Shounen – Fantasy, action, historical
4 Volumes (hiatus)
History lover Chikahito goes to visit the old imperial capital city of Kyoto. Much to his surprise, she finds himself in an a suspended dimension. The mysterious Hana, jolly Sakura, and stoic Tachibana are members of an organization that fights strange beings, but a bigger war involving oni and historical figures is fast approaching…
With the cast of Gate 7 showing up in Tsubasa World Chronicle manga sequel, I thought it would be a good time to go back and read their story from which they originated. Overall, this is standard CLAMP.
The story… oh, boy. At four volumes, several of CLAMP’s favorite story tropes are already present: one-eyed boys, clones, twins, genderless protagonist, true names, and more. Crossovers have appeared in the form of building names and an attack spell. Both the reader and Chikahito are outsiders to the story, with plenty of hidden mysteries and secrets but few exposed. I’m hoping the story doesn’t dissolve into the mess of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle or xxxHolic, but I’m not holding my breath. While those series went well into double-digits, Gate 7 is nowhere close. It could end in a couple volumes with the plot rushing through to the final battle or spend volumes involving long-winded exposition and battles. Or it could end up like Clover and stay in hiatus indefinitely. Only CLAMP knows.
What makes this series most significantly different from their previous works is the focus on Japanese history. I remember reading these volumes as they were originally released back in 2012 and being hopelessly lost. I have learned a bit more about Japanese history since then, but Gate 7 is not an easily accessible work for Westerners. Even though translation notes are included, without the background knowledge Japanese readers would have, a lot of the details just go over my head. Most of the supporting cast are reincarnations or descendants of figures like Toyotomi Hidetsugu, but a revelation like this means nothing if you haven’t heard of him before. The text explains some lords are switching sides, but I honestly couldn’t name who off the top of my head. I just label a lot of the cast as “that guy”.
Speaking of the characters, Chikahito starts off as a crybaby. He provides much of the historical explanations for the reader, but despite having some hidden ability, he hasn’t done much. The rest of the cast are all secretive beings with odd idiosyncrasies (Hana loves noodles, Tachibana is not a morning person). My favorite is Masamune with his crush on Hana. (And I’m a sucker for shouta characters.)
The art most closely resembles their previous work Kobato. with some influences from their early works like Magic Knight Rayearth. It actually provides a nice blend of their original techniques with their latest style. Chikahito though looks like a Watanuki from xxxHolic clone. If you’ve read any of their previous works (and you should), you will know what to expect. Lots of attacking shadows, dark dimensions, chibi characters and mascots, and beautiful close ups.
This is one of those manga where translators could have a spirited debate on how to properly adapt this series to an English speaking audience. Dialects? Check. Protagonist who could be a boy, girl, or even an it? Check. Historical people, places, and things? Check, check, check.
Honorifics are used and italicized. No guide is given even though the old fashioned -ko is used for the warlords. Dialects are mostly ignored. Spells are both romanized and translated with additional notes in the back. Outside of the summaries on the back covers, Hana is not assigned a gender and almost always is referred by others and themself by the name Hana. (Side note: this is why I am a fan of the singular “they” in English.) Several pages of translator’s notes (combined with author notes) are included with some series artwork. Characters refer to themselves in Western name order, which is kind of awkward since almost all the historical figures are referred to by Eastern name order in English media and reference material. This would have been a good title to keep the surname first given name second format. Besides that, the only thing that I really noticed was that the text seemed oddly formal at times, especially for Chikahito, the teenager from Tokyo.
If you’re a CLAMP fan, borrow from a friend, otherwise pass. The series is on hiatus but the appearance of characters in Tsubasa World Chronicle may be hinting at a possible return. While Hana is adorable (and it’s the male lead who has rising affection), nothing much is here that can’t be found in another series (especially from CLAMP). I’d rather buy a Gate 7 art book than volume 5.
I haven’t picked up any of the other CLAMP offerings from Dark Horse since I have all the Tokyopop releases. From the previews and reviews I’ve read, the translations are often pretty close and the volumes are a little too thick. I also have the art books so the color pages aren’t a big deal to me.