Tsubasa, RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE OVA Collection (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, January 03, 2011
Release Date: Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Tsubasa starts delivering on the goods with tight, tense and engaging stories in these two OVA series.

What They Say
After visiting countless realities, Syaoran, Sakura, Fai, and Kurogane finally learn the truth behind their shared fate. The shadowy villain responsible for scattering Sakura's memories is exposed, and the four friends endure twists and turmoil unlike any they've ever encountered. Impossible sacrifices, both emotional and physical, must be made.

When Fai is dealt an incredible wound, Kurogane takes shocking steps to save the wizard from death. The warrior's efforts will connect them forever. In a savage urban wasteland, Sakura's survival is far from guaranteed as she boldly takes action like never before. Indeed, nobody is safe – and the quest's noble hero is in the greatest danger of all. Syaoran must face his fiercest foe yet: himself. One Syaoran is a clone. The other is real. When a brutal battle erupts between the two, it is Sakura who suffers most. Prepare for the unexpected. Nothing is as it seems. Everything you know about Tsubasa changes now.

Contains Tokyo Revelations 1-3 and Spring Thunder Chronicle 1-2.

The Review!

The audio mix for this release is similar to the TV release in that we get a Japanese 2.0 mix and an English 5.1 mix. The Japanese stereo mix is done in a standard 192 kbps encoding and sound pretty good. There's a good natural and expansive feeling to it as it plays out, but it's the music that gives it the really warm and captivating feeling. Dialogue is well placed and there's some noticeable depth to had in places while overall it has a solid feel to it. 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. Both language tracks come across well and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released from late 2007 through early 2009, the transfer for this five part OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With a different animation team behind it and a higher budget due to being an OVA, the source material really stands out well here. There's an extra depth to the colors throughout it that gives it a much richer feeling when it goes for that. The murky areas are just as well done as it avoids becoming too dark and hard to discern. Detail is solid throughout, both in the character designs themselves and the backgrounds. Both OVA series go with very different locales yet they stand out equally beautifully in different ways. There's something striking about both of them even though they're quite different. The transfer captures it well, though I'd love to see how much richer it could be in high definition.
FUNimation has had to work with a couple of double features over the years and rather recently when it comes to Tsubasa as they had the CLAMP double feature release with xxxholic. So when they brought two different OVA series together from the same property, they handled the packaging design in a way that I figured they would, though I had hoped for a little different. The slipcover provided with the release is the same as the cover artwork which is part of the problem. The main cover features a slip down the middle with the artwork for Tokyo Revelations on the left and Spring Thunder on the right. The main Tsubasa along the top is certainly familiar and the font for the individual OVAs is pretty nicely done. The back cover is surprisingly minimal as it has two strips of shots from the show going down on the left while the right summarizes things overall and initial expectations here along with a breakdown of what each OVA contains. The reverse side is just black space with feathers falling across it in a soft white form.
What I would have preferred is the slipcover as is and the keepcase artwork to be truly reversible with one side featuring the Tokyo Revelations cover in fully and the other side the same for Spring Thunder so fans could have whichever one they wanted facing out, and having both in full, rather than this half attempt at pleasing everyone.
The menus for this release don’t utilize the thematic elements we saw in the TV series and I’m hard pressed to figure out what the intent here was. The background is a soft blue filtered version of some of the feathers falling, which has a nice layer of darkness to it that works well with the somber instrumental music playing. Slightly off center to the left is where we get the artwork that has the box art of the two Syaoran’s together with Sakura in front of them as he skirt floats up around her. Providing for the logos for both OVAs is nicely done and the overall logo is what we’ve seen for previous releases so it mirrors there. But it feels like an odd style for the artwork itself as it’s like they cut and pasted simple box art here rather than really mesh it all together well. To the right of it we get the navigation which is similar in design to the OVA logo fonts so it ties together well enough there. The menus are easily accessed and everything flows smoothly and problem free. As expected, the disc defaults to the English language track with sign/song subtitles, ignoring any player presets.
The extras are definitely good for the dub fan as all five episodes have commentary tracks with the English language staff and cast. While I had expected maybe one or two commentaries at most, having five was really surprising. In addition to that we get clean versions of the opening and closings with them broken down by which OVA series they go with, similar to how the commentaries are as well as they're not in the audio menu.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the lengthy and drawn out TV series from the Bee Train folks, Tsubasa takes a very different turn with the two OVA series that were released in conjunction with several volumes of the manga. I enjoyed a lot of the show overall with its combination of style, music and characters, but the series had its problems, especially as it didn't feel like it was getting anywhere for awhile and the second season didn't end on a good note at all with a less than engaging story. Yet what has endured are the characters and their basic story, tied to the way it plays so well within the whole CLAMP universe overall. Even if you left the series feeling unsatisfied, you generally found yourself still wanting more.
