When manga creators gain the stature and the fanbase of CLAMP, they are basically free to do whatever they want. Nonetheless, CLAMP has made some strange choices recently, from agreeing to let studio GoHands adapt their classic manga Tokyo Babylon, to their latest collaboration project with the Cardfight!! Vanguard series. As the franchise's website revealed on January 22, CLAMP is responsible for the character design drafts of the brand new Cardfight!! anime series called Cardfight!! Vanguard overDress.
Cardfight!! Vanguard is a series of anime produced to market the card game of the same name. It is basically a less popular version of Yu-Gi-Oh! and its card game, Duel Monsters. The anime is currently in Season 12 and it can be divided into two main parts: the original Vanguard series with four seasons, and the Vanguard G series that features different characters from the original series, which has five seasons. The Vanguard series was then rebooted in 2018 with three more seasons.
A large number of seasons show that the Cardfight!! series has a potent enough fanbase for its creators to continue producing new anime. According to Cardfight!!'s official website, the new overDress series will feature a completely new cast of characters and a new card world that takes place 3,000 years after the original series’ card game. This means that the new anime is going to promote some brand new card sets for fans to purchase.
Just one look at the characters is long enough to make it clear that CLAMP took part in the design process: the protagonist of the series, Yu-yu Kondo, in particular, is very reminiscent of past CLAMP characters like Syaoran Li from Cardcaptor Sakura and Subaru Sumeragi from Tokyo Babylon. But the question is, why would CLAMP work with an anime project with the primary purpose of selling a card game, of all things?
Our first guess is since CLAMP’s current ongoing manga series is the Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, the group may see some synergy with another card-based series. Though it seems like a prosaic reason, their past work suggests it may be something they themselves like to do. For example, they famously designed the characters for the Code Geass series, and CLAMP’s own anime series xxxHolic aired around the same time as Code Geass. They even shared the same voice actor in Jun Fukuyama for their lead protagonists. Furthermore, overDress and the upcoming Tokyo Babylon anime also share the same lead voice actor in Shouta Aoi. Are these all just coincidences, or some well-planned corporate synergy? You be the judge.
A more out-of-the-box guess is CLAMP’s possible interest in the fandom of Cardfight!! Vanguard. CLAMP has been keen on portraying LGBTQ characters in their own works and are themselves, avid shippers, even before they became professional mangaka. Their past collaborations such as Mouryou no Hako and Kabukibu! tend to contain LGBTQ elements. The Cardfight!! Vanguard series has a relatively small but very fervent group of shippers within its fandom, and it is also one of the reasons why the Vanguard series was rebooted years later. It is possible that one or a few members of CLAMP belong to this fandom and want to participate in the project they enjoy.
Moreover, the new overDress series features some dark fantasy elements in its visuals that kind of look like The Wizard of Oz or a cursed circus, a setting that is more akin to CLAMP’s sense of style than previous series'. In overDress’s announcement stream, the series’ director commented that he wished the new series to be enjoyed by all people, older fans and newcomers alike, so collaborating with CLAMP is definitely a great way to bring in a new audience, and potential consumers, to the series and Cardfight!! brand.