Friday, November 25, 2016

REVIEW: Kobato (manga, vol. 6) by CLAMP, translated by William Flanagan

This post includes lots of spoilers (the description included).

Kobato meets with Okiura without telling anyone, but Fujimoto finds her anyway and overhears her telling Okiura that she believes Fujimoto hates her. That isn't true, of course, but that doesn't stop Kobato from fulfilling Sayaka's wish, to be free of Okiura's father, in the belief that Fujimoto would be happiest if Sayaka were happy. Fulfilling the wish leads to Kobato's death, but that's okay, because she gets reincarnated. Her new incarnation remembers Fujimoto and all the people in her past life, so she heads to them, even knowing that they probably won't remember her. What she doesn't realize is that Ginsei made a wish for Fujimoto to remember her, and so the two love birds are reunited (never mind that Kobato is 16 or so and Fujimoto is maybe in his late 30s). Suishou, the angel who helped Kobato live a little longer, is still within her until at least her next life, but after that the angel will be reunited with Iorogi.

While requesting manga volumes prior to my vacation, I remembered that I was only one volume away from finishing this series. I figured I should take care of that, but I made a mistake – I should have requested volume 5, and maybe volume 4 too, to remind me of what had happened and who everyone was. I last read those volumes way back in 2014, so I had gotten out of the flow of the series' emotional content, although my volume summaries at least helped me remember some of what was going on.

So, this was more than a bit confusing to get back to. I had forgotten how many crossover characters it had, for one thing. Only 20 pages in, and I'd spotted Chitose, Chi, and her sister (not as the actual characters from Chobits, of course, but rather alternate universe versions of themselves), as well as Kohaku from Wish. It should be noted that Kohaku really is the angel from Wish, and that Kobato is apparently set in the same universe as that series, just a few decades or so later. If I had taken the time to think about the implications of that, the ending might have been less of a surprise.

I still don't know that I'd have seen the ending coming, though, because it was just so much. Like, every happy ending CLAMP could possibly cram in there, whether or not it really fit. If I remember correctly, the original setup for this series indicated that someone would have to make a sacrifice – either Suishou would need to fade away in order for Kobato to live out her life with Fujimoto, or Kobato would need to die for Suishou to be free to go back to Iorogi and for Iorogi to get his original form back. Instead, literally everybody got to be with the person they loved. I like happy endings, I do, but I also want them to feel like they were earned, and this just seemed to fall into everyone's laps. Even though reincarnation is part of this world's rules, it still felt kind of like CLAMP had cheated.

I wonder how I'd feel about this series if I hadn't already read Wish? To my mind, this seemed like a cardboard cutout version of that series, with some of the same issues and themes but less tightly focused and with a little less charm. Then again, it's been a while since I've read Wish, and maybe my memories of it are rosier than it deserves. I'll have to add it to my “reread sometime soon-ish” list.

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