Tsubasa Vol. #12 - Mania.com



Anime/Manga

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: 13 and Up
  • 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
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Tsubasa

Tsubasa Vol. #12

By Chris Beveridge     April 08, 2009
Release Date: March 17, 2009


Tsubasa Vol. #12
© FUNimation Entertainment, LTD

Chaos reveals his true self in a couple of stages as Syaoran must once again rescue the princess from her captor.

What They Say
The quest undertaken long ago by four souls joined by fate could soon draw to a close, though not for the reason the travelers might hope. The aspiration of gathering Sakura's memories is still unfulfilled, and the journey has come to a horrifying halt. In a land which welcomed the group with warmth, a chilling dilemma must now be confronted and the princess is trapped in the clutches of a jealous king.

Contains episodes 49-52.

The Review!
Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
The final cover is probably one of the busier covers of the series but it fits well and feels a bit more colorful because of the background characters that are done in blue and red. The central image of Syaoran – cape fluttering behind him – as he swings his sword and holds on tightly to Sakura is certainly quite appealing. It’s even cute with Mokona riding alongside them as well. The dark nature of the covers has bothered me since the start and this one does as well, but it’s a bit more muted at least. 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 Mokona. 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 Syaoran holding Sakura’s hands as she sleeps under a tree in a beautiful outdoor setting.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
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)
Tsubasa, at least from Bee Train in TV series form, comes to a close with these last four episodes. The second season finishes off with the storyline that began in the previous volume where the group arrived in a world where a man named Chaos resided and presided over a very happy, healthy and wealthy kingdom. And he has access to a number of feathers of Sakura’s and is completely willing to give them to her and does so. Everything is so happy and positive that you know there has to be a huge catch somewhere in all of this. And with so much more to go in the manga, you know you’re not going to get a complete ending here either.

The conclusion to this storyline does play out fairly predictably, however, as you know that Chaos isn’t going to be the good guy that he is. After sending the men off to deal with things, he’s working to get closer to Sakura by inviting her out on the town to see the sights. Now, this is a nitpick but one that I have to go on about. Sakura declines his invitation because she wants to wait for them to return from their mission which could take some time. Wouldn’t the good choice here be to accept his hospitality and see the sights and distract yourself from the senseless waiting? Then again, the design of any Bee Train series is to have lots of long pauses so maybe the characters feel more natural doing such things…

As everyone discovers what the real deal is with Chaos, it invariably leads to confrontation. And not just one confrontation either as they have to stretch things out for a bit. The mystery behind him is admittedly and interesting take to use and I liked the overall concept, but like a lot of the lengthier stories in Tsubasa it’s all about the execution. The opening episode in particular here really had me laughing hard at how they did things. When Syaoran confronts Chaos for the first time, sword to sword, the back and forth shots between the two as they lingered before getting to business felt like it was going on for minutes. The tension and drama they were trying to bring to the show simply came across as anything but that and lent itself to mocking. I don’t mind these kinds of moments at the end of the episodes, but when you build up to it and then do this and then go to the end, it just feels very cheap and very mock worthy.

Tsubasa doesn’t really try to wrap anything up with this storyline but it does play to what the series has done with almost every storyline so far. In it, we get to deal with the feathers more and the core cast of characters work towards bonding a bit better. They’ve all become close over time in their own ways and each new instance brings them a little closer. It’s all very incremental which is good, but can also be annoying at times. Watching the relationships in the group change has been fun to watch, especially as Kurogane and Fai take on more “fatherly” roles in a way. Fei Wang Reed has his moments where he gives us the impression that he’s still somewhat in control of things and Yuko gets a couple of nice nods to show that she’s really still in charge. All in all, it’s another lengthy storyline where things are once again back at zero for the most part at the end of it.

Thankfully, I do like the characters though. And that’s admittedly what keeps me coming back, watching them go through the adventures and seeing the other characters from other favorite books being mildly reimagined into new settings. I wish they had a bit more diversity to it at times and pulled in more characters, or played to familiar settings with a little more twist to them, but it’s the core group that has me won over. Whether it’s the more familiar Sakura and Syaoran or the newer Fai and Kurogane, they’ve all become characters that I want to see more of and to see them grow and change as well as face adversity. Of course, little of this will happen unless it does in the manga and who knows how long that will actually be going on for.

In Summary:
At the end of the series, at least from Bee Train, I’m left with some very conflicted feelings about the show. On the one hand, it’s a concept that I really like and I’ve adored seeing various CLAMP universe characters come back into play throughout it. I like the core cast of characters here and I like the layout of the show as it’s playing to the formula well but with several hooks that are very appealing. But it’s the flip side of things that has me really conflicted. The animation has been decent for the most part but had some really poor moments throughout. The Bee Train method of lengthy panning shots works well in other shows but felt incredibly forced here, almost like the animators were really phoning it in. And the bulk of the anime-only stories simply didn’t work. The end to the series is naturally anti-climactic which isn’t unexpected, but I had hoped for a bit more of an engaging finale for it or even something a little sweeter or more fun. This last one running around five episodes just didn’t work for me because of the length of the story, not because of the story itself.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Character Guide, World Guide, 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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