Manga Spotlight: Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE

Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE is a 28 volume manga written by CLAMP. The series was originally published in North America by Del Rey Manga, and is now being reissued by Kodansha USA.

Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE
Written by: CLAMP
Publisher: Kodansha
English Publisher: Del Rey Manga (original release), Kodansha USA (reissues)
Release Dates: April 27, 2004-November 23, 2010

The main characters of Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE are Sakura and Syaoran, but it is implied from the beginning of the series that they aren’t the same characters from the Cardcaptor Sakura series. In this series, it’s established that Sakura is the princess of the kingdom of Clow, and Syaoran is the son of an archaeologist. Syaoran and Sakura have grown up together; they have feelings for each other, but neither one has confessed their feelings to the other. It doesn’t help that Sakura’s older brother, King Toya, doesn’t like Syoaran.

One day, Sakura visits Syaoran at an archaeological site that he’s working at, and she touches a relief on the floor. She suddenly rises into the air and sprouts wings. The feathers from the wings suddenly spread, and Sakura falls to the ground; she is in a catatonic state. Yukito, the high priest, says that Sakura’s memories have all vanished, and that Syaoran will need help from the space-time witch. Yukito uses his power to send Syaoran and Sakura to the witch, who turns out to be Yuko Ichihara from xxxHoLic.

They are joined by two others who are transported to see Yuko: Kurogane and Fai D. Flowright. She sends the three of them out on a mission to explore various dimensions to look for the feathers that contain Sakura’s memories. She also sends a creature named Mokona to assist them on their quest. But there is a price: Syaoran must give up what he values most. Since that is his relationship with Sakura, Yuko tells him that when Sakura’s memories are restored, her memories of him will never be found and restored. Syaoran makes this sacrifice in order to save Sakura’s life. When all is said and done, the series focuses very heavily on the fragility of human relationships.

But, it turns out that the story isn’t as straightforward as it appears on the surface. It starts making strange twists and turns when it’s revealed that the Syaoran that has been traveling with the group isn’t who everybody thinks he is. The plot ultimately evolves into a story with elements containing parallel dimensions, and a series of events that’s fated to repeat itself over and over. And it turns out that Watanuki, a main character from xxxHoLic, plays an important role in this story. Which, I guess, isn’t surprising, since the events of xxxHoLic are supposed to be taking place at the same time as Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE.

I have to admit that I was ultimately a little disappointed in how Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE ends. While there is an ending of sorts, it’s still left rather open-ended. As someone who followed this story over the course of 28 volumes, I didn’t get the payoff I was hoping for at the end of the series. Well, at least I still have xxxHoLic to read, and hopefully that series will help to fill in some of the blanks that are present in Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE.

The series contains several character crossovers from other CLAMP series. In most cases, they may have the same name and look like a character from another series, their personality or circumstances may be very different. These crossover characters include, but are not limited to: Sakura, Syaoran, Toya, Yukito, and Tomoyo from Cardcaptor Sakura; Fai D. Florite from RG Veda; Chi from Chobits; Yuko and Watanuki from xxxHoLic; Sorata and Arashi from X; and Mokona from Magic Knight Rayearth.

Since I’ve read at least one volume of several of the manga series represented in the crossovers, I had a hard time reconciling the fact that they were all appearing in this manga right at first. The easiest to accept were Yuko and Watanuki, since part of this volume also appears in the first volume of xxxHoLic, which I had read before starting this series. Until I became more familiar with this story, I had a hard time accepting that the characters from Cardcaptor Sakura were not the characters that I was already familiar with from the story. Thankfully, the story in Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE was so compelling early on, that I was able to get past the issue I was having with the crossover characters and accept the fact that they were there.

The art style in Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE is similar to the art style in xxxHoLic. From what I’ve read, this was very intentional, since the two series were intended to be intertwined. This was definitely a good artistic decision on CLAMP’s part, because the characters from xxxHoLic don’t look out of place when they interact with the characters from Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE.

I’m ultimately glad that I read and completed this series, even if the idea of plot twist after plot twist after plot twist later on in the series kind of frustrated me a little bit. I ultimately enjoyed the early part of the series, when the focus was on finding Sakura’s feathers and journeying to different places in order to find them. When the plot twists first started coming, they seemed to be connected with some character development. But right near the end, the plot twists seemed to come at the price of trying to rush through the rest of the story.

For me, Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE was a manga series that started out with a lot of promise, but didn’t seem to entirely deliver on that promise by its conclusion. Like I said earlier, I need to read through all of the xxxHoLic manga series; perhaps reading that series in its entirety might helper improve my appreciation for Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE.

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