***** Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles, by CLAMP

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SAKURA AND SYAORAN RETURN!

But they’re not the people you know. Sakura is the princess of Clow—and possessor of a mysterious, misunderstood power that promises to change the world. Syaoran is her childhood friend and leader of the archaeological dig that took his father’s life. They reside in an alternate reality . . . where whatever you least expect can happen—and does. When Sakura ventures to the dig site to declare her love for Syaoran, a puzzling symbol is uncovered—which triggers a remarkable quest. Now Syaoran embarks upon a desperate journey through other worlds—all in the name of saving Sakura.

During this cold, cold winter snowstorm, I have decided to indulge myself a little and finally read the sequel to Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles, called World Chronicles, and then post a review of the entire series. Now, such a review is a bit difficult for me, because Tsubasa is quite possibly the first manga I read when I was a teenager, and I love the series way too much to put it into words. But I can try.

Many people seem wary of reading Tsubasa, since it reuses a lot of characters from other series from the mangaka group called CLAMP. But it is nothing to worry about! Tsubasa is a completely new story, and the characters, even if they are similar, aren’t « the same ». They are, in fact, alternate reality versions of characters we know and love, with plenty of new original characters thrown in too. The synopsis of Tsubasa starts simple: the princess Sakura has a great magical power, that manifests into feathers, and then something mysterious happens that causes her to lose her feathers, that disperse into many different dimensions. Shaoran travels to the shop of a witch that grants wishes, and she gives him the power to travel to alternate dimensions to gather theses feathers (in the form of the cute, talking animal Mokona!), along with two other people who also wish to use such a power for their own ends: Kurogane, who has been cast out of his world and wants to go home, and Fai, who has run away from his world and never wants to go back.

And it does stay that simple, for a little while. Long enough to fool people into thinking that Tsubasa is a series for younger readers, which in turn manifested into a sadly subpar anime… that just couldn’t keep up when the manga, true to form for something created by CLAMP, took a shockingly dark turn. Anyone here seen the infamous anime Madoka? I’m talking about a similar sort of dark turn.

Tsubasa is a series that takes its sweet time pulling you in, making you love the characters and get invested in their stories, and then takes you down a spiral of crazy and crazier happenings that hurt both you and the characters you love, and leaves you wanting more. I’m not going to get into spoilers here, but let me tell you that starting volume 14, plot twists start happening and you will not see any of them coming. CLAMP have been making mangas for years, and they are masters at their crafts.

(For those of you reading the manga online, or not collected into volumes: the series is split in a way that each different dimension the characters visit is a complete narrative arc. Volume 14 is Acid Tokyo. You’ll know when you get there. The anime decided to veer into fillers at about that point, but there is one OVA that is about what happens there, and then another that continues the story several worlds later. There is no anime or animated movie, as far as I know, that cover the full length of the story.)

My biggest surprise upon reading this manga is how much I came to care for all the characters, but especially Kurogane. At the start of the manga, I remember thinking to myself: « What an immature jerk, he is the one I like the less! » and then without me even realizing, long before volume 14 (the turning point in the series where shit starts hitting the fan and characters are truly tested) he was already the one I liked the most, and by far the most emotionally mature of the cast.

Fai was also a character that snuck up on me, and I loved him long before we found out what happened in his past, and the reason for him leaving his world in such a hurry. But boy! Once we do learn the whole, tragic affair. You will not read this part of the manga and emerge the same person.

And as for Sakura and Shaoran… Well, they do also have quite a character arc that comes out of left field and grabs you by the guts. But to tell you any more would be a spoiler!

My sole gripe with the series is that for the last few chapters, the resolution of the final battle, I have somewhat lost track of what was happening. I don’t think I completely understood all the twists that happened and some things left me scratching my head. While the ending was satisfying, it was a little overwhelming, and confusing.

Tsubasa is also a manga that was written to evolve in parallel with xxxHolic, and while reading both isn’t necessary for the majority of the story, I really do think that by the end you have to if you want to fully understand the subtleties of the ending. Mind you, xxxHolic is also great and I also recommend it, but it’s a somewhat different genre than Tsubasa, and I’m not even sure that it was serialized in the same magazine, which is annoying. I love the experimental aspect of running two series at the same time that cross over in unique ways, but making them both required reading is a bold move.

All in all, Tsubasa is great, it shaped my teenage years and my expectations when it came to media and « plot twists » (not a lot of media come close to surprising me anymore, with CLAMP I’ve seen it all). I recommend it to anyone who want to read a truly breathtaking manga, that dips into every genre with its « travelling through dimensions » format and that will also make you love characters and then torture them right in front of you, before putting them back together with the power of love and chosen families.

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