The One I Love
わたしのすきなひと (Watashi no Suki na Hito)
Josei – Romance, slice-of-life
1 Volume (complete)
Tokyopop / Viz Media
Twelve ladies, twelve lives. Each woman’s romance is explored through manga. Then, CLAMP’s leader shares her thoughts on romance in short essays.
The One I Love‘s presentation is excellent, but the actual content is lackluster.
Calling this a “manga” is a bit of a misnomer. There are twelve one-shots, but these manga are only seven pages long. CLAMP’s writer, Ohkawa, then shares a related story or observation in a short two- or three-page essay. (Note that CLAMP says The One I Love is eight pages long per chapter, but the short stories I imagine took two instead of one when the series was compiled in the book.) The book clocks in at just over 130 pages, which is already short, but The One I Love looks even thinner if you have the out-of-print physical version. It’s only about 20 millimeters thick.
However, inside the book, and you are greeted with the title page and table of contents in color. Tokyopop’s physical version is printed on textured ivory paper (think resume or wedding invitation). Then the first chapter is printed in color on thick white paper, and then the rest of the book is printed on pretty standard book paper. Japanese text is left on the author pages and at the top of the text pages to add a little visual spice. It just feels like a lot of love went into bringing over The One I Love.
First, the manga stories. They’re short, but the morals and feelings are spot-on: people do overuse the word “cute”, and marriage is a big leap. Some stories are a bit too saccharine, but it’s hard to strike the perfect balance of sweet and fluff with such a limited number of pages. The protagonists tend to be women in their 20s, so there’s a nice mix of stories about balancing work and love and wondering whether their relationship will really last forever rather than just finding true love with the school prince. This is a slice-of-life manga, and it is easy to see yourself in some of these protagonists (or their lovers).
Ohkawa’s essays also offer some real-world insight. A few of her writings — like whether adopting a boyfriend’s interest means a girl is easily influenced — are mostly her opinions on love and romance, but she also writes about her friends and family. A few of the stories are inspired by her own experiences, and it’s rare for any CLAMP member to talk about themselves and their friends and family. It’s pretty interesting to read about the people she knows, like a real-life mangaka trying to be dedicated to both his work with his girlfriend.
Unfortunately, that’s all The One I Love is: pretty interesting. It’s like when someone tells you a random fact. You might be surprised and think about it for a bit, but how often will you remember it? Be inspired to look up more information later? The One I Love is a short anthology where you are likely to go, “Been there!” or even, “Huh, who knew?”, but you won’t be inspired or moved for very long afterward. There’s no deeply moving story or earth-shattering advice here to make you want to revisit The One I Love. It’s harder for an all-in-one manga volume to have as much impact as a series, but there are a lot of single-volume manga that are moving or an outright blast to read. This is not one of them.
What also hurts The One I Love is the art. While CLAMP is known for their gorgeous artwork, this was the first time Nekoi took on the role of head artist. Unfortunately, Nekoi’s art at this point in her career just doesn’t match up to art of the more-experienced Mokona. Nekoi’s strength was in drawing chibi and mascot characters, and even she admitted the women in the stories looked like junior high girls. The characters look more like art found in a CLAMP doujinshi rather than from CLAMP themselves. Nekoi would later grow into a much stronger artist, but even now she still mostly draws males and mascots, not females. Backgrounds are minimal, but in the manga’s defense, this is a short miniseries focused on emotions. I’m not saying the art is awful. However, it just falls flat compared to works like Cardcaptor Sakura or Tokyo Babylon. I do love the opening in color, especially the two-page spread of all the girls.
I did notice from the preview of Viz Media’s digital version that the coloring looks significantly different from Tokyopop’s printing. Viz Media’s version loses the old-timey feel of the women on the title page, but the colors are darker. The digital release makes them look like they’re wearing pink colors versus Tokyopop’s peach tones. More significantly, the kimono worn by the heroine are different shades of purple. In Tokyopop’s release, her kimono is more magenta; for Viz Media’s version, it looks violet. Visually, though, this is not the best example of CLAMP’s work you should pull out when you want to show off their style.
The characters aren’t named, so there are no honorifics are used in the manga; they are used in Ohkawa’s essays. I think “manga-ka” is really the only term of note. Otherwise, this is short and straightforward. Even that blocky font for the manga doesn’t look too terrible in short bursts. Sound effects are untouched but also untranslated.
Oh, the Japanese chapter title names (in romaji) are left alone in the color artwork. The chapters themselves are written in hiragana, but these are erased (some not so well) and replaced with English. The hiragana and romaji names are seen on the essay pages. The Japanese titles are pretty much one-word (or one word plus a particle), but the English titles are not always one word. “Toshishita” (Younger) is translated as “A Younger Man”.
Man, I’m reaching here. The end.
I don’t love The One I Love. The packaging is nice, and I might have bumped up my opinion if Mokona had taken the lead. But I guess Nekoi needed more experience, and this was an easy way to do it.
Most of CLAMP’s titles are available from Kodansha Comics USA or Dark Horse.