Review: Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle (2005)

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2008 – for bizarre mathematical reasons that are way beyond me – might be the year time travel is invented, or mulitverses are discovered. The largest particle smasher the world has ever seen is being booted up in Switzerland in May, and physicists the world over are so excited by the incredible, almost unimaginable possibilities that could result from experiments in this accelerator that they can barely contain themselves.

It’s a pretty exciting prospect, that they might discover six impossible things are in fact possible all before breakfast, but whatever happens there’ll be one group out there who not only won’t be surprised if humanity discovers multiple universes, they’ll be somewhat vindicated, and they won’t be scientists. Clamp, after all, have been exploring multiple worlds for a least three years now, with their flagship anniversary series, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles.

It’s all part of Clamp’s 20th Anniversary party. Tsubasa and Clamp’s other new series, oddly titled XXXHolic, comprise a celebratory crossover of epic proportions. Taking several well known faces from another of their successful series – Sakura Card Captor – Clamp fold space and alter realities better than any old atom crusher will ever be able to manage. The Princess Sakura and the young archaeologist Syoaran are childhood friends, but during excavation of an ancient ruin in their city, a strange power draws Sakura into danger. To save her, Syoaran must regain the ‘feathers of memory’ she has lost – feathers that have scattered not across the world but across worlds.

This basically gives Clamp license go wild, not that they exactly needed one. They’ve done the crossover thing in the past, with the main characters from Tokyo Babylon appearing to finally resolve their bitter differences years later in X/1999; it’s just that it’s never gone to this extent before. Cameos by characters from a dozen other Clamp series – RG Veda, X/1999, Rayearth, Chobits and Legal Drug, just to name a few – are so common across the timelines of Tsubasa that it practically becomes a Who’s Who encyclopaedia of Clamp trivia. Which is certainly one of the most engaging things about this series if you’re a Clamp fan. If you’re not, then the manga group’s trademark formula of shoujou sweetness crossed with dramatic action and awesome characters is more than enough to make up for not getting all the in-jokes. Kurogane (a ninja) and Fai D Flowright (a wizard) accompany Syoaran and Sakura on their journey, and round out the drama and comedy relief nicely, providing some later narrative tension with their respective mysterious back-stories.

Of course, the storyline is fairly basic – another world, another feather, another cool change of outfits for the group – but Clamp has never claimed to be anything other than what they are. There’s always emotional depth to the morals embedded in their stories and Tsubasa of course is no different in this respect. Questions of identity and the bonds forged between people, of simple strength of character versus the complicated demands made by life; they’re there if you want to look for them, but this is basically a journey, a love story, as it’s always been between Sakura and Syoaran. They’re a little older in Tsubasa (and a lot longer of limb) but their hearts are made up of the same sugar and spice stuff as they were in Card Captor. No ‘do you like me yes no’ crisis for these two; they’re just Romeo and Juliet, trying to stay together in a world – sorry, worlds – that are trying to keep them apart.

If you’ve seen or read anything by Clamp, you’d already know all this, and know pretty much what to expect in terms of quality of production and level of entertainment. And you won’t be disappointed. Tsubasa is, in many ways, the epitome of what Clamp does and does well. There’s nothing necessarily ground breaking here, but that doesn’t mean that the well-worn paths through numerous Clamp dimensions aren’t worth walking. With Tsubasa there’s no reason to go back in time to revisit better work; Clamp has always made, with the kind of confidence not requiring evidence, that they are more than capable of making the here and now a wondrous place to be.

7.5 Sentient Walkie-talkies out of 10.
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