|SNL REUNION! JK, it's just Clamp.|
Now the protagonist is supposedly Indiana Jones, I mean Syaoron. In order to save his long-time friend Sakura from a mysterious spell that has put her to sleep (which I guess would be easier than actually giving her a personality) he meets with the Dimension Witch, who smokes opium, drinks sake, wears totally pimpin’ clothes, has what no one will ever convince me are not sex slaves, and keeps what appear to be giant talking pimples who swallow and vomit up things by a means of storing them as pets. Needless to say, her main power is being much cooler than anyone else in the room. There he also meets Fai, who sent himself to the Dimension Witch after establishing that he put someone to sleep, has a crazy awesome tattoo on his back, and turned his attractive robot creation into a pool cover. With them is Kurogane, whose princess banished him from their dimension on the grounds that he was too much of a bad-ass and that he wasn’t yet gay enough for the Edo Era. He had to travel through dimensions in order to learn what true strength (read: gayness) is. Kurogane is a ninja from ancient Japan and Fai is a wizard/professional drag queen (I think) from somewhere that might be a cross between France and Ireland, I don’t know. His main power is looking better in thigh-high boots than any man has a right to.
Are you at all confused? Don’t worry, so am I.
Being an obvious Devil figure, she grants each of them their wish but takes something important in exchange. Kurogane wants to return to his homeland, but due to the forces of destiny and plot, has to keep traveling through dimensions until he eventually reaches his own, with Indiana Jones, Sleeping Beauty, and Fai, his polar opposite, for company. (I smell a sitcom!) In exchange he gives her his sword Ginryu, which in Japanese means Long Glowing Phallic Symbol. Fai wants never to return to his homeland, so he gives her the tattoo on his back, which makes him less powerful so that he can’t go back to his own dimension, but in exchange gets the power to…travel through dimensions? Wait, what?
Please excuse me for the inappropriate jokes. I was just having a little too much fun.
Unfortunately, if you’re not already a Clamp fan, mocking the show is most of the fun to be had. It’s not at all bad, but after an exciting first episode, it’s painfully slow for quite some time. The premise, while it is certainly creative, is reduced to sluggishly paced, formulaic stories in which the four travelers find one of Sakura’s feathers within each dimension. Many of these stories, while they are mildly entertaining, fail to leave a lasting impression on any deeper level. The episodes are also plagued with perhaps the show’s biggest detriment, the FLASHBACKS. There are too many flashbacks, many lasting as long as five minutes and at least one in every episode. While flashbacks can be plentiful but effectively used (see Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Tsubasa) this is not a good example. They often recap something that happened in the previous episode. I understand the director was trying to make the show accessible to children, but the show is more rewarding for teenage audiences. The repetitive plot is really a shame, because the show gets SO MUCH BETTER soon after. Alliances and intentions are revealed in layers, and while many of the side characters will only be memorable for hardened Clamp veterans, newcomers can still enjoy these unexpected twists. There are also moments in which the show gets a little violent and gruesome, but these action sequences are satisfyingly exciting and creatively choreographed. Unfortunately the story doesn’t evolve nearly as much as it should, remaining rather static throughout.
The characters are a hit and miss. By far my favorite are Kurogane and Fai, a more entertaining couple than the two leads. Granted, no official declaration of coupledom is made, and everything is kept PG (okay, PG-13) it’s just sort of generally accepted among the fandom that they are in fact a couple by the end of the series. Their interaction consists of Fai giving Kurogane stupid nicknames and the latter threatening with him with bodily injury, and it’s hilarious. What’s more, Fai later notes that he’d never given anyone a nickname before, and he gave Kurogane one the moment they met. So he apparently took one look at Kurogane and thought, “This guy needs a nickname. Preferably a silly one.” (Awesome.) By comparison, this rendition of Syaoron and Sakura seems bland, as do the numerous other Clamp characters that make appearances, and clichés run abound in all of them. All in all the characters feel rather like an episode of Saturday Night Live in which old cast members and jokes are brought back, and it would only be funny to old school SNL fans. While there is fun to be had, the plot is so laboriously paced and the characters so one-note and cliché that hardcore Clamp fans only need apply.
The animation, while not eye-popping, is above average. Corners are cut where they always are, but when it’s time to impress, they show up. The art is some of Clamp’s stronger work, the character designs being pretty and the background designs bright and detailed. The soundtrack is GLORIOUS. It quite frankly stuck with me for far longer than anything in the plot did. However, while it is undeniably a beautiful soundtrack, it’s rather poorly placed, repeating itself at any given moment rather than supporting the story. As far as audio goes, the dub has received a lot of praise for its well-casted actors and liberties it takes with the script. The Japanese cast is also excellent, but I honestly can’t recommend either one, as I’ve heard ample praise and criticism on both sides. It’s just going to come down to personal preference, and whether you want the PG-13 version (Japanese) or the PG version (English).
All in all Tsubasa offers short-term entertainment and plenty of nostalgic value for Clamp lovers, but little else for many others. I highly recommend this to Clamp fans (although if you are one, chances are you’ve already seen it) and anyone looking for an occasional time-wasting distraction without an overly investing plot. It can get genuinely engaging at times though with genuine effort being made on the part of the creators. I consider the OVA (Tokyo Revelations) to be vastly superior in every way, so check that one out.