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Legal Drug, vols. 1-3 (CLAMP)

The set-up for this series is unnervingly close to that of its CLAMP stablemate, xxxHolic. We once again have the slightly timid, emotionally vulnerable teenaged boy who has lost his family and is now working for a mysterious shop owner who sends him on supernatural errands. But Kudo Kazahaya is a heckuva lot hotter-looking than Kimihiro Watanuki, and his nemesis/possible male love interest Himura Rikuo is even harder to avoid than Domeki is for Watanuki, because he boards upstairs at the shop along with Kazahaya. Finally, in place of space-time witch Yuuko and her mystical oddments store, we have the demure and lovely male owner of the Green Drugstore, Kakei, who is served by the hulking and hunky Saiga in place of Yuuko's bouncy little supernatural twins.

The Green Drugstore seems to be a thoroughly modern and ordinary place - the kind of establishment that sells everything from condoms to candy bars. At the end of vol. 3, I still have no idea why Kakei has such a connection with the supernatural, but it's pretty clear that he and Saiga are a couple - and frankly, to me, they're one of the major draws of the series. CLAMP has a lot of fun with unlikely role reversals in this pair: delicately beautiful, bespectacled Kakei and tall, threatening-looking Saiga, who wears his dark glasses even indoors and at night, look like they're made for a stereotypical uke-seme set-up - but Saiga is the one who cooks and sews, and Kakei is clearly calling the shots. Saiga otherwise spends most of his time asleep on the couch in Kakei's office, leading the naive Kazahaya to wonder why Kakei keeps him around - despite the fact that when Saiga is awake, he's frequently shown nuzzling Kakei's neck or wrapping his arms around him.

Both Kazahaya and Rikuo have mysterious pasts: Kazahaya can't remember parts of his history, and Rikuo won't talk about his. But clues keep surfacing as they run their errands for Kakei. The mangaka are being terrible teases with all of this - somehow, a number of the errands require Kazahaya to cross-dress - but it's all amusing and decorative enough to keep me interested. There is one major disappointment: the books have no notes of any kind about Japanese culture, not even the usual general information about honorifics and certainly nothing like xxxHolic's notes about Japanese customs and legends.

  Legal Drug, vols. 1-3 (review)

It looks like the mangaka expect us to consider Kakei to be a bit cruel in a catlike way - Saiga makes remarks about it from time to time - but after Yuuko, I am coming to expect all supernatural shopkeepers to be that way! Certainly Kakei has no intention of getting less than his money's worth out of the boys (he pays them a bonus for the successful completion of an errand) and doesn't hesitate to dock their pay for mistakes. He also seems to know a good deal about the boys' backgrounds - more than he's telling them - and what their psychic capabilities are.

So far, we've been shown that Kazahaya can channel someone else's memories and current senses: he can touch inanimate objects and view events that have happened to their owners, and hold someone's hand and see/hear what they are sensing. Both talents put him in embarrassing situations with Rikuo (at one point, sick with a fever, he has to hold hands with Rikuo to watch a movie through Rikuo's eyes because his own won't focus). He also tends to attract the attention of supernatural creatures. It's less obvious what powers Rikuo might have, but he seems resistant to supernatural influences that might affect normal people, and this, along with his size and strength, means that he spends a lot of time pulling Kazahaya out of danger. Rikuo also has odd, striking tattoos in various places on his body.

The third volume is different from the other two: instead of several incidents, we have one long story about Kakei's sending the boys to fetch an artifact at a boys' boarding school in the country. This gives the mangaka a chance to play with school story tropes - including boys getting crushes on each other ("because boys are horny!" as a seemingly innocent-looking bespectacled lad explains to an embarrassed Kazahaya). It also leads to a chance to put Kazahaya in a Chinese glamour girl outfit ... . The end of the book has a little addendum giving a few tantalizing crumbs of background for the situations of Kazahaya, Rikuo, and Kakei - although it certainly doesn't explain everything.

Thanks to fmanalyst for recommending this series!

