Kazuhiko is a young, but already deeply wounded black ops agent of a baroque, retro-tech future - pulled out of retirement to escort Sue, a mysterious waif, to a destination she alone knows. Suu and Kazuhiko have never met . . . yet she knows him, having grown up since the age of four with her only human contact being two distant voices: that of her elderly "grandma," General Ko, and of Kazuhiko's dead girlfriend, Oruha. And Suu has been kept in that cage all these years because of what she is, and what the Clover Leaf Project found her to be -- a military top secret, and the most dangerous person in the world.
Clover was first published in English by Tokyopop as individual volumes from May 15, 2001 to March 20, 2002. After Tokyopop became defunct, the license was taken over by Dark Horse, who published the title complete in one omnibus volume on May 13, 2009, as well as digitally on May 21, 2014.
It holds a special place in my heart, being a big vinatge CLAMP fan. Though technically an unfinished work (CLAMP claims that two further volumes were planned to complete the story) I personally hope they never complete the story. There's something about the jumps in time and the incomplete nature of the 4 volumes available that I prefer to think of it as a completed whole. It just works; and this is why Clover has recently been re-released in Omnibus form by Dark Horse.
Concerning art and pacing, Clover is one of the most beautiful manga I have ever
seen. The artwork is minimalist, relying on stark blacks and whites and expressive lines. The style is leaning towards a mechanical, futuristic feel rather than a lush fantasy setting, but sometimes combining both. In this world, the mechanics are as beautiful as Suu's garden prison. CLAMP has managed to merge storytelling, art, paneling and characters into one seamless whole. Every panel is placed with care, negative space is a part of the telling and the dialogue is there seemingly because it must be. Clover is a manga where the telling ofl the story is every bit as beautiful and important as the story itself. I think of it as something of a poem.
Style over substance?
Well...yes. Clover does suffer in that aspect. It's not the most original, life-changing story ever and the characters, while touchingly sweet and poignant, are not that deep. Is this a bad thing? I don't think so. In this case, the characters add to the overall melancholy, fairy-tale like feel of the manga. Now, this is not to say the characters are shallow or stereotypes; rather that being a short manga with a longer story planned to tell, they don't really have a chance to be fully expressed and developed. But what you do see in this short glimpse into the world of Clover, is striking in it's honest simplicity.
Suu has some elements reminiscent of other CLAMP heroines; she is selfless, good and pure. But instead of being upbeat and cheerful, instead she is sad and lonely, resigned to her fate. I love the idea of her character; she is so powerful to the point of rendering her powerless. The government has locked her up because her mere existence is a threat - and she accepts this. Locked up in a gilded cage, she lives a sort of fairytale existence, in a beautiful garden protected by killer robots that look like stuffed animals. She listens to the outside world and in this way hears and then befriends a beautiful singer named Oruha - over the phone. They never actually meet.
Oruha and Kazuhiko are the other two protagonists of the story. I love them because they're some of the few CLAMP couples to have an actual fully fledged, mature love story. No fluff, hints or subtext. They're lovers.
Kazuhiko does not fit into the 'tough guy' or 'young teen' stereotype. He's an ex-military, kind of average guy, brave and level-headed with a heart of gold. Oruha is a mature, intelligent woman, and I consider her one of the most beautiful manga women. She is instantly recognizable, with her mass of black curls, full lips and voluptuous figure. Oruha is kind, brave and proud. In a bit of dramatic irony I appreciate, Suu forms relationships with both Oruha and Kazuhiko, who are lovers, but neither ever know about the other's relationship with our little waif.
All three characters are expressive and you get the feeling there's always something going on beneath the surface. They have pasts, secrets and desires. Not all are fully expressed or explored in the length of the series, but the existence is there.
Where story is concerned, Clover is quite interesting. It starts in the middle, ends, then goes back to the beginning, then the manga ends in a middle before the start of volume one. It's really not as confusing as it sounds and I recommend reading the series the way it was published. It gives it a circular feeling, the story never really ends in my mind, there is no real finality to the events.
