Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE Vol. 2
The inventive and prolific CLAMP crew once again reminds us why they're adored by fans of sequential art across the globe. CLAMP, of course, is the well-known all-woman team of writers and artists behind Chobits, Magic Knight Rayearth, Cardcaptor Sakura, Wish, Angelic Layer, xxxHOLiC, Clover, Vandread, and X/1999, among other well-loved series.
So, when you have a number of respected series under your collective belt, what's a team of writers to do when the time comes to bring out something new? Why not revisit the old?
Tsubasa draws upon the myriad of complex worlds that CLAMP has brought to life over the years as Syaoran, Fai, and Kurogane travel the multi-verse, each with his own motivation for doing so. Using the mysterious powers of the little fuzzy creature known as Mokona (a familiar face to Rayearth fans), the paths of these three men have been brought together from three different realities. Aided by a witch with an understanding of the connection between various planes of existence, their first mission is to recapture the memories of Sakura, Syaoran's princess.
In the world our heroes are currently exploring, every person has the ability to summon his or her individual "Kudan," a sort of guardian spirit that directly reflects the traits of its host. Some of the Kudan are more powerful than others, depending on the willpower and conviction of the person wielding it, and when Syaoran's turns out to be especially powerful, he attracts the attention of all sorts of people in this strange new world. However, attention isn't always the best thing to get when one enters a "strange new world".
Those of us who have experienced a CLAMP series before will instantly recognize many of the characters in Tsubasa. However, the Sakura in this tale is not the one we're accustomed to. In this story, we learn that there is more than one reality in the CLAMP universe. While the different dimensions can exhibit some drastic variations from each other, sometimes, a person may have a counterpart in another realm. Each person grew up in a different environment from the other, yet the core essence remains the same.
It is rather interesting that the inherent disparity between a host of various existences can have be organized by the common link of each person's soul, and as with xxxHOLiC, CLAMP tends to get more metaphysical than usual in Tsubasa. However, they are a very intelligent group of women, and while this may be a fantasy, the underlying philosophy is solid.
However, don't be scared off fearing that this is a CLAMP release for deep thinkers only. Rest assured that the trademark zaniness and ironic humor will still appear from time to time. In truth, Tsubasa walks an impressive line between drama, humor, action, and intelligent content. CLAMP is able to present some truly deep metaphysical insights and generate a chuckle from the occasionally self-mocking crew. There are serious events occurring in the tale with far-reaching consequences, but then there's also an oddly powerful little puffball that looks like the long-lost love child of a rabbit and a moogle. CLAMP has a rare talent for mixing humor with rather dire situations, and they're at their best in this series thus far.
The artwork is similarly on par with what I've come to expect from the talented team. Their style, while it varies from book to book, typically involves impressive action sequences and page-spanning magical battles. This work presents no exception to this pre-established standard. The art features high contrast linework and frequent use of solid blacks or whites. Tsubasa's imagery does a wonderful job of conveying the story's intensity, though they have a delicate touch with illustrating characters any shojo artist would be proud to possess.
While it is tempting to glance at Tsubasa, declare it shojo, and wander off on one's merry way, it is not just a shojo tale, though it does exhibit well-developed characters. Rather, this release feels like more of a hybrid story than something that can simply be locked in as one genre or the other, and that makes it even more interesting.
The adaptation reads well, and honorifics were left intact - a practice I always like to see. Sound effects are left alone, but translations are usually provided in smaller print on the same page as the original art. In some ways, this is nice because it provides the sound effects authors were trying to get into the book. However, even small print can detract from the art, and some translations are not as subtle as others.
There are extensive translation notes included in the book along with a three page preview of the next volume. The thoughtful fellows at Del Rey also include some thorough background information on CLAMP and their prior works. Extras in manga are not nearly as common as they should be, and it's reassuring to see that some publishers are willing to throw them in there for us. For a new player in the manga game, Del Rey, for the most part, comes off as a pro. The books look nice, they're translated with respect to the original source, the sound effects aren't messed with, and there are likable extras to add a little more to what's already a rather desirable release.
All we need now is more!