Reviewby Michelle Yu, Dec 2nd 2007
Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE
DVD 1 - V01
When Syaoran and Sakura discover a secret on a archaeological dig it results in Sakura losing her memories and both of them being transported to another world. To regain Sakura's missing memories Syaoran is forced to make a deal with Yuuko the Space / Time witch and is sent off with a swordsman looking for a way home and a magician who is running from his. Their adventure takes them to other worlds where many familiar clamp characters have different lives, one moment they will be running a tea house and the next they will be competing in a massive air race.
Production Company: Bee Train
Beginning in an alternate universe known as the Clow Kingdom, the story is centered on Syaoran's journey to reclaim the lost fragments of Princess Sakura's memory, whom he also holds feelings for. The scattered memories appear in the form of feathers from ethereal wings, which give the series its name (Tsubasa = Japanese for “wings.”) In a nutshell, this is your friendly neighbourhood fluffy anime series which lives at the corner of Fantasy Road and Romance Street.
The first episode titled “Destinies Converge” begins with an ambiguous scene where Sakura and Syaoran are separated by what appears to be an invisible, unbreakable barrier. Whether the sweet, Clamp-esque scene is metaphorical or literal in its messages is to be revealed later in the episode. As mentioned before, the series begins in the Clow Kingdom, ruled by Sakura's older brother King Touya. The streetscape appears to be inspired by Medieval Italy with a somewhat futuristic twist in the architecture of the palace.
You may recognize these character and place names from the other Clamp series Cardcaptor Sakura. The series also showcases other Clamp characters such as Chii from Chobits and Yuuko from xxxholic in various roles with their base character personalities being not dissimilar to the ones displayed in their origins. While this may be seen as a Clamp fan's dream, others have criticized the series as being a “Clamp-fest” with little innovation in terms new and original characters.
Nevertheless, the series does not disappoint visually due to the Clamp-style lines which are typical of shoujo anime. The flawless, flowing animation only intensifies the feminine drawing style showcased in this series, which is offset at times with some simple, family-friendly humour. The series could be likened to the story of The Wizard of Oz, where an unlikely group of characters all undertake the same journey in order to fulfill their individual goals. Tough-guy Kurogane tags along to find his way back to his own world, after being forced out via magical means, whilst the effeminate mage Fai wants the exact opposite, to be anywhere but home and happily joins Syaoran on his quest to regain Sakura's memories.
In addition to the likeness to The Wizard of Oz, the fairytale motifs are abundant in the earlier episodes. For example there is a scene where Sakura chooses a nashi pear for a snack. The nashi pear bears a similar shape to an apple, the catalyst of all the troubles of fairytale heroines. Whilst it is not so much the case here, it is just that little bit of attention to detail that shows that the animators and writers went the extra mile.
The pacing is brisk in Volume One, with all main characters introduced by the end of the first episode and cuts between universes are seamless to the untrained eye. Aside from the usual colouring and drawing styles prominent across Clamp works, there is a great amount of attention to detail with smaller areas such as the design on each individual feather. Costume design for the female characters in particular pay homage to regal Japanese fashion of the past and designs that wouldn't look out of place in a role-playing game. It is no wonder that Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle has inspired hundreds of cosplayers all over the world.
Another point could be awarded to Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle for the soundtrack. The opening theme “Blaze” performed by Kotani Kinya (who also contributed to the soundtrack of the anime Gravitation) is typical of the J-Pop/Rock genre, drawing on a similar sound to some songs by the J-Rock band L'Arc En Ciel. The ending theme “Loop” by the well-known Maaya Sakamoto balances the opening with a mellower tune. However the greatest compliments must be given to Yuki Kajiura for the understated masterpiece that is “Storm is Coming” which is played a number of times throughout the first few episodes of the series. The soundtrack incorporates many genres from the classical and operatic (“Storm is Coming”) to the J-Pop ballad (“Loop”.) All of which are more than appropriate for the story, art and characters. One cannot expect a string-shredding, heavy metal number for the fragile Princess Sakura, can they?
Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle may not be something for the biker down the road, or the hyperactive younger sibling. It requires a bit of patience (despite the brisk pacing of the opening episodes) and an appreciation for all things fluffy and sugar-sweet. Judging by the pretty boys at every corner of each episode, it will probably be a series lending itself to much fangirl-creativity. However, it is not to be overlooked as a series on the whole. Whilst seemingly two-dimensional in its use of crossover characters and names, the manga counterpart of the series has been one of the longest running in Clamp's inventory and the anime series has spanned over two seasons along with further surprises coming soon. Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle is a series worth a look for the softie in all of us.
Overall : B+
Story : C+
Animation : A
Art : B+
Music : A
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