With only one more volume to go, hints of where it may lead start to appear as more and more feathers are discovered.
What They Say
Within this quest guided by chance, the seekers arrive in a world they have visited before. Though they left the realm in peace, Syaoran and his companions return to find the land teetering on the brink of chaos. No matter where fate delivers the diligent band, their footing can never be sure; even those that greet them with warmth can be warped by the shards of Sakura’s scattered memory. The greatest trial these united souls have faced thus far is dawning. Something is rumbling on the horizon – a power capable of making the impossible into reality.
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 is again problematic for this series as this volume feels off with the generally happy looking characters that populate it while being surrounded by so much darkness. The character artwork is nice though as it has Syaoran, Sakura, Fai and Kurogane in their Victorian style outfits with a happy Mokona bouncing right along. 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 Kurogane 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 of Yuko and a very happy and dressed up Mokona.
Using some of the same style and coloring as the back cover, the letterbox design houses the artwork 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 first seasons’ 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)
As this season nears ever closer to its conclusion, there are hints that things are progressing along at a bit faster of a pace. When you have one person show up with what seems to be a small bucket of feathers, it almost gives that rushed feeling of needing to finish things out. At the same time, Tsubasa revisits places we’ve been to and drops in for a standalone tale that adds a bit more back story to the way that Sakura has lived her life back in the Clow Country when she was younger. This set of episodes moves everything along nicely and without some of the bland or boring material we’ve had in the past.
For this volume, we get a two episode storyline and a single episode storyline before it jumps into the next one which crosses over into the next and final volume of this season. To my surprise, I rather enjoyed all the episodes on this set which hasn’t always happened. I was even more surprised that I liked the first two part storyline as it returns us to the Koryo Country where we deal in the land of Nayutaya once again. The series reacquaints us with Cyunyun, the young woman who lost her mother to the feudal lord some time prior and where Syaoran and the others dealt with the problem of the lord and his son. Time has passed and it seems like the people/creatures from the land of Kiishimu are causing trouble as people are showing up transformed into stone. There’s more than meets the eye but the interest is in having several people travel to Kiishimu to discover what the real problem is and to deal with it. The whole mirror aspect from the original trip is given some new significance here and it’s actually a pleasant and different return to this particular country.
The single episode storyline is fairly cute and simple as the gang falls into a world that’s more urban in nature and has that quasi-Victorian feel about it. It doesn’t take long to discover a feather, but it’s a feather that’s terribly weak in its power because of how the world operates. Unfortunately, the feather is in the possession of an antique shop and it’ll cost a fair amount of money to acquire it. This leads the guys to try and get jobs while Sakura sits with Mokona and the feather that they got in their last adventure which she hasn’t been able to take in yet. This becomes Sakura’s story as she starts to gain more fragments of her past once again and sets about to help out in her own way by getting a job, even though her “manly” protectors do their best to make sure she stays safe. It’s admittedly annoying that they continue to protect her after all this time and after she has achieved so much herself and gained so many of her memories back.
Where the series starts to change things up a bit is in the last episode, which will continue in the next volume and through the end of this season. We’re introduced to a world where a man named King Chaos is the most powerful of magic users but he’s very kind and generous. His abilities, due to the feathers, has given him the ability to see into the future so he’s fully aware of the arrival of Syaoran and the others. What’s interesting is that you know that he’s up to no good, but when he freely gives Sakura what seems like a dozen or so feathers and shows them the way to find even more of them, it’s easy to understand why some of them are lulled into a sense of security over it. After meeting so many people that weren’t on the up and up but also a lot of really good people, they’re not surprised to find that someone may be as good as this. But with a name like King Chaos? Well, it’s pretty obvious how it will go, but that’s what the remaining four episodes will be about. Right now, it’s setting things up nicely and certainly makes me want to see how the remainder of the season plays out.
While I wasn’t sure initially with this volume because of the return to the Koryo Country, I found it to be rather enjoyable, much as I did the standalone episode that followed. Tsubasa is now in the process of setting itself up for the end of the second season so it’s trying to go out with a bang by having a five part storyline. Two part storylines have been slow at times so there’s some trepidation over this, but the potential is obviously there to do something fun with that much time. The opening salvo in it is engaging enough and you wonder where it will all go, so it’s easy to come back to see the finale. But in the end, this continues to be a very big dose of guilty pleasure and I can’t help but to admit that I like it, CLAMP junkie that I am. It’s not high art, but it’s usually entertaining and it leaves me smiling.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
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.