Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
It seems I've become somewhat famous for my reviews of this series, which up to this point, have been less than favorable. We've gotten letters about the reviews both defending and helping tear down the series. My main problem with it all this time was the lack of a clear conflict -- problems are too easily overcome and never have any effect on the detectives themselves (or if it does, they don't show it).
Well, all of that changes with these two volumes, where the show takes on a much darker tone that is all that much more satisfying to watch. For once, there are real problems to be overcome, and real character development. About friggin' time!!
In episode 18, Suoh loses his memory of the last three months in an accident and has to come to grips with having to re-establish his relationship with gal-pal Nagisa, who is leaving on a trip. Not quite able to keep the secret from her, she quietly worries, and it takes some creative reinactment to get his memory back. It's unfortunate that Suoh is pretty much THE only person to have any depth at all, but this adds to his personality quite a bit.
Episode 19 is more fluff, as the three stumble upon a puzzle left by former student council members (the prize is straight out of an episode of Tiny Toons), but Episode 20 starts the show on the series of 7 episodes that end the series... and this is where things get good.
A new student has transferred to Clamp School, and not only is he every bit as intelligent and resourceful as the goody-goody Nokoru... and he's got a score to settle with the detectives, the formerly named goody-goody in particular! In episode 20, he makes an attempt on the lives of Akira, Suoh, Nagisa, and Utako and offers them as a prize to our little blond detective... succeed in figuring things out, and they get to live (well... if it really IS a bomb). In episode 21, he decides to go after the Clamp School blimp that is so often the hangouts for the detectives... and this trick isn't quite so benign in nature. For once in his life, Nokoru has LOST.
We get a little bit of fluff when this person kidnaps all of the apes in Banana Park (and the detectives have to figure out not only where they are, but how to get them back into the park), but that is quickly made up for in episode 23, when Nokoru's lack of self-confidence turns him into such a klutz that it nearly tears the group apart. It's all a part of the plan of the mysterious one... he wants Nokoru to feel the loneliness and agony of solitude. (Unfortunately, so do we.)
It's amazing how much a little bit of conflict can improve an otherwise lame series. We finally get a feel for the characters (Suoh and Nokoru, at least) on a psychological level, something long missing from the series. Does it really matter that I'm rooting for the wrong person? Nah. Enjoyable is enjoyable, regardless how you take it.
To improve further, the end theme has been replaced with an absolutely gorgeous song from musical goddess Yoko Kanno and her associated singer/seiyuu Maaya Sakamoto. (I've actually owned the CD single of this one for a while.)
All of this makes for one hell of a twist that makes CLAMP School Detectives not only bearable, but actually rewarding!
Overall (sub) : A-
+ Darker tone means actual character depth! Great new end theme.
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