Tsubasa, RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE Collected Memories - Mania.com

Blu-ray Review

Mania Grade: B-

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 13 and Up
  • Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 99.98
  • Running time: 1280
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 1080p
  • Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC
  • Series: Tsubasa

Tsubasa, RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE Collected Memories

Tsubasa, RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE Collected Memories Blu-ray Review

By Chris Beveridge     May 27, 2010
Release Date: May 04, 2010

Tsubasa, RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE Collected Memories
© FUNimation

When one young girl loses all her memories in the form of feathers spread throughout time and space, a group comes together from different worlds to help find them with their own agendas in mind.

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 is 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.
This collection contains both seasons 1 and 2 (episodes 1-52) of Tsubasa, RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE plus The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom moive.

The Review!

Please Note:
This set contains the two seasons of Tsubasa and the CLAMP Double Feature movie. We've reviewed that separately recent which you can find here. This review in its technical and content sections won't make much mention of it since the disc here is identical to that release.
Tsubasa's two seasons have a fairly decent audio mix to it but missed the window in which FUNimation started making some needed changes. The original Japanese track is in stereo encoded at 640kbps using the lossy Dolby Digital format. The English language mix is the 5.1 mix we saw with the DVD release but it gets encoded in Dolby TrueHD so we get a really engaging lossless mix. There's a lot of material thrown to the rear speakers throughout the show, but especially in the action sequences, but the music is where it tends to make out the best. And not just in the opening and closing sequences but throughout the show. The Japanese mix is fairly standard but it lacks a bit of impact that you notice is there in the English mix which really does separate the two. The English mix isn't leaps and bounds better, but it's a very good mix overall and adds a lot to the show when listened to in a good environment.
Originally released throughout 2005 and 2006, the transfer for this show is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. This set contains fifty two episodes spread across six discs with each season split up in a nine/nine/eight format. The show is one that has a fair bit of natural noise to it throughout, though it looks a lot better than the DVD release with an average bitrate in the low twenties. While the show isn't a pure crisp and clean release, I found it to look pretty good overall and generally very pleasing. Both seasons are upscales but the first season makes out the worst with a softer look to it and a lack of smoothness when it comes to some of the linework. Having looked at the DVDs just a couple of months ago, this season does look a lot better but it's not a show that demands an upgrade. The second season does look better, much as we saw with the better looking movie double feature, as there isn't the same kind of soft feeling and the line work looks a lot smoother. Colors have a bit more pop here as well. In watching both sets, it's definitely an improvement overall over the DVD release but it's not one that would be easily recommended.
This collection has a slipcover with it, though it's one that we don't see often as it wraps around the whole set and you slide the oversized Blu-ray keepcase out from the bottom. The slipcover has a nice flow to it with the oversized logo along the top under the Blu-ray logo while the centerpiece is that of Sakura's feather against a feathery symbol. The front cover is rather simple overall but it has a nice layer of elegance to it. The back cover is a bit busier with a nice short summary along the top with a few taglines while the bottom half has a pair of strips of shots from the show and the double feature as well. The remainder is given over to the technical section and some basic logos and production credits. Under the two strips of pictures there's a good if small listing of the discs extras respective to those sets.
Inside the slipcover is the oversized Blu-ray case which has a few hinges to hold all the discs. The front cover is given over to the movie, the Tsubasa one in fact, with the top half featuring a cast shot from it while the bottom half has the logog and a breakdown of the discs features and some production credit information. It's not exactly a great selling piece but it works nicely as part of the slipcover and it really ends up asking you to keep the slipcover, something that I rarely do. The back of the case goes for a bland background, similar to the front of the slipcover, where the logo is along the top and the rest of it is given over to a breakdown of the discs. All six discs have their individual episode numbers and titles laid out with the overall show production along the very bottom. The set does have artwork on the reverse side though, where the front cover has a ncie shot of Syaoran in the foreground and a somber Sakura in the background. The back cover has a more solid look at the other half of the group with Kurogane and Fai together along with Mokona bouncing about. There's no text on any of this outside of a logo on the spine and and a brief tagline on the front and there are no show related inserts included.
The menus for this release are pretty basic but nicely done to fit in the overall theme of the show and package. The main thrust of it is a series of clips from the series with long pans and some of the more visually dynamic pieces from the show. The whole thing is framed nicely with four corners having the feather look to them while inside the frame we have the basic navigation grid, which is also the same as the pop-up menu during the playback of the show. The instrumental music is as expected with a bit of a light approach to it with a bit of an upbeat tempo as it goes along. It’s not the most exciting menu but it’s one that fits the show well and sets the mood just about right. Submenus load very quickly and navigation is a breeze, though the usual issue is still here in that the discs do not read our players’ language presets and defaults to English language with sign/song subtitles.
