For a long time now we've been reviewing CLAMP anime here at DVDTalk. The all-female mangaka group's material is just so captivating that it's hard to put down, whether in the printed or animated format. After all they were responsible for such shows as Chobits and Card Captor Sakura. More recently we've seen the release of Tsubasa: The RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE and xxxHolic. Both of which are series that are definitely worth checking out, and in some ways they tie into each other. I suppose that's why the CLAMP Double Feature release is cohesive enough, despite the fact that the films are rather standalone.
In case you're not familiar with either series, you should know that 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, 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. xxxHolic told the tale about a pair of teenage boys who find themselves working for a witch named Yuko. One of the kids can see spirits and the other can combat them. Together they make for a unique duo and do odd jobs for Yuko when not in school.
This CLAMP Double Feature was released a while ago on DVD, but with FUNimation's support of Blu-ray it's no surprise that the popular franchise have wormed their way into high definition. For this release we have Tsubasa: The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom and xxxHolic: A Midsummer Night's Dream.
As far as Tsubasa's film is concerned, the plot follows Syaoran, Sakura, Kurogane, and Fai as they travel to an encaged kingdom. Naturally they discover that not all is right with this place, as the king is using one of Sakura's feathers to control the population. The heroes soon discover the princess of the land and find that she's in hiding with others, waiting for an opportunity to take down the king and restore the kingdom to its proper state. As one might expect Syaoran and company sign up to help out and attempt to get the feather back in the process. This film was essentially an extended episode of the series and anyone familiar with the show will instantly feel right at home with the plot and pacing.
xxxHolic's film was arguably the better, more standalone, of the two efforts. With that being said A Midsummer Night's Dream also felt like an extended episode of the series, but it just had a more cohesive story. In it Yuko receives a request from a woman and responds by sending Watanuki and Doumeki. Basically the lady can't get back into her mansion and it's up to the dynamic duo to figure out why. To add a layer of mystery to this plot, Yuko has been invited to the mansion along with several other collectors. There's a bizarre, supernatural twist of events and fans of the show will appreciate the film's direction.
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 and xxxHolic. Both episodes were 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.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Both Tsubasa: The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom and xxxHolic: A Midsummer Night's Dream are presented here with a full 1080p high definition and AVC encoding. The films both look very good and maintain similar output and quality. The image is vibrantly colored with clear, sharp images, but there're some elements of grain and haloing to be found. It doesn't ding the image quality too awful much, but both are abundant enough to take note on larger televisions.
A step up from this release's original DVD presentation, the audio package here comes in the form of Dolby TrueHD. There's a 5.1 track for English and a 2.0 track for Japanese. Ultimately I'd say all around the English track is the better of the two due to the sharper quality, better use of LFE, and more dynamic presence on the soundstage. The dub quality for both language tracks is solid as well, and in that sense there's no clear winner since both casts did a fantastic job. Despite the solid presentation it's not a theater showpiece, but merely a well-presented anime film that will impress.
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.
Both Tsubasa and xxxHolic were entertaining shows in their own right, and if you haven't seen either you should definitely consider them each recommended. For fans of the series it's worth noting that the films for both franchises are equally good. Sure they may merely be extended episodes, but they are adventures with improved animation and slightly more encapsulated stories.
As far as the quality of this release is concerned the Blu-ray is certainly the better of the two that are available. The picture and sound quality is an improvement over the original DVD, and this disc retains the bonus features as well. It's a win-win really, and this disc should appeal to anyone even remotely familiar with CLAMP.
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