Tsubasa Vol. #05 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: C+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.95
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Tsubasa

Tsubasa Vol. #05

By Chris Beveridge     November 19, 2007
Release Date: November 20, 2007


Tsubasa Vol. #05
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
The heroic quest to reclaim Sakura's shattered memory has been one where the past meets the future in the present... As Syaoran and his companions become further enmeshed in the most recent stop along their journey, their fate is no longer wholly their own. The balance skewed by their very presence, a demon has been born. And as this new threat rises, Syaoran, Kurogane and Fai must unite with the locals. Yet Sakura may have discovered the solution in a place no one thought to seek...

As the paths of every life mingle in the dimension between dimensions, when a foe wears the face of an ally, an ally can wait in the guise of a monster.

Contains episodes 19-22.

The Review!
The demon hunting arc continues throughout this volume as it expands on the world but also brings in some fascinating new elements.

Audio:
In fairly standard form for FUNimation, this release has three audio tracks. The two stereo mixes, one for English and one for Japanese, are both done in a standard 224 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.

Video:
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With animation by Bee Train combined with the stylistic nature of CLAMP for this series, the series is a visual treat. Or at least, it should have been a visual treat. With a number of Bee Train series out in this market and having become accustomed to their style, Tsubasa is something of a surprise. The animation lacks a real sense of vibrancy and instead feels fairly muted here. Though it doesn't feel quite as soft as the first volume, particularly the first two episodes, it still doesn't feel like it's as sharp as it should be. The softness has upped the level of fuzziness that's there throughout which means backgrounds look alive quite a bit. With no Japanese release to do a direct comparison I can't say for sure that all of this isn't intentional, but looking at the body of Bee Train's works that have been released over here this doesn't stand up well at all.

Packaging:
Similar to the previous volume in its dark nature, the cover artwork here fits well with Kurogane's expression and outfit but it also plays well against the lighter nature and design of Fai. It has a good look to it but also some of the softness that's somewhat normal for the series. 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 Syaoran from the front cover appearing here again. A few shots from the show make it in and episode title 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 of the main cast of characters with a focus on Syaoran and Sakura.

Menu:
Using some of the same style and coloring as the back cover, the letterbox design houses the artwork of Kurogane and Fai to good effect. 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. As usual, player presets are completely ignored with FUNimation releases, not that it would matter as they label the full subtitle track as Japanese for some reason.

Extras:
A small selection of extras is included in the release though some of them fall short a bit in potential. The character guide section is a good piece that provides a breakdown of some of the new characters along with conceptual pieces of artwork. You can move back and forth throughout them but there is no button for getting back to the menu. Again, you can hit menu to do this but it's simple navigation basics to have a button for it or to allow the enter button to shift you back to the menu.

The World Guide is similarly plagued in design as it takes us through the land of Oto. Providing some liner notes on the various locations along with conceptual artwork, it also includes a number of characters and magical elements that appear in those episodes. The weakest of the extras and the one that I think is key for this series is the Faces in the Crowd section. Designed to be a who's who of the cast of characters that show up along the way, this one only covers Soma. 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)
While it isn't a huge surprise, the storyline taking place in Outo runs through the entirety of this volume and does not reach a conclusion. Though this doesn't mean we're gearing up for the storyline that will take us through the ending, we do get one that starts to add some more interesting layers to it as the introduction of someone from Syaoran's past occurs. On the downside, more characters from previous arcs start appearing which pushes the coincidences too much.

Outo has felt like it's been the storyline that has introduced the largest number of visiting characters from other franchises. This has helped build that familiarity level while still toying with our basic character understandings from the previous works. Seeing characters like Yuzuriha, Kusanagi, Ryuou and even Sumomo and Kotok has been wonderful. It's also been fun trying to piece together the other characters from smaller works like Man of Many Faces and Dukylon: Clamp School Defenders. So many people have smaller roles throughout these episodes and come from manga that I haven't read in quite some time that I'm easily blanking out on several of them. That in turn provides frustration with the included extras about the "faces in the crowd" as you get much more useful information from places like Wikipedia.

Where the crossovers start to bother me however is when it brings in "original" characters from countries visited previously in the series. Some of the gang members and other characters from the Hanshin Republic arc show up and a few others are mixed in as well. This is all part of the push to make the leads realize that they're going to encounter familiar people all across their journeys, even though the coincidence levels are pushed too far for believability. This is all in an effort to put forth the idea that someone from the leads pasts will make their way into this world in another form. That's toyed with though as during Syaoran's training he ends up encountering someone from his past in the Clow Kingdom, someone who knows him as who he truly is and not just as Little Doggie.

Not unexpected is that the series pushes further on the growth of the group as friends and comrades as well as the changes in the relationship between Sakura and Syaoran. His need to protect her has helped both Kurogane and Fai realize what kind of effort he's putting forth, especially in comparison to how they ended up in the journey. The dangers of Outo have Syaoran rethinking how he's proceeding down this path and his growing trust in Kurogane has him now seeking training from him in the ways of the sword. Though it's very predictable in what's going to happen as we watch Seishiro observe Syaoran, the training that Kurogane gives to him is something that really does work well in helping us the understand the nature of Syaoran's abilities. This particular country has been good for them as their bonds are strengthening more than in any of the other ones for some reason.

The things that make this series enjoyable are still very much present here, though some of it is lessened a touch. Mokona's moments are far less, which is arguably a good thing, as the lightness she introduces to the show at the right time is often welcome. Fai's continual teasing of Kurogane is very familiar now yet no less fun and amusing to watch. Some of the storyline is told in a way that's very basic and easy for younger viewers to understand which isn't a surprise but even there they're able to do it in a decent enough way to not alienate older viewers. Every time I come back to this show, I'm reminded that it's simply a lot of fun and very enjoyable. I'm not exactly taxing my mind by any stretch of the imagination but this is definitely a great gateway show for new viewers while still having plenty of attraction for a lot of the CLAMP faithful.

In Summary:
This set of episodes does feel a bit unusual as it isn't as fast as some of the earlier story arcs and doesn't wrap anything up during it. There are some good moments of growth for the characters and the story does progress forward so it's not just spinning its wheels in a foolish manner. What's introduced here are some more pieces of the foundation that the core storyline is built upon. They're not expanded on but since this is a much larger work that's being surprisingly faithful to the ongoing original, it is not surprising in the least. Tsubasa is good clean fun overall and other than some issues with how it's all been put together on the domestic side, it's a show that's easily a crossover series that can draw in new fans while still appealing to older ones.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,World Guide,
Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Character Guide,Faces in the Crowd

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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