Before we get started, I have two thank yous to say. Thank you, Jon Spencer and Ian Wolf. Jon Spencer for recommending me and my blog to Ian Wolf, and Wolf for sending me a free copy of his book for me to read and review. I’m sorry it has taken a while to finally get this up, but I wanted to make sure I do this book justice in my review.
CLAMPdown: The Lowdown on the biggest manga group going down by Ian Wolf is exactly what the title says. It discusses the history and impact CLAMP, an all-female Japanese manga artist group, has had on the industry.
From how the group started when the four founding members met as teens to creating legendary works that are still enjoyed around the world today. CLAMPdown covers it all as well as discussing the environment surrounding CLAMP at the time. The book reviews the manga they created, and how they were received then and now both in Japan and worldwide. Although, there is a bit of a focus on Britain since that’s where Wolf is from.
That being said, CLAMPdown isn’t a dry account of CLAMP. Wolf writes in a knowledgeable yet casual way. It gives the book the vibe of listening to a friend light-heartedly rant to you about one of his passions. I think this is a brilliant element of the book, as non-fiction as a genre tends to bore me, whereas CLAMPdown was a joy to read. Not to mention the jokes that he constantly makes throughout the book. I found myself smiling and laughing while reading it.
There is a brilliant breakdown of the history of manga and anime in general at the beginning, so even if you don’t know much about it you will get a lot out of this book. CLAMPdown also is honest in reviewing the manga. Calling out some of the problematic elements, explaining why they exist in the manga but not excusing them. It isn’t filled with blind praise but honest and making jokes at the same time.
Something I would like to highlight is the use of mirror writing. There are several major spoilers of the series mentioned. Wolf wrote these parts in mirror writing to make it easier to skip over if you want to read the manga for yourself later. You can either hold it up to a mirror or read them in standard text on his blog. After reading it, I am definitely going to check out several of the titles, so this was a great move.
I loved CLAMPdown. It was funny yet insightful. If more non-fiction books were like this, I would read a lot more of them, that’s for sure. If you love manga and anime, I highly recommend checking out CLAMPdown.