Bringing together the two franchises once again but in theatrical form, this double feature ties their stories together loosely but in a manner that fits with each series.
What They Say
This double feature contains both the Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE movie and the xxxHolic movie!
From the sweeping universe of CLAMP, two journeys run parallel yet intersect. As two souls seek the mystery of truth, worlds collide where the Dimensional Witch waits. There is no coincidence, only the inevitable...
Tsubasa, RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE: The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom
Our intrepid adventurers have once again encountered a people oppressed, this time landing in a virtual paradise trembling on the very edge of existence. A princess silenced, but not into submission. An evil king who seeks an end to light and happiness. Only the brave of heart will prevail, rescuing the kingdom from darkness eternal...
xxxHOLiC: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Yuko drags her pawns along, invited to a mysterious auction at an intriguing mansion. There, confronted by greed, vanity, and pride, they will navigate through rooms and passages that twist like the souls of holics, the mongers of material satisfaction. As the other guests disappear one by one, the puzzle must be pieced together before they become part of the collection, too.
The CLAMP Double Feature has one less audio track than the DVD release as it has dropped the English stereo mix. What we do get are the English 5.1 language mix and the Japanese 2.0 language mix, both of which are encoded using Dolby TrueHD. The 5.1 mix has a few more standout moments overall but the Japanese track feels a little more full and together than the English one. The bigger moments in the Tsubasa movie is where the 5.1 mix stands out but when it comes to the dialogue, the Japanese mix just sounded a lot more natural. Unfortunately, this release didn't get the Japanese 5.1 mix that was done for the Japanese release so FUNimation only had on hand what it had when they put out their original DVD release.
Originally in theaters back in 2005, the transfer for this double feature film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 at 1080p using the AVC codec. This release looks to be an upscale of the original 480p source materials that FUNimation had on hand and it's one that definitely looks very good in a lot of places but has issues in others. The Tsubasa movie plays the best since it's very straightforward, brightly lit with a lot of varied colors to it that shine well. It's got a good bit of detail as well. The xxxholic feature is more subdued as it plays along and has more going on which makes the noise in the background a lot more visible. Some scenes look fairly alive at times with the dark stone backdrop that we get here and there or with other dark colors. The main offense otherwise is that there's a fair bit of noticeable haloing throughout it, but that's dependent on your sensitivity to it for the most part. The good outweighs the bad here, though I would have far preferred a true high definition release as opposed to an upscale.
Presented in a standard Blu-ray case, this release has a cardboard slipcover that's the same as the disc cover itself. The front cover does a nice job of tying the two features together by having Yoko on top of both of the two posters for the features. Yoko herself is a good tie between the two and having here there with a bit of the nice elegance to the text box just over her gives it a good feeling. Behind her we get the two “posters” of the two franchise where the Tsubasa one is bright and colorful while the xxxholic one is darker and eerier. There's not a lot of detail to be had here but they look good overall and I do like how it's all tied together and even the Blu-ray logo works well. The back cover has to deal with the split nature as well and does it pretty nicely, though it's a fairly dark piece when it comes to the leather-ish background. Split into three columns, the side ones deal with the individual shows while the center has shots from each of them. The summaries are obviously pretty small and they include the basic technical information (though I really wish they'd denote if it's a true high def release or an upscale somewhere as consumers deserve to know the difference). There isn't a rundown of the extras which isn't a surprise considering how much there are, but they note it's over two hours worth. There's also artwork on the reverse side so you can flip it around and have the front and back covers set to a specific movie with what I believe is more original poster artwork of the original releases.
The menu layout for this release is really quite nice as it offers the choice at the top (after the front loaded skippable material that is) of picking which feature you want which is set against a nice illustration of both shows in a framed layout. When you go into each individual movie, which you can switch easily at the bottom of through the navigation, you get everything specific to that feature. With a lot of extras available for each feature, having them broken down into the two sides like this works nicely. In addition to that it means we get a show specific menu with artwork for it, again in the same kind of frame as the top level piece, which ties it all together nicely. I was really quite pleased with the responsiveness within the submenus and for changing to the other feature menu as well. The layout is quick and easy to navigate and the theme and design of it flows well with the show. As is the norm, the disc does not read our players' language presets and it boggles me that they still haven't changed such a simple thing.
Each movie has its own respective set of extras with all of them in standard definition and essentially replicating what was on the DVD releases:
The Tsubasa disc is nicely loaded with material, which is a plus considering the length of the movie itself. The first piece is from the premier in Ikebukoro which runs just over eight minutes and shows the fans getting into the theater and the actors getting ready for their brief introduction to the audience. Of a similar nature is the movie event in Shibuya which takes place in the Shibuya Tower Records and has the opening song performed. This runs just over eight minutes as well with Kinya starting it off with the song before it goes into a more general Q&A and introduction of a few of the actors. It’s light fluff but it’s good to see a partial song performance.A brief bit of extra footage is included separately, which runs just about 30 seconds, from the Shibuya event as well. A two minute recording session montage is included which has the principal cast at work though we don’t get to hear them much since there’s music playing over it. There’s a great production artwork gallery that runs for just over six minutes and a background plates section which runs for just under two minutes. Each of them showcases some great pieces and it flows well, if a bit fast, with the instrumental music attached to it. A two minute storyboard piece is included which details the origins of the Birdcage Kingdom which is subtitled in Japanese (and translated for DVD subtitles) about how it all came together which helps to flesh out the film a bit. The really big extra included in this, and my favorite, is the commentary by the Japanese cast and staff which is presented as a picture in picture piece that’s separately encoded from the main feature. It moves back and forth between the two video streams so that we can see the actors talking about what’s on screen and the film itself.
