Anime Expo 15 Cosplay 2006

Conventions Huntington Beach Arrival Opening Event Saturday Cosplay Kimono Demo CLAMP Panel Sunday Cosplay Dealer's Room Movie Premieres Monday Cosplay Events

This focus panel was truly significant as it would be the first time ever that CLAMP had made an appearance in the US. This is quite an accomplishment as this group is well-known for cherishing their privacy and being rather reclusive.

The line (shown above) to get into the CLAMP focus panel was huge. It completely filled the 6,000 seat auditorium with a waiting list on top of that. Many of the events at AX were so large that special accommodations had to be made for the waiting line down on the first floor. This was a great idea and kept folks from mobbing the hallways outside the panel room. The focus panel was scheduled to start at 2 PM, but I suppose that was to include seating fans in the auditorium, which ended up taking about 2 hours. The panel finally started about 3:20 PM.

First, let me be clear. For the focus panel, ALL recording devices, video, still, even audio was strictly forbidden. Any violations would result in the surrender of badge and media cards and eviction from the convention. So hopefully the crude notes I took will suffice.

The host for the CLAMP panel was Colleen Clinkenbeard, an accomplished voice actress for FUNimation as well as director and script writer for many anime titles. She would be directing the English adaptation of Tsubasa Chronicles. Kudos were also given to Kodansha, the largest publisher of literature and manga in Japan, for making the CLAMP focus panel possible.

Before the CLAMP artists appeared on stage, members of the audience were invited to relate their personal stories on why they became fans of CLAMP. For one person, it was Cardcaptor Sakura. For others, it was Magic Knight Rayearth. After the personal accounts, a 22 minute introductory video was shown. As the different works were brought up in chronological order, the audience would break into cheers of various intensity depending on the popularity of the series. Some of the series that met with rave cheering were Tokyo Babylon, Magic Knight Rayearth (the first manga to combine girls with battle mecha), Wish (big cheers), Cardcaptor Sakura (huge, huge cheers). The video pointed out that CCS was initially aimed at young girls, but quickly crossed generations and became popular for all ages, Angelic Layer (CLAMP's first attempt to appeal specifically to a male audience), Chobits (big cheers), Tsubasa Chronicle (huge cheers), xxxHoLic (big cheers). Tsubasa Chronicle and xxxHoLic are currently in production and the storylines are linked to each other. Two movies will be created for these two series and the movies will be interlinked to each other as well.

After the video, Gen Fukunaga, the CEO of FUNimation took the stage to announce that both movies would be released in the US by FUNimation and to introduce CLAMP to the audience.

Seated left to right was Satsuki Igarashi in brown, Ageha Ohkawa in green, Tsubaki Nekoi in white and Mokona in a floral kimono.

Ageha Ohkawa spoke first and was also the one to answer the majority of the questions that would come later. Before getting to the questions, she showed some photos from their studio. Each artist had her own very small office where they each do their own respective work. First was Ohkawa-sensei's office. She uses a computer to write the scripts and employs a playwright style rather then a conventional manga style. Next was Mokona-sensei's office where she gets the scripts and works on the storyboards. Ohkawa-sensei took a moment to ask if Tsubasa Chronicle was in the states yet and the audience went wild in response. There were shelves and boxes filled with hundreds of Copic pens in Mokona-sensei's office. It was a bit humorous as yet another slide appears with yet more pens, Ohkawa-sensei looked up and says there are more pens, next please. This prompted some good-natured laughter from the audience. Next was Tsubaki Nekoi's office which Ohkawa-sensei says is the neatest of the group. Mokona-sensei protested that her office is messy because of the many Copic color pens that are required for her work. Finally we see Satsuki Igarashi's office where she is inking an illustration for xxxHoLic.

Ohkawa-sensei pointed out that they do all their own work without the assistants that are normally associated with manga production.

After the slide presentation, questions were asked from a pre-selected list which was earlier solicited via  the Anime Expo website. Out of 1000+ questions submitted, 12 or so were selected. Remember, I had no audio recording upon which to base my recap of these questions, only my hastily scribbled notes. The following is extremely paraphrased and in some cases, questions may have been unwittingly combined. However, I believe that I've gotten the gist of the answers detailed.

  • How did the group first get together? (See press interview below for an in-depth response to this)

  • How long does it take to produce the story before it is drawn?
    Each story  is written with the ending predetermined. (There was a shocked response from the audience to this announcement. This was obviously news to the majority of attendees).
    The script for each installment (about 20 pages of artwork) takes about 8 hours to write
    The storyboard takes about 12 hours
    The artwork (20 pages) depends on the particular story. For example, xxxHoLic takes about 2 days, X takes 4-5 days.