All in all, Clover is a story where the telling and the artwork is half the journey. It is a slow-paced glimpse into a strange world and stands out in my mind as an enormously enjoyable work. It is one of my favorite manga. Some call it pretentious; I disagree. CLAMP is a lot of things, but not pretentious. It is CLAMP's venture into something different, a world where characters do not turn into chibis because there is no slapstick (the humour comes from some clever banter between the characters) there are no cutesy animal sidekicks and it's thoughtful, contemplative rather than complex and gimmicky. It is complete in it's incompleteness and I highly recommend it, to any fan of manga, if only to observe the masterful storytelling.
Style over substance is the best way to describe this series.
Stylistically this manga was innovative and artistic - lots of song lyrics positioned to match the mood of the scene, lots of negative space and white backgrounds that created a bleak and somber atmosphere in your mind while reading, and lots of chapters that are 1 or 2 pages long.
All of that is fine and I do have an appreciation for serious/quirky series (I am an Utena fan after all). What turned me off was that the ENTIRE manga was like this - all 4 volumes - with heavy style but very little character, plot,
setting, and art development. I don't like finishing a manga that was meant to be heavily emotional and not caring about anything or anybody.
CLAMP was probably more concerned with making a graphic poem instead of a graphic novel. Clover had an abstract, free-flowing feel to it - like a poem - instead of a start-to-finish story. Time-skips, 1 page chapters, and more song lyrics than actual dialogue.... this was definitely not a conventional story. Some would argue if the series is even finished because the ending was left very open....but you could say that about the whole series, so who knows.
The foundation and potential was there to make this an amazing series. The set up being in a futuristic, dystopian sci-fi world was cool, the Clover Leaf Project idea was cool, all the pretty people with super powers was cool - but all of this was underdeveloped. The art however - when there actually was some - was very pretty and CLAMP-like.
One example is Suu, the main character who is supposed to be very powerful and the most dangerous person in the world. Okay. That 'danger' was never shown or elaborated on and I guess as the reader you are supposed to take CLAMP's word for it. This is how it was for the whole story. How am I to get emotionally invested in a story when there's no initial construction for the characters, plot, and setting? You can't, and I didn't.
Fans of CLAMP will enjoy this series obvious. I would recommend that this NOT be your first CLAMP series because it's so different from their other work and it may turn you off from seeking their other titles.
This wasn't a terrible series.... it's different and I did like it stylistically, I just wish there was a lot more substance.
Hm, where should I start with this review? I remember back in my early days on the Internet, I remember seeing pictures of Sue everywhere. I recognized the art as CLAMP but I wasn’t aware she was from a manga series until I actually started to read about CLAMP. I longed for the day to read it because I really loved their ideas for stories and I wanted to explore what other worlds they have created.
And, honestly, I’m not quite sure what I read. The setting takes place in a retro like world that has steampunk. I suppose that’s interesting in itself – I’m not
that interested in steampunk but hey, it’s different so why not? What’s the worst thing that could happen?
Well… I got the basic plot down – Kazuhiko, an agent, was pulled from retirement to escort Sue to somewhere that she wanted to go. Alright, I get that. The two start getting to know each other over the course of the story and, at the end, Kazuhiko realized the connection between Sue and Ora, his dead girlfriend…. except not really?
There’s also something about a guy trying to kill him (and gets off on the sadism) and chasing the two down only to give up after the first fight between them. Er.
There are other characters in the story as well – a comrade named Gingetsu who’s all mysterious and cool (and always has a visor on for whatever reason that’s not entirely clear), and a guy named Ran who’s experienced in computers and has a special sort of power. As you can see, the cast is kinda small if you don’t really consider the elder Wizards, or Generals, or any of the random characters that pop up here and there.
To be honest, I’m not sure if this particular story would work as a manga simply because there’s a song that keeps showing up during the course of the manga – the song Sue and Ora wrote together. It’s assumed that Ora has, or had, a really pretty voice that we’re supposed to imagine. I feel something like that, if you’re going to include a singer, visuals and sound would help carry the story more. I suppose the simple message of CLOVER is that you have to make certain sacrifices to be happy or you have to take the first step towards that happiness.
