CLAMP is a well-known group of manga artists and writers that have captivated audiences across the globe. The all girl team has created some of the most beloved series out there such as Chobits and Card Captor Sakura. While we have yet to see all of their projects in the States, one of their most recent efforts, Tsubasa, has been reasonably successful.
In many ways Tsubasa was a way for CLAMP to pay homage to their numerous fans. With a story that borrowed heavily from their other works and characters pulled straight from their many projects, the show featured a lot of "in" references. While I won't divulge the full details of the series (if you want to learn more about it check out our reviews for the individual volumes) I will say that it focuses on the journey of a group of friends across a multitude of dimensions. They are on a quest to find "feathers" which are essentially fragments of a princess's memory though there are dark forces at work in the background.
With six volumes of the series already available FUNimation has taken time prior to the second season to release the Tsubasa motion picture The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom. Considering the film is merely a 35 minute or so affair the disc would have been relatively skimpy if something else wasn't added in to cushion the MSRP. Thankfully the publisher has picked up the xxxHolic license which is a CLAMP show that I'm eagerly anticipating. With that acquisition both the xxxHolic film A Midsummer Night's Dream and Tsubasa's movie are presented together.
With 2 discs available in this release both films find their homes respectively. The first movie to watch is Tsubasa and I have to say that you probably should be at least familiar with the series prior to sitting down for it. Rather than crafting a standalone movie, The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom is merely a slightly extended episode that doesn't fit within the confines of the actual series. Syaoran, Sakura, and company find their way to a kingdom encaged and discover that not all is as it seems. Somewhere in this bizarre land is a feather they must obtain before sinister forces use it to wreak havoc and whatnot.
To be quite honest that particular plot was no different than an episode from the series. The only change here is rather than having multiple episodes to flesh out a story and explore things, this "film" does not. Sure it's entertaining and yes it fits perfectly into the Tsubasa fold but it's not a challenging or involved tale to be sure. The animation and overall production values are fantastic to be sure so fans will appreciate it. In all honesty I felt that xxxHolic was the real reason to take note of this release.
A Midsummer Night's Dream we are introduced to the characters and world of the series which is a great thing considering we haven't seen the anime in America yet. Watanuki takes the center stage as a troubled high school teen with a strange ability; he can see ghosts. Bizarre things are nothing new to Watanuki's life but things change somewhat when he meets a time-space witch named Yuko. Through her he seems the potential to get rid of his disturbing abilities but if we learned anything from Tsubasa it's that Yuko demands payment of equivalent value and meaning to a person. This means that Wakanuki must enter her employ and do things for her if he ever wants a chance of having his powers stripped.
With a longer run time and more contained story, the xxxHolic film feels more theatrical. Granted this too is little more than an extended episode but being able to see Watanuki and Yuko at an early stage of their relationship is certainly compelling. I can't wait to see how that particular series pans out and am eager for FUNimation to acquire the full license and release it over here.
If you're a CLAMP fan then the double feature is a no-thought purchase. It's simply something that will fit perfectly in your collection especially if you love Tsubasa. Both episodes are entertaining though the xxxHolic offering was definitely the better of the two. Even if you haven't heard about either of these shows this release is still worth watching. CLAMP is brilliant when it comes to crafting anime and manga and this double feature is further proof of that.
Presented with a 1.78 anamorphic widescreen presentation for both movies, the CLAMP double feature looks pretty darn good on DVD. The production values are high all around and the level of design outshines previous CLAMP efforts. With that being said there are soft moments here that don't translate well and in some scenes grain litters the background. Apart for those nitpicky bits the overall transfer here is fabulous with vibrant colors and an otherwise clear and sharp image.
With 2.0 tracks available for English and Japanese and a 5.1 present for English, the audio package for the CLAMP double feature is about what you'd expect. The quality of both dubs is fantastic and quite honestly I found myself enjoying each for what they had to offer which is something that doesn't happen often. How does it sound? Well, the 2.0 tracks sound like you'd think they would with a somewhat flat presentation that doesn't offer much immersion. The 5.1 spruces things up a tad but the difference isn't particularly earth-shattering. Granted neither of these episodes really needed a dynamic soundtrack but it couldn't have hurt anything.
A nice surprise found on this release is that both discs actually feature a decent supply of supplemental content to peruse.
On the Tsubasa disc the lighter fare includes trailers, production art, background art, and a trio of videos from the 2005 Japanese premiere of the film. A two minute collection of behind the scenes footage from the recording floor is also available. The beefiest feature on the first disc is an original Japanese audio/video commentary that takes place during the entire movie. Watching the film with this commentary was a lot of fun and gave some insight behind the project. It was also nice to see the commentators in conjunction with the movie as it was being shown, which is something of a rarity.
The xxxHolic disc offers some trailers, a recording montage, character artwork, background designs, and some more video footage for the opening of the film in Japan. Once again this disc offers an audio/video commentary with some of the original Japanese cast and crew. This style of commentary isn't something you see every day and maybe it had something to do with that but I took a lot away from it. Watching this commentary made me want to see more of the show as the team obviously gelled.
Tsubasa has turned out to be an entertaining show and xxxHolic holds a lot of promise. This double feature serves as a fine way to experience both programs and it offers some great moments for CLAMP fans. While neither plot is involved or enthralling, both proved to be lightly entertaining and enjoyable in their own ways. This is a solid release by FUNimation and they went out of their way to port the original bonus content over here as well. If you're looking for a solid experience from the CLAMP universe then look no further than these films. Strongly Recommended
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