Sunday, June 2, 2013
Gate 7 is the latest series in the west by the mangaka group CLAMP. You may know of CLAMP and recognize this style from one of their many series-- xxxHolic, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Cardcaptor Sakura, Chobits, and many others.
The beautiful style of CLAMP that caught my attention years ago has developed to create stunning imagery in the characters, costumes, and scenery. Gate 7 takes place in modern day Kyoto, which is a city in Japan known for its traditional and historical architecture and sites.
The story follows Chikahito Takamoto who is visiting Kyoto on a trip. He accidentally meets Hana, Tachibana, and Sakura while visiting a shrine. He gets caught up in a battle between these three and supernatural creatures. A few months after returning home Chikahito suddenly is transferred to a new school... in Kyoto. His mother is against it, but because of her work overseas it's difficult to argue, so Chikahito ends up moving to Kyoto. While apartment hunting he runs into them again while searching for a restaurant, and then he comes to live with the trio in Kami-Shichiken Hana Michi.
Hana is some kind of supernatural being that fights monsters. Sakura and Tachibana are her guardians-- Sakura controls the dark element (Yin), Tachibana controls the light element (Yang). They both serve different purposes to help Hana battle-- creating barriers or weapons, for example. Chikahito Takamoto for some reason can go inside the barriers... Ordinary people can't do that. However, when they ask Hana which side he is on, she simply says that he is, "not." This is to say that he is neither for or against them.
Throughout the first three volumes of this manga we meet an interesting cast of characters. Masamune Date and Iematsu Tokugawa, two daimyo from the Sengoku period; and Hidetsugu Toyotomi, the retainer to his uncle Hideyoshi Toyotomi. Yep, you heard me, from the the Sengoku period. Hana, Tachibana, and Sakura are members of the Urashichiken Hana Michi, and their leader is Hidetsugu Toyotomi. One of their allies is Masamune Date, and the main antagonist is Iematsu Tokugawa. Their battles go back to the Sengoku period, and right now Iematsu is searching for Nobunaga's body to capture his oni.
Are you confused? It is a bit confusing. The Sengoku period is also known as the Warring States Period lasted from the mid-15th century to the early 17th century in Japan. It was a time of political and social upheaval and military conflict. Most of the characters this manga includes are historical figures from this time period, and yes, their conflicts are still present. Maybe you'll read more about the history after diving into these manga, but if you aren't up to that endeavor, at least read the notes at the end of the manga-- they go into a lot of detail about the historical figures, terminology, and items of note that you may not be familiar with.
Gate 7 is an interesting mix of historical events and supernatural beings in modern day Kyoto. If you're interested in Japanese history and mythology, beautiful art, and a great story, check out Gate 7 by CLAMP. It's full of fun characters, strange situations, and supernatural drama (and did I mention the amazing art?).