Clover, an early, unfinished work by Japan's manga supergroup CLAMP, is a work that deserves more attention. This is a work that is both visually intriguing and emotionally explosive, both simple and complex. Combining dystopian and steampunk elements with a few love stories, this work would appeal to teen and adult readers alike.
At the center of Clover is the character Sue, a young girl who has been isolated for her entire life and who mysteriously needs protecting by the retired agent Kazuhiko, a character we assume is the protagonist. As we follow Kazuhiko as he escorts Sue to a destination that even she does not know, we discover other mysteries behind Sue's abilities, the history of the people around them, and the mystery of Sue herself. What is a Clover? Why has Sue been isolated? Where will their journey take them? These mysteries alone would captivate any reader. But the more involved the story becomes, the more it becomes clear that the depth of the story lies not in mystery, but in characters: in their emotions and in their isolation.
It is essential to point out that Clover is not about Sue alone. The cover (and most descriptions) of Clover focuses solely on Sue and Kazuhiko; however, Sue's story is only the first part of the story. The stories of many other characters are explored, including that of Kazuhiko's girlfriend Ora, a beautiful singer who died too young, and that of Ran, a mysterious young man who can literally transport people to different places with his mind.
One particular point of the work that I greatly enjoyed was the exploration of the character Ora. This is a character that in most shojo manga would be a near-villain; she is Kazuhiko's dead girlfriend, someone who is beautiful enough to seem perfect, and seems an obvious target to create conflict and jealousy between Sue and Kauhiko. In Clover, however, this is a character who symbolizes hope. She goes beyond the evil ex-girlfriend stereotype and becomes something truly original.
The fact that this story was never completed, and that it purportedly needs two more volumes to conclude the story, is evident in the unfinished feel of the end of the book. But this truly makes no difference when it comes to the impact of the work. The emotion and isolation of the work are expertly expressed by the art style of Clover. The style, somewhat different than many of CLAMP's other works, is at once detailed and sparse. This perfectly reflects the complexity of the emotions, as well as the isolation in which the emotions are felt. Any page that you open in Clover seems a beautiful black and white work of art; the color images interposed throughout are almost unnecessary.
Overall, this is a work that I would highly recommend to older teens and adults. Some of the sexual content may be a bit too mature for younger teens; however, older teens will surely be drawn to the emotional rawness of the work and its near-steampunk art style.
-- Kyla Hunt