When you have a school full of geniuses and prodigies, there are bound to be plenty of mysteries to be solved. Enter the Clamp School Detectives!
What They Say
The CLAMP school, with its integrated curriculum from kindergarten to post-graduate studies, was founded by the largest of Japanese business empires, the House of Imonoyama. Funded entirely out of its own deep pockets, it was hoped that the school would be a haven for young men and women on whose shoulders our future would rest.
The School is open to any talented individual, irrespective of his or her lineage or financial standing and is known to count scores of singularly talented pupils. It is furthermore also famous for its harboring of a remarkable percentage of party animals. Not even the bright and talented minds of CLAMP School can keep the campus free of crimes and mysteries. Or can they? Join Nokoru, Suoh and Akira, our case-cracking kid detectives, as they save the day and even the odd damsel in distress!
CLAMP School Detectives is really surprising in that it is a bilingual release. Bandai has played around with some subtitle only shows as of late and considering the age of this one, I really didn't expect it to be a bilingual release. Both the original Japanese language track and the new English language adaptation are done in a simple stereo format encoded at 192kbps. The show is certainly representative of its age and design with something fairly basic that's all forward soundstage based. There isn't a lot of really noticeable directionality or placement going on here but it has a clean and solid mix that conveys the generally dialogue heavy show in an enjoyable fashion. While we listened to the Japanese language track primarily, we didn't notice any problems with the English language mix during the spot checks.
Originally airing in 1997, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The source materials for this is pretty much what was around ten years ago which is why it's something of a mixed bag depending on what you notice. The presentation in general is very solid with pleasing colors, very little in the way of noise or aliasing during panning sequences and a generally clean look. Characters look good, colors are well represented without being oversaturated and it doesn't stand out in a bad way. Where it has a problem is in that there's a considerable amount of cross coloration visible throughout. This does vary from setup to setup in how much you see, but on our sets it's pretty noticeable and rather distracting. This may be a deal breaker for some but not for others. I found it distracting at times but not so much at others.
Bandai has done this as a six volume release but still put it inside a standard sized keepcase which is interesting. The interior front and back of the keepcase holds two discs while they’ve included a clear plastic hinge in between to hold the other two discs. The front cover artwork is fun as it has the main principle characters of the series with generally happy expressions on their faces while the balloons and streamers open up around them. The logo is a bit small but it’s solid and appealing. They also include a nice banner along the top to indicate that it is the complete collection, but they could have made it a bit more obvious from the front that it’s a twenty-six episode collection. The back cover continues the bright colors, though blended more into a rainbow form, as it has a detailed look at the premise of the show. A lot of space is also given over to the breakdown of episode numbers and titles across all six volumes and twenty-six episodes. The remainder is used for the production credits and a good looking technical grid that covers everything in a very easy to read format. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reverse side cover.
The menu design is really nice and surprising at the same time. Unlike most collections these days, this release has different menus for each of the six volumes. Each menu is an appealing and vibrant piece where it has some colorful static artwork, such as stars streaking in the background, while the foreground has various combinations of the main characters set to some bouncy music. The character artwork looks really nice and each menu is done with a predominant color, like green or orange or blue. It has a very striking look but doesn't cross over into the realm of the garish. The submenus load quickly and access to various episodes is easy. I do dislike that when you play a single episode, it takes you back to the main menu afterwards instead of continuing to the next episode when it finishes. The languages are clear in what's selected which is a big plus but the discs don't recognize our players’ language preset which is a negative.
CLAMP School Detectives provides some really fun extras throughout from the original home video releases. Each volume has two of the “One Day With the CLAMP School Detectives” shorts in which we get the pint sized versions of the characters talking about the finer points of being detectives or other little wacky things. They're cute and fun and add a nice little bit of side humor to all of it. Also included, though spread out to appropriate volumes, are clean versions of the opening and closings sequences. CLAMP School Detectives has two closings and a single opening and all three are presented here.
CLAMP School Detectives was one of the launch titles from Bandai Entertainment when it first came over to the US using the AnimeVillage branding. Back then, there was quite the clamor from a small group of people who wanted DVDs from the company and not VHS. While Bandai did eventually dip into DVD, they never put CLAMP School Detectives onto the format until now. Over the years, we heard a fair number of stories as to the reasons why. The masters weren't in good condition, they were lost, they wouldn't look good on DVD and so forth. But with Bandai now releasing their own CLAMP related show with Code Geass and a fair number of CLAMP related properties out there in general, they finally dusted off the masters and brought it out.