The two OVA series, the first running three episodes and the second running two, ended up being handled by Production I.G. Which to me felt like it hewed more closely to the original character designs, especially in terms of height. It also felt a lot more mature and yet raw right from the start of the first series. The first OVA series doesn't pick up directly after the TV series from what I can tell, and I'm unsure of how much material may have passed between the two, but it doesn't seem to impact things all too much here as even though we're thrown into things, it all makes sense from what has been seen before.
The first OVA series revolves around the group landing inside the world that's essentially a variant of the X/1999 series where the world has fallen to ruin. Much of the country is in ruins and only a few wards around Tokyo proper still have any sort of population to it, minimal as it may be. The sky sends down acid rain and it's destroying the majority of the buildings and everything else. Only two buildings are protected through a barrier with the Metropolitan building and the Tower. It's where the two sides reside as they protect their remaining amount of pure water while tryiing to figure out what to do even though quite a few years have passed since the end of the world.
Having the group fall into this world, with Sakura unconcious no less, puts them in a lot of immediate danger. The use of familiar characters from the X/1999 world works very well here, though there are some neat little twists to it with regards to where Kamui has come from and what Fuma is trying to do. Enough so that there's pretty much a potentially fascinating show right then and there for it. Syaoran and the others manage to strike up an uneasy truce with Kamui, but not without a fight, and begin to learn what's happened to this world. The similarities between Kamui and Syaoran are actually neat, but it's pushed to the side to some extent as we get the full revelation of what's going on with the version of Syaoran that Fei Wang has in his possession.
Wang has been running a long game here, one that is revealed more in the second OVA series, as he attempts to get his wish to come true by using Sakura's body and spirit to gain it. His use of Syaoran, cloned and all, to do so has a potential real upset here as we discover that the Syaoran we've been watching for the whole run has been the clone and not the real one. Thankfully, there's some connection between the two as Syaoran's off eye is actually one taken from the real one, so he's been able to watch all that's happened over the course of the journey and to be a part of it in his own small way and to know all that has gone on. All of this brings Fei Wang and his plan more fully into view and with a few feathers thrown into the mix, it turns into a battle of preparation to deal with him.
The first OVA series works a really engaging storyline with Kamui, Fuma and their world with the way that Sakura's feathers have been helping to hold the last remnants of it together. There's even a really great little nod towards the Sakura from Card Captor Sakura that makes an appearance. The second OVA takes it to the next logical step where they're back on Kurogane's world and go through the changing of mindsets in order to deal with Fei Wang and whether they can do it. A lot of this OVA spends time dealing with revealing some of the secrets that the series has been harboring for so long that helps to clear up things with how everyone has been manipulated. Most pleasant to see is how Yuko gets involved and reworks certain payments over time in order to make sure everyone is ready go go and deal with Fei Wang.
But the main focus comes down to seeing Syaoran having to deal with his cloned self who has been singlemindedly focused on acquiring feathers for Fei Wang. Because of the bond between them with the eyes, it's something that has to be completely dealt with. The eyes in this and the first OVA are really quite jarring as it impacts several characters. In fact, outside of Sakura who spends part of her time asleep, everyone in the core group is impacted by the eyes and what they really mean and the power they contain. There are some brutal scenes to be had here because of it. What makes the brutality of it all even more interesting is that they do follow it up with the psychological side as well with how it impacts their relationships with each other. The discovery of who the real Syaoran is throws everything into confusion and it's something that they have to work out, which does happen in a bit too short of an amount of time, but fits the flow of it all.
If there's something frustrating about it all, it's that the two OVAs show so much of what makes Tsubasa good, but can go only so far since it just sets up for the final battle without actually being able to go the distance. To make up for that though, they definitely go the distance in both of these OVA series. So many changes occur throughout them, so many revelations made, that it's the kind of material that really changes how you view much of what has come before. Having almost all of them admit to things they've been keeping secret since the start, and to see how Yuko has been manipulating things as well within the limits of what she's able to is incredibly fascinating and makes me want to go and re-watch the series or to pick up the manga again.
In Summary:
Tsubasa, and its ties to xxxholic, has long been a series that I though had a great idea but was problematic in execution, both in TV and manga form. These two OVA series show a lot of why I had fallen in love with the concept though as they spend time in intriguing worlds and then dealing with a number of revelations and secrets that come out. Things that really do change how you can view much of the show. The five episodes here feels like a really strong amount of payoff after working through the challenge of the TV series and it made me grin throughout and really hopeful at the end for a full on animated conclusion. While the TV series let me down with how it finished out, this one has left me very pleased because it showed how enjoyable and engaging Tsubas can be in the right hands. Definitely worth the wait for every second of it.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings, Clean Closing, Commentary Tracks

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: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: N/A
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: 150
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Tsubasa