Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE (manga, vol. 18) by CLAMP

Sakura, Syaoran, Kurogane, Fai, and Mokona are still in the world with acid rain. Yuko tells them all about Fei-Wang Reed, the man behind nearly all of their major misfortunes. Fei-Wang stole Sakura's memories for the express purpose of scattering them across dimensions in the form of feathers. Fei-Wang's goal is to obtain the power to cross dimensions and manipulate both space and time. In order to make his wish come true, he needs the mysterious ruins found in Sakura's world, and he needs Sakura to travel to many universes looking for her memories, because Sakura's body will commit those dimensions to memory.

Fei-Wang abducted Syaoran, who knew what he was plotting, and replaced him with another Syaoran whose main priority was to help Sakura collect all her feathers. He murdered Kurogane's mother in order to set into motion events that would eventually lead to him becoming part of Sakura's party. Yuko doesn't explain how Fei-Wang interfered with Fai, but Fai seems to already have his own answers. Only Mokona wasn't part of Fei-Wang's plan - Yuko and other magic user (Clow Reed, I believe) created Mako and Mokona in an attempt to block Fei-Wang's wish from being granted. Despite what Yuko has just told them, they all, for their own reasons, decide to continue their quest to find Sakura's memories.

The group leaves the acid rain world, and Yuko goes off to pass on the egg that Sakura found for her as payment for the water (see the previous volume). If you read CLAMP's Xxxholic, you know that Yuko gives this egg to Watanuki (there's a picture of Watanuki, all bandaged up, on page 20 of this volume of Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle), who then chose to give it to Himawari, the girl he likes. The egg hatches into a bird that Himawari names Tampopo - it's the only living creature unaffected by Himawari's uncontrollable ability to bring misfortune to those who touch her.

While the group continues traveling, the previous Syaoran is out continuing to do Fei-Wang's bidding, hunting down feathers and destroying anything in his path. Sakura's feelings of guilt over the destruction he has caused leads her to enter herself, Kurogane, Syaoran (the new one), and Fai into a dangerous "chess" competition (chess is in quotations because the things everyone does bears no resemblance to chess, even though this is the name used in the volume) - she plans on using the prize money to help the people who have been hurt by Syaoran so far. The competition is run by a mafia family, and it's not unheard of for the human chess pieces to die or get hurt. Each group in the competition is composed of several pieces (people who act as fighters in the game) and a master whose willpower allows the pieces to manifest their powers. Fai, Syaoran, and Kurogane are pieces, and Sakura is their master.

Sakura is a very strong master because her will to win and help those hurt people is so strong. However, she begins to falter when she finds herself noticing things about the new Syaoran that remind her of the old Syaoran. In fact, the new Syaoran even knows things that the group members had thought only the old Syaoran had known, because the new Syaoran had always been there in the background, watching everything. The new Syaoran cares for Sakura but knows that Sakura wants the old Syaoran back, and this is causing some strain in the group. Sakura's faltering emotions almost result in the group losing their latest match (it also doesn't help that the other group is cheating). At the end of the volume, Fai is contacted by Chi (his companion or something from his own world, and also a character from another CLAMP series), who tells him that the one he fears has awoken.

The character relationships in this volume are interesting. From the look of things, Syaoran confides mostly in Kurogane, while Sakura confides mostly in Fai. The whole Syaoran/Kurogane thing isn't too surprising, since they'd already built something of a relationship though Kurogane training Syaoran (the old Syaoran). Also, Kurogane's got a pretty good head on his shoulders and can adjust to a new Syaoran. Fai/Sakura was a little more surprising to me, because I'd never really noticed before that the two of them have such a strong bond. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but at one point (page 37) it looked to me like Fai was practically swearing fealty to her (I'm sure there are fan fic writers who'll read even more into it than I did - maybe something to do with unrequited love on Fai's part...). For those fans of Fai/Kurogane, this is the first volume where Kurogane has to act as food for Fai's new blood-drinking vampire self - Kurogane doesn't seem to mind (in fact, he says something to the effect of, "drink, or I'll just let myself bleed anyway") and, although I was expecting at least some resistance on Fai's part, Fai drank Kurogane's blood without any real protest.

This story is getting pretty dark, but also really interesting. While I suspect that CLAMP won't wrap this series up in a completely happy way, I don't think they'll end it in a completely depressing way, either. I'm looking forward to seeing how things end. As far as extras go, this volume has four pages of translation notes - this isn't much, but I really liked one of the notes, in which the translator explains difficulties translating a particular line (this note could come in really handy later on, if it turns out that the translator, who also doesn't know how things will progress in this series, was off in his interpretation).

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Loveless (anime TV series); Loveless (manga) by Yun Kouga - Twelve-year-old Ritsuka's life isn't very normal - his older brother died not too long ago, his mother is physically abusive, and a strange 19-year-old man named Soubi has shown up, claiming to have known his brother. Soubi says he is Ritsuka's Fighter, while Ritsuka is a Sacrifice. Ritsuka slowly comes to understand what this means, as he learns to battle other Fighter-Sacrifice pairs who may be able to lead him to knowledge about his brother's death. Overall, this series has very little in common with Tsubasa. However, the game in this volume of Tsubasa reminded me a great deal of the look and feel of Loveless, with its super-cool Gothy outfits and masters who control fighters. Also, Loveless has a somewhat dark tone that matches Tsubasa's current tone. The Loveless anime is beautiful and follows the manga pretty closely, but it ends well before the manga does, and therefore doesn't actually resolve or explain much of anything. I own both (at least, as much of the manga as has been published so far in the US) and consider it worth it.
  • Chobits (manga) by CLAMP - There is also an anime version of Chobits, which is very similar, but the manga is better and, at eight volumes, quite possibly cheaper. Hideki, a cram student, comes from the country and knows almost nothing about persocoms, robots that look and act almost like humans. Unfortunately for Hideki, almost everyone has one now for their computing needs, and there's no way he can afford one. However, Hideki gets lucky and finds one abandoned next to a dumpster. She's a bit broken and can only say "chi", so that's what he names her. Chi adores Hideki, and, as the series progresses, he comes to care for her, despite his concern about the implications of humans falling for their persocoms. Since Chi (or at least someone who looks an awful lot like her) makes a brief appearance in this volume of Tsubasa, I thought I'd suggest this sweet and surprisingly thoughtful series.
  • Xxxholic (manga) by CLAMP; Xxxholic (anime TV series) - Watanuki is a high school student who is plagued by the ability to see spirits. One day, he meets a woman named Yuuko who can help rid him of this ability. Anybody who receives her help must pay a fair price in return, so Watanuki becomes her cook, housekeeper, and errand boy for an undetermined amount of time. Until he has worked enough to earn her help, Watanuki will continue to have to deal with his abilities, which often come in handy when Yuuko gives him special errands to run. This series includes lots of mini-stories, as Yuuko deals with clients who need her special skills and knowledge. Sometimes things turn out well for the clients, and sometimes things end badly, and, due to these experiences, Watanuki gradually grows and changes. Xxxholic frequently crosses over with Tsubasa in small ways, and characters from this series show up in Tsubasa and vice versa.

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