With CLAMP, it’s not a matter of if, but when you’re going to be trolled.
Gate 7 leaves the crossovers and multi-universe jumping of Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle behind to bring us to the historical city of Kyoto, home of Japan’s imperial past and the ghosts it left behind. Except, since it’s CLAMP at the helm, why stop at ghosts when you can have these same characters show up in newly formed incarnations of themselves?
As other reviewers have mentioned, Gate 7 presumes that you, the reader, are generally familiar with the history of Japan’s Warring States (Sengoku) period, but just in case, it recaps with enough information to make sure you keep up. If you’ve watched Sengoku Basara, or Tono to Issho, or Brave 10, a lot of the names will sound familiar to you. Masamune DATE, Hidetsugu TOYOTOMI, Yukimura SANADA and his brave warriors all show up in Gate 7, although not all in forms that you’d recognize without a little bit of prodding.
I confess that I’m not very well versed with this segment of Japanese history, so I do appreciate the thorough translation and notes by Dark Horse. While knowledge of the Sengoku characters does enrich one’s understanding through familiarizing oneself with their back stories, the story moving forward doesn’t need you to be a Japanese history scholar to understand. Gate 7 is a shounen manga at its core, with some of the fights taking enough pages as some of the expository sections. I feel that CLAMP’s work in Tsubasa has helped them hone their fighting scenes; this time around, I feel like I actually know what’s going on.
As someone who’s read enough of their works to be familiar with CLAMP’s sometimes quirky sense of humor, I don’t mind that they exaggerate certain personality traits for comedic effect. But when they repeat the gag too much, it gets tiring. Date, for example, is an fifth-grade school boy who’s in love with the warrior Hana. Date wants to be Hana’s protector and so if there’s anybody who dares to harm Hana, Date leaps into action! But when all that Date can do is fawn over Hana and their future wedding, and how much he loves her, it makes me lose my respect for the character. I know he’s supposed to be a kid, but please, fifth-graders show more dignity than that.
As you may have noticed in the previous paragraph, I am trying so much to avoid using a gendered pronoun to refer to Hana… Which is another thing that bugs me about CLAMP, and with Gate 7 specifically. Hana’s gender remains a mystery, like the angels and demons in their previous manga Wish. Maybe there’s an actual reason why they don’t want to reveal the gender at this point, or maybe they just are being CLAMP, as usual. They’re teasing us — Hana kisses Chikahito, so isn’t it cute if Hana turns out to be not what Chikahito or the reader thinks Hana is, that is, female? How un-heteronormative of CLAMP!
Again, maybe it’s a function of age and cynicism, but really, who cares what Hana is. So, a boy kisses another boy. Pffft. CLAMP enjoys titillation for mere effect, and has for years. Ladies, after Tokyo Babylon, X, Card Captor Sakura, we’re no longer surprised when you draw boys kissing or being in love with other boys. We actually have come to expect that from you. I have a feeling that more people would be aggrieved if it is revealed that Hana is, in fact, a girl.
I may have mentioned elsewhere that I have this weird devotion to CLAMP, so even if I say that I think their work has gotten more annoying over the years, I’ll still probably give it a look to see for myself just how bad it’s been.