Tsubasa RESERVior CHRoNiCLE Vol. 5
This is volume five of Syaoran's quest to recover the memories of his beloved Sakura and completes the arc taking place in the county of Jade and begins the next, which takes place in the land of Oto.
When we last left Syaoran and company, they were trying to solve the mystery of the town of Spirit's missing children. Sakura finds herself trapped in the castle and is face to face with the golden-haired Princess Emerald (last seen in Magic Knight Rayearth).
After solving the mystery, Fai, Kurogane, Mokona, Sakura and Syaoran move on to the county of Oto. Syaoran and Kurogane become Oni hunters (aka Little Puppy and Big Puppy!) and meet three familiar faces whilst Sakura and Fai (aka Little Kitty and Big Kitty) open a cafe.
Artistically, this volume is gorgeous. The cover depicts Fai and Syaoran in blue robes against a stained glass window and the two different worlds the gang visit mean we are exposed to true beauty.
The country of Jade is based on a mediaeval European town while Oto is based on Japan during the Meiji period. All the characters from the simple folk of Spirit to the lively people of Oto are carefully drawn and yet the cameo characters look slightly different from their other incarnations, as if to remind us that just because they look like people we met elsewhere, it doesn't mean they are the same in mind and experiences.
So, who has a cameo in this volume? Well, CLAMP fans are in for a treat. I've already mentioned Princess Emerald but she's not the only person to appear. The four maid persocoms last seen in the service of Minoru Kokobunji (the techno-kid from Chobits) become Oto's welcoming committee and, more importantly, we get to reintroduce ourselves to Yuzuriha Nekoi, Shiyu Kusanagi and Inuki from X!
In this reality, Yuzuriha is still a cheerful fourteen year old but Inuki is no longer an inugami or dog spirit that only Yuzuriha could see but a flesh and blood canine with a nose for smelling Oni.
In X Yuzuriha fell in love with Kusanagi after he acknowledged Inuki's existence. As an inugami, Inuki could only be seen by members of the Dragon of Heaven and the Dragon of Earth; Yuzuriha was one of the former and Kusanagi a member of the latter.
But I digress; both Yuzuriha and Kusanagi are now Oni hunters. Oni are Japanese spirits who appear, in Oto, as monsters and hunters get paid rewards depending on the rank of the Oni they dispatch. Yuzuriha, Kusanagi and Inuki team up with Syaoran and Kurogane while Fai and Sakura experiment with cooking goodies made of chocolate.
Apart from seeing where Yuko Ichihara's fondant au chocolat ends up from volume four of xxxHOLIC, this volume mainly focuses on explaining a little more about Syaoran including the revelation that he's blind in his right eye. We also get to see the Country of Clow for the first time since volume one and the chaos that ensued.
This volume continues the story but stops short, the second arc is left suspended and we'll have to wait for volume six to see how the chapters in Oto end. Sakura is becoming a much larger character as more of her feathers are returned but the crux is of course, that her relationship with Syaoran can never be the same.
As with previous volumes, Del Rey have included expansive notes on Japanese culture and also a preview of the next volume in Japanese, except, in the case, there's no dialogue! Yet this doesn't matter, Del Rey put so much care and attention to their series that hardened fans will see this as a chance to see manga in its original state.