As I believe I've said before, I'm a pretty big fan of CLAMP's works but recently I haven't been loving them as much as I used to. Gate 7 was giving me particular trouble since CLAMP decided to start referencing a lot of Japanese history that is a bit obscure for someone who hasn't studied it in depth and I eventually stopped trying to follow it and said "fine, this is licensed and will probably have tons and tons of translator notes so I'd rather read the story that way then being confused all the time." That said I was still hesitant to actually go and pick up the first volume, at this point the story could be alright or really terrible, but thankfully tons and tons of people were holding contests for it and I eventually won a copy from Dark Horse themselves via twitter, good enough for me!
Gate 7 by CLAMP
Summary: Takamoto was an ordinary high school student who loved Kyoto but his first trip there wasn't what he expected, with all the mysterious people jumping in and out of a dream like setting and using magic. But he's even more unnerved when strange circumstances force him to transfer to Kyoto three months later and he's once again mixed up with these sorcerers.
The Good: There are six pages of translator notes in the back of this first volume and they are invaluable in understanding all the names being thrown around or what the many kinds of noodles mentioned are. The story was also easier to follow a second time around, now that I knew what was going to happen and using the translator notes to fill in the blanks but I think that with those notes to start with most people won't need a re-read. The basic plot premise is fairly simple and has promise to be interesting so hopefully Clamp will try for a simpler approach than with their more recent works.
The Bad: I remember reading the original premise for the series (part of which I think got incorperated in Clamp's other recent work, Blood-C) and I'm sad the series changed so drastically since I really liked their original idea. Right now the series has a lot of potential to go bad, there are so many characters and none have been fleshed out, Hana seems more like a plot device than a character and Takamoto is just very dull right now, although the setting is being used nicely. At this point I just don't have a reason to care for any of the characters or their motivations and I really should be able to after reading a few chapters.
The Art: The people are slightly less noodle-y than the character designs in Tsubasa: Resevior Chronicles and xxxHolic which I like and the rest of the art is as intricate as anything they've ever done, honestly I was looking more forward to seeing the art up close than rereading the story when I won my copy. Lots of double page spreads, intricate detailing, and lush backgrounds, the characters also manage to look fairly distinct from each other but some of them already are starting to look like some of Clamp's other characters.
I've held off so far from getting the second volume and I'll probably wait until I hear reviews of the third volume (which would be entirely new to me) before deciding whether or not to continue this series. Also sad that the original project this was going to be part of, the mangenettes, never worked out, I was more excited by the idea of simultaneous manga releases than the story itself and the plan was for that to come out in 2008 or so and by 2012 we have one, possibly four, manga that are being serialized on US sites simultaneously and legally with the Japanese releases (the only one I know of for sure is, of all things, Soul Eater Not).