December 29, 2010
CLAMP – Del Rey – 2009 – 28 volumes
UGH. Wow, so things got way more convoluted than I could have possibly imagined. Time travel was really scrutinized and explained in a very explicit, complicated way, and I… just didn’t enjoy it very much. I felt like I should be able to write a thesis after I finished, or something. It was all very technical. And unfortunately, the characters were lost in the explanation. They were the best part.
Was it worth it? I hated the later volumes, because the explanation for the simple things that I enjoyed early on was near-incomprehensible. But I do love the characters, and I loved all the cute stories and dimension hopping, and I loved Fai. The first half was worth it, at least, and if you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a pound I guess. And it’s hard not to grow attached to something you’ve followed for years.
For non-fans of CLAMP, it’s probably not worth it in the end, and the experience in the early volumes is definitely enhanced if you have at least Cardcaptor Sakura under your belt. There’s a lot of cute shoujo moments pulled from CLAMP’s earlier series, mixed with a lot of swooshy abstract shounen action. It’s pretty gender-neutral, and for everybody, but it’s hard for me to believe that the crowd this was probably originally intended for could wrap their heads around the explanations.
Now, I’m going to cut and talk myself through this finale. If you don’t want to be spoiled silly, don’t read below the cutoff.
December 28, 2010
CLAMP – Del Rey – 2010 – 28 volumes
Okay. A few things about this volume.
– Lots of abstract fighting and magical swooshes. This is both very climactic and appropriate, and also too nonsensical to really mean anything. It also makes it a very, very quick read since there’s a lot more magic drawings than there are words, or even drawings of people’s bodies.
– Once again, I feel cheated out of explanations that I should have had in XxXholic, and would have been better off there. Yuko is little more than a background character in Tsubasa, yet her elaborate scene from volume 14 and her reason for existing at all in front of Watanuki are explained in this volume. They are awesome reasons, to be sure, and she illustrates a point in the ongoing finale here, but I would have loved this to pieces in XxXholic. While it’s true the reason for Watanuki being shown briefly are in XxXholic, his side of the conversation is cryptic and confusing. It makes me angry the whole story is in Tsubasa, which I feel is the inferior series.
– Christ, I wish this made sense. Another version of Sakura and Syaoran are pulled from… somewhere. Not even copies. Apparently they are… not Cardcaptor Sakura versions. Syaoran original seems to recognize them, but I don’t think the explanation is that simple. To make things more confusing, both the CCS version of one of the characters and the copy versions enter the story one more time. Ugh. Why. Why why why is the story growing more convoluted in the second-to-last volume? There is nothing to foreshadow.
– Fei Wang’s wish is made clear, though the reason behind it is not. The fight scene that stretches through the entire volume is basically a battle of abstract magical force as he pushes on Syaoran, Syaoran pushes back, Fai sort of pushes from the sidelines, Yuko does something, other Sakuras and Syaorans do things…
It had been getting better the last two volumes, too. While… the finale probably needs to be this drawn-out, it’s too abstract to enjoy, and I wish they’d speak in plain terms and finally just get down to brass tacks. Maybe it will make sense in the last volume.
December 28, 2010
CLAMP – Del Rey – 2010 – 28 volumes
Okay, so I’m riding the good vibes from last volume, where we got information in the form of an easy-to-process flashback and a fun story that recalls good things from Cardcaptor Sakura. We’ve… still got some of that going on in this volume, but it’s getting hard to follow again. Which isn’t important, because a big chunk of the ending is an elaborate and surprisingly epic fight scene.
Once again, my questions are answered. Watanuki’s situation is explained in great detail. It makes me angry to see it here, rather than in XxXholic. Why wasn’t that explained in the series where he was the main character? Because Syaoran is better than him? The original? Likely because it was more relevant to the plot of Tsubasa, but the fact that the explanation wasn’t suitable for XxXholic makes it pretty poor. What I found most interesting was the language Fei Wang used to describe Watanuki. He called him an anomaly in space and time. Interesting because of what he became and the role he now fulfills.
We learn… just what happened to time, and why, though the explanation is still a little tenuous and hard to grasp. Why was that point frozen while everything else was allowed to move? Why wasn’t it turned back as well, so that Syaoran could just step in? Was it a safeguard? I guess?