The xxxholic disc has a lot of similar extras relating to the theatrical opening and the like. The first one is an eight minute piece that brings out the voice actors to the opening of the film at the Shinjuku Cinema Milano where they’re brought out and talk briefly about the work. There’s a very short recording montage of the actors at work which lasts just over a minute unfortunately. I tend to find these cute depending on the personalities of the actors and this one looks like it could have been more fun. A slightly lengthier piece is a three minute slideshow session that shows off the character designs in the conceptual stage both in black and white pieces and color. So much of it is appealing with the detail and color that it’s very enjoyable to check it out. A similar section is only two minutes long that goes through a variety of the beautiful background plates used in the film. There is such detail and beauty to so many of tem that having them in this form is great. The really big extra here though is the Japanese staff and actor commentary on the film. It’s a separate piece (that could be done really well in a high definition format along with the original program) which has a video of the three main actors and the producer talking about the film as it plays along. The film plays in a smaller window (and in three monitors in the background) and they talk plenty about it. The visual of them in the room, albeit with headphones, is really fun since you can see them as they express their opinions and laugh about it at times. Also included is a brief set of original theatrical trailers for the film,.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When CLAMP launched the manga for Tsubasa and xxxholic, they made it plain from practically the first panels that the two books were going to be heavily tied together at times. They also made it abundantly clear that they were going to touch upon many aspects of their overall CLAMPverse by hitting alternate realities, re-imagining characters and threading some of the stories back and forth in ways that would really work well. What surprised me with the two series in manga form was that I found Tsubasa harder to get through at first but took instantly to xxxholic.
The two features here, the first running thirty five minutes and the second sixty minutes, are loosely tied together in a roundabout way. They both stand alone in total and don’t seem to take place anywhere within the continuity of the series that’s been seen in the US. We watched the films as they’re billed on the package by taking in the Tsubasa movie first. I’m still hard pressed to call it a movie (especially since by Hollywood standards, it must run for at least 82 minutes to be considered a movie) but it has a great theatrical quality to the presentation and animation. The story is incredibly simple and not that detailed in terms of background that we usually get from the TV series. The gang gets dropped into a world that’s contained inside a massive birdcage to discover that there are things afoot by the King to turn it into a kingdom of darkness. Naturally, the group gets split up and discovers different angles to deal with while trying to head off impending doom while still trying to find another feather of Sakura’s memories.
While this part of the double feature is fun, light and quick moving, it lacks any real sort of impact. It’s like an extended episode with some beautiful animation quality to it. The xxxholic movie on the other hand captivated me right from the first frame as it introduces us to Watanuki and his specific problem of being an attractor to unusual things. The feature takes a bit of time to go over some of the basics to expand from what we know from the opening of the Tsubasa series itself. Like much of the xxxholic franchise, things tend to fall into Watanuki’s lap through his service to Yuko as a general maid and jack of all trades. Just in doing his normal job he ends up attracting people there that need problems solved for a price.
The story is one that is pretty predictable however as Yuko agrees to help a young woman who claims she can’t get into her house anymore. It’s actually a mansion and inside there is some strange event going on where unique collectors have come to take part in an collectors auction of sorts. Watanuki, Yuko and Domeki end up getting caught up in the event, which isn’t a surprise since Yuko is something of a collector in her own way, and it becomes a great yet obvious mystery as the collectors begin to disappear. The mansion is unique in how it constantly changes and seemingly toys with Watanuki. Much of the fun comes in watching how Watanuki deals with all these absurd situations while Yuko either smiles knowingly or Domeki plays the straight main to all of it.
While neither of the stories for this film are especially compelling, they are quite beautifully told. Tsubasa really shines in comparison to its TV series in how fluid and lush it is while xxxholic plays more in the near experimental stage with its visual design at times. Where the problem can lay with all of this however is the viewers expectations for the actual character designs. When these properties first started in manga form they were fairly controversial for some fans because of the designs. I’ve always found them to be far more appealing and engaging because they aren’t cookie cutter CLAMP designs. They all share a similarity to fit in with this particular series design, but I love the lanky body design and the exaggerated motions that characters like Watanuki make in xxxholic. Seeing these designs done on a theatrical level with some great fluid movements combined with lush backgrounds really just brings it all to life quite beautifully.
With both features on one disc and all the extras now far easier to access, there's definitely some advantages to be had here. The two features here are both essentially standalone features that don't have any significant connections with the main TV series, though of course you'll get more out of it if you've seen those. These films aren’t deep but they’re a lot of fun and kept me smiling and enjoying the experience all the way through. If anything, I’d really like to see a proper full length feature with this level of animation quality for both films. Unfortunately, FUNimation wasn't able to get some of the more recent materials from Japan which is why we've got an upscale here as well as stereo for the Japanese track instead of the 5.1 track that the Japanese had on DVD. If you're not a fan of the upscales they've done, you won't like this one either. If you've had little to no issues with them, you'll be pretty pleased here overall.
Features Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom Special Features: 2005 Premiere in Ikebukuro, 2005 Movie Event in Shibuya, Recording Session Montage, Japanese Staff and Cast Commentary, Additional Movie Event Coverage, Production Artwork, Background Slides, Origin of Birdcage Kingdom, Trailers.
A Midsummer Night's Dream Special Features: Opening Day at Shinjuku Cinema Milano, Recording Session Montage, Japanese Staff and Cast Commentary, Character Design Slides, Background Plates, Trailers.
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
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