Archive for March 15th, 2011

Duklyon: CLAMP School Defenders

TITLE: Duklyon: CLAMP School Defenders
RATING: Youth (7+)
SCORE: 7 (Good)
RECOMMENDED FOR FANS OF: CLAMP (Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, CLAMP School Detectives, Man of Many Faces, X, etc.), comedy, sci-fi, action, adventure, supernatural, romance

Continuing with yet another out-of-print CLAMP title, this month’s review focuses on the goofy, but charming, Duklyon: CLAMP School Defenders, in which the mangaka team tackles the world of sentai.

Duklyon, along with CLAMP School Detectives, Man of Many Faces, and some parts of X, is set at the CLAMP School, where the brightest and best come to study. Functioning as a small city, the CLAMP School encompasses all grades from kindergarten up to graduate school, and the extremely wealthy Imonoyama family who founded the school spares no expense when it comes to keeping the students happy, allowing them to hold frequent fun and elaborate festivals and celebrations.

Tenth graders Kentaro Higashikunimaru and Takeshi Shukaido are students at the school, but they are also a part of the CLAMP School Defenders, a secret sentai team formed to defend the school from attackers. Together with team leader and informant Eri Chusonji, the CLAMP School Defenders fight against the evil Imonoyama Shopping District Association, who plan to take over the world.

It is impossible to take Duklyon seriously, and that’s what makes it such a fun series. The whole thing is completely ridiculous and over-the-top. The Imonoyama Shopping District Association claims that it wants to take over the planet, but it’s difficult to see how any of their schemes — such as holding the president of the kindergarten class (Utako Okawa from Man of Many Faces and CLAMP School Detectives) hostage or taking over the school’s cafeteria — would actually lead to world domination. Not that the CLAMP School Defenders are any brighter, mind you. Kentaro, especially, has a bad habit of almost letting it slip to people that he’s a member of secret fighting duo that defends the school from evil, and neither they nor their classmate Kotobuki Sukiyabashi — the not-so-secret head of the Imonoyama Shopping District Association — figure out each others’ identities until near the end of the series, even though the three of them are always disappearing at around the same time to fight. In fact, they are on rather friendly terms with each other in class. 

However, as funny as the tongue-in-cheek humor is, the first half of the series is etremely repetitive. Most of the chapters in the first volume can be pretty much be summed up as such:

1) Kentaro, Takeshi, and Kotobuki start out by having a conversation (usually about food) when Kotobuki suddenly announces he has to leave.
2) Kentaro and Takeshi hear the music to summon them and head to the Dukylon Bakery, where they travel down a hidden chute in the bakery’s oven to the secret base.
3) There, Eri yells at them for being late, and a person referred to as the General — Nokoru Imonoyama from CLAMP School Detectives, though he never shows his face — gives them their instructions.
4) The CLAMP School Defenders show up and defeat whatever animal-based monster the Imonoyama Shopping District Association has sent out.

I have to admit, it was kind of a chore to get through the first few chapters, but things start to get a lot more interesting when Kotobuki and Eri end up developing crushes on each other, neither of them aware that they are actually enemies. In fact, Kotobuki’s and Eri’s budding romance becomes more of the focus of the story in the second volume, relegating Kentaro and Takeshi to bit players for the majority of the second half — something they constantly break the fourth wall to complain about. It’s a welcome change in my opinion, leading to some great — if somewhat random — plot developments that may take a few readers by surprise. (I won’t say anything more than that, so not to spoil anybody.)

With a lot of the comedy being dependent on the characters, Duklyon also has a good cast. Serious and responsible Takeshi plays the straight man to more light-hearted Kentaro, who loves cooking food for Takeshi and claims to want to become his bride. Their dynamic is similar to that of Kurogane and Fai from Tsubasa Reservoir Chroncle — incidently, they do make a cameo appearance in TRC, along with Eri — and provides plenty of fuel for the slash fans out there. My personal favorite characters were Eri and Kotobuki, though. A tough and rather violent girl, Eri can often be found chasing her subordinates around with a mallet, but she shows a softer, cuter side to her personality whenever around Kotobuki. On the other hand, Kotobuki, despite his role as the antagonist, is actually rather kind and a bit on the shy side when he’s not playing the bad guy, and it’s pretty clear that his “civilian” identity is far closer to his true personality. Seriously, the two of them interacting together is just adorable.  

There’s no need to mention that the artwork is great. It’s CLAMP; that’s pretty much a given. I do take issue with Takeshi’s and Kentaro’s character designs, though. With the two of them being roughly about the same size and sporting dark hair that’s styled somewhat similarly, it can be difficult at times to tell them apart until they speak. It’s even worse when they’re in their armor, which features helmets that completely cover their faces. While their suits are different colors, that doesn’t help a bit when the manga is in black-and-white and the colors are indicated with similar-looking screentone.

If you were a fan of the Power Rangers or other sentai shows growing up, you’ll probably enjoy the wonderful cheesiness and humor present in Duklyon: CLAMP School Defenders. If you weren’t, there’s still a lot to enjoy, like the cute romance between Eri and Kotobuki. I wouldn’t call this a must-read, but it’s a fun, short series that even younger readers can enjoy.

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