CLAMP fans have been very grateful for Dark Horse’s work for the past few years because since 2009 Dark Horse has been hard at work, not only rescuing a bunch of old licenses but also re-releasing them in delightful omnibus editions. These editions have included new translations that are truer to the original Japanese text, with beautiful colour pages. Many volumes have been collected into omnibus editions, with longer series such as Chobits needing several books but others such as Clover all being squished into one. This has made being a CLAMP fan in modern times much more feasible, especially since the manga creators just love to crossover all their works together, so keeping track of what series connects to what and knowing which series have finished is now a fun collector’s task rather than a headache. Wish is the latest of CLAMP’s series to be given the same treatment, however the road has been a bit rocky with this release as it was originally given an August 2017 release date, and not seeing a proper release until February 2019. So, has the wait been worth it? Or was it an omen of a terrible series that really didn’t need to be re-released?
Shuichiro is a doctor who, late one night on the way back from surgery, happens to rescue a small angel being attacked by a crow. The angel, named Kohaku, wants to pay for Shuichiro’s kindness with a wish – anything he desires. But Shuichiro doesn’t need anything; he’s happy with this lot and therefore doesn’t need anything granted. Kohaku, not able to let the good deed go unrewarded, decides to stay with Shuichiro until they are able to find a wish to grant his rescuer. Not long after though, many other angels and demons come knocking on Shuichiro’s door and his house becomes full of supernatural chaos.
CLAMP have been in the business for over two decades now, and have nearly 30 works under their belt with many of them being critical darlings, fan favourites, or even considered genre-staples. However Wish, originally released in 1996, is not one of their most notable works. Despite being a crossover with later works Kobato (2005) and Drug & Drop (2011)outside of a CLAMP in Wonderland moment, the series has never received an OVA or anime adaptation of its characters, and due to its short run, it’s often forgotten about, compared with other long-running series such as X/1999 or Cardcaptor Sakura. But is it just a victim of being lost in a pile of so many CLAMP manga to choose from? Or does this say something about its quality? Well, to put it mildly, if you’ve read enough CLAMP manga then you’ll have read/experienced 90% of what Wish’s story has to offer. You have the gorgeous art, the star-crossed lovers, a character trying to understand the meaning of why their heart ‘hurts’, complete with a recurring sentence motif à la Chobits (in this series it’s ‘wishes that can’t be fulfilled by oneself’) and there’s a twist towards the end that is nicely foreshadowed but still gut-punches the reader when it happens. So, if you’ve never read this series and were hoping for something where CLAMP goes completely out of their comfort zone, you definitely won’t find it here. On the other hand, in the series’ favour, it’s very much a complete story at just 4 volumes (which you can’t say for all of CLAMP’s work) and its ties with Kobato and Drug & Drop only enhance the enjoyment of the series and are not a detriment to it. The story itself is also a very easy-breezy read, with a slice-of-life vibe to it, even though the series has angels and demons running around in Shuichiro’s home and causing chaos. Because the plot is always driven by Shuichiro’s eventual wish, the angels vs. demons bits are mostly relegated to the sidelines with no greater, more pressing conflict hanging over as it’s an on-going daily routine, nothing apocalyptic.
The two leads, Shuichiro and Kohaku, are polar opposites with the former being a stoic, straight-faced doctor and the latter an air-headed angel who babbles a lot. Kohaku gets the most development and page time due to their nature of running around, trying to help Shuichiro only to cause trouble, but also because their conflict ties with the world-building of the angels, how they operate and their conflict with the forces of Hell. As a result, we get a much deeper look into the Heaven side of things and not much in Hell, which is a shame; regardless, the main pair are cute to read about and their relationship develops nicely across the short run. It helps that even though they’re an example of ‘opposites attract’ it’s of a different sort. Shuichiro reacts in a very indifferent way to his wacky surroundings but he’s always precise with his words and is kind to Kohaku and defends them when other forces will not. It’s also very telling how CLAMP give one of their most unemotional characters a lot of emotion via his face and body, even when he’s not saying anything. Kohaku as well is as pure-hearted as they come, and, yes, there’s plenty of comic relief coming from their own actions, but it never goes to silly extremes or builds to the point where you wonder why anyone puts up with or could love them. Outside of the main couple ,we also have an angel and demon pairing joining the household via Hisui and Kokuyo, who are a nice example of CLAMP providing a long-term, happy couple and being very clear that the pair are sexually active. We don’t see any of it (obviously) but they’re certainly not shy about what is going on between them, which is a contrast to most of CLAMP’s pairings where the mangaka team doesn’t have them go much further than a quick peck on the cheek.
If you’ve collected the original Tokyopop volumes of this series (which have long since gone out of print) then you may be wondering how the translation has been handled. In the original Japanese language, the angels are all genderless, but when Wish came to the West they were given ‘she/her’ pronouns, something that Tokyopop also did with RG Veda with the genderless character Ashura (given ‘he/him’ pronouns instead). Nowadays with genderfluidity and non-binary being a much more open subject than it was back in the early to mid-2000s, this practise of changing a character’s gender identity would not be acceptable – so how did Dark Horse perform? Well, it should be noted that this Wish omnibus isn’t a fully 100% retranslation. If you look at the scans of the first few pages, compared to the original Tokyopop scans on Amazon, you’ll see that 90% of the text is similar. Except for the gender-nature of the angels. Aside from one instance in the first volume (which I’m sure was a mistake, considering it doesn’t happen again) all the genderless angels are either called by their names or a collective ‘it/them/they’. This makes the book overall a much more faithful translation of the original. It would have been nice to get a fully new translation of the text, considering how long we had to wait for this omnibus, but fixing this main problem from the original books is most welcome.
Wish isn’t a series that’s likely to become your new favourite CLAMP manga but it’s a delightfully simple, fun, beautifully drawn series that easily pulls you into its story with likable characters and genuine relationship chemistry between friends and lovers alike. It took a long while to come out but now can sit proudly next to the rest of Dark Horse’s CLAMP collection.