Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle

A Retrospective Look and Review

In 2003 CLAMP launched their epic serial story Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle a crossover of the ages featuring many familiar faces and a few new ones. The story taking place in a supposed alternate dimension followed the Princess Sakura Kinomoto and the young archeologists Syaoran from the popular Cardcaptor Sakura, on a quest of true love and adventure. After the Princess' memories are scattered into the winds in the form of tiny feathers, Syaoran takes it upon himself to recover them. Joining them on the journey Fai D. Flowright a crafty wizard and Kurogane a tough Samurai warrior and their travel aid Mokona Modoki.

The Manga

Six years, 28 volumes and a dozen kooky plot twists later CLAMP's epic ended its manga run and the epic story concluded. Naturally the manga and its sister story xxxHolic got their own anime treatment. Holic getting 37 episodes and three OVAs Tsubasa Chronicle getting 52 episodes and two OVAs. Both series had praise and criticism alike not to mention some very loud haters but more on them later.

In Retrospect

There isn't a lot I can say about the manga now as much of the manga has changed greatly from when I started reading and as of date, I have not finished the manga. What attracted me to the manga besides the fact it has Sakura and Syaoran from Cardcaptor Sakura (childhood favorite) was the epic feel of the storyline. Having really only seen the American/Canadian dub Cardcaptors I must admit I did not actually know who CLAMP was until I picked up the manga. In addition, I loved the giant cast of characters that came from all CLAMP works of old. It took me back to my days of fanfiction where I would do big crossover stories, but you aren't here to read that. So what changed, why didn't I finish the manga? A few reasons. I'm not a big manga person. This is only one of two series that I actively followed the other being Pita Ten. Because of this, I don't rush to scanlations and online readings like I rush to the latest stream and/or torrent of a new anime. Thus my reading was limited to the physical copies you buy at the bookstore. When I started Tsubasa several volumes were already out making it easy to quickly move onto the next one, however I quickly caught up to the point where the publishers would be waiting for the next batch to be translated and printed. As such periods of long months between readings new things to check out and the works, it is easy to forget about keeping up and sometimes money wasn't always there to go buy the latest copy. In short, I forgot about it but planned to get back to it. However as I heard spoliers of new plot details I started growing sour on the story. It went from something pretty simple to confusing and batshit insane (please pardon my French). Drastic plot and genre shifts in the middle of a story give the indication the author is making it up as they go along. Granted it works great in horror and thriller but that isn't what I was bargaining for. Third, believe it or not CLAMP fans started to sour me. With so much vocal hatedom for the anime adaptations and the people behind them, I started growing resentful of any CLAMP fan. It was even worse when the second OVA, which would have been mauled in any circumstances, opened up to ridiculous amounts of praise. It's the kind of hatedom you only get on the internet not the "well I dislike this and this and this" but pure rabid hatred of the; "DIE BEE TRAIN FOR NOT MAKING MY CHARACTERS GAY ENOUGH!" If you think I'm overstating it, well you're a bit right but I'm not doing it much.

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle the Movie:
The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom

Tsubasa Chronicle, The Movie, Tokyo Revelations and Spring Thunder

In 2005 the TV series anime version of Tsubasa
was launched under the name Tsubasa Chronicle. The first season consisting of 26 episodes was animated by then the relatively unknown Bee Train Production Inc. (of .hack// fame) and broadcasted by NHK the network that first broadcasted Cardcaptor Sakura (produced by MADHOUSE). Directed by Bee Train head Koichi Mashimo (with Hiroshi Morioka joining as co-director in season 2) Featuring a cast of two newcomers Miyu Irino (入野自由 Irino Miyu) and Yui Makino (牧野由依 Makino Yui) as our Princess and her Lover and a whole slew of veterans the series was welcome with much praise in Japan. Featuring the music of famed composer Yuki Kajiura which I argue helped propel her to greater fame in the anime world.

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle
TV series poster

The two season series ran through the 2005-2006 year and had a movie that coincided with it. short 35 minute film produced by Production I.G (at the time Bee Train's parent company) and directed by Itsuro Kawasaki, served a side story and a short prelude to the feature length XXXHolic Movie.

