Academy Detectives will be made available for English readers. Characters this cute deserve a little more recognition!

 

SIDEBAR

CLAMP Cameos
(To go with pictures of the boys, then and now, and perhaps a shot or two of CLAMP Academy)
Never seen The CLAMP School, yet these boys seem familiar to you? If you follow CLAMP's X/1999 in Animerica Extra, you've probably seen Nokoru, Suoh and Akira in recent chapters. CLAMP seems to enjoy connecting different stories together, and in X/1999, our loyal trio have grown up to become executives of the CLAMP Academy, which plays a significant role in the plot. Finally the relevance of the Academy's odd pentagram-in-circle layout is revealed, for they have pledged to protect ‘the sacred sword' within its center until ‘the day that is to come'. Naturally, they help Kamui and are especially kind to the traumatized Kotori.

(To go with pictures of Duklyon team in and out of uniform)
Hard core CLAMP fans know that the sentai team (super-hero teams like Power Rangers) which had a couple cameos in the TV series are actually the Gakuen Tokukei Duklyon (School Police Duklyon). CLAMP Academy students Kentaro (long o) Higashikunimaru, Takeshi Shukaido (long u, long o), and Chusonji Erii make up the team, and their boss is none other than Nokoru Imonoyama. The comedic School Police Duklyon have their own, two book series inspired by the 1980's video Gakuen Tokukei Hikaluon (Campus Special Police Hikaluon) and sentai shows in general.

(To go with pictures of Akira as himself and 20 Masks, preferably from the original comic)
Akira's secret identity, the thief named 20 Masks, also makes an appearance in The CLAMP School TV series. 20 Menso (long o) ni Onegai!! (Please, 20 Masks!!) is a romantic, two book series revolving around the charming exploits of this talented young thief and predates both School Police Duklyon and The CLAMP School.

(To go with a picture of panel 2, page 29, book 2)
Hey, doesn't she look familiar? But how could the klutzy heroine of Sailor Moon make it into the prestigious CLAMP Academy? This Usagi (Bunny) look alike is one of the members of the Elementary Art Club and does not make an appearance in the TV version of that story.

 

CHARACTER PROFILES
Nokoru Imonoyama
Fan toting founder of the CLAMP Academy Detectives, sixth grade Nokoru -his name means ‘left over'- is the youngest son of the financial titan Imonoyama Group and the student president of the CLAMP Academy Elementary Division. Besides being incredibly smart and a born executive, he has a photographic memory and tons of charm ...but he is also a bit of a klutz. His high-profile identity makes him a prime target for abduction, and he has previously avoided becoming too close to others for fear of their safety. Nokoru likes to escape his mounds of administrative paperwork and can't stand to see a lady in tears. These are the main influences behind the Detectives.

Suoh Takamura
Student secretary of the CLAMP Academy Elementary Division, fifth grade Suoh -whose name means ‘reviving fragrance'- must often lean on the easily distracted Nokoru to get his paperwork done. Suoh's calm, cool exterior hides his fierce loyalty toward Nokoru. The Takamuras are an ancient clan of elite ninja, and in the family tradition, Suoh has chosen one special person to work for and protect: Nokoru. Suoh's exceptional athletic and martial skills come into play more than once in the course of the series.

Akira Ijyuin (long u)
Sweet as the confections he bakes, fourth grade Akira -whose name means ‘sound of jewels'- is the student treasurer of the CLAMP Academy Elementary Division. This is ironic because Akira's hidden identity is that of the thief 20 Masks! Besides the physical and mental acuity required to be a master thief, Akira is also a world class chef. According to his two mothers, Akira's talents come from his absent father, who is a genius chef and thief.

Chairman of CLAMP Academy
This mysterious, kimono-clad lady is even more eccentric than her son, Nokoru. Like her face, which is always hidden behind a folding fan, the Chairman's motives are never completely clear. She seems to enjoy testing the Detectives' abilities.

Ms. Utako Okawa (long o)
Student president of the CLAMP Academy Kindergarten Division, Ms. Okawa is a demanding, shrewd young woman who knows a good thing when she sees one, and she has her sights on Akira. Ms. Okawa demonstrates that being a romantic and an independent, capable modern woman (well, okay, girl) are not mutually exclusive.

Nagisa Azuya
Nagisa's mother is a famous traditional Japanese dancer, and her father plays music for Japanese royalty. With parents like those, it's no surprise Nagisa's brimming with classic Japanese cultural knowledge and talent. This refined and reticent kindergartner is already a highly skilled flautist.

The CLAMP Academy
The Academy has almost as much charm and character as any cast member. This huge, beautiful campus is designed to be it's own, high-tech city and is home to 10,000 of Japan's brightest students. Renowned for its academic excellence, the Academy also goes all out for festivals and other events. It's little wonder young girls in Japan dream of attending this fictitious institution. The odd layout of CLAMP Academy is never discussed in the series, but the significance of this design is revealed in CLAMP's dramatic comic series, X/1999, published in Animerica Extra.

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