  • How do you work together? Who does which work?
    Ohkawa-sensei writes the scripts and comes up with the plots. Responsibility for the storyboard varies and depends on the particular series. Likewise, the artwork depends on the story as well. xxxHoLic actually has two artists (Mokona-sensei and Nekoi-sensei) working on it. Someone takes care of directing the toning, but there is no particular role that anyone assumes.

  • Are your character designs changing to a taller, thinner, which is still beautiful, style? (See press interview below for an in-depth response to this)

  • How long does it take to finish one drawing? (There may be two or more questions rolled up into this explanation)
    Unless there is an ink blot, the color work is never started over. Tsubaki Nekoi pointed out that first the work is done in pencil so errors can be easily fixed at that time. The inking and coloring comes later. Igarashi-sensei said that Nekoi likes to doodle a lot and then throw those doodles away. But they sometimes uncrumple the papers and submit them to their website. Ohkawa-sensei said that deadlines are the best motivation.

  • What was your most enjoyable series?
    Ohkawa-sensei said that their early works had much tragedy in them so, for her, Cardcaptor Sakura was the most fun. For the other three artists, they all unanimously agreed that Duklyon: CLAMP School Defenders was the most fun.

  • In linking your various characters, do you have a clear idea of the basis of your characters when you start?
    Ohkawa-sensei responded that aside from the fantasy stories, all CLAMP works take place in the same universe. There was a desire to link the fantasy characters as well, so that's where Yuuko from xxxHolic comes in.

  • What was the motivation for creating Tsubasa Chronicle?
    Ohkawa-sensei responded. We knew that the characters chosen for the TC role would have to come from a story with a happy ending (editor note: which shows why CCS was chosen). The inspiration was to link all of the CLAMP fantasy worlds just like the other real world stories were linked. Ohkawa-sensei continued. Sakura and Syaoran must go through many trials to reach their own happy ending. (editor note: Does this mean that Tsubasa Chronicle will indeed have a happy ending?)

  • When will you finally complete Kobato?
    It will be continued in the Japanese Newtype (editor note: in October 2006)

  • Why is Yuuko's symbol the butterfly?
    In Oriental philosophy, the butterfly symbolizes a person's soul. It also stands for transformation.

  • Fai and Kurogane seem to represent a sort of yin/yang idea, black and white, light and dark. Did you intend for there to be a kind of opposites attract sort of thing with them? (The audience goes wild at this point with much enthusiastic yelling and cheering. You have just got to love those otaku fangirls.)
    Ohkawa-sensei laughed a bit and then looked quizzically at the audience. She asked if it is the fans' desire to see these two paired up (The audience breaks into even greater yells and cheers of affirmation. It was an amazing thing to witness). Ohkawa-sensei continued with the answer. Syaoran as a young hero is the main character of the story and is still growing and developing. The CLAMP artists wanted some adult side characters to accompany him. Kurogane is dressed in black but is a more straightforward character. Fai is dressed in white but his character is harder to read. Ohkawa-sensei continues... In the current installment, Fai is in a tight spot. You might not be happy with it.

  • Would CLAMP consider working on an American project?
    Ohkawa-sensei responds. We might want to do something, but we should start with the Tsubasa Chronicle and xxxHoLic movies for now.

This ended the questions for CLAMP. Their parting words were that this was their first experience with the US. Having seen the enthusiasm of the audience has made them very happy.

Following the public CLAMP focus panel, there was a private press conference. Only two photo sessions were allowed, one at the beginning of the press conference and one at the end. In both cases, it was a posed photo shoot. Candid photos were expressly forbidden.

As you read through this transcript, keep in mind that the words attributed to the CLAMP manga artists are actually those of the translator as he translated the questions from the members of the press into Japanese for the artists and then translated their answers back into English for the response.

Chase Wang, Moderator: Ladies, welcome to the Anime Expo and thank you for this opportunity to talk to you on your first ever visit to the U.S. Before I start taking questions from everyone here today, I'd like to ask each of you for a brief comment on your impressions so far of Anime Expo and of the U.S.A. May I please start with Igarashi-sensei.

Satsuki Igarashi: As my first impression, I think one is the season here, the weather here in the U.S. In Japan right now is the rainy season. It is muggy and wet every day. Compared to that, it feels great to be here in the nice, dry weather. (Translation continues) And as for the convention, seeing a lot of people costume playing. It seems like a lot of people like our work, and that's a great feeling for me.  

Ageha Ohkawa: Thank you! I'm very happy to be invited to Anime Expo this year. Actually, I arrived here yesterday and I've already had the great California Champagne. (everyone, including Ohkawa-sensei has a laugh over this)

Tsubaki Nekoi: First, I'm really happy that I got invited to such a big event and same as Igarashi here, I really like the dryer weather here compared to the weather in Japan right now. It really makes spending the day a lot easier and the strong sun and the palm trees here really makes me realize I'm in California.

