Sunday, April 25, 2021

REVIEW: Tsubasa: Those with Wings (manga, vol. 3) by Natsuki Takaya, translated by Adrienne Beck

Tsubasa: Those with Wings is a sci-fi series by Natsuki Takaya, who's best known in the US as the creator of Fruits Basket. I bought my copy used and, since the series was originally published by Tokyopop and never got a license rescue after the company imploded, used and library checkouts are pretty much the only ways to get it these days.

This review includes spoilers (both the major series ones - go back and read the earlier volumes if you haven't yet - and a few that I consider more minor, a little info on how things turn out for some of the characters).


Kotobuki and Raimon are still separated, I believe due to the bomb in Raimon's head (if I remember right, it would go off if he went with Kotobuki on her trip to what was left of Japan). Kotobuki has spoken to the last living Japanese person, a neurosurgeon who tells her the true form of the Tsubasa: they were actually genetically engineered bodiless brains. Only two brains were ever successfully created, and one day those brains spontaneously became a boy and a girl, Rikuro and Kayo.

Kayo has been missing for a while, and Rikuro can't function as the Tsubasa without her, but the neurosurgeon should be able to remove the bomb from Raimon's head. Unfortunately, there's one big problem: Raimon has been captured. Colonel Hil Gil plans to use him to awaken Kayo and, with her, the power of the Tsubasa, which he plans to use to grant his own secret wish.

There is a lot crammed into this omnibus volume, and into this series in general. Military experiments, magical brains, post-apocalyptic wastelands, robots, organic computers, holographic people, and unhealthy relationships. And probably other stuff I'm forgetting.

Takaya does manage to wrap everything up, but I'm not sure how I feel about it. There are a couple very obviously unhealthy relationships - characters who "love" someone so much that they'll do anything to keep those people with them, even if it means harming them. Even though these relationships have been festering for a very long time, and the jealous people involved have caused a great deal of harm (many, many deaths), everything is somehow addressed and "fixed" with a few heartfelt speeches and some time spent caring for children at an orphanage. A couple gentle/happy panels at the end, and I guess we're supposed to believe all is well and forgiven. It rubbed me the wrong way.

And Takaya couldn't seem to resist pairing people off. Raimon and Kotobuki wasn't a surprise (even though I'm still not sure that pairing is a good idea), but Phere and Whatshisname came across as forced - sure, the guy was definitely into Phere, and Phere had that moment when she blushed because he was nice to her, but marriage? Really? And the other pairing was so offhand that I'm still not sure if it was just a joke or if they actually meant it.

The glimpse of Raimon's past, from his childhood up to the time he met Kotobuki, was okay, I guess, but made me doubt even more that pairing them up was a good idea. At one point, Kotobuki said that she'd be sad if Raimon fell for someone else but could live with it as long as he was still alive. I wonder, did the same hold true for Raimon? Because somehow I doubt it. He went from emotionless and suicidal, doubting his own humanity, to instantly falling in love with Kotobuki (their "meet cute" involved her blood getting on his face and him thinking about how warm it was - hello, yes, fresh blood is indeed warm, and that would have been equally true if it had been someone's blood instead of Kotobuki's). He made her the center of his world and his reason for living. I doubt he'd have been okay with it if she fell in love with someone else.

All in all, this series was...okay. Not something I'd advise anyone to work really hard to track down, unless they were a huge fan of Takaya's and wanted to read everything she'd ever written. Like I said in a past review, it reminded me a lot of CLAMP's Clover, only with a complete story and much less impressive artwork. I didn't really like everything Takaya seemed to be trying to say, which makes me wonder how I'll feel about Fruits Basket, if I ever get around to rereading the earlier volumes and finally finishing the series up.


A 4-page bonus manga Takaya created for the reissue of this series - basically just the characters messing around and making a video message for fans. And a 1-page "thank you" from Takaya to her readers.

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