Tsubasa/xxxholic CLAMP Double Feature - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A+
  • Age Rating: TV 14
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Tsubasa

Tsubasa/xxxholic CLAMP Double Feature

By Chris Beveridge     February 22, 2008
Release Date: February 19, 2008


Tsubasa/xxxholic CLAMP Double Feature
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
This two-disc double feature contains both the Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE movie and the xxxHolic movie!

From the sweeping universe of CLAMP, two journeys run parallel yet intersect. As two souls seek the mystery of truth, worlds collide where the Dimensional Witch waits. There is no coincidence, only the inevitable...

The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom
Our intrepid adventurers have once again encountered a people oppressed, this time landing in a virtual paradise trembling on the very edge of existence. A princess silenced, but not into submission. An evil king who seeks an end to light and happiness. Only the brave of heart will prevail, rescuing the kingdom from darkness eternal...

A Midsummer Night's Dream
Yuko drags her pawns along, invited to a mysterious auction at an intriguing mansion. There, confronted by greed, vanity, and pride, they will navigate through rooms and passages that twist like the souls of holics, the mongers of material satisfaction. As the other guests disappear one by one, the puzzle must be pieced together before they become part of the collection, too.

The Review!
Bringing together the two franchises once again but in theatrical form, this double feature ties their stories together loosely but in a manner that fits with each series.

Audio:
Both movies are presented in the same way in that there are three audio tracks for each of them. Two stereo mixes, encoded at 192 kbps, are done for both the Japanese language and English language. The Japanese continue to fail pretty hard when it comes to doing 5.1 mixes and while this one wouldn’t make out much better by it, it certainly wouldn’t be hurt by it. There is a 5.1 mix here that FUNimation did for their English language version, which is done at 448 kbps, and that adds a bit more impact and a bit more clarity in dialogue placement. The upgrade isn’t hugely noticeable but there are moments where it does make out better. We primarily listened to this in its Japanese mix though and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally in theaters back in 2005, the transfer for this double feature film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Each film has its own look and troubles to deal with. For the Tsubasa movie, there are a lot of very fluid high motion scenes when it gets going and could have