The extras are kept to the third and sixth discs of the set while all the Double Feature extras are on that disc. The first season has some of the basics that we've seen before with the clean opening and closing, the original cast audition pieces and the decent Faces in the Crowd and World Guide sections which never impressed me too much on the original release. The original DVD commentaries are also included here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series of the same name by CLAMP, Tsubasa is a fifty two episode series with no end that's all about the journey. If you don't like shows about journey's and the kinds of bonds that form here, similar to Saiyuki, this is most definitely not a show for you. I had watched this series in its single disc form release a couple of years ago across both seasons but avoided the previous collections. Watching the whole thing over the course of a few days as it runs nearly twenty-four hours worth of material was an interesting experience, though one that does drain after awhile.
The premise of the series and its origins tied to the xxxholic series is one that I really do like. CLAMP has taken to tying together many of its worlds through the CLAMPverse with Tsubasa by introducing us to a world where Sakura is a princess in a desert kingdom while Syaoran is the son of an archaeologist who has grown up with her. She's fallen in love with him and is close to telling him, but fates have something else in mind. An unseen power, one that dabbles in the show from time to time, orchestrates events so that Sakura is within an artifact at the outskirts of the kingdom where her memories are stolen from her, changed into the form of feathers, and spread out through time and space. Sakura's life is in danger because of this as she won't be able to last long in this form.
The help that Syaoran gets to deal with this is through a meeting on Earth with Yoko, the Dimensional Witch from the xxxholic series. Syaoran and Sakura arrive at the same time as Kurogane and Fai arrive from their worlds, where Fai is trying to get away from events there while Kurogane was sent away because he was so destructive on his world. Yoko arranges a deal with all of them to travel together, where Kurogane may find his way back home and Fai will find his time away from the world he came from. They'll work together with Syaoran and Sakura to find her memory feathers. The group doesn't know each other at all at this point, but necessity has placed them together and they'll slowly make the best of it. The glue that will hold them together is Sakura, but it's really the white manju bun named Mokona that is the real glue. This little creature allows everyone to speak the same language, to communicate with Yoko when needed and a myriad of other abilities that helps them across the numerous worlds they visit.
Tsubasa is all about the journey once the second episode finishes out the basis for how everything gets underway. When the group travels from world to world, they encounter all sorts of various CLAMP characters and alternate versions of them that are generally similar but often different as well. The worlds are all over the map as they search out the feathers, where the feathers often have an impact on the world. Sometimes the feather arrived recently or within a few months but sometimes they've been there a lot longer and caused many more problems because of that. There's a nice variety to the worlds and they alternate in going through shorter stories and longer ones and some that don't have any impact on the larger storyline.
Where Tsubasa runs into trouble is that some of the storylines aren't all that engaging and the first couple alone are like that. Having reviewed the show in blocks of four episodes previously and finding that my feelings on them are relatively the same, I won't go into detail with them here. What I did find is that the opening storyline with the first world they visit ran too long and even the second one did as well, though I liked that they revisited it again later in the second season. The second season has some weak episodes as well, such as the awful bus related one which I still find to be one of the worst Tsubasa stories overall. The ending to the series isn't bad, but like several of the arcs it's one that feels like it's dragged out and made worse by the knowledge that because the manga is still ongoing that there will be no true ending to it.
All that said, I'm not as down on the series as I may seem. There are inherent weaknesses in it, weaknesses that were in the manga as well which made me drop that after the first ten volumes or so, but there are two reasons that I like it and have some fondness for it. The first is that I do like the core group of characters. While it's easy to throw the Mary Sue label at Sakura, I like how she has to slowly grow back into her character as she regains her memories and realizes that there is something missing there. I like that Syaoran is devoted to her but has to learn to go after things for himself as well even as he makes a great sacrifice right from the start. And the characters of Kurogane and Fai have a lot to offer, though they take quite awhile before we start to get a real inkling of their lives prior to the journey. Mokona is a huge plus as well.
The other big plus is that I've been reading and watching CLAMP based shows for something like fifteen years now, since Tokyo Babylon. With this being a binding show of sorts, though one that doesn't really interact with existing worlds, we get to see a whole slew of characters from their various properties re-interpreted and given a new life. And several of them from different shows are brought together sometimes. This is the biggest initial draw to the series but also the one area that really disappointed me from a localization perspective. While there are some decent little extras about it, this is a series the really demanded a pop-up trivia track to highlight all the little bits from other properties and how they were being adapted. Some stories are lighter than others with what they bring in, but there's a lot here when taken in total that really needed to be linked to the original works for fans and those who could be fans.
In Summary:
Tsubasa is a hard beast to recommend. It's definitely a show more for fans of CLAMP and these characters in particular and it's a difficult recommendation for an upgrade. As an outright new purchase, getting two seasons and a double feature movie for this price is definitely a sweet deal, especially when you can find various sales and deals that can net it for half its list price. There's practically twenty-four hours worth of material here and a lot of worlds to explore. Tsubasa is all about the journey and that can be frustrating for a lot of people. There are ups and downs here but if you don't like the characters, it won't matter. Being a long time CLAMP fan, there are things that bother me and stories that drag on and are weak, but it offers a lot of fanservice in a way that I adore. This reminds me of when Isaac Asimov started tying some of his classic series together with the Robots and Foundation novel and built something bigger and better. Tsubasa still has a lot of potential and hopefully the follow-up OVAs add a bit more flavor to all of it.
TV: Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Cast Auditions, Face in the Crowd, World Guide, Character Guide, Commentary, Clean Openings, Clean Closings
Movie: 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.

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.


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