Tsubasa Vol. #06 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: TV PG
  • 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 (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Tsubasa

Tsubasa Vol. #06

By Chris Beveridge     December 24, 2007
Release Date: January 08, 2008


Tsubasa Vol. #06
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
The quest to free a girl from the darkness of no memory is not a game, but sometimes the players unknowingly compete. While Sakura's feather may hold the magic of peaceful memory, in the wrong hands that power can be warped, opening doors better left alone... reshaping reality into dreams and dreams into reality.

Syaoran and Kurogane race to defend their friends as a face from of the past seeks to open the floodgates to immortality. What was once damaged must be destroyed before the final act, as four heroes, once strangers, continue on their quest.

Contains episodes 23-26:
The Fading Life
Blade of a Desperate Fight
The Ultimate Game
The Last Wish

The Review!
Tsubasa draws to a close as more of Syaoran's past is revealed and the true nature of Outo comes to light.

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. 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 for this volume brings us the appropriate pairing of Syaoran in the background with Seishiro in the foreground. 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 that features both Seishiro and Syaoran once again.

Menu:
Using some of the same style and coloring as the back cover, the letterbox design houses the artwork of just Syaoran 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. 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. 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, it covers such a small number of the characters and without a lot of outside reference that it really loses its value. Also included in this release for extras are the clean versions of the opening and ending sequences. A new inclusion for this volume is a voice actor commentary which is provided for the final episode. This is a simple and light affair as the English voice actors talk about the show, their characters and some of the silly experiences during recording it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the nature of Tsubasa being an ongoing series in manga form still, there were no preconceptions about the anime having any sort of real ending to it. Even more so since there's a second season that was already being talked about at the time this one was coming out. The final four episodes round out the story of Outo and give us a short, if somewhat rushed, single episode to close the curtains for a bit between the adventures.

The Outo storyline has been pretty interesting for the most part as it's given us a nicely designed world with some very strict rules about how it works. That things seemingly change just before Sakura and friends arrive there isn't a surprise, but what is surprising is just how rigid everyone is in regards to the rules and the sudden breakdown in them. The introduction of Seishiro to the storyline gave the series a much needed boost as it has an active villain now moving throughout the worlds, rather than just seeing the small manipulations by those pulling the strings from on high. Seishiro certainly brings a certain kind of calm and calculated menace to the storyline and his apparent efforts are now highlighted as Outo becomes far more dangerous.

What makes Seishiro work even better is that we learn through some flashbacks that he has some strong ties to Syaoran from back in the Clow Kingdom. These moments aren't too terribly long, but we see how Syaoran began his tutelage in the fighting arts from him and what exactly bound them together at the start. Seishiro's search for a pair of vampires has him crawling across numerous worlds in search of clues that will lead him to them, as well as some sort of eternal life that he seeks. The price that he's paid for things so far is given a nod but at the same time, he really comes across as a gentle person in his past dealings with Syaoran. That's in stark contrast to the cool menace he now presents to the group.

The Outo storyline has a nice change to it as Seishiro begins to work his magic as he has control of one of Sakura's feathers. The discovery that Outo is actually just a game world and that Seishiro can merge it with the reality of the country of Edonis is a lot of fun. Syaoran and friends have a hard time grasping this, which makes for a few tedious scenes as the woman who created the place tries to explain it to them, but once that's out of the way it moves forward nicely. The group of demon hunters that got friendly with Syaoran and the others has made the transition back to the real world as well, and due to the magicks involved by Seishiro, they've actually retained their virtual skills in this new world. It's quite an advantage considering that Seishiro has also brought the A-1 demon to this world in order to get the eternal life he seeks from it.

While there is still a fair amount of dialogue and posing to the three episodes that make up this part of the storyline, the action fills in the rest of the time nicely. Syaoran has grown considerably since the start of the series in his skills and he gets to display them nicely during the fight with the demons and Seishiro. But they also make sure to note that he has a long way to go since he was trained by Seishiro who has lived a far longer and more varied life. You can almost see the knowing nod between Syaoran and Kurogane about what they've learned together and how they'll learn more as their journey goes on. While the relationships between the main four in the group really aren't cemented that much more in these episodes, it's the gradual changes in it that we've seen and this storyline just makes it firmer in a light and subtle way.

The choice to not end the season with this storyline is an interesting choice but not one that I think works in its favor too much. The last episode, a simple standalone story, is little more than a big tease. The gang is dropped into a world where there's obviously a feather and it's one that's tied to a local god. The villagers tell them about the change in their god some six months prior and how it's now promised a wish to anyone who can make it to the temple that is guarded by some fierce warriors. The carrot is certainly there as Sakura can go and wish for all her memories, but it's such an obvious cheat that you know it just won't happen. The storyline is simply too blunt in what it's trying to do with setting the relationships in a clear manner which when combined with the knowledge that there's much more to come, it almost feels like it's pandering.

In Summary:
Tsubasa throughout this first season took a bit of time to get a handle on, much like I felt with the manga version. With some interesting design choices to it and a series of storylines that are basic and pretty obvious from the start, it's a show that's a hard sell to non-CLAMP longtime anime fans. Yet at the same time, it's a series that sells directly to the varied number of CLAMP fans out there as well as being a series that's quite easy for new anime fans to get into. Tsubasa is a gateway drug in a way because it's gentle as it brings you in. Before you realize it, you're deep into the show and enjoying what it's presenting to you because it doesn't play out like a lot of other shows you see on TV in the US. Tsubasa, even with its very CLAMP in-joke nature, is a series that has more mainstream appeal than fan appeal. It's quickly become a show that I recommend to folks new to anime to check out since it executes everything pretty well once it gets past that turbulent start. At the end of the season, I find myself generally happy with the results and looking forward to more.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles, Character Guide, World Guide, Faces in the Crowd, Actor Commentary,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.

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