There’s a whole lot of melodrama here, piled on from the last volume, concerning the future of the relationship between Fai, Kurogane, and Syaoran. I’m not sure who Syaoran thought he was kidding, but that was a lot of needless suspense.
The fight was… simultaneously boring and amazing. As nice as CLAMP art is, and they do draw some amazing pages, the fight itself relies too much on big panels and flashy shounen manga explosions. It doesn’t really matter who’s hitting what or what magic’s being used. There’s just a fight. Parts do look impressive, though, and I do like the climax of the story hinging on Syaoran’s fight with his opponent here. There were some crazy pseudo-X-type panels towards the end of Syaoran’s fight, plus a great fake-out. A REALLY GREAT fake out. Never let it be said that this fight doesn’t end spectacularly. It’s probably my favorite thing in Tsubasa so far. Even better, it’s completely wordless, which makes the impact that much greater. We don’t really need characters yelling and protesting. We can see what’s going on.
I’m… not sure how the ending can stretch out into two more volumes. Let’s see how this goes.
December 26, 2010
CLAMP – Del Rey – 2010 – 28 volumes
Guys. You won’t believe it. This volume of Tsubasa… not only was it enjoyable to read, it made sense of the story from the previous volume. Some of my questions were answered. I was shown, rather than having a character sit down and explain it to me.
It was amazing. Or pretty good, at least.
This volume is almost entirely a flashback. We learn when and why Syaoran met Sakura, and it was indeed the seventh day before her seventh birthday. We find out why Syaoran went to Clow, and why he grew up there, and what the deal was, and a whole lot of other things. And there are a ton of heart-meltingly adorable scenes between Syaoran and Sakura. We also find out what happened to Sakura, and just what Syaoran’s wish is.
In fact, the biggest question I have now is just what Fei Wang’s wish is, and what exactly Syaoran… must’ve given him to fulfill his own wish? If that even happened? There’s a very interesting twist here.
Actually, there’s all sorts of other questions. Why two Syaorans? Why two Sakuras? How does Watanuki figure into all of this again? Is it significant that he had to hold Syaoran’s place in modern Japan? Was he even doing that, since he has no memories?
Boy, is it creepy to see Yuko up and around, too. That was a little jarring. I forgot that this is a little… earlier than the volume of XxXholic I’m on right now.
I’m… looking forward to the ending of Tsubasa? I’ve been dreading it all year, but I’m planning on finishing it off over the next few days. Maybe… maybe it won’t be as bad as I thought?
January 6, 2010
CLAMP – Del Rey – 2009 – 28 volumes
This was a pretty fun volume, and more in the spirit of the earlier part of the series. The group makes their way to the country of Clow. Since they have to be there “at a specific time,” they find themselves stuck in a space of several hours that loop over and over again, complete with people they interact with. The group realizes that interacting with the people to break the loop causes the people to disappear, possibly killing them (this is left ambiguous, they sort of melt). I especially like that Miyuki-chan is missing from the city scene the third time it’s shown, as if Syaoran and company have somehow vaporized her through their efforts.
The second half of the volume is a flashback to when Syaoran and Sakura first met. This story makes a little more sense, because I wasn’t sure whether the real Syaoran had travelled to Clow and when exactly he had been kidnapped and replaced with “Syaoran.” The thing with who Watanuki is makes a little more sense this way, too. Syaoran seems to be acting on destiny here, maybe moreso than anyone else in the series, since he (and everyone else) is so sure that he and Sakura are meant to be together.
I also like that Syaoran and Toya still don’t get along. That made me laugh. I also liked that Sakura asked right off to call him Syaoran, with no honorifics. I believe it took her all series to use his first name in Cardcaptor Sakura. We also get to see Fujitaka and Nadeshiko, though for some reason I thought that Fujitaka was Syaoran’s father in Clow. Maybe I remember wrong, or maybe that was a different Fujitaka, or a different Clow, or a different time, or something.
