Tsubasa Chronicle is a shounen title based on the manga from female mangaka group CLAMP. It tells the tale of Syaoran and Princess Sakura, two young adults who live in the kingdom of Clow County. Syaroan is the adopted son of Fujitaka Kinomoto, an archaeologist who introduces Syaroan to the world of mining. One evening, the ruins where an archaeological expedition are taking place glow with a mysterious power. Syaroan investigates this and finds Sakura there in a hypnotic state. Her memories are soon scattered from her to different dimensions (or worlds) in the form of feathers. Additionally, strange soldiers with elongated claws soon appear in Clow County and go after Sakura and Syaroan. With the assistance of Yukito, the high priest, Syaroan and Sakura are transported to the location of the Dimensional Witch, Yuuko. There they obtain Mokona, a small white rabbit creature who can teleport between worlds, to aid them on their quest. Also joining them are two others who have been teleported to the Dimensional Witch – Fai, a magician who’s escaping his home country in fear of a king, and Kurogane, a swordsman who was transported against his will to the Dimensional Witch and who wishes to return to his home world.
Tsubasa Chronicle is an interesting anime on account that it features characters found in CLAMP’s other works. Sakura and Syaoran, for example, are main characters in CLAMP’s famous manga Cardcaptor Sakura. The characters aren’t necessarily “reused”, as they have different backstories from their other material, but their personalities are roughly the same. As of this review, I am not familiar with the entirety of CLAMP’s character lineup, so a few cameo appearances may have gone over my head (such as Mokona’s excited reaction to knowing who the Amen’osa are in Episode 11). That said, Tsubasa Chronicle isn’t, to my knowledge, a sequel of any show nor depends on previous manga knowledge to watch, so they serve more as fan-service than something crucial to understanding the show.
CLAMP’s idea for the show is another point of interest. The concept of jumping between worlds has lots of opportunities to let creativity fly. Though I won’t say that wasn’t met (since this is really relative to whoever is viewing the anime), it left me feeling more disappointed than amazed. I would like to say the problem stems from CLAMP being overly ambitious in their pursuit, having a lot of ideas but not really knowing how to execute them. As a result, it left me trying to find ways to generate hype and excitement instead of it naturally coming from watching the anime.
Some of these problems lie mainly with the characters. Fai is running away from his home world, but it is really unclear why outside of that the king wants to get him. The king is shown trapped in some crystal at the beginning of the anime, but how he got there and what else is going on in Fai’s world is a mystery. Fai could be a traitor or maybe someone wrongly accused of something, but after 26 episodes, it still remains unknown. Despite Fai being known as a magician, he doesn’t use any magic in this series. This isn’t because he lost it, but more to the fact that with his “tattoo” gone, he refuses to use it. As the episodes progress, it seems Fai is more in place to be the “yang” to Kurogane’s “yin” – a balance in dynamics more so than an actual character. Kurogane is a more explicit example – in a flashback, it is revealed that he has a curse upon him by the princess of his land. Due to Kurogane’s violent nature, this curse’s effect is that Kurogane gets weaker with every person he kills. This is an idea that can be explored as a way of Kurogane learning about inner strength as opposed to just outer strength. Despite this, these opportunities are passed by – not once does Kurogane kill someone in this series. Considering his alarming backstory (killing countless people just to prove he was the strongest in the land), the fact that he’s so reserved in the present is a rather sudden shift. To me, it would be more effective to see the results in action (such as Kurogane losing against opponents we know he could defeat) rather than have a constant fear of what the consequences would look like.
Tsubasa Chronicle also has a heavy use of supernatural elements. These can add a bit of flavor to an anime but I’m not too fond of them here. The problems with the magical powers stem from how they’re used in each of the worlds. In the first world, animal-like familiars called “Kudan” assist everyone present in fights or day-to-day life. The main party also receives these Kudan, but because of the lack of depth they are given in this “arc”, they feel more like a way to resolve a plot or continue the story than the spiritual extension that they are supposed to represent. Consider Fai’s Kudan – it appears for one scene only and is only used to help Fai fly to the top of a building. That’s not the only time magical elements appear once. Supposedly, Mokona serves as a magical “translator” for the party so they can understand each other – when removed from the party, they cannot communicate. This only happens in the first arc after Mokona is temporarily away from the party. Since the range of Mokona’s power is unknown, and also considering the party splits occasionally with no issues in translation, this feels like an issue that was forgotten and used to add tension to the one scene it was present in. You could argue that this feeling of false tension happens a lot in this series. During the tournament episode (which, according to what I’ve read, is a filler episode!), Fai warns the party that the fighters of this region can shoot lightning from their hands! Instead of feeling uneasy for our heroes, we see Kurogane brush off the attack like it was nothing and Syoaran dodging these wild shots with ease. No tension is truly felt because our characters don’t have to worry about the threat. It takes the idea of a tournament full of tough fighters and trivializes it. Perhaps Fai disqualifying himself and Kurogane for stepping out of the ring without an actual fight summarizes it best. These are but a few of the instances of Tsubasa Chronicle putting more stock in the fact that it has magic rather than knowing how to properly use it.
The animation studio for Tsubasa Chronicle is Bee Train. Though the backgrounds and scenery are pleasant as is, the animation quality is little more than mediocre. Long stills are used frequently in the first half and CLAMP’s style of drawing people (long limbed and thin people) can look rather goofy in some of the mid-shots or long shots. Even during key frames, there is still something to be desired. During most of the emotional or serious scenes, the characters display neutral or mute faces. This makes the characters look like they don’t care about what’s happening. There are times when some fluidity occurs in the animation, but it’s far and few between episodes. As for sound, the music is a bit sparse but it has a decent amount of variance. There’s a female chorale piece that wouldn’t sound too far out of place on the later Madoka Magica soundtrack, a sad string piece, and a moody jazz arrangement amongst one or two other tracks. They’re not bad, but the limitations are present and I fell out of favor with some of the music due to it being played too often (the female chorale piece in particular). Opening BLAZE is a mid-tempo pop rock piece with a piano hook while ending Loop by Sakamoto Maaya is an OK acoustic guitar ballad. The seiyuus don’t display a whole lot of emotion, which again hurts the heavier scenes and makes them fall flat. The way Makino Yui (seiyuu of Sakura) says “Syaoran-kun” sounds the same in almost every scene and at times even got a bit grating to hear.
Overall, I give Tsubasa Chronicle a 3.5/10. I was hoping to find more favor with this series as opposed to when I read Cardcaptor Sakura but it appears it was not the case. Perhaps those that are more familiar with the CLAMP-verse enjoyed it / will enjoy it more than I did. I cannot recommend this title.
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