Mokona: Coming to such a big event, I had heard stories about this convention but coming here for the first time and seeing it for, like, the first time, a lot of things, really realizing that a lot of people really like anime and manga.

Questions from the press follow:

Question: Could you describe your first meeting? How you all met and how you decided to work together as a team?

Ageha Ohkawa: The three people, except myself, were high-school classmates. So we, the four of us got together through a mutual friend. (translation continues) And actually, back then as a group we first published doujinshi fanzines. And back then, the group we had more people. It was 11 of us actually. And that was the first time, we used the group name CLAMP. (translation continues) At our commercial debut we had six people in the group, and within one year that came down to four people and since then we have worked as a group for seventeen years with four people in the group.

Question: Recently I had a chance to talk to Ishikawa-sensei from Production I.G. and he spoke very highly of you. How have you enjoyed working with him?   (Translation with some laughter)

Question continues: He said that he enjoyed working with them and that the college students working on his latest film. Their only request for reimbursement was to get to talk to CLAMP.

Tsubaki Nekoi: I think he left a very strong impression.

Ageha Ohkawa: He's a very capable person but also a very fashionable person. (translation continues) From my perspective I really thought he loves making animation and also he treats his staff well, just like a family. And that he knows how to treat people well.

Question: In most of your work/stories there's always a character that is one eye (there is a one-eyed character), and is this something you like? What does it mean?

Ageha Ohkawa: In the stories, the one-eyed characters or the character loses sight in one eye. I think that I'm trying to visually show that there can be a very big traumatic experience, that feeling and I'm trying to visually show the feeling of being alone. From the stories there's always some event or something that comes in later that supplements that vision. On a different note, my right eye, the vision is not very good so maybe it's just a personal thing that I can relate to such events personally. (translation continues) I think in the current works, Tsubasa and xxxHoLic, there's also a one-eyed character, so you might see that theme again.

Note: xxxHoLic is pronounced as just “holic”. The "xxx" is silent.

Question: How does it make you feel to see people all around the world cosplaying as your characters?

Mokona: It makes me feel very happy that the people in different countries really love our characters, and I think every time I see them the costumes are very detailed. I'm looking forward to seeing those costumes.

Ageha Ohkawa: Actually, before we had the focus panel. When we were waiting in our room, we could see through the window that a lot of people that were lined up for a long time and I saw a lot costume plays as Card Captor Sakura or Chobits and if that person noticed us watching them, we did wave back to those people.

Question: I'd like to ask the four of you, where do you get your inspirations from? Do you get influenced by some others you like or your heart or whether you try to put your personal inspirations or your personal experiences in your work?

Satsuki Igarashi: I think Ohkawa here sometimes draws upon these dreams that she has.

Ageha Ohkawa: Sometimes it's based on events that I hear about or see but a lot of times it's just the deadline that's coming that gives me inspirations.

Question: Obviously there's four of you, so at times you have choices in your stories whether or not to do a particular series or not. How do you sort of work out these arguments? Does it turn out one of you tends to be pretty convincing of the others? Do you vote? Or do you simply say “Mokona hasn't had a chance to run things for awhile, it's her turn” Now that you're much more international at scope, have you thought that that has affected your storytelling in any way?

Ageha Ohkawa: In turns of choosing which projects, which work to accept, or decline on, I, Ohkawa, chooses, make that decision. But in terms of setting priorities and actual schedules for the individual works, that's handled by Igarashi. (translation continues) There is worldwide popularity, yes, but I think the reality is that we work on the work that has the first deadline first.

Satsuki Igarashi: Yeah, we have to take care of what's right in front of our eyes first before we can see beyond that.

Question: Both in Chobits and Suki: Dakara Suki you use storybooks as a way of acting as a metaphor for everything else that's going on in the stories and I was wondering what brought that sort of idea into those stories? And also, was that just an element of liking storybooks? What brought that element in? Why use that element in two works, rather than one or the other?

Ageha Ohkawa: Like you said, both in Chobits and Suki: Dakara Suki, the storybook appears. But when we're working on two multiple storylines I think from time to time it can be very confusing to the readers. I think Suki: Dakara Suki came first and we tried the storybook approach there, and we had good feedback from the readers and that's why we used that same idea on Chobits.

Question: As many manga series have been developing and becoming popular we see them going into live-action films. Out of all your novelizations that you've put out, is there any particular one that you'd like to see as a live-action film?

Ageha Ohkawa: Live-action... Well, maybe it would be Chobits. I think within ourselves, we're most interested in seeing that one as a live-action. (translation continues with some laughter) I think if Chobits were going to be made into live-action for the U.S. I would have strong preferences for the actresses.

Question: Our viewers and readers have been asking about Legal Drug. What's going on?

Ageha Ohkawa: No problem there. We will be resuming that piece in the near future.

