Legal Drug

October 20, 2010 dreamkaleidoscope
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TITLE: Legal Drug
AUTHOR/MANGAKA: CLAMP
PUBLISHER: Tokyopop
RATING: Older Teen (16+)
CATEGORY: Shounen-ai
NUMBER OF VOLUMES: 3 (On Hiatus)
SCORE: 6 (Fine)
RECOMMENDED FOR FANS OF: CLAMP (mangaka of xxxHolic, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, Wish, The One I Love, Suki, etc.), supernatural, mystery, comedy, romance

As a general rule, I don’t review incomplete series on this blog. Neither do I tend to read shounen-ai/yaoi, which just isn’t my cup of tea. This will be a rare exception.

There’s a rather interesting story about how I came to own these three volumes of CLAMP’s Legal Drug. I mentioned in my last posted review that I bought my copy of another CLAMP title, Shirahime-Syo, secondhand. An online aquaintance of mine was getting rid of some of her manga collection, and among the offered titles was Shirahime-Syo, which I had been wanting for a while. However, it seemed silly to only buy one volume when the seller was offering a flat shipping rate. The cost of the shipping was more than the cost of the book! None of the other titles for sale really interested me, though, so in the end I randomly decided to pick up Legal Drug as well, since it was another CLAMP title and only three volumes long. At the price I was paying for them, it didn’t really matter to me if the series was ultimately left unfinished, and I was vaguely interested in reading one of CLAMP’s more shounen-ai-focused works, just out of curiosity.

I would describe Legal Drug as a more blatantly homoerotic version of their current series xxxHolic. The main characters are a pair of seventeen-year-old boys who live and work at Green Drugstore, owned by Kakei, a man with the power of precognition. The boys also possess unusual powers of their own: Kazahaya Kudo uses something akin to psychometry that allows him to see the memories of things and people he touches, while Rikuo Himuro’s power is telekinesis. In addition to their normal jobs at the pharmacy, Kakei offers them side jobs that often are linked to the supernatual. Based only on the three volumes that were released before the series was put on hiatus, it isn’t very clear yet what the main plot of the story is supposed to be, but these side jobs hint at a larger mystery, one involving the reason why Kazahaya ran away from his twin sister Kei and the disappearance of a mysterious woman named Tsukiko, who seems to be connected somehow to Rikuo.

But the main purpose of sending Kazahaya and Rikuo out on these jobs seems to be putting them in as many compromising positions as possible, which especially annoys Kazahaya since he can’t stand Rikuo. (Again, shades of xxxHolic, in how Watanuki despises Doumeki at first.) Rikuo, for his part, doesn’t seem to mind, finding Kazahaya’s freak-outs a source of constant amusement.

Unfortunately, the majority of these side jobs aren’t very interesting, only lasting about a chapter or two at most and not very suspenseful. One has them going to see a black-and-white movie so that Kazahaya can find out the color of a jewel — necessitating that he hold Rikuo’s hand since Kazahaya has a cold and can’t focus on his own — while another has Kazahaya dressing up as a schoolgirl and being possessed by a spirit, who wants to confess to the boy she had a crush on — of course played by Rikuo.

It isn’t until the third volume that a job comes along that feels like a true mystery. Taking pretty much the entire volume to resolve, it involves Kazahaya and Rikuo enrolling together in an all-boys’ school. In what I assume is an affectionate parody of yaoi tropes, nearly all the students are so horny that they have no problems with turning to each other to take care of their sexual urges in lieu of girls. In fact, the highlight of the school’s cultural festival is the choosing of the prettiest boy to be the “bride” in a fake marriage ceremony, during which the bride is allowed to wear the school’s treasure — a ring that Kazahaya and Rikuo are supposed to steal.

I actually really enjoyed this whole arc, largely in part to Kazahaya’s roommate, Satoru Nayuki. He’s the vice-president of the student council and looks the part of a serious student, thanks to his glasses, but despite his prim and proper exterior, he’s no innocent and enjoys introducing Kazahaya to how things work at the school. The contrast between his goody-two-shoes image and the shocking things that come out of his mouth is just hilarious, as are pure and virginal Kazahaya’s reactions to him and the other students at the school.

The strength of this title is really the characters. Kazahaya and Rikuo are somewhat similar to Watanuki and Doumeki as mentioned before, but different enough that they aren’t clones. Kazahaya is less prone to crazy antics than Watanuki, but possibly more naive, while Rikuo is more the strong, silent type in comparison to Doumeki’s sarcastic personality. My favorite characters, though, are Kakei and his lover Saiga. Their relationship seems to be a deconstruction of the stereotypical seme/uke dynamic often found in yaoi. Kakei, the shorter, more feminine looking of the two, is clearly the more dominant partner, with a hidden sadistic side to him. Sunglass-wearing giant Saiga, on the other hand, is the domestic sort, with a talent for sewing and other such skills.

As for the art, it’s CLAMP, so of course it’s pretty, but not one of my favorites when it comes to artwork. Drawn by Mick Nekoi, who has admitted before that she has trouble drawing distinctive men, the characters do look kind of alike. In fact, Kazahaya and Rikuo could pass as Kakei’s and Saiga’s respective, nearly identical sons, as they do in an amusing omake at the back of one of the volumes. It seems rather strange to me to choose Nekoi to do the drawing for a series with a cast of almost all men, but it is still well-drawn despite the similarity of some of the characters’ looks.

Should CLAMP ever return to working on Legal Drug, I wouldn’t mind reading the rest of it, especially if there are more jobs like the last one. I’m intrigued by the mystery of Tsukiko and Kei, and the characters are quite fun. But if it remains unfinished, I honestly won’t be too disappointed. CLAMP has other titles I would prefer they finish first (like Clover, The Legend of Chun Hyang, and (though I haven’t read the manga yet) X), and the story is similar enough to xxxHolic that it doesn’t really feel necessary for them to continue. Still, those who are disappointed by the lack of overt Watanuki/Doumeki fanservice in xxxHolic will probably enjoy the much more expressive pairing of Kazahaya/Rikuo (as well as Kakei/Saiga). They’ve got way better sexual chemistry anyway.

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