Review of Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle

Written by Megan Cramer

Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, or “chronicle of the wings” is a romantic-tragedy-fantasy anime about two childhood friends, Princess Sakura and Sayaoran, an orphaned young archeologist. The two have been in love for a very long time, but just when Sakura isabout to tell Sayaoran how she felt, something terrible happens.  The mysterious antagonist Fei Wang Reed causesTsubasa1 her to be summoned to the nearby wing-shaped ruinsin a trance-like state, and she sprouts wings, later revealed to be physical manifestations of hersoul.  Sayaoran, who was there for an archeology dig sees her flying up near the ceiling of the ruins, and climbs up to try and rescue her, but when he touches her, the wings break apart into individual feathers, and Sakura passes out.  It is later explained that these feathers have been spread all over many different dimensions, and Sayaoran is sent to bargain with Yukō, the dimensional witch, for the ability to travel through the dimensions to recollect Sakura’s feathers.  The price she asks is a steep one:  the loss of all of Sakura’s memories of Sayaoran.  He accepts. They team up with their new companions: tough-guy Kurogane, and mischievous and mysterious Fai D. Flowright, and are guided by the adorable rabbit-thing created by Yukō, Mokona Modoki, who has the power to take them through the dimensions, but not to control the destination.  As a group, they set off on their dangerous, thought-provoking, and often very sad journey through space and time in search of Sakura’s feathers.

This series was written by the group CLAMP, and typical of their work, the art is beautiful and the stories are complex.  The story is told in the form of arcs, with each world they travel to constituting an arc.  Each episode in one of these arcs ends with a cliff-hanger leading into the next episode, making the series flow very smoothly.  Each world is artistically complete in and of itself.  CLAMP is very good at establishing a complicated world with its own rules in a very short period of time.

The series is also well-known for its soundtrack, featuring ominous and beautiful pieces such as “A Song of Sword and Fire” and “Ship of Fools”, bouncy, but still-appropriate opening and closing pieces such as “Blaze”, and sad sweet ballads like “You are my Love” and “To the City of Wind”.  The soundtrack has wonderful emotional depth, and adds a lot of dimension to the series, but also stands alone to be enjoyed as is.

The artwork is certainly very beautiful, although it does not outcompete with the stylized elegance of its sister series Xxxholic, or with other more finely stylized animes.  One problem with the art, as opposed to in other animes, is that the eyes, although very good at looking sad, (which is a main part of this show’s basis, in all fairness), have little range of emotion due to their simplicity.  Oftentimes the eyes alone cannot be relied on at all to convey a character’s emotion, which is unusual for an anime, where the eyes are generally the center of emotion for the characters.

One problem many fans of this series have with it, (and certainly not without justification), is that the series was never finished. Anybody who wants the fundamental questions that have been teased at for the entire series answered, must actually go and read the last books of the manga themselves.  It was especially disappointing that Fai’s backstory was vaguely alluded to in the series, but never touched on at all, and the other character’s backstories felt rushed and were included at the end of the series or in the OVAs.

Speaking of the OVAs, while the artwork and original music scores were very well-done, the initial subject-matter was gory and upsetting to watch, and totally didn’t match the tone of rest of the series.  While the part of the story featured in the OVA marked a turning point in the manga, it was the last thing animated relating to the series, so this was really not a good time to suddenly change the pacing and the characters and whip out every possible unexpected revelation completely out-of-the-blue.  What this series really needed was a third season, maybe even a fourth, to finish developing its story, but pending that, the OVA just didn’t really work, and left me feeling a bit uncomfortable with the series and characters after watching it.

As far as the English dub goes it was very impressive, and for anybody who watches a lot of English-dubbed anime, there will be many familiar voices, most notable Monica Rial as Sakura, Christopher Sabat, (doing, and rocking the exact same voice he does in every anime he’s been in pretty much ever,) as Kurogane, and Vic Mignogna as Fai.

Overall, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle is a great anime with a few minor issues mostly related to it’s storyline being cut short, that I would recommend to any fan of romance animes who likes to watch something that makes them think, and is comfortable with something that might stray from the typical light-hearted love story expected of most romance animes.  Overall, if I had to rate it, I’d give it four and a half stars out of five.