Question: I've noticed at times you choose a specific style of many different character proportions to use in different series, and I'm wondering how you make those decisions like, for instance, in xxxHoLic, they are very tall with long limbs and that sort of thing. How do you make those decisions, and what effect does the story have on those kind of decisions?   (The translation prompted some laughter from the artists with the response)

Ageha Ohkawa: After we come up with the story we go through a character design phase. Our work process is very similar to an animation production, so after the story we will choose a person to perform the character design and when that is happening I usually specify the proper proportions for that story and the character. (translation continues) Actually for the xxxHoLic story, in the focus panel a fan asked about this. For this particular storyline we wanted to use a more Ukio-e art style that dictated longer proportions for the characters. And since Tsubasa is linked to xxxHoLic that dictated that Tsubasa and xxxHoLic have similar proportions for the characters. It's not that our characters get thinner and longer. (laughter from audience)

Question: Is Rayearth a lion or a wolf? (good natured laughter during the question and more laughter during the translation)

Mokona: Initially the basis was a wolf, but as I added more hair to the <character>, it became unclear if it should belong to the cat family or the canine family. Since it's a fantasy, please forgive that unclearness.

Question: I'm a big fan of Kobato., why did you change from Nakayoshi to Newtype and then remove the story again? How will you work with Kobato.?

Ageha Ohkawa: For this particular piece it started with SundayGenX and they had specified a number of episodes in the series so we fulfilled that requirement and when it was decided to be restarted we went to a different magazine, Newtype.

Question: My chief editor and I have been wondering for a long time when X will be finished and how many more volumes are left?

Ageha Ohkawa: For X with various things going on around Japanese society and everything, it's unclear how fast we will work on it. But in terms of numbers of volumes though it will match the number of tarot cards. (translation continues) For the U.S. publication the exact number of volumes may slightly differ because of the number of pages involved but for the Japanese edition there will be twenty one volumes.

Question:  The design of some of your bishoujo characters seem to mature in appearance after they fall in love. In particular, Emeraude (from Magic Knight Rayearth) became an adult after she fell in love with Zagato and Sakura (from Cardcaptor Sakura) changed as well, became not as innocent, after she fell in love with Lee. Is this a societal metaphor, that when girls fall in love, they change physically, become more grown up?

Note: there was some discussion back and forth clarifying the meaning of this question as it was worded softly and almost as a personal musing. Rather than quote directly, I have paraphrased the question while retaining the words and descriptions used. The answer is quoted directly as the translator gave it.

Ageha Ohkawa: I think women in general are a lot stronger, love alone doesn’t change them. (translation continues) That’s a very difficult question to answer but I think it's not just love for a woman to change, it's when they find something that they're willing to put their life on the line. When they find something like that, that it changes them. It might be love or it might be something that they want to protect. That's my opinion but we do draw a lot of love stories, targeting the girls as the audience so maybe it's natural that love becomes something that deals with such events.

Question: What do you think are the key elements of your success in Japan and obviously in western countries?

Satsuki Igarashi and Ohkama Ageha: Actually for us, our everyday life is sitting at a desk and drawing. That's our world so it's hard for us to really feel and realize that our work is popular throughout the world… so I'm not sure what to say here.

Ohkama Ageha: So I'm not sure what the key element was. Maybe I should be asking that question to you. (laughter from audience)

Question: If you hadn't become wildly successful artists what do you think you might've been doing?

Mokona: I would think I would always be involved in creating something or drawing.

Tsubaki Nekoi: Before I started drawing I was just an ordinary office worker so I probably just would've gotten married, had a family, and lived a normal life.

Ohkama Ageha: I'm sure I would've been a manga reader. (laughter)

Satsuki Igarashi: Before our professional debut was formalized, I was job searching. Just looking for an ordinary salary work. So if the manga didn't happen I'm sure I would've been a salary worker and I would be putting my precious wages into buying more manga, more books, and watching animation.

Question: Did any of you have any formal art education or did you all learn how to draw and create art on your own

Mokona: We mentioned that the three of us were classmates in high school and that high school had a related college. At both of the high school and college levels they were putting lots of emphasis into art. There was an art type emphasis on education there.

Tsubaki Nekoi: In terms of general art skills I did learn at that at school but in terms of drawing manga, that requires different skill sets and for that part I'm more self-taught.

Satsuki Igarashi: Like Mokona mentioned I also went to that art type high school. For me after high school I went to a vocational school that was also an art type school. But in terms of manga drawing skills I did not learn from any one particular person or school.

Ohkama Ageha: It's common in Japan for a person to work under another manga artist as an assistant and go from there. For us, all of us have never worked as an assistant to anybody so I think we are really self-taught.  

Conventions Huntington Beach Arrival Opening Event Saturday Cosplay Kimono Demo CLAMP Panel Sunday Cosplay Dealer's Room Movie Premieres Monday Cosplay Events