Tsubasa Vol. #10 (of 12) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, December 23, 2008

While some humor makes it in towards the end, Tsubasa focuses more on the serious side for this volume.

What They Say

The ordeal of the book of memories is relentless, and the searchers find themselves cast as fugitives in a land of secrets and mysteries. Forced to seek shelter in the shadows, each who has undertaken this journey must now face their own trial. To Sakura, the latest destination decided by fate looks like home, though the streets are vacant and Syaoran's face remains missing from her childhood memories.

Contains episodes 41-44.

The Review!
Unlike the first season, FUNimation only has two audio tracks for this release instead of the three we saw before as there is no English 2.0 mix. The Japanese stereo mix is done in a standard 192 kbps encoding and sound pretty good. The bass level on them seems a bit high at times to the point where I ended up turning the subwoofer off. There is also an English 5.1 mix which is done at 448 kbps and that has a bit better clarity and placement for the music and ambient effects as well as a smoother feel to the bass level. In listening to the 5.1 mix first and then again in the Japanese 2.0, both tracks came across as clear and problem free.

Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Tsubasa comes across as a much stronger show in this series, partially because the softness that plagued much of the first season is largely gone. What we get, along with much higher bitrates and no alternate angle for the opening and closing sequences, is a show that is more vibrant looking and retains a stronger set of solid animation pieces in the foreground and background. There’s still noise to be found in places and in particular colors in the backgrounds at times, but by and large it’s a very different looking show in comparison to the first volumes of the first season. With no noticeable cross coloration and only a few instances of notable aliasing going on during panning sequence, Tsubasa looks a good bit richer and more alive than it has in its first season.

The dark background again is problematic for this volume as it feels off with the generally happy looking characters that populate it. Even more problematic is that Syaoran’s shirt practically blends into it which makes it even murkier. The character artwork is nice though as it has Syaoran and Sakura together with a happy Mokona bouncing right along. The back cover goes for a minimalist feel with the logo taking up a big chunk of space along the top and a smaller shot of Kurogane from the front cover appearing here again. A few shots from the show make it in and episode titles and numbers are clearly listed. The summary goes over the basics without giving away too much and the discs extras are clearly listed. The remainder of the cover is given over to the usual boilerplate and production information as well as the tiny technical grid. No insert is provided but the cover has artwork on the reverse side with a two panel spread that Tomoyo with a really big happy smile across her face.

Using some of the same style and coloring as the back cover, the letterbox design houses the artwork from front cover. The cover artwork doesn't come across quite as dark as the colors that are in it are more vibrant here than in print. The static image has a decent background of blacks and reds to contrast her bright design while some of the instrumental music plays along for the standard thirty second loop. The logo takes up a small bit of space while the navigation box along the bottom is the simple and effective. Access times are nice and fast and moving about the menus is easy.

A small selection of extras is included in the release and FUNimation has fixed some of the problems with them from first seasons’ volumes. The character guide section is a good piece that provides a breakdown of all the primary characters of the series as well as some new ones seen in these episodes along with conceptual pieces of artwork. Providing some liner notes on the various locations along with conceptual artwork, the World Guide also includes a number of characters and magical elements that appear in those episodes. Also included in this release for extras are the clean versions of the opening and ending sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The previous volume was one of those really challenging volumes since it had a pair of good bookend episodes but the middle was just awful. And that the two part story in the middle was an anime-only story only makes it worse since you’re now even more on guard against such stories in the future. Thankfully, that volume ended with some really good material and that’s carried through onto this volume as we get three more episodes of that arc and then a very good little standalone episode that lets Mokona shine.

The arrival of the group in the country of Recolte has been an intriguing one from the start since it actually took us to Kurogane’s home country, or at least the past. The opening of a book by Syaoran had him understanding where Kurogane has come from and that’s bonded them rather well, though neither is really about to admit it just yet. What they learn from this however is that in this country, there is a Book of Memories which is considered to be rather problematic, hence it being kept closely guarded in the central library. The book that Syaoran was reading was a copy of it with some of the power imbibed in it where the past of the person is kept in it for the next person to read. That creates a little chain effect where the next person understands the last person and so forth.

The central library is rather dedicated to making sure nobody get a hold of this book since calamity always seems to ensue afterwards. The group does make the casual inquiry about whether there’s any belief about someone being able to remove the apparent curse of sorts from it, but no such superstitions or such exist. What they’ve done is make it so that those that go into that section of the library will find themselves challenged as to their intent, and those of ill intent will be kept out. Amusingly, this causes panic among some of them since they believe that they’ll set off the alarms. At the same time, none of them have ill intent over this and the worry that Sakura has feels the most misplaced since she’s trying to reclaim what’s hers rather than steal from others. But that just reinforces the overly “good” nature of everyone in the long run.

Their attempts to get the book and understand a bit of this world makes up a good part of this set of episodes, but also the attempts by Fai and Kurogane to try and understand Syaoran through the book. There have been instances lately that have both of them wondering what’s up with Syaoran and they continue with this storyline as well. At the same time, we also get a greater understanding of Kurogane as he goofs with the book and Syaoran goes for another tour of his past as we see him training and growing under the watchful eye of Princess Tomoyo. This is quite a bit of fun as we see Tomoyo toying with him rather nicely as he’s rising in rank and being given a very special item in which to serve with.

Tsubasa does provide for more hints at the larger story because of these flashbacks as Syaoran starts to get an idea about the bat shaped logo that’s been creeping up more. But Tsubasa also knows that after a four episode storyline like this, they need to bring in a little bit of the fun. And that comes with a Mokona episode in which the little guy is feeling just that, little and of little help. The new world they’ve ended up seems empty of people at the moment, but their situation changes overnight when everyone but Mokona shrinks down to a tiny size. It’s up to Mokona to save the day along with the country’s patron deity, Cerberus. Cerberus has shown up in a few ways during the series, something the gang of four recognizes, but it’s fun to watch him and Mokona work together to retrieve the feather and save the day. It’s all predictable of course, and the reasoning is clear to anyone with some amount of common sense, but it’s exactly what was needed at this stage as it was cute, fun and tinged with some seriousness.

In Summary:
After the dreadful chunk of the ninth volume, this one salvages it nicely and keeps the story moving forward. Granted, it moves forward slowly as CLAMP is working their epic material here with something that they can write and draw for quite a long time. No real resolutions are expected to be honest, but I’m enjoying the ride for the most part and a volume like this reinforces it. I like the core cast of characters, I like the way the stories tend to play out and most of the time I’ll even enjoy the pacing. That said, I’d still like to see some little nods of resolution here and there for some plot points eventually. Fans of Tsubasa will welcome this volume after the ninth one to be sure and for very good reason.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Character Guide, World Guide, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Review Equipment
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.

Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B-
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Tsubasa