When it first came out on VHS, I was only vaguely aware of CLAMP and what the show was actually about. A few years later, TOKYOPOP brought out the manga for CLAMP School Detectives as well as the Duklyon Defenders which is involved in this as well. For me, CLAMP shows tend to be something of a guilty pleasure and CLAMP School Detectives most definitely falls into that category. What's been appealing about the properties over the years is the way they try to tie things together at times. When watching the X/1999 series from Geneon Entertainment a few years ago, CLAMP School Detectives makes an appearance in it and that only made me want to see this show more. With the characters also popping up in Tsubasa and the other manga that are related, such as the 20 Masks piece, the interconnectedness of things is a big draw for me, even if the general premise is kind of corny and hard to believe.
CLAMP School Detectives takes place in the sprawling mini city that is the CLAMP Campus. The campus is one where some thirty thousand or so people live which includes the students, faculty and those who run shops and other institutions located on the grounds. There are larger pieces to this campus that we find out about in other series, but for this series it revolves primarily around the elementary school where the student council is key. The council is made up of three students; sixth grader Nokoru is the president, fifth grader Suoh is the secretary and fourth grader Akira is the treasurer. The three of them have formed a nice bond as Nokoru decided he wanted to form the group in order to help save troubled ladies and keep smiles on their faces.
The series does follow some rather predictable things as it introduces itself. We see the formation of the group with a flashback to three years prior when Nokoru approaches the quiet and serious Suoh to be a part of things. But with their ages, they can't really do a whole lot with that beyond going over the importance of Nokoru's family and why he's such a high value target for kidnappers. When it shifts back to the present, we get a fair number of standalone stories that deal with simple cases that take place on the campus. Things disappearing from a locked room, animals that go missing and other kinds of cases that don't really challenge but do present some fun because of how the characters interact with each other. Nothing here in terms of stories really stand out, especially ten years after it was originally aired and considering how few chapters were produced for the manga, but it has that kind of solid competence to it that does make it enjoyable.
The series does try to be something a bit more towards the end as roughly the last six episodes focus on one particular case. The introduction of a new transfer student into the school isn't all that big of an issue, but he seems to be making his connections towards Nokoru known and it comes at a time when someone mysterious is challenging the detectives over something from Nokoru's past that he's unaware of. The story works nicely as it is a challenge for the group and because it spreads its pranks and challenges over the course of the episodes, all while we do get to understand what the background motivations are. What makes it work better is that unlike the previous cases, outside of the kidnappings, it's someone who is actively working against the detectives rather than something that just sort of happened. It's the malicious intent that gives it a different feel.
A show like CLAMP School Detectives does take some significant suspension of disbelief. The premise of having such smart and mature kids is something that I haven't found to work well in other shows I've watched as of late, but CLAMP School Detectives does have an advantage. It starts with the idea that the kids here are all prodigies and geniuses of sorts, kids who have a whole lot more to them than just being your average kid. But that doesn't help with some of the more unusual situations. When the kindergarten student council is introduced, you just have to laugh at it. The prodigy and genius side maybe makes it work, but I haven't met such children myself so I can't say. I just know real kindergarten children and know that there's no way they could ever act like this in general. But even that's not bad in comparison to watching the two kindergartners introduced, Utako and Nagisa, having feelings for Suoh and Akira and those feelings slowly being returned. Age isn't an issue when you're older, but it just feels weird to see third and fourth graders blushing over the way kindergarten girls look at them and some of the things that they say.
It's taken ten years but CLAMP School Detectives has finally arrived on DVD and in one really solid collection. While there are some issues with the video which are source and age related, the actual show itself and the way Bandai has put it together – even giving it a dub by Coastal – is above and beyond what the show should get at this stage of the market. As a key part of the CLAMP universe, CLAMP School Detectives is a cute and fun show that while predictable does provide plenty of enjoyment, especially if you have a shouta complex. CLAMP School Detectives won't revolutionize or change anything, but it's a show that's long been requested to make the leap to DVD and Bandai has done a very good job with it here overall.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, A Day In the Life At Clamp School Acts 1-13, Textless Opening, Textless Ending (Eps 1-19), Textless Ending (Eps 20-26)
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.