The series not liked so much by the hard manga fans and has lead to endless people who complain about shows they don't watch, ready to bitch about how Bee Train ruined their precious manga. Though many will claim CLAMP was so dissatisfied that they pulled the series preventing a third season, executive meddling and creative differences prevented it. CLAMP wanting the series to finally take a darker turn while NHK wanted to keep it light and appropriate for younger audiences. CLAMP took the story from NHK and Bee Train was taken off the project and Production I.G took the reins. 2007-2008 Tsubasa Tokyo Revelations directed by Shunsuke Tada and written by CLAMP writer Nanase Ookawa (then Ageha Ookawa) created 3 short OVA episodes. The OVAs were considerably darker and more violent than the TV Series and obviously higher production values (which is typical of OVAs. The OVAs recived critical praise all around and the CLAMPies rejoiced.

In 2009 I.G and CLAMP returned for another OVA Spring Thunder which recived just as much praise but unfortunately left anime followers in the dark.

In Retrospect

Bee Train, or in CLAMPese, Satan
Whew! So still with me? Hope so. I enjoyed the TV series of Tsubasa Chronicle. The first season shapped up to be everything I could hope it would be. It had a great opening theme song by Kinya and a nice song by Maaya Sakamoto, once can't complain. Though it did diverge from the Manga a bit, it didn't go way too far out of the relm of possiblity. There weren't dumb episodes featuring on anything unimportant the story always stuck with Sakura, Syaoran, Fai, Kurogane, and Mokona. Battles seldom were drawn out for ten episodes like other shounen series were,(The Henshin Republic arc doesn't count that was already a long chapter) and the music by Kajiura was fantastic. The Japanese cast was a knock out and the art direction is drop dead gorgeous. So why all the hate? I don't know, guess they figure if it isn't stamped with the signature of CLAMP (who by the way have taken their fair share of creative liberties with series they personally produce) and maybe it was the lighter tone. The animation wasn't perfect but if you are expecting motion picture quality with a budget of Public Access Television then you've got problems. The series was plagued by excessive flashbacks which slowed the story down more than camera movements and atmospheric character development.

The second season however, while it was good I admit it did include a few too many filler episodes including return to an arc done in the first season. The music wasn't as impressive and still was bogged by many flashbacks. Bee Train, we aren't goldfish! The the themesongs were also not as impressive. Though Kinya and Maaya Sakamoto returned, their themes were generic and more like any other typical Shonen anime out there.

The second season came to end with promise of more adventure and then the abrubt change of the guard. When Tokyo Revelations was released I didn't know what to expect. I will admit though with Tokyo was impressed. The darker storyline the high quality animation served up a great story. Unfortunate for Yuki Kajiura though much of her music was pushed into the background with the exception of her fantastic theme song "Synchronicity."

Production I.G
or in CLAMPese, God 
Compared to the series Tokyo did have stronger writing going for it and made me welcome to the change from Bee Train to Production I.G. But then came the next installment. Spring Thunder can only be summed up for what it is, a huge waste of time and money. Tokyo having picked up from more than halfway through the second season it was pretty easy to get back into the story. Spring Thunder however jumped several chapters ahead and chose only a few chapters to quickly animate. But of course CLAMP fans ate it up while anime fans were left in the dark. If ever there was a big "piss off" to anime fans and non readers CLAMP and I.G give a big slap in the face in the wake of this installment. Maaya Sakamoto, who is otherwise a wonderful singer and songwriter, provides a crap opening that severely undercuts the serious mood though Kajiura manages to stay in the zone of things, ironically. The simplistic character designs and animation make this one a pointless rip and money hole. The second OVA was a sham but as always embraced by the rabid base for not being from Bee Train.

So in the end is Tsubasa worth it? Well I'd say if you enjoy looney plot twists in what should be a straight forward story then absolutely. Maybe the souring of the story truly comes from fans more than the plot but I do think it's a bit of both. So will we see a proper animated conclusion of Tsubasa? Probably not. Considering Holic has gotten the royal treatment by I.G while Tsubasa has been left in the dust most of the time and the now giant plot chasam that separates the OVAs CLAMP singlehandedly made it impossible for a proper theatrical or OVA conclusion. So leaves the option of a possible TV remake or long awaited third season of the TV Series. Still I enjoyed Tsubasa in the time I watched and read the mangas, so I do recommend it regardless. In the meantime CLAMP fans need to grow up and quit bitching about how the anime was or was not adapted to their liking. The purpose of an adaptation is not to recreate the manga panel by panel because that would be pointless, as pointless as doing an adaptation in name only. Tsubasa is a work that is flawed on many account no less enjoyable.

The Tsubasa series and OVAs are available from FUNimation Entertainment on Blu-Ray and DVD the manga is avaiable from DelRay Manga, all other countries check Anime News Network for your region.

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