The first season of Tsubasa proved to be a worthwhile excursion for fans of CLAMP. Comprising many elements from some of the manga group's most popular series Tsubasa quickly became a successful staple in FUNimation's catalogue. Pulling material from Chobits and Cardcaptor Sakura there are other tidbits and morsels tossed in for good measure as well. In my opinion the show isn't quite as enjoyable or creative as xxxHolic, but that's par fort he course I suppose and by the end of the first season it was clear that this particular series had some good legs to stand on.
I'm going to proceed from here on assuming that you know what the show is all about. If for any reason you don't then by all means go check out one of the previous reviews for a synopsis of the plot. Honestly, if after eight installments you haven't heard about it or checked it out, then chances are good you don't need to know what happens in this review. At any rate, this installment features the second season of the show in full swing, with the events of the eighth volume leading right up to this point.
The ninth installment of Tsubasa picks up after the eighth, but in all honesty there is very little in the way of continuity as each episode is more or less standalone. Granted each volume features one story arc of one kind or another that lasts for more than one episode, but for the most part the stories are rather contained. Then again, if you have been watching the show to this point then you already know that.
This time around the four episodes included here run the gamut of content and the first episode is easily the most enjoyable of the bunch. In "Mokona the Artist" the show takes a break from its serious tone to allow the characters a fair bit of respite. The gang winds up landing in a storybook world where fairytales are the norm and everything is super-deformed with a cutesy art style. Things take a turn for the worse when Mokona gets his little paws on a magical feather and starts crafting a fairytale story of his own. This stood out as not only a fun diversion, but one of the most unique episodes the show has offered since the show began.
Following the artsy episode is a two-parter that takes place in a western-themed world where biker gangs rule the desert and vehicles are commonplace. In fact, once they arrive at this world Mokona's feather is stolen and the group has to catch a bus in order to follow the culprit. The first half of this story line was interesting, but it didn't feel quite as solid as it could have. The pacing is awkward and the world is simply not as creative as the other ones we've seen. Thankfully the second episode of the arc kicks the action up a notch. Closing out the ninth installment is a character specific episode that takes a look at Kuragane's tragic past. Tsubasa is a show that doesn't examine its characters often enough in my opinion and I'm pleased to say that this episode does a marvelous job developing one of the main heroes.
Tsubasa has been an unbalanced series and over the course of its many nine volumes and 40 episodes we've seen plenty of ups and downs. Because of that most volumes are either hit or miss with a few memorable moments in between. This time around the volume starts out strong and ends strong, but the two-parter in between is something of a letdown. Still, fans of the series will appreciate this installment and there's no reason not to continue collecting it. If you're new to the series I suggest you rent it first to see if it's your cup of tea, but if you're a CLAMP fan then consider Tsubasa an easy recommendation.
Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. The show features some downright fantastic character designs that while simplistic (and oddly proportioned), are very endearing and unique. Like the first season I found much of Tsubasa's second season fuzzy at times, but in all honesty it was less noticeable with this installment. The show's production and transfer were definitely spruced up a notch to offer better all around quality. Some compression artifacts still pop up from time to time, and grain continues to be an issue, but overall the show looks better at this point than it did in the past.
Fortunately the audio for this release is far less problematic than the video. For options you'll find a 2.0 track for the original Japanese and 2.0/5.1 selections for English. For my first viewing I watched the show in Japanese and found it to be acceptable in terms of all around quality. The soundstage is noticeably subdued for this track but things improve once you turn on the 5.1 English language. The rear channels come to life with a fair amount of music, sound effects, and ambient noise making their presence known. It may not have been the most immersive track that I have listened to before but it was certainly acceptable.
Unfortunately the second season of Tsubasa doesn't spruce things up in the bonus feature department. The same Character and World Guides make a return as well as textless animation and trailers.
With the second season of Tsubasa well underway, it is quite clear that the show still offers more of the same in terms of expectations. The group of heroes hits three more worlds with this ninth volume though only two are actually entertaining and worthwhile. I loved the first episode with Mokona using the artistic feather to save Syaoran and company and the final one, which examines Kuragane's earlier years. Once again this installment is slightly unbalanced, but if you've been following the show to this point there's no reason to stop now. There's still plenty to like about Tsubasa and it remains an enjoyable show.
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