Time for Tsubasa
I’m always excited when a book (usually manga) arrives for review, though of late that excitement has been a little dampened by some of the more recent Del Rey series which haven’t really been my cup of tea. However, imagine my delight to discover a very handsome copy of the ‘Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle Character Guide 2!’ It struck me as singularly well-timed as the manga series by CLAMP has just finished its lengthy run in Japan with Chapitre 232 (although we’re currently awaiting Volume 22 and 23 in translation, due in October/November.)
I’ve been following ‘Tsubasa’ and its sister series ‘xxxHOLIC’ since they first appeared from Del Rey in 2004. I adore ‘Cardcaptor Sakura’ – and the opportunity to read more about Sakura and Syaoran drew me in instantly. I loved the crossovers with other CLAMP series too, seeing them not so much (as some other critics have suggested) as laziness on the part of the mangaka but more, from a story-writer’s point of view, as a way of exploring new possibilities for characters whose fates seemed already sealed, such as ill-starred lovers Arashi and Sorata from ‘X,’ or Yasha and Ashura from ‘RG Veda.’ But the two new characters created for ‘Tsubasa,’ the wizard Fai D. Flourite and the dour samurai Kurogane, have taken on lives of their own, as is proved by their high ranking in the popularity polls included in the guide. And then there’s the art, which especially in the colour plates, is especially rich and gorgeous in a way that only CLAMP can do.
This volume, the second Character Guide, covers volumes 8 to 14 of the manga, encompassing the Ashura arc and the time spent in Piffle World with Tomoyo. There’s not just colour plates to delight a dedicated CLAMP fan here, there’s many fascinating articles, an extra manga, as well as some fun fan statistics taken from Weekly Shonen Magazine in which the manga was published. In the Material Gallery at the end of the book, we get to see character design sketches, a storyboard of a scene from the anime, as well as Ohkawa-sensei’s original script which she gives to the other three as the basis for each manga chapter. This material is unique to the guide. It’s interesting to see the finished product alongside the first (text only) draft; a glimpse into the way CLAMP work as a team. Also of interest is a ‘Special Conversation between Mokona (CLAMP) and one of her favourite mangaka, Takao Yaguchi (‘Fishing Sampei’) in which they discuss, amongst other topics, what an ideal shonen manga should be like. Character Files, a Worlds Guide, and a Story Digest provide useful information to help readers navigate the many volumes of ‘Tsubasa,’ with plentiful illustrations and quotations from the manga.
Even the trivia are of interest; who could resist wanting to find out which characters won the ‘best couple or pairing’ vote? Was it Mokona and Kurogane? Or Fai and Kurogane? Or ‘Who Could Be Your Best Friend or Lover?’ Or ‘The Most Favorite Fun Scene?’
The guide reminds me forcibly, though, that in these earlier volumes the story of Syaoran’s quest to retrieve Sakura’s scattered memory feathers was still exciting and involving. Alas, unlike ‘xxxHOLIC,’ the storyline in ‘Tsubasa’ seems to have lost much of its momentum of late, becoming convoluted and indecisive just at the very moment the mangaka needed to push the action forward. Is this something that happens inevitably with a story serialized week after week over many years? Do the mangaka lose sight of their original intentions?
Yet rather than end on a note of disappointment, I would encourage any fellow CLAMP fans reading this to take a look; there’s much to enjoy. And with an ‘xxxHOLIC guide book to come very soon and an artbook in December, Del Rey are truly spoiling us!
Review copy provided by the publisher.