by Emily Snodgrass
Magic. Adventure. The Fate of the world. These are themes of most of the manga stories by the talented quartet of manga writers and artists known as CLAMP. For the last ten years, the foursome of Mokona Apapa, Mick Nekoi, Satsuki Igarashi, and Nanase Ohkawa have been thrilling manga-reading audiences with such fantastic stories as Magic Knight Rayearth, X, RG Veda, Card Captor Sakura, Wish, and Tokyo Babylon. Their art style is known for large eyes, incredibly detailed backgrounds, sweeping fight scenes, fantastic costume design, and plenty screentone shading. However lately CLAMP has begun to experiment with different styles of art in storytelling. Beginning with the cyberpunk setting of Clover with its stark black and white shading and use of whitespace, and continuing with a simplistic look in their first shounen series, Angelic Layer, CLAMP is departing from the style of their earlier works.
Now with Suki, Dakara Suki, CLAMP ventures forth once again in a completely different direction. To those of you looking for flashy two-page spreads depicting fight scenes, or cute talking creatures like Mokona or Kero-chan, you may be in for a surprise. Suki. Dakara Suki has a look unlike any previous CLAMP series. In fact, if you did not know the manga was by CLAMP, you may not recognize it as their work from the artwork alone. The characters lack the large eyes and pointy eyelashes seen in Rayearth or X, the background artwork is very minimal, there are no two-page spreads showing flashy action, and the clothing everyone wears is very.... normal. Mick Nekoi, the artist responsible for the artwork in Card Captor Sakura draws Suki, Dakara Suki, however the style and tone in this series is not similar in the least. As I read this manga, there was an initial sense of strangeness, but soon I could care less about the art and was drawn in by the story. Take this reviewer's word for it, it's a great story, one you should definitely not pass up.
Suki, Dakara Suki is about a school girl named Hinata Asahi. Called 'Hina' by her friends, she is an extremely cheerful and innocent girl. Her cheerfulness is rather surprising, considering that she lives by herself with no one but two teddy bears (named Tono and Waka) to keep her company. Hina treats the two bears like family, and talks to them as if they were real people. On a snowy night Hina has a rather undignified first meeting with her new neighbor. As she was climbing down a snow-covered tree, she slips and falls right on top of him. Fortunately he does not appear to be angry, so Hina goes ahead and introduces herself. However he leaves before she can get his name. All Hina is left with is the impression of his warm hand from when he helped her up. Already Hina decides she likes him.
The next day at school, a new teacher greets Hina's class. Their new teacher is none other than the new neighbor Hina met the night before! His name is Shirou Asou, and he will be teaching Hina's class for a while. Hina is absolutely ecstatic at meeting her neighbor again. Asou-sensei is a real calm sort of guy. A bit of a stick in the mud. When Hina makes friends with him (and she is very determined to be his friend), she brightens up his life considerably. Asou's demeanor is still serious, but he seems to like being around Hina's bouncy personality. They contrast in character in a similar way as Kouhaku and Seiichirou do in CLAMP's WISH manga. (But without the wings :) Because they are neighbors, Hina and Asou-sensei have plenty of opportunities to meet. They walk home from school together, and sometimes Hina will even cook dinner for him. It is difficult for Asou-sensei to resist the tide of Hina's cheerfulness. Every time they meet, Hina finds that she likes him more and more.
However not everything is smooth sailing for Hina and her new friend. One of Hina's classmates takes an instant dislike to Asou-sensei, and is very worried about Hina's interaction with him. Also, throw in a mysterious colleague of Asou-sensei, a man named Tomoaki, who Asou-sensei claims is not a friend at all. Tomoaki, interestingly enough, likes to write hentai fiction on his laptop computer. Exactly who Tomoaki is, and the nature of his relationship with Asou-sensei is unknown.
Just how far will Hina and Asou-sensei's relationship go? Given their age differences it would seem not far, but considering CLAMP's previous habit of including some sort of student-teacher relationship in their stories, (see Card Captor Sakura) you never can tell. Suki, Dakara Suki runs in Asuka Mystery DX, a monthly comic magazine featuring stories with magical and/or mysterious plot elements. Because it runs in this monthly, it makes me wonder if some sort of serious or magical plot twist will be coming. Already there has been some groundwork for a mystery developing- namely the impression that Asou-sensei is not normally a teacher at all. His dealings with Tomoaki are very suspicious. Asou-sensei's interest in Hina may not be based on mere friendship after all...
There is only one collected Tankoubon volume of this so far, published in June of 1999. I can't wait for the next one!