Saturday, February 6, 2021

REVIEW: Tsubasa: Those with Wings (manga, vol. 2) by Natsuki Takaya, translated by Adrienne Beck

Tsubasa: Those with Wings is a short SFF manga series with romantic elements. It was originally licensed by Tokyopop and is no longer in print. I bought my copy used.


Kotobuki has finally found a decent job helping out at an orphanage. Since she's an orphan herself, it's even work that she truly cares about. However, Raimon's father and others are trying to get the orphanage shut down, and no one seems to care because orphans are "nameless" and viewed as barely even human by a lot of people. 

Kotobuki finally learns more about the hold that the military has on Raimon and becomes determined to help him. However, that will definitely require the power of the Tsubasa, and potential clues to its location are all located in dangerous places, such as a cursed forest and an island that may no longer exist.

One of the first things I noticed when I started reading this was that Kotobuki's speech patterns were completely different - suddenly she was using "wanna" and "gonna" a lot more than she had in the first volume. This appeared to be due to a sudden switch in translators - the first volume was translated by Kinami Watabe, while this one was translated by Adrienne Beck. I guess Tokyopop figured no one would notice and didn't bother to have anyone smooth out the transition.

Okay, moving on to the content. Whereas the first volume barely felt like sci-fi, this one more firmly cemented the series' genre with the addition of robots and indications that the Tsubasa may not be as magical as previous descriptions made it seem. There was definitely forward movement in the story, and yet I found myself liking this series less and less.

A big part of the issue was Raimon. There's always been a power imbalance between Raimon and Kotobuki - he's better at literally everything, more comfortable with their budding relationship, and better able to financially support them both. In this omnibus volume, however, that power imbalance grew. There were multiple indications that Raimon knew things about the Tsubasa and his own situation that he wasn't telling Kotobuki - I don't know if she was stupid and genuinely didn't notice his omissions or if she just wanted him to have his privacy, but she never called him on any of it. 

As far as their relationship went, although Raimon previously stated that he didn't want to rush Kotobuki and that "having a relationship is not all about sex," in this volume he tried to rush her and completely freaked her out. Then everyone around her wouldn't shut up about sex, how it's definitely a part of close romantic relationships, and how, if she kept avoiding it, Raimon would probably lose interest in her. I hated the amount of pressure she was under, and although she seemed fine when they eventually did have sex, it was more like something she felt they needed to do than something she was 100% sure she wanted. It didn't particularly help that, since the series started, Kotobuki has always been presented as much younger than Raimon (emotionally, but probably also in terms of years based on the number of times people talked about her like she was a child).

Kotobuki and Raimon's journeying was interesting enough, as long as you didn't think about the details too hard (and I'm going to be mad if it turns out that most of their traveling would have been unnecessary if Raimon had just told Kotobuki what he knew). The whole thing with the tree was a very simplistic and not very believable attempt to work more ecological aspects into the story. The robots were probably supposed to be heartbreaking, and yet I just thought they were so-so.

Art-wise, I had a few moments when I got confused because some of the character designs were so similar - for example, I mixed up Kaede and Raimon at least once. Also, there was one moment where a character was revealed to be someone else, but the transition was hard to follow and I initially thought someone new had walked into the scene.

This leaves me with one more omnibus volume, plenty of time, I think, to resolve all the remaining issues. I have a feeling that Raimon and the Colonel's past history will probably annoy me. I'm hoping for Kotobuki's sake that the ending isn't too tragic, and I'm looking forward to finding out who or what Rikuro is and what his connection to Tsubasa happens to be.


A few bonus manga pages created by Natsuki Takaya for this new release - no real content, just the characters talking to each other and messing around.

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