My favorite CLAMP work -- and I've read a lot of them, having spent months working to read X
by sheer force of will, dictionary in hand -- is Clover
That's kind of like saying I don't like CLAMP at all, really. But I think I like it so much partly because it's so atypical. Like nothing else they've ever done, before or since.
I mean, it's transcendent. Rayearth
is amazing and I yield to no one in my admiration, but Clover's
genius is that it's CLAMP surpassing their limits, doing something new and lovely. For once, they committed themselves wholeheartedly to a new style, and the mix of Art Nouveau styling with hypermodern layout works perfectly. Stark layouts and neoclassical flourishes joined to a plot that's more dreamlike than anything else.
And that's an interesting effect in itself. Clover
is filled with action sequences, chases, dramatic battles, but they're set off by huge areas of white space, and there's a musical refrain that comes in every other page. The overall effect is elegiac. Like all dreams, it pulls you in and takes you over with its own brand of logic.
And it's built like a Greek tragedy in reverse. In tragedy, we know the hero's flaw and the arc of the work is his punishment. In Clover
it's the other way around -- "The bad end unhappily, the good unluckily." We know it can't end well, and the entire manga is the process of revealing the chain of events that put the characters in this position -- the basic flaws that make their fates inevitable. The fact that it's beautiful is an almost superfluous detail.
But hey, go read it. You can buy this unique and fantastic work in English translation for 10 dollars new. If you have a Book-Off nearby, you can probably buy the entire thing in Japanese for 400 yen plus tax. Why wait?