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Tsubasa Season 1 Box Set Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

Hopping between worlds in search of magical feathers can, in fact, be entertaining.

What They Say

A true and noble heart holds much power, stronger than the hardest fist and mightier than the most potent magic. Four disparate travelers begin an epic journey… their goals different, their destiny the same. Along the way, the past will meet the future in the present. Of all the paths of every life, mingling in the dimension between dimensions where a foe has the face of an ally, and an ally the face of a monster.
At the center of this heroic undertaking: Syaoran, a young man called upon to save his fated, the princess Sakura. Her memory has been shattered, the very essence of her soul sent adrift across the universe. Feathers float down on strange lands, torn asunder if only to prove the power of love.
With fellow travelers Kurogane and Fai, a warrior and a wizard, an epic quest begins. One of danger and mystery… The possibilities are endless.


The English dub for this release is offered in TrueHD 5.1, while the Japanese track is only in 2.0. For this viewing, I listened to the English track and was happy with the dub. All of the channels are clear, though the dialogue (center channel) tended to drop out when dramatic music was playing. I had to turn my center channel way up, and that did not completely undo the effect. Otherwise, it was solid.
The video for this release is an encoded AVC/MPEG-4 at 1080p/24. Though it is in HD, it is actually an upscale of the SD version rather than a true HD conversion. So it does not look as nice as it could, but it does look nicer than the SD version. However, there are some minor flaws with the upscale as there is some noticeable noise and blocking at times. Nothing major, but it is still there. The image also has an overlay that softens some of the colors and lines, but it seems like that is more an artistic choice rather than a technical problem.
The packaging is nicely designed, but there is nothing special about it. The three discs are in two BluRay cases, which are then placed in a series box. The front cover of the box has a picture of the four main characters while the back has screen shots, summary, and technical details. The individual BD cases have a wraparound picture of one of the characters with a list of the episodes on the disc(s) inside. Syaoran and Fay are on the two cases, though each cover is reversible should you rather have Kurogane and/or Sakura instead.
I really like the menus on this release. The background has a loop of random scenes of footage from various episodes while the OP theme plays in the background. All of the selections are separated into a small box on the bottom and are easy to see and use. But what I like is that there are no separate submenus; the selections on the bottom act independently from the music and video loop so there are no “jumps” when making selections. It is really well done.
There are some nice extras on this set, all on the third disc. First off, there are the audio files of the cast auditions for the major parts. There are also character profiles and guides to all of the worlds the group visits, and clean versions of the openings and closings. But my favorite extra details all of the cameos made by characters from other Clamp series throughout this season. I do not have a ton of experience with Clamp, so I missed a lot of the cameos, but I do have to say that I was pretty surprised (and delighted) with Sumomo and Kotoko from Chobits showed up in an episode late in the series (though I do wish they had gotten the same VAs that did their voices in Chobits). It should be noted that the series box says that there is an Actor Commentary on this release, but I could not find it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE is a 52 episode series by Clamp from 2005-6; this box set contains the first season (26 eps). The story so far is decent, with well-defined (if somewhat stereotypical), likable characters, and a neat twist on the whole concept of “quest.” But it is also obvious that I am no longer in the right demographic for a show like Tsubasa because it really felt like a show that I would have enjoyed far more when I was twelve.
Young archaeologist Syaoran and the Princess Sakura grew up together as best friends, and to anybody who knows the both of them, it is obvious that friendship will turn into true love once they get old enough to realize it. Sakura’s brother the King is not particularly pleased with the idea, but he seems willing to let nature take its course, even if he does playfully tease her for falling for a commoner. The reason for his acceptance is an old prophecy that concerns Sakura and the ruins outside of town.
When powerful magic is activated in the ruins that Syaoran is studying, Sakura is drawn to them. It is revealed that she holds the key to unlocking an ancient secret, one that portends destruction if unleashed, but Syaoran interferes before Sakura unwittingly opens them. In the process of doing so, the magical wings that Sakura had sprouted scatter into feathers and disappear. Yukito, the magical advisor to King Toya, explains to Syaoran that Sakura’s memory is stored in those feathers, and he (as Sakura’s one true love) now must journey across the cosmos to find them and restore her.
