Ah CLAMP, just reading any of their series brings me back to my early teen years of reading Cardcaptors and Chobits. Over the years, they have wound up becoming one of my all time favorite manga creators. Their wide breadth of titles and stories make it easy to find something entertaining for almost every reader, and their ability to create meaningful stories for both younger readers and older ones is hard to match. Wish is one of the few series from them that I actually never had the chance to pick up and read, so I was excited to learn that Dark Horse had started to publish the entire 4-volume series in one collected omnibus. It’s a challenge to read with it being at least two inches thick and pretty heavy, but the series itself is definitely worth it especially if you like cute and innocent love stories.
The story of Wish follows a young doctor Shuichiro who notices an adorable flying thing trapped in a tree on his way home from work one day. It just so happens to be the angel, Kohaku, who offers to grant Shuichiro any wish he desires in gratitude. The only problem is that Shuichiro has everything he could ever want, a good job, enough money to be comfortable, and a nice house. But that doesn’t dissuade Kohaku, and Shuichiro soon finds himself with a new roommate who just so happens to draw more angels and even devils to their home, becoming a sanctuary for those looking to escape both hell and heaven.
Shoujo romances, and CLAMP in particular, have a lot of stylistic tropes when it comes to the art and panel design of any given manga. Full-body shots overlapping panels to show off clothing and costumes. Large panels with character close-ups surrounded by flowers,that usually mean something in flower language (I need to study this more some day). Not to mention the chibis, androgynous character designs, and mascot characters that make appearances throughout the series. Wish takes advantage of all of these and builds a classic shoujo look and feel for the series, something that is both comforting and fitting for the kind of story it is trying to tell.
I particularly love the androgynous character designs in this series, and CLAMP doubles down on these, specifically not attributing a gender to most of the angels we meet throughout the series. In particular, Kohaku and Hisui are designed to look both feminine and boyish at times to match with the mythology of the series that celestial beings don’t really have a gender to be exact. The devils, Kokuyo specifically, are designed more masculine in nature most likely in an effort to give a much bigger contrast to the angels. Seeing the lighter and softer design of Hisui paired with the tall-dark-and-handsome design of Kokuyo creates a great sense of contrast to reinforce the polar-opposite nature of heaven vs hell. The contrast of Kohaku vs Shuichiro is similar as well, seeming to reinforce the lighter and more angelic nature of Kohaku. Though I will say I find that the male character designs of this series remind me a lot of Touya in Cardcaptor Sakura and it kind of shows where CLAMP’s strengths lie in terms of art style and character design.
I’ve always loved the panel design and art of classic shoujo. The character’s who cross panel barriers, whose hair always seems to be flowing in the wind, and the countless flowers that surround character’s to enhance an emotional moment’s impact. If you like all those things too, you’ll probably love Wish. Throw in the occasional transformation and magic casting sequence and you’ve got the recipe for some beautiful art. The one thing that kind of throws things off and may be a deal-breaker for some are the repeated presence of chibis in the form of cherubs. Kohaku and Koryu are not powerful enough to stay in their full form, or so the mythology goes, and change into their cherub forms during the night or day respectively. Chibi’s are an ever present drawing and expressive style in manga, specifically shoujo or moe, but are often used as more of a way to express comedy or certain expressive emotions rather than an integral part of the character design. But in this series they are integral to the mythology and even story as Kohaku becomes limited in their abilities while in cherub form. So if you’re not used to chibi or moe style, I’m unsure whether this series would be right for you, but I would definitely suggest giving it a try.
I think the story is enough reason to check this manga out. I did have a few problems with the pacing, but I think overall it was an enjoyable experience that kept me wanting to read more just to see what happens with Kohaku and Shuichiro’s relationship. I’ve read a lot of CLAMP manga over the years and after reading Wish I kind of have an idea of the kind of stories that they like to tell: finding the meaning of love, family, and friendship in the midst of magic. Cardcaptor Sakura, Chobits, xxxHolic, and Kobato all had some variance of the above theme running through their stories. Wish takes this theme and adds on the mythology and magic associated with both Western and Eastern ideas of Heaven and Hell. Part of the story focuses on the almost Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed lovers relationship of Kokuyo and Hisui while we see a more pure-hearted and innocent love developing between Shuichiro and Kohaku. In a way these two relationships become a foil for one another, bringing out the innocence and naivete of our human and angel main characters.
I had to ask myself while writing this review: What makes this different from any other star-crossed lovers story? We’ve had stories of angels and demons falling in love or two people who are prevented by society or fate from being together, so what makes Wish different or enjoyable? Well I think part of that is a trick question. It’s enjoyable because it’s predictable. We know it will work out well for them in the end no matter what and we know that Kohaku will eventually find the answers to their questions and be able to understand the love they have for Shuichiro. I think that’s part of the appeal of these kinds of stories.
But, in a sense, this one is different because the characters, all the characters, wind up caring deeply for one another. There is slight animosity between the devils and angels, yes, but in the end we see the Koryu finds joy in teasing Kohaku because Koryu cares for them. Hisui and Kokuyo are cast out of heaven and hell for what they did, but in the end God charges them to look after Kohaku while they’re on Earth. God tries to prevent Kohaku from falling in love with Shuichiro not because they don’t like humans but because they want to prevent Kohaku from experiencing sadness and loss for as long as possible. The other head angels may disapprove of Hisui’s choice to stay with Kokuyo but they wind up deciding that as long as Hisui is happy, they’re fine with their relationship.
Wish really is a charming series, and I think the only problem I had with it was how abrupt the ending was. We definitely got a good lead-up to it with hints that there was something wrong or abnormal about Shuichiro that might pose a problem to him and Kohaku’s relationship. However, the culmination of that lead-up wound up being dropped at our feet to the point where I had to stop and go, “wait, what just happened?” In the end, I’m glad I wound up picking up this omnibus. It was a nice return to the kinds of shoujo I used to love, and still mostly love, reading. Let me know in the comments what your thoughts on this series are or even what your favorite CLAMP series is.
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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