For the next few columns I shall be covering the early works of a group of manga and anime artists known as the “Clamp” group. This is a group of all-women artists and writers, who first began working in the mid-1980s and have continued to produce some of the biggest, the most popular, and the best looking manga and anime. However, while their manga is often considered great, some of the early anime adaptations do not quite to their work justice.
Clamp’s debut work was RG Veda, a fantasy series that spanned 10 volumes between 1989-1996. However, the anime consists of just two Original Video Anime (OVA) released in 1991-1992. The series is based on Vedic Mythology, which is related to Hinduism. As a result, the title is pronounced “Rigveda”, not “R. G. Veda”. There are some notable differences, such as the characters having Japanese names.
In this world setting, 300 years ago the “God-King” was murdered in a rebellion by the cruel thunder god Taishakuten, who is now the current God-King and will do anything to maintain his power. In the present day, the mighty warrior Yasha, who comes from a clan destroyed by Taishakuten, learns of a prophecy that a band of six people, known as the “six stars” shall overthrow the current God-King. Yasha is one of the stars. The second is Ashura, a genderless child whose mother and Taishakuten magically sealed to prevent him from causing trouble. Yasha frees Ashura, and together they go searching for the other four stars and start their rebellion.
They soon find another three stars: Ryu, young king of the Dragon Tribe who wields a gigantic sword; Soma, a woman who fights with two boomerang-like blades; and Karura, who has fights with her own bird and controls flight magic. They continue searching for the sixth star, while also being attack by Taishakuten and followed by the mysterious Kujaku, a traveller who many of the six stars do not trust, but Ashura finds friendly.
The original manga of RG Veda is very good for the reason why most of Clamp’s work is very good: the way it looks. Clamp has always been praised when it comes to the quality of their art, and it is in this work where we see it first materialise. It is not just the characters, but the landscapes that look wonderful too, especially in this epic fantasy setting.
However, the anime version has several problems. The main one is the obvious brevity of the series, as it is only two episodes long. Plus, it does not start at the beginning. It starts in the middle of the story, so if you have not read the manga understanding it is problematic. The first episode is an adaptation of one of the stories in the manga, whilst the second is an original story that they seemingly needed to write in order to reveal the identity of the sixth star to the other main characters. Also, due to the fact that the characters have Japanese names, it is hard at times to understand the relationship between this story and the original myths that they are based on.
You might be wondering why there is any point in watching this. I would argue that it is worth a watch on the grounds that this was the debut work from Clamp. Therefore if you want to know the origins of Clamp, this is the starting point. Of course, you should read the manga in tandem, but this is hard as the company that published it in English, Tokyopop, is no longer publishing English-language works, thus only second-hand copies are currently available.
The other reason to start with this is that Clamp has the habit of cross-referencing their works. Characters from one series will appear in another later work. The six stars in RG Veda later appear another of their works called Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle. Therefore seeing and reading Clamp’s works in chronological order makes more sense.
RG Veda’s anime is therefore looking into if you are interested in Clamp’s origins, but the manga is the better work.
RG Veda is available on Region 1 DVD from Central Park Media. It was released also released in the UK on video cassette by Manga Entertainment.