Drug & Drop Volume 1 TPB Review

Written by: CLAMP

Art by: CLAMP

Publisher: Dark Horse

Back in September, Dark Horse released the omnibus of CLAMP’s manga Legal Drug and kindly let us all know that we’d get the continuation of the manga in 2015. Released under the title Drug & Drop (the title was changed when CLAMP picked the series back up after almost a decade long hiatus), English readers now have a way to see how the story plays out.

I highly recommend that people pick up Legal Drug as Drug & Drop more or less picks up exactly where Legal Drug left off. While the manga tends to avoid long narratives and instead chooses these sort of daily episodes, Drug & Drop kicks right into the larger, ongoing issue with pretty much no back story.

The series centers around two young men, Rikuo and Kazahaya, and the extraordinary circumstances that pull them together. Both appear to be searching for loved ones who may or may not be in danger and both have supernatural powers. While they attempt to look for clues, they find themselves being employed in a drug store by a strange man named Kakei who owns the store and seems to have some powers of his own. Along the way, Kakei sends them on unique and special jobs that always end up being supernatural in nature.

CLAMP seems to want to waste no time in getting on with the strong narrative they hinted at in Legal Drug and this first volume of Drug & Drop. Gives us a ton of information to work with and brings us closer to discovering the truth about both Rikuo’s and Kazahaya’s loved one. In fact, we seemingly get more information within this first volume than we did in all of Legal Drug. Kazahaya and Rikuo both also develop/reveal new aspects to their powers that we didn’t even get a hint of before. It makes for an exciting first volume that also kind of makes us take note than regardless of the hiatus, CLAMP clearly knew what they were doing and where they wanted to go.

Another notable difference is that the shounen-ai elements are much lighter. In my review of Legal Drug I mentioned that CLAMP heavily played up the shounen-ai and it was something that needed noting. Drug & Drop doesn’t do away with these elements entirely but they don’t occur as frequently or as in-your-face as before. While I’m certain some fans will be disappointed, I personally thought it was a great idea as it helps give the story more strength and fleshes out the relationships between characters even more. Kazahaya and Rikuo seem to genuinely care about each other rather than their relationship be reduced to some fan service fluff and the hints towards future plot points are going to make this stronger bond way more important than any shounen-ai elements ever could.

The art hasn’t changed much but continues to be gorgeous which is something that CLAMP seems to do well. And, as always, CLAMP’s signature long, lanky characters are in full effect. CLAMP does, however, seem to somehow get better and better at character close-ups and certain key scenes are displayed beautifully in full page panels. CLAMP continues to be one of my favorite companies simply because they have clean, and beautifully simple artwork that still manages to have a signature look that makes it easily identifiable.

CLAMP's artwork can be absolutely stunning sometimes

CLAMP’s artwork can be absolutely stunning sometimes

CLAMP fans will also be happy to know that Watanuki from xxxHolic makes a fairly big cameo in here and if that’s any hint towards what we can expect from future installments, we have a lot to look forward to. In fact, the whole volume feels like a fleshed out teaser as there’s so many elements we merely get a taste of. The good news is that none of them feel gimmicky and they instead feel like CLAMP is setting up the stage for what’s going to be long and involved series that’s going to keep us reading.

Drug & Drop Volume 1 was a great way to kick off this continuation and there’s enough in here to get us excited as readers. The story is dark, mysterious, and the characters have some wonderful interactions that I just know will probably tug at my heartstrings when action ramps up as promised. I got hooked on xxxHolic for a lot of the same reasons that make Drug & Drop appealing (interesting characters and spooky stories) but Drug & Drop is really reeling me in with that much hinted at underlying story of why Rukio and Kazahaya have so much in common and why they both lost people they love.

This is wholeheartedly a manga I’m going to keep reading and I expect everyone else who picks it up will feel the same way.