Comments

( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
sanada
Dec. 30th, 2007 03:37 am (UTC)
I really liked Legal Drug... I'm still a little irked at CLAMP for abandoning the story and basically reworking Legal Drug into the more mainstream, crossover-filled xxxHolic. Recycling is good for the environment, but bad for manga!
chomiji
Dec. 30th, 2007 03:54 am (UTC)

Oh effin' hell, you mean there isn't any more to the series? I'm so ticked: this and Antique Bakery were both recommended when I was complaining about Gravitation's treatment of gay romance, and rachelmanija and fmanalyst were both right: I like these much better! But I only get 3 and 4 volumes of these guys, and 12 frickin' volumes of Gravitation??? Life is unfair!

sanada
Dec. 30th, 2007 04:19 am (UTC)
Nope, that's it... x___x CLAMP is rather notorious for dropping series and then having the same characters/situations show up in their next work. I wish they had just stuck with Legal Drug because I find it more interesting than xxxHolic! Well, I like xxxHolic too, but like much of CLAMP's work, it has a tendency to meander and not go anywhere.

Oh, Gravitation... I know, Shuuichi is such a girl. But you don't read Gravitation for the plot or character development, you read it so you know who the characters are in the mangaka's series of hardcore porn doujinshi. >__>;;;; I guess it gets some points for mainstreaming yaoi, but yeah... why are there 12 volumes?? (more if you include the sequel and all of the related stuff)

Hmm, gay romance manga... or at least manga with a lot of gay hinting... As for English stuff, I've been reading "Black Sun, Silver Moon" by Maeda Tomo lately, and I'm interested in where it will go, both in terms of the plot and character relationships. "Petshop of Horrors" by Matsuri Akino has one of my favorite gay manga couples, "Loveless" by Kouga Yun could use a LOT of work on the plot but the character interactions are creepy in a fascinating way, and "After School Nightmare" by Mizushiro Setona is quite an interesting little psychological story with a hermaphrodite main character... *laugh* I've got to keep up better with what's being released in English, though. I'm sure there's a lot of good stuff.
chomiji
Dec. 30th, 2007 04:26 am (UTC)

I think you and others have recommended Petshop of Horrors before - I'll have to check that out. And then maybe the others. I just started Fake, too, on smillraaq's rec.

So here's my winter break almost over and I didn't get to see you ... I owe you a letter too. Predictably, someone has already asked me for a sequel to the Kyo/Yukimura fic, "where they don't get interrupted." But the interruption is important ... .

sanada
Dec. 30th, 2007 05:03 am (UTC)
Oh, PSoH is a good one, especially if you like the snarky, bickering-like-they've-been-married-for-years type of relationships. And Fake, I looove Fake! It's good because even without the yaoi, there's a solid buddy-cop story too!

I knoooow... December sucks. But I miss you! I figured people would want a sequel (there's a little voice in my head going "more, more, more!" too!) but your story is as important as the porn and the interruption really makes the end of the story more poignant...
(no subject) - smillaraaq - Dec. 30th, 2007 12:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fmanalyst - Dec. 30th, 2007 01:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - chomiji - Dec. 31st, 2007 04:33 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - smillaraaq - Jan. 3rd, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Jan. 5th, 2008 10:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Dec. 31st, 2007 04:23 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - chomiji - Jan. 2nd, 2008 08:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - chomiji - Dec. 31st, 2007 04:19 am (UTC) - Expand
meganbmoore
Dec. 30th, 2007 05:20 am (UTC)
*raises hand and adds voice to the "you'll probably like Petshop of Horrors" crowd.*

meganbmoore
Dec. 30th, 2007 05:23 am (UTC)
I think that's what happens with ANY romance-centric manga...the annoying ones seem to last for eternity, but the ones I latch on to either are really short or have the world's slowest release schedules. The more cliche and "like it because it's this type and really only has surface stuff that's not so great if you look past it" a book/pairing is, the more popular it seems to be.
chomiji
Dec. 31st, 2007 04:29 am (UTC)

I have a feeling that it has something to do with the way that an awful lot of the Saiyuki fanfic ends up being about Sanzo and Goku playing house! There are a lot of very young fans involved in these equations - and I am talking about mental age here, not necessarily calendar age. The result is that romances that would appeal to an older audience simply don't get as large a market share.

