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Helen McCarthy asks anatomically impossible questions about live-action CLAMP

In September 2012 Japanese broadcaster WOWOW announced a live-action TV series based on CLAMP’s supernatural manga xxxHOLIC. The show, directed by Keisuke Toyoshima, is scheduled to premiere in 2013.

This is, obviously, to allow time for the plastic surgery.

I hasten to add that there is absolutely nothing amiss with the good looks of the leading actors. Actress and model Anne Watanabe, who is to play ‘dimensional witch’ Yuuko Ichihara, and Shota Sometani, her ghost-plagued employee Watanuki Kimihiro, are both extremely attractive. Neither of them, however, actually looks like a CLAMP character. Nor does almost anything human.

Look at their skulls, for a start. The proportions of the typical manga skull, used extensively in CLAMP’s work, involve jawlines too sharp and shallow to accommodate adult human teeth, let alone cope with the strain of chewing anything more solid than a ripe berry. The nose is almost non-existent, devoid of anything as crude as nostrils, and positioned lower down the face than a normal nose – partly because of that tiny jaw. The huge orbits of the eyes mean the cheekbones are lower and wider, giving the face its characteristic childlike proportions.

One also has to speculate that, given the size of eyeball needed to occupy the space, the skull must be running out of room for some of its contents: the brain, for example. Luckily, the small jaw and short nose shift all the proportions of the face downwards, which both adds to the childlike aura of innocence and leaves a place for the brain above the wider, deeper forehead.

It’s when it comes to the limbs that all relationship with reality breaks down. Not even a model is as long-legged and skinny as an anime character. In fact, as any collector of figurines can attest, once characters are turned into 3D creations, even in miniature, only carefully designed support prevents their ankles bending or breaking, unable to support their own bodyweight.

Western fans have suggested editing the actors to fit CLAMP proportions. One trusts they mean digitally rather than surgically. But, as earlier live action anime remakes prove, Japanese fans at least are more than willing to suspend disbelief in order to see their favourite characters played by human avatars. Tokyo Babylon 1999, the 1993 live-action movie ‘sequel’ to the Tokyo Babylon manga, stars Toshihide Tonesaku and Wataru Shihoudou, neither greatly resembling the manga characters.

It isn’t just CLAMP who have trouble finding live actors to match manga characters. The problem is widespread on Japanese screens. The live-action Sailor Moon TV series from 2003 and the 2004 live-action Devilman movie also fall short.  Nobody in the four (yes, four) live-action Kekko Kamen movies released in 2004 resembles the manga characters, although a cunningly choreographed version of the heroine’s costume provides distraction. And it isn’t restricted to fantasy: romantic comedies like Boys Over Flowers have the same problems. The Japanese, Chinese and Korean versions all had to deal with the fact that nobody really looks like a manga character.

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