Publisher: Viz Media
Volume: Volume 2 (contains volumes 4-6), $19.99
Vintage: 1993-1994 by Kadokawa Shoten in Japan, then in 2003 by Viz Media, current version in April 2012 by Viz Media
Genre: Fantasy, drama
OK gang, I’m forgoing this month’s Previews manga highlights, because I am way behind on my manga reviews. I have a huge stack of books I need to get through. If you would like some recommendations from this month’s catalog, I can certainly give them to you. Or if you’re interested in what I’m ordering myself, again, I don’t mind sharing that. Just let me know. But these manga ain’t gonna review themselves.
The pieces start to fall into place this volume. Kamui, who has been gone from Tokyo for six years, has at last returned, but he’s not the person his childhood friends Fuma and Kotori remember. And he’s brought plenty of trouble with him. In volume one, Fuma and Kotori’s father died trying to protect the Sacred Sword, and Kamui’s aunt Tokiko disappeared. Kotori started having nightmares about the end of the world and her own death, while Kamui had similar nightmares revolving around his own involvement in Earth’s destruction and Kotori’s death. Kamui was approached by a young priest named Sorata Arisugawa, who claimed to be one of the Seven Seals, one of Seven Dragons meant to protect the world from destruction. They were eventually joined by another Seal, Arashi Kishu. Kamui, whose dreams have been intruded upon by a Dream Seer named Hinoto, is confused about his destiny and worried about what it means for the safety of Fuma and Kotori. Hoping to get some answers, he tags along with Sorata and Arashi. Sorata tells him about the Magami clan, the family Kamui’s mother belonged to, and how each member of the family has served as a shadow sacrifice for someone of importance, including Kamui’s mother. Convinced that the “Dreaming Princess” has the rest of the answers, Sorata convinces Arashi to take them to see Hinoto under the Diet buiding. Kamui recognizes Hinoto from his dreams and attempts to attack her, but is held back by Sorata as Hinoto begs him to save the world. Hinoto takes Kamui into a vision to show him the fate of the world and his destiny. The Tokyo in the vision has been completely destroyed by the Dragons of Earth, and Hinoto tells Kamui that only his intervention and the Seven Seals can stop this event from occurring. During the vision, they are interrupted by another Dream Seer named Kanoe, who is allied with the Dragons of Earth. She informs Kamui that he has a choice to become either one of the Dragons of Heaven or a Dragon of Earth. Infuriated that Hinoto hid the truth from him, Kamui advances on the blind woman, but it interrupted by the powerful wind master he faced before, Daisuke. Before they can begin to battle, however, a dog spirit appears, signaling the appearance of another of the Seven Seals, a young girl named Yuzuriha Nekoi.
As an irritated Kamui begins to leave and turn his back on the entire business, the entire group is transported into a powerful illusion created by one of the Dragons of Earth. The Seals leap into action and show off their powers until Kamui finally breaks the Seal, which reveals the source of the illusion – the Sakurazukamori (the Guardian of the Cherry Blossom Barrow). Hinoto pleads with Kamui once more to save the world, but he walks out without making a decision. Kamui journeys to the ruins of his childhood home to think things over, but runs into Kotori there. Overwhelmed by memories of their past, Kamui realizes that he wants nothing more than to protect Kotori. Meanwhile, Sorata and Arashi watch from nearby, and Sorata explains why Arashi is “the one” – the girl he’ll fall in love with and give his life for. As they ponder where they might find the next Seal, they realize a pattern among the three known Seals – they’re all affiliated with religious houses and shrines – and deduce that the other Seals might be as well. Before they even begin their search, one of the Seals – Karen Kasumi – makes herself known, and claims to know what happened to Tokiko.
While Kamui slowly begins to form his decision, based on his desire to change Kotori’s dark fate, he is attacked by a Dragon of Earth, the Guardian of the Cherry Blossom Barrow, Seishiro Sakurazuka. Seishiro launches an all out attack to test Kamui’s strength, but it’s all Kamui can do to protect Kotori. However, when the battle takes a bad turn, Fuma suddenly appears, walking right into Seishiro’s illusion and dispelling his attack. Realizing that the new Dragon of Earth is a member of the Sakurazukamori Clan, Sorata and Arashi decide the next Seal must be a member of the Sumeragi Clan, and set out to track him down. Back at Kotori and Fuma’s house, Kamui laments dragging his two dear friends into his troubles, not realizing that they’ve been tied to his fate since the beginning. Which becomes more apparent as Kotori dreams of Kamui’s dual sides, and Fuma begins acting strange, as if possessed by another entity. Once more, a cold-eyed Fuma tries to reveal his true purpose to Kamui, but the real Fuma snaps out of his trance before he can say the words that have been hovering on the edge of things this entire volume. That’s when Tokiko reappears, bloody and barely alive, and reveals the true fate of Fuma and Kotori’s mother, as well as her own – to birth the Sacred Sword, of which there are two.
CLAMP is such a tease in these volumes of X. They drop hint after hint that something is up between Fuma and Kamui, but they never come out and just say it. If you’ve seen the anime, it will be obvious where things are heading, and maybe you’ll still pick up on it otherwise. They’re not exactly subtle about it. In fact, they kind of beat you over the head with it. The fates of Kamui and Fuma are twinned together, there are two Sacred Swords, and there are Seven Dragons of Heaven and Seven Dragons of Earth…but only one Kamui. Just put the pieces together, and you’ve got more tragedy than a Shakespeare play. Never mind everyone’s mothers and aunts dying to protect them, or the cheerful Sorata who resolutely accepts that he will die for the woman he loves. Or poor Kotori, who is caught in the middle of things and whose fate seems to stay the same no matter the choice Kamui will make. CLAMP knows how to reach into your chest, pull out your heart, and stomp all over it. Then put it back and give you lots of happy, fluffy feelings, then stomp all over it again. Horrific tragedies and cutesy love stories bounce back and forth across the pages of X, lifting you up one minute, and tearing you down the next. The girls of CLAMP are master storytellers, and X is one of their masterpieces. It’s also gorgeously drawn, though admittedly the heavier action sequences can become confusing. So can keeping everyone straight at times, but Viz has helpfully provided a character bio section at the back of the book. As well as translation notes. And notes from CLAMP on each of the main color illustrations that appear in the book. Because the X omnibus books are filled with some beautiful, shiny color pages (this one has about 24). If you’re not reading X, you really should be, and if you’ve never read CLAMP before, now is the perfect time to check them out.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.