To that end, he teleports Syaoran and Sakura to another land where they meet the Dimensional Witch, the person who will guide them on their quest. Joining them will be Kurogane, a warrior from another world, and Fay, a magician on the run, who are undertaking their own quests that just happen to coincide with the one Syaoran and Sakura must go on. But in return for the Dimensional Witch’s help, each person must give up their most important possession. For Kurogane: his sword. For Fay: his magic. But the price for Syaoran is steeper; he must agree that no matter how much of Sakura’s memory he manages to restore, she will never remember him.
Tsubasa is a relatively fun series. The storyline, while not particularly complex, is a fun one, and there is some nice action in it, without as much of the standing around and talking that often marks the fighting scenes in a shonen title. The characters are well realized, and the mini-arcs that surround the search for each feather are long enough to give a sense of depth, but short enough to not become overbearing.
I love the concept of the quest in Tsubasa. Sakura’s memory is contained in these feathers that have been scattered around the cosmos, and the party is forced to travel to different dimensions in order to find the different feathers. What I love about this set up is that while Tsubasa has a basis in the fantasy genre, going to different dimensions allows the writers (and therefore the party) to play in other genres. For example, when they get to the first world, they suddenly find themselves in a modern day Japan where rival high school gangs fight turf wars using the powers granted to them by guardian spirits called Kudan. Next, they travel to a feudal society where an oppressive world is using magic powers to hold his populace down. I especially loved the arc near the end of the season where they travel to the world of Oto. I will not spoil the surprise, but it is a fun concept that is done well.
And, of course, this dimensional jumping allows for my favorite running gag in the entire series, and that’s where they keep running into new people who look and act exactly like people they have interacted with in the past but who obviously have no knowledge of Syaoran and his friends. I chuckled every time it would happen, which was often. This even opens the door for some cameos by characters from other Clamp series which was also amusing (loved the appearance by Sumomo from Chobits in Oto).
But for all the fun I had with Tsubasa, it was ultimately forgettable for me as there was not a lot of meat to it. While the characters were good, there was nothing particularly special about them that made them stand out from other shows. Kurogane is the outwardly antagonistic, hostile hero with a heart of gold; Fay is the always happy guy who likes to tweak the dour Kurogane but has his own dark past; and Syaoran is the honest hero who is always true to himself and his friends and will never compromise his promise to Sakura, no matter the stakes. It is all the same.
And as fun as the world jumping is, the overall construct of the story is fairly simplistic too. It is just a pattern of warp into a new world, find a feather, overcome evil presence who is holding the feather, move onto a new place and repeat. Sometimes this action happens in the course of one episode, sometimes it takes four or five, but it does not change the repetitive nature of it. But all of that is the nature of a shonen title and there is nothing particularly bad about it; it is just a construct that I have generally moved beyond. Were I still in the YA demographic, I would be willing to bet that I would have loved Tsubasa. As it is, it was fun, but not consuming.
Still, it did enough to make me interested in seeing the second season. So I suppose in that way, it did its job.
In Summary: 
Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE is a fun series, but not one that I would classify as great. I think if I were twenty years younger, it would be the sort of series that I would love for the rest of my life, but I am a bit beyond it at this point in my life. Still, there was nothing actively bad about it. It was a bit simplistic, but not bad. I had some good fun with it and am interested in seeing the second season, so I certainly would not claim I wasted my time. If you are looking for a decent series to have some fun with, you could certainly do worse. Recommended.
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Cast Auditions, Character Guide, World Guide, Faces in the Crowd, Textless Songs, Actor Commentary, Trailers.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 10th, 2009
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 WidescreenReview Equipment:
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System

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