WARNING: CLAMP fans will probably hate the introduction to this post. Simply skip to the review proper if you consider yourself a fan of CLAMP and their work.
My experience with CLAMP manga hasn’t been an exceptional one. Each of the CLAMP manga I’ve read has at least one, if not more than one, reason for me to hate it – and I really mean hate instead of simple dislike. For example: Magic Knight Rayaerth‘s bullshit plot, Chobit‘s bullshit ‘theme’, Card Captor’s Sakura‘s bullshit relationships, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle‘s bullshit action, and Angelic Layer‘s complete bullshit. Even as a series I like, XXXHolic gives me grieves with its bullshit connection to Tsubasa. The connection doesn’t add anything to either stories, and it’s purely a gimmick to forcce readers to read both manga. It pisses me off that while I really enjoy reading XXXholic for its interesting stories, I’m forced to feel like I’m missing out on some things because I don’t follow Tsubasa, which has a really weak story (up to the point where I dropped it anyway) and unintelligable action scenes.
So I’m reviewing Kobato now, 4 chapters into its serialisation proper, before I find something to really hate about it as well. This review covers Kobato (Temp) chapter 1-7 and Kobato Exam 1-4.
Note: There are currently two incarnations of Kobato – Kobato (Temporary) and Kobato. The temporary version was in serialisation before the proper version, and runs for seven chapters. The proper version has 4 chapters scanlated so far, and shares characters with the temporary version, though it remains to be seen whether Kobato’s relationships with them will be the same as in the temp version.
With that out of that way, let’s start the review proper.
Kobato Hanato arrives in a new city with her laser-shooting-fire-breathing pet(?) Ioryogi-san. In order to fulfill a wish, Kobato must fill up a bottle with the broken hearts she heals, and with this in mind she wanders around the city looking for people to help.
And that’s it.
The first thing that should strike you when you read Kobato is that, in typical CLAMP style, the drawing is fantastic. The coloured covers are done in a dreamy pastel palette that fits Kobato perfectly, and they’re absolutely beautiful to behold. The black and white drawings take a departure from the two other recent CLAMP titles and makes a return to the more sketchy, dreamy shoujo style seen in their earlier works, but it continues the trend of using minimal screentones. Personally, I love the art style in Kobato. I prefer it over both Tsubasa and XXXholic, though both of those have their own charm. CLAMP also uses a lot of chibi in Kobato, which fits with the light-hearted tone of the story.
Kobato herself is a klutz with zero common sense – in one scene she opens a big bag of garbbage for crows to feast on, thinking that it would reduce waste. In another scene she asks to spend a night at a hotel with a stranger, thinking that’s what you give as a present on Christmas. This lack of common sense opens up a lot of oppurtunity for comedy, with a lot of gags ending in Ioryogi-san blasting Kobato with his laser beam. The combined effect of Kobato’s cheerful and klutzy personality and the omni-present chibi is that Kobato is a very cute and feel-good manga.
That will probably change as the story progresses, as it’s all about Kobato healing people whose hearts have been hurt. It’s likely to take an episodic approach like XXXholic where we meet different characters in each arc, and many of those characters will have a burden that will dampen the bright, cheery aura that surrounds Kobato. This can be seen in the later chapters of Kobato (Temp). But since it’s all about how Kobato heals those hurts, it should still ultimately be a feel-good manga with strong comedic elements. It’s still early in its serialisation, so we’ll have to wait and see if Kobato really continues its feel-good trend.
In the end, Kobato‘s story is shallow. If you’re looking for compelling characters with deep story elements, Kobato is not the place to go to. However, if you want something that’s cute and funny, Kobato is the manga for you. Add to that CLAMP’s stylish and beautiful art, it’s hard to find another manga to recommend over Kobato with it’s gorgeous art, cute set-pieces and light-hearted comedy.
Ichigo Mashimaro: Kobato’s comedy isn’t as over-the-top as the type often seen in Ichigo Mashimaro (courtesy of the annoying Miu), and the art is a different kind of beautiful. It’s cute in a different sort of way as well – where as IchiMashi is more of a base cute that appeals to your instinct, Kobato’s is a more heart-warming cute that appeals more to your emotions. It’s hard to describe and compare, but if IchiMashi is like seeing cute girls in cute dresses, Kobato is like seeing a mother bird feeding its babies.
Penguin Revolution: They’re not really that similar, but the art for both are pretty and cute. PR isn’t as stylish or detailed as CLAMP, but I often find myself just staring at the beautiful characters (mainly Ryou as a girl… shit what did writing for Impz do to me!?). In terms of story PR is a much more typical shoujo, but that’s an entirely seperate review.
Verdict: 4/5 Ioryogi-san would stop blasting Dobato if she drew this manga.