The one thing I was curious about is that… Syaoran mentions that he’s always known Sakura, from the seventh day before her seventh birthday until his body “reached this age and form,” or “always.” He mentions that he turned back time as part of his wish, because he wanted to meet Sakura right at the moment they met again. Or… maybe he’d been kidnapped and aged to adulthood, and wanted to go back to being young and go back in time so that young Sakura would still recognize him? He’s aged some since he was seven, but… I don’t know. I also wonder when Sakura was switched for “Sakura,” and how old she is? Hmm.
Now I have to wait for the rest of the volumes. I think I’ll save them up and read them all together again. Tsubasa really does read better in big chunks.
January 3, 2010
CLAMP – Del Rey – 2009 – 28 volumes
Oh, flagrant abuse of past CLAMP scenes continues! I believe there’s a double-page spread that mimics one of the last pages of Cardcaptor Sakura, save for the… you know, the circumstances. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that particular spread though, so I could be wrong. There’s also a confession along the same lines that mimics a similar unspoken one in X, again, the scene at Rainbow Bridge. Again, I am a big geek, and these things are amusing to me.
I knew this business with Sakura was coming, but I was hoping it would be handled in a more… tasteful way. Somehow, I thought it would be less confusing this time. It was far, far more confusing, but thankfully, there was actually stuff going on while the explanation was running this time.
This is getting a bit too metaphysical for my taste. If it gets too much further out there, even reading the volumes back to back like this, I really will lose my firm grasp of what’s going on. Now the group is going to start time-traveling, I guess, which is going to add whole new layers of confusing, but at least it sounds like they’re finally going to confront Fei Wang, and the series will be cycling down and moving into its final story arc. I don’t even want to think about the nightmare of time travel in the future, but it honestly can’t get much more confusing than it already is.
One thing I do like is CLAMP’s use of the non-evil villain, something they’ve done in the past, too. Fei Wang’s wish was revealed last volume (sort of), and while he is viewed as evil by all the people he’s been using all this time, and he probably is, his wish isn’t the usual world domination pitch. It’s got a softer reason behind it. Of course, in order to do this thing, he needs to obtain a great deal of power, hence the journey. So I guess he’s still evil. But still. I guess he can be likened to Mr. Freeze, or something.
At the very least, the fight between Syaorans and the subsequent collapse or whatever dimension-hopping happened was pretty exciting. I was a little bummed the fight didn’t last longer, but I can’t help but like that awesome scene that happened to end it. That’s been the highlight of the series so far for me, that and Sakura hoisting the trophy at the end of the Pifffle Princess races. Totally sweet CLAMP moment right there, and one of the reasons I keep coming back to their series, but it would have been a little better if there weren’t… you know, four people involved or whatever, instead of two.
So let me talk through this again…
Okay, so technically, “Syaoran” wins the fight between Syaorans. Sakura protects Syaoran to prevent him from being killed though, and “Syaoran’s” body refuses its orders to kill her. Fei Wang offers commentary that it doesn’t really matter if Sakura’s soul is killed or not since all he needs is the body. Yuko’s comments are that “Syaoran’s” body remembers where his heart does not. The fight continues a little more, and Sakura winds up throwing herself in the path of the swords and getting skewered and killed by both. Cue the Cardcaptor Sakura scene with the X dialogue, which is definitely the best thing about this volume.
While dying, she reveals that she also is a “Sakura” that Fei Wang made as an insurance policy, in case anything happened to the real Sakura. Unlike “Syaoran,” who was a clone with Syaoran’s real soul, both Sakura’s body and soul are cloned from the real one, so she is not Syaoran’s Sakura, but “Syaoran’s.” Later, the characters explain that her attitude towards Syaoran and her standoffishness, along with her affection for “Syaoran,” were because she finally got her memories back about this and knew that she was a copy like “Syaoran,” and also knew not to let Syaoran fall in love with her since his Sakura was still out there.
Anyway, her soul dies in the arms of “Syaoran” in the world of dreams. The two Syaorans had also been fighting over a feather, which is suddenly snapped up, along with “Syaoran” and “Sakura’s” body, by the little-boy-looking Kazuhiko servant of Fei Wang and spirited away to the evil wizard.
Bizzarrely, Fei Wang reveals that the real Sakura, body and soul, does not exist anymore. I’m almost positive this isn’t true. If it is, I’m willing to bet that it’s Sakura that he wants to bring back from the dead with his powers over space and time.