meganbmoore
Dec. 31st, 2007 05:24 am (UTC)
Most romance in manga, where the romance is a focus, tend to cater to the very young who won't look past the surface(like...95% of shojo romance manga and most of the yaoi I've ever tried to read)

The things that actually produce interesting, good canon pairings tend to either have the romance as a subplot, or the romance interwoven so that it's a crucial part of a much bigger plot.
(no subject) - chomiji - Jan. 2nd, 2008 08:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - meganbmoore - Jan. 2nd, 2008 08:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Jan. 5th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - meganbmoore - Jan. 5th, 2008 11:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
meganbmoore
Dec. 30th, 2007 03:39 am (UTC)
It looks like the mangaka expect us to consider Kakei to be a bit cruel in a catlike way - Saiga makes remarks about it from time to time - but after Yuuko, I am coming to expect all supernatural shopkeepers to be that way!

That's because all supernatural shopkeepers ARE that way. If I ever meet one that isn't, I won't know what to do.

Yuuko's just the most awesome of them all(I don't see any others making gods in their spare time, do you?) I was even forced to sacrifice SDK's frontpage banner space to her.
chomiji
Dec. 30th, 2007 03:56 am (UTC)

And it's a very pretty banner, but I'll take Kakei and Saiga over Yuuko, anyway ... but you wouldn't expect me to say otherwise, would you?

XD

meganbmoore
Dec. 30th, 2007 05:17 am (UTC)
Heh...welcome to them. I think 2 Clamp books is all I can handle for now(though my interest in Clover is reawakened...too bad it's not currently in print.)
fmanalyst
Dec. 30th, 2007 03:56 am (UTC)
Yay, I've been waiting for you to post about Legal Drug! And you're right -- it's a similar dynamic to Watanuki/Doumeki, and some of the fan fic has the characters discussing just that. (We don't see it in Legal Drug, but at one point early in XXXholic Watanuki buys hangover medicine at the drugstore and meets Rikuo and Kazahaya. Clamp has a number of different seme-uke dynamics in its series, and while there are definitely visual similarities in the couples, the relationship dynamics vary.

Rikuo's ability is a kind of telekinesis that allows him to break things. Also, I'm not sure that Kazahaya has lost his memory, more that he doesn't want to talk about it but slips every so often.

One of my favorite fan fics is here: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/3066063/1/Echoes. I'm fairly picky about the Clamp fan fics I read. It's easy for a lot of the fan fic writers to glom onto Kazahaya's innocence or Fai's frivolity, for example, and forget that they're smart and angsty too. They're not idiots.

The thing that struck me about Legal Drug is that Kazahaya clearly ran away from a very sheltered, even smothering environment, and it's that side of things I want to know more about. He never went to school, and it's clear that he never had any contact with anyone other than Kei. He certainly doesn't have any experience with the kind of teasing and bullying that Kakei, Saiga and Rikuo use on him. I think it's that aspect of him that brings out my maternal feelings. I find myself wanting to sit him down and teach him to count to ten before he reacts to those guys.
fmanalyst
Dec. 30th, 2007 03:58 am (UTC)
Oh and I nearly forgot -- that vase that Rikuo and Kazahaya retrieve during the festival? It pops up in XXXholic.
chomiji
Dec. 30th, 2007 04:16 am (UTC)

Yes, I'm sorry I took so long. I'm still way behind on what I've read vs. what I've blogged .... I did two reviews this week, but I also started two new series (Fake and the manhwa Bride of the Water God) to add to all the others I've never written up.

Yes, I wanted to know more about the whole inner story - why Kazahaya had been brought up that way, what was Kakei's connection to him, where did Rikuo fit in. I'm also not sure that Kazahaya's extreme discomfort with the cross-dressing works without a societal context, but who knows, maybe his parents - or whoever else raised him - emphasized differences in male vs. female behaviors.

I'll have to check out that fanfic. Yuletide has been good for showing me that other fandoms besides Sayuki can produce good fic.

Sounds like I need to re-read xxxHolic - I don't remember the vase or the drugstore incident.

( 30 comments — Leave a comment )

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