by Melissa Harper,

Tsubasa, RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE

GN 11

Tsubasa, RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE
Sakura and her group are finally entered in the Dragonfly Race, in a contest to win another of Sakura's memory fragments back. However, someone else who made it into the race is trying to sabotage the race! Tomoyo is set on finding the culprit, but the presence of this enemy increases the danger of the race. Sakura is still set on doing her part, however, and they press on, even as the markers of the race fall apart around them.

The eleventh volume of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle is the most action-packed the series has seen in a long while. The volume starts and finishes in the middle of a race, with victories, losses, and sabotage in between. There is even room for a little character development, and it is nice to see the characters progressing just a little bit.

The book opens in the middle of the preliminary race, to determine which racers get to compete for the ultimate prize, which is of course Sakura's memory fragment. CLAMP tries to build some suspense here at the very beginning, with an explosion that makes it difficult for Sakura to navigate her vehicle, but no one is shocked that she manages to be the final contestant to qualify. The explosion is a major event in the story line, however, as it proves someone is trying to sabotage the race. The race is filled with characters who have previously appeared in the story, so it turns into a bit of fan service, attempting to decide which villain is responsible.

Sakura continues to get more development in this story arc, which is a very good thing. She has been such a boring character for the last ten volumes, that it is really nice to see something resembling the Sakura we are all familiar with from Card Captor Sakura. She is spunkier, and her “I can do it!” attitude is right in place. Fai and Kurogane are shoved into the background a bit, as Sakura is definitely the star of this arc, but Kurogane is beginning to show a little development towards being a caring, responsible member of the party. Fai and especially Syaoran are more static. Syaoran is the same as ever, spouting the same tired lines of determination to complete his quest. Even during the hilarity of a drunken party scene, he still keeps his stick firmly in the mud, running around making sure Sakura is safe. He really needs to lighten up a bit, for interest's sake.

The sabotage continues in the final round of the race; again, CLAMP tries to use these events to build suspense, but it just isn't suspenseful. There is no doubt that one of the gang is going to win the race eventually, so it is difficult to care about the various problems that they are having. The series has been so predictable so far that it is stuck in the complacency zone of an American Saturday morning cartoon. The good guys are going to win, and nothing bad is going to happen. CLAMP love their angst, and this atmosphere will surely change soon, but in this volume, the suspense just doesn't work.

The novel is visually pleasing as always; the futuristic design of Piffle is a nice change up from the more mundane worlds they have been visiting lately. The costumes for this world are original and spunky, and the entire design theme for Piffle is like the American vision for the future in the fifties, sort of retro-futuristic. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this series is the constantly changing appearance of it, and no matter which direction it goes, it always looks good. The race scenes are drawn fairly coherently; sometimes it is a little difficult to determine what is happening on a page, due to some busy motion effects and overly huge text bubbles, but other than a little confusion the action scenes look really good.

Volume 11 has the same special features that all previous volumes of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle have had: there is a guide to honorifics at the beginning, and a sizeable section of translation notes at the back. Sound effects are left in Japanese, with subtitled explanations, and honorifics are left intact as usual. The production quality seems to be suffering a bit in this volume; there are several pages that just aren't dark enough, or that have fuzzy lines.

The Piffle arc is a really good place for newcomers to pick up this series; now that Sakura is finally back in the action, it feels like the story is going to start going someplace. No longer a damsel in distress, she is ready to be the action heroine that readers are familiar with. It is an exciting volume, with plenty of explosions, tight competition, and enough comic relief to keep it light. Other than the poor attempt to generate suspense, this volume is a satisfying entry in the series.

Production Info:
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : A

+ Exciting, Sakura keeps getting cooler.
Attempts to generate suspense fall flat.

Story: CLAMP
Character Design: Mokona
Satsuki Igarashi
Tsubaki Nekoi

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