Interestingly, the characters begin discussing the merits of wishes in this volume. It is revealed that Fei Wang’s wish is the same as Fai’s, that he wants to bring someone back from the dead, and he needs to be able to manipulate time and space to do this. Yuko’s greatest wish is also to join her great love in the afterlife, as revealed in xXxHolic, but as the “Time Space Witch,” I suppose she knows that the only way to do this is if she dies herself, and I suppose with her powers, she was the most suited to counter-acting Fei Wang’s elaborate plot to gather power to resurrect. Interesting that she foresaw all his insane moves far in advance, but whatever. We also find out, unsurprisingly, that Seishirou also has some wish concerning both Subaru and Kami, but I wonder how that will play out with only so many more volumes left. Also, one of the characters also notes that all happiness and unhappiness stems from desire, and that’s why mankind will continue to make their wishes. So there you go.
Anyway, after all this business with Sakura goes down, the party is down to just Kurogane, Fai, Mokona, and Syaoran. All want to go after Sakura and get her back. They make a wish to Yuko to be sent where Sakura is, and the scene reflects the one from the beginning of the series. Yuko reveals that the price of the wish will be similar, that is, the toll will be memories. Except, then she says that Watanuki has paid the price for their wish long ago, when he offered all his memories to the Time Space Witch. I am extremely, EXTREMELY curious how this works, and I hope the story will get back to it sooner rather than later. Even knowing that Watanuki is a replacement for Syaoran in his timeline/dimension, I would desperately like to know how he got caught up in all this anyway. Also, why he always seems to get stuck paying for other people’s wishes and doesn’t seem to get anything in return. How is he not king of the universe with all that good karma he’s saved up?
Also, I’m curious about something else. The theme of XxXholic is that “There is no coincidence, only hitsuzen,” which implies that everything happens for a reason to serve the greater good. But the themes of Tsubasa all seem to be about changing one’s destiny (which, to be fair, has been forged by Fei Wang for almost all the characters in that series). Even Yuko mentions that there are branching paths in the journey now, and that she hopes the travelers find the right one. Pulling a theme from another series, “Their destiny is foreordained.” Is hitsuzen this kind of foreordained destiny? Or is fate in that sense, not determined, but hitsuzen is the force that drives people in the direction “it” wishes? Or maybe hitsuzen is merely the cosmic force that determines wishes and makes paths for their payments in advance? Perhaps I am over-thinking these themes?
So the three boys and Mokona get to travel back to Clow, but to the specific point in time where Fei Wang is hiding. And that’s where we’ll pick up next volume.
January 2, 2010
CLAMP – Del Rey – 2009 – 28 volumes
Yeah, I knew they’d explain things right away. So… yeah, now I know all about the business with Kurogane’s arm. But again, why couldn’t they just explain this while the action was happening? Why did we have to sit through another explanation two or three chapters later? Because it makes for better cliffhangers in the magazine? And while I’m at it, what about all this weird business with Yuko’s fees, and how we have to hear what everyone paid for every little thing? Bah.
This volume was much better than the past couple, and the action and story more-or-less resumed (as much as I assume they can at this point) when Fuuma and Seishirou show up and stir up trouble. Seishirou is still in possession of a feather, so Syaoran has to fight him for it. It’s a pretty awesome fight, and there’s even a little bit of fanservice when the boyish and young Seishirou pulls out his glasses for the fight. He’s not using his Sakurazukamori powers, unfortunately, but I can’t have everything, I suppose. I also like the chipper and happy Fuuma used in Tsubasa, while I’m at it, and I love that they’re brothers. Seishirou has business with Fai since he’s… you know, a vampire now, but he goes all-out in his fight with Syaoran first.
I did like that we got a little bit of a breath after all that business in the past couple towns. The team winds up in Japan, and it seems that they rested and relaxed quite a bit before the story resumed with Kurogane waking back up. There was even some silliness among the characters, something I miss quite a bit. I’d love to see Fai regain his sense of humor eventually.
The end of the volume is a little bizarre, and I’m not sure how the story will resolve the… split. I’m sure it’ll take at least a volume to resolve the confrontation we see here, but I don’t mind since at least the two are fighting and not talking to each other.