Publisher: Dark Horse
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: August 2012
Synopsis: “A battle for supernatural supremacy rages in Kyoto! When a strange dimension overlaps with our reality, Hana and the members of her Inou Squad use their mystical dominion over the elements to protect humanity against a torrent of invading creatures. Thrust in the middle of this war, Chikahito is a seemingly ordinary boy who’s been accepted into Hana’s group–but it’s possible that he has latent powers of his own!”
Gate 7 is such a conflicting series for me. I’m forced to admit, against all my love for CLAMP, that this is a bit of a mess. At the very least it’s one of their weaker stories. CLAMP has taken many of the ingredients people love from their work – detailed characters, winding mysteries, subtle relationships and stunning artwork – and yet mixes them together in a way that makes for an overall unpleasant dish. But, in true CLAMP fashion, the good is always just good enough to keep you wanting to come back for more and this third volume is no exception to the trend.
More characters are introduced in this volume that continue to bulk out the story’s two warring factions. Almost all of them are reincarnations of past figures from Kyoto history. I’m sure everything might be more interesting if you have a familiarity with the figures they’re always referencing, but unfortunately most are relatively unknown to English audiences historically. They all look so cool though!
One of the new characters is a young woman named Gracia who sports an asymmetrical haircut and gothic lolita fashion. She goes up against the pint-sized powerhouse Masamune Date who has a major love-infection for the androgynous, Hana. They’re two of the various characters who spend large portions of volume three duking it out (for some reason I’m not quite sure of) in a spectacle of phenomenally rendered fight scenes full of magic, violence and more neat designs courtesy of their spiritual partners. The first chapter of the book finishes up the big fight that semi-lead character Sakura was waist-deep in during two volume two.
As far as the over-arching plot goes, I get that people are fighting each other, and that the leads are a secret little group dedicated to battling supernatural creatures, but everything feels so circular. They fight, they meet a new character, they fight again, maybe a cute noodle eating scene or two, but nothing moves forward. I’ve always liked CLAMP’s ability to weave multi-layered plots and complex character relations but Gate 7 feels so stale in comparison to the epic world hopping of Tsubasa or the charming card-capturing of Cardcaptor Sakura. Stuff happens but nothing ever really seems to be happening.
Fortunately throughout the volume there are a number of important scenes that bring a lot more into question, making me really curious to know what they foreshadow. We’re privy to one of Hana’s dreams where a ‘new’ and more mysterious character directly tied to them is introduced. Meanwhile, there’s Iemitsu Tokugawa, the young, pretty but apparently very dangerous leader of a rival group who has started getting close to Chikahito. Speaking of whom, Chikahito’s relevance has been in question since volume one but now we’re starting to see other characters sensing a strange familiarity with him that they can’t place, making Hana’s quick attraction to him bear even more weight.
Despite his rather archetypical role as the bumbling, powerless outsider dragged into a magical conflict, I still really like Chikahito. He’s like a really optimistic Watanuki (from CLAMP’s XXXHolic). I like that although he has a healthy dose of fear and concern about all the deadly battles and magical assaults, he still can’t help but be really interested in them as a history geek. His awkwardness around Hana is also adorable and I can’t help but be a bit charmed by his good-guy morals and naivete that works conveniently for moving the plot forward and keeping certain characters alive.
The art in Gate 7 is stil gorgeous. Everything and everyone is fun to look at, whether it’s their intricate outfits or suck-in-your-soul eyes. Great art, good characters, interesting situational plot devices and you have Gate 7, which though as a whole hasn’t come together, still bears some promise. With some wheels that might finally be turning, I’m hopeful volume four treats us to some of the wow factor that this title really needs.
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Book bought from Strange Adventures