Traveling from the present to the past in one particular country, the gang finds themselves changing one world dramatically.
What They Say
Princess Sakura's memories have been scattered across time and space and Syaoran volunteers to retrieve them. His devotion to her is so strong that he is willing to give up Sakura's memory of her love for him in order to complete his quest and make her whole again. Syaoran is joined by two brave warriors who make sacrifices of their own to accompany him and Sakura on their quest.
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 works against the actual character artwork here as we have a good shot of Syaoran in the foreground while Yasha and Ashura are looming behind him. With both of them having dark black hair, it gets rather murky in a way that doesn’t help in the slightest. The character designs are a big part of the appeal of the show and having them like this doesn’t help. 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 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 has Fai and Chii together with big smiles as Chii falls into his oversized coat.
Using some of the same style and coloring as the back cover, the letterbox design houses the artwork of Syaoran only 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 previous 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 second season of Tsubasa moves along nicely with another set of five episodes that has the gang of four moving about the dimensions – and time now – as they search for Sakura’s feathery memories. The setup and premise of the series continues to be as simple as can be, though with these episodes they’re again pushing the larger storyline just a bit more as the forces that manipulate each of the sides – Yoko the Time Space Witch and Fei Wong. It’s more mystery than any actual revelation, but the usage of each of these characters as commenting observers here and there allows it to feel more epic than it has been so far.
With five episodes, this volume plays out rather well for the stories that it contains. The opening episode serves to get you back into the groove easily as it’s standalone piece that has the gang landing in a place where it’s a very lengthy night. Within the castle city that they come across, they find out that once every year the entire population dreams about who the new king will be and that person is then chosen. When they become king, they have their memories removed for the duration but get them back when their period of service is over. The current king is a blank slate young woman named… Chii. Fai has a strong bond with her and he takes to her side quickly when he discovers this and the two have some vague conversations in a roundabout way about what they need to do with their lives. It’s a simple tale, one that pushes the other characters to the side, and lets Fai have a small pleasant tale.
Where this volume really takes shape is in the next four episodes which tells a complete story. The longer stories can be tricky since if you get a setting that you don’t like, it could become a chore to watch. At the same time, even if it is a setting and a cast of characters that you do like, the longer aspect could be just as off-putting. This storyline runs against both of these a little bit as the group lands in the country of Shara, a land where the population is generally set to have beliefs in two different gods, Ashura and Yasha. Neither side particularly cares for the other, though the age of endless bloodshed against each other is over. That doesn’t mean there aren’t small scuffles though which causes enough problems. Syaoran and Sakura end up with a traveling group who hold beliefs to Ashura while Fai and Kurogane end up falling into a group that back Yasha.
This is all prelude however as Mokona points out quickly that there really isn’t a feather here – in this time. The gang get confused however and think that Mokona is transporting them to another world, the world where Ashura and Yasha existed that the country of Shara based their beliefs on. It’s pretty clear to the viewer that they’ve gone to the past, but for the characters they don’t figure it out till near the end which is a little ridiculous and doesn’t speak well for their intelligence. On the plus side, the bulk of the journey that’s spent in the past is quite fun as Syaoran and Sakura find themselves in Ashura’s land while Fai and Kurogane are with Yasha himself. The two aren’t gods, but rather lovers who cannot consummate their love as they’re seeking to gain the castle in the sky so as to grant their one true wish. It’s not exactly convoluted material, but it’s whisper thin in some areas which keeps it from connecting completely right.
The two and a half episodes that deal with the period in the past is rather fun overall as you have Syaoran and Kurogane facing off against each other as Kurogane has apparently lost his memory and taken to Yasha’s side with ease. While there is the basic play for gaining control of the castle in the sky, a good bit of time is spent with Ashura as she talks about her one true wish and the weight of it. That she’s speaking plainly with Yoko during this and working to make the deal so that she can at least attempt it should she gain the castle gives us a new view of things. Yoko almost looks a bit sad in regard to the entire deal but continues to play her role and push the idea of the rules that must be adhered to for it. The way everything plays out and how Syaoran interacts with it all in the end is certainly a positive however. While the storyline at times was a little frustrating – especially with those long end of episode pauses – the net result was one that was enjoyable to watch.
When I originally read this story in the manga, what it most made me want to do was to go back and revisit the “core” material that these characters came from in the land of Shara. When the RG Veda anime came out ages ago, it left me feeling uninterested in it. But with so many of them populating this arc – as well as some amusing appearances by Karen from X/1999 and Miyuki from Miyuki-chan in Wonderland – it reinvigorates interest in the property. The visuals for this arc are very strong and the changes in authoring certainly help a lot. The time spent in the land of Shura in the past looks fantastic and there are some beautiful sequences to be had here that really do captivate at times. Tsubasa is still much as it has been, predictable and formulaic, but it’s a true guilty pleasure and one that I’m still treasuring. This is a solid installment in the series that appears to be the start of a game changer in how things operate.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Character Guide, World Guide, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
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.