The message is fine, but it felt that it got lost in its own imagery. After a while, I was wondering what we’re supposed to be doing. The art, as usual, is gorgeous in its CLAMP glory but the writing… It may have gotten lost for the sake of trying to be deep. It was hard to follow the story simply because a character could be talking about how hard it would be to get happiness again or if we ever attained it in the first place on minute and the next minute, we’re in the middle of a battle. Okay, but what just happened with the battle???
And that’s just the main story. It felt really rushed simply because, again, it wasn’t really clear what’s going on. Words are pretty but manga is also a visual medium – show, don’t just tell. Though, if we took out maybe a good chunk of the monologues, maybe it’d be easier to understand what’s going on. Oh yeah, and Kazuhiko apparently has an arm gun as a super weapon because, why the hell not?
Included are side stories about how Ora and Sue met as well as a backstory to Ran and Gingetsu’s relationship. These side stories go deeper into the Clover Leaf Project.
From what I can understand, the Clover Leaf Project started because people, particularly children, are developing psychic or magical abilities. Depending how high their level is, that’s how they rate them. For example, Ora was a one-leaf because her only power is predicting her own death (which was never explained who killed her or why). One-leaf is considered the weakest and the least threatening to the government. However, as the leaves go up, it becomes evident that the person is more powerful.
In Ran’s short story, it’s revealed that Gingetsu is a two-leaf and Ran was imprisoned (along with his twin) because he’s a three-leaf. Sue is considered a four-leaf which is why she was completely sealed off from the world. Ran and his twin are considered too powerful even against the five most powerful generals, or again, wizards. Forget Sue. She could destroy them all with little effort.
Apparently, the lower level leaves aren’t aware of the more powerful Clovers (in terms of who they are) but the higher powers can sense the lower levels. Interesting but there wasn’t much to it. In Ora’s short story, Ora and Sue interact over the phone. Sue didn’t realize she was actually an one-leaf until Ora told her and yet Sue was able to pick up her voice.
But in Ran’s short story, Sue keeps interjecting with advice to Ran and the twin even though she knows they can’t hear her.
I feel a little torn about the short stories. On one hand, it’s really interesting to see how Ora actually was and what happened to her when she died. Not only that, it explained the connection between Sue and Ora – and why Sue chose Kazuhiko to escort her to Fairy Park. Ran’s story was interesting and it showed what happened to him and how he met Gingetsu.
On the other hand, were they really necessary? It shed some light but in the end, it doesn’t make the story any less confusing and still not clear what exactly its intentions are.
Don’t get me wrong – I really wanted to like CLOVER a lot, especially the connections between Sue, Ora, and Kazuhiko but it fell apart and it left me more confused than when I first started to read it. I suppose I can’t really recommend it to anyone if you’re looking for a concise story but it also feels lost in its own meaning to where it’s hard to really analyze where they really wanted to go with this.
I’m probably making it sound that it wants to be deeper than it actually is but the thing about it is – I’m sure it is! It’s hard to analyze it when they throw words at me and expect me to go along with it or to try to understand what they’re going for it. It seems the original meaning is somewhere in there (happiness, the costs, what it means) but it tripped and it refuses to get up.
There’s a lot of talk but there’s really not enough meaning for the message to get through. Perhaps another reader can gather its meaning than I can – my problem mostly stems from the fact that I want to analyze everything and not just one thing. And the problem with CLOVER is simply – for a simple escorting story, it talks a lot but it doesn’t really mean anything.
Clover is one of the worst manga i've read (i've read more manga than my lists say, cause i don't remember what they're called), its practically got no story cause theres a guy trying to get a girl to this one place only she knows of, but in the end both of them get sent back to their starting points and the girl starts thinking about other people like her and how they survived. to add on, there would be pages covered in black with some cursive on it (presumably the lyrics of a song) that just distracted from the story and made the manga
even harder to read. and the pages that do have stuff on them are about 95% empy space that has nothing on it and makes it even harder to read. all in all, i wouldn't recommend it.