Making Sense of Miyuki-chan in Wonderland

I don’t know why being a CLAMP fan seemed like such a big deal back in the early 2000s. It seemed that every anime/manga fan that I knew — in real life and through the internet — was extremely familiar with CLAMP and their oeuvre, and I was the last remaining newbie left. How did you all find out about CLAMP anyway?

So I guess there was a certain point when I felt that I needed to catch up, and luckily for me, Tokyopop saw that they had an easy cash cow in CLAMP, and licensed everything they could get their hands on, excepting, of course, whatever Viz and Del Rey had already called dibs on. They had the big guns in Tokyo Babylon, Card Captor Sakura, Rayearth, and Chobits…and then they had the rest of the stuff that only the loyal and the hardcore would buy.

…Titles such as Miyuki-chan in Wonderland, which I found and bought for US$ 3.00 at comics warehouse sale in Brooklyn. I actually think I still may have overpaid for it.

I love how CLAMP explains that Miyuki-chan was created “to showcase [their] sexy female character designs.” I’m no apologist, but yes, the female character designs in this work are strikingly beautiful. It seems that they took more effort back then to create unique looks for nameless female characters than they did for all of the Tsubasa and Kobato manga. It’s seems that you can’t win with them; either you get great art and a flimsy story, or lackluster art with a complex plot. And in the one instance where you seem to get both (that is, X), of course they leave it unfinished.

I’m actually not a disgruntled or dissatisfied fan; on the contrary, I think only somebody who’s extremely devoted to their work would bother writing hundreds or thousands of words discussing their works. Yet even the biggest fan deserves to be critical; it’s through the lens of criticism that one is able to quantify the strengths and relative weaknesses of a work.

In the seven worlds that Miyuki finds herself trapped in, CLAMP seems to be having a gleeful time torturing her. Each time, Miyuki is sucked into an unfamiliar milieu, but always ends up in the same predicament: being molested and groped by beautiful women. Miyuki always reacts in shock and runs away, although you’d think by the third or fourth time she’d figure out the routine and just enjoy.

Are the various worlds manifestations of Miyuki’s psyche? In each occasion, she’s always either waking up or falling asleep, therefore it could be presumed that each world is her subconscious fantasy or dream. Miyuki may actually want to be in these dreamscapes, but there is still a part of her that will not let herself indulge or let go, hence the covering herself and running away, which are only temporary solutions, since she finds herself ‘trapped’ in the world and ‘doomed’ to repeat it endlessly. Is Miyuki the universal stand-in for shame and repression of desire?

There are several instances where it seems as if Miyuki does actually want to participate in the events of the world. In Looking Glass Land, she admits that she’s “never been turned on by chess pieces before.”  Additionally, in TV Land, she’s conscious that her school uniform may not be formal enough to meet the empress. Even though she wants to escape the world, she is aware of the attractiveness and physicality of the women, and is even concerned about her own presentation in these worlds.

Yet, it all goes back to how Miyuki thinks the rest of the world will perceive her. If she participates in her fantasies, “if the neighborhood finds out she plays strip mahjong,” she will no longer be innocent and possibly not get a boyfriend because of her reputation. If that isn’t slut-shaming, then I don’t know what is.

With this, I’m another step closer to reading all of the CLAMP titles available in English.

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7 thoughts on “Making Sense of Miyuki-chan in Wonderland

  1. wow… you’ve gained some momentum and nothing seems to stop you, hehe! I want to finish my own tribute to their works, but I want to watch the series that have been adapted, too. And this will take more than awhile.

    Miyuki-chan is a pretty and supposedly funny work. And that’s it. But it’s fine with me apart from these slut-shaming moments you mention. And you’ll find them in other works as well. For the writers of CCS that are said to support all forms of love I find CLAMP quite anti-lgbt ; just consider how many healthy and happy homoerotic relationships they have… I’ve written more here, if you’re interested http://kitsunetoneko.blogspot.gr/2012/07/retrospect-on-clamp-in-good-and-bad.html

    >In Looking Glass Land, she admits that she’s “never been turned on by chess pieces before.”
    Oh, I don ‘t remember this. I should reread it :/

    > Additionally, in TV Land, she’s conscious that her school uniform may not be formal enough to meet the empress.
    I believe it’s mostly her wish to not go beyond societal expectations than anything else.

    > It seems that they took more effort back then to create unique looks for nameless female characters than they did for all of the Tsubasa and Kobato manga.
    Well, the magazine they were published into differed and the intentions of Tsubasa and Miyuki are not alike at all. Kobato had it’s share of new pretty characters, but their personality is debateable. Mostly though, you are right it’s either art or story.

    • For the writers of CCS that are said to support all forms of love I find CLAMP quite anti-lgbt

      I remember reading your entry a while back, so I do agree that CLAMP doesn’t have a lot of healthy LGBT character relationships, how most of them are dysfunctional. It is too bad that there are few mainstream manga creators (who have published as widely as they have) who openly tout or celebrate relationships of all types, so it’s been left to CLAMP to take care of it.

    • Ha, thanks!

      I’m actually relieved that the term ‘slut-shaming’ exists — if I had read this when it was published in English (2003), I don’t think I would’ve been able to know how to define it.

  2. Oh wow, Miyuki-chan – one of the very few titles I have never actually read. Back in the day I just couldn’t figure out what the heck it was supposed to be about and ended up not buying it. Seems like I was not alone.

    Moreover, I love how you remarked how X never got finished. I thought people have completely forgotten about it by now, but the 18 nicely matching X volumes in my bookshelf make the completionist in me very, very sad.

    • I didn’t want to buy Miyuki-chan when it first came out because -I- didn’t think it was worth it. But I think most CLAMP people have a completionist streak, so when I did see it selling for cheap, I bought it merely to have it.

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