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TSUBASA has finally arrived on DVD in a new release from FUNimation Entertainment, and this follower of the epic series from Clamp is cheering.  Buy this disk, and you will see why.  It is set up as a boy’s adventure story- a classic quest with the twist that the characters in it are in many cases carryovers from the earlier and hugely successful CARDCAPTOR SAKURA.  However, it quickly becomes obvious that the creators of the anime series have chosen to explore the romance in the plot of the manga more openly, creating a powerful mix of action and emotion that can tickle your fancy and pull mightily on your heartstrings at the same time.

Now that’s worth looking at.

In brief, TSUBASA is set in the Kingdom of Clow, where Sakura is princess to her brother Toyo, the ruler of this desert world.  Syaoran is the orphaned son of an archeologist exploring ancient ruins outside the capital city.  He is also Sakura’s best friend since childhood, and the one who has captured her heart.  But before she can confess her love, otherworldly forces strike her unconscious and send her memories hurtling through space across the dimensions in the form of exotic looking feathers.  Sent to seek help from the Space Time witch, Syaoran is linked up with Fai and Kurogane, who join forces from across their various worlds to set about retrieving Sakura’s feathers.

For each of these young men, however, there is to be a price exacted for the help of the Space Time witch, from yielding precious tattoos and swords to, in Syaoran’s case losing Sakura as he knows her altogether.  Even though she can have her memories restored, she will not remember him, nor the love they shared.  Selfless and pure, but heavy in heart, Syaoran agrees to her terms, and the four of them, with the assistance of the witch’s white mokona, (a bouncy, adorable and occasionally annoying creature with a kind of chibi/rabbit like appearance), are swept off to the world of the Hanshin Republic on the first stop in their quest.  Spirit companions that take majestic and terrifying forms at the will of their human hosts dominate the land, creating fights between gangs and the foundation of a kind of social order.  Somewhere in all of this the lovers (Syaoran and Sakura), the magician (Fai), and the warrior (Kurogane) must find some of these feathers and stay out of trouble.

The first volume of five episodes covers most of the first two volumes in the manga, and with the exception of a more fully explored gang fight subplot, follows the original story closely, right down to lines of dialogue in specific scenes and the settings themselves.  There is one scene added, where Sakura literally takes flight and in one shot looks exactly like the blossom she is named after, falling gently out of the sky.  It is a beautiful moment, stirring for its creativity and richly symbolic in its own right.  In other details, a lot of attention has been given to things like music and emulating the visual style of the manga.  Checking costumes, sets and locations against the manga, the work in the anime holds up well.  The music by Yuki Kajiura is lush, and evocative.  Soundtrack collectors will find a good home for the themes in this work.  American voice casting, including Monica Rial as Sakura, is strong, catching the essence of the Japanese counterparts nicely in speech and tone.  The actual dialogue itself varies strongly from the subtitles, but the context, if not the language remains more or less the same.  Indeed, the language in the subtitles is a little more punchy and adult in tone, with the audio track seemingly developed more for a younger audience.

So, how young are we talking, in terms of the audience?  Teens would get the most out of the series.  The way it is shot, cut, and packaged seems to have actively targeted that market.  With creatures springing to life and fights taking place following little staring matches and big pronouncements, some adults may find elements of the series echo battle/quest shows like the original CARDCAPTOR SAKURA, or ANGELIC LAYER, or shows for younger fare (think Mokona and you can imagine the rest).  However, the love interest, while not blown up to soap opera proportions, has added a layer of maturity to the series, making it a little tragic, if not bittersweet.   

As with all series, TSUBASA comes in two editions.  There is the standard DVD and a special collector’s edition.  The special collector’s edition comes with a box for all of the disks as they are released- a handy piece to have on hand for making any collection look that much smarter on the shelf.  And for TSUBASA, it is worth the expense.  On the disk itself are recordings of the English cast actors during their auditions, artwork, character descriptions, a world guide, and cameos from the Clamp universe who make appearances in the story. 

TSUBASA is a sweeping epic in the making, with the classic elements of love and adventure taking flight across space and time in a quest that will astonish you.  Wonderful characters, exotic worlds, comedy and mystery support this uplifting tale from FUNimation, based on the original hit manga by Clamp.  You don’t want to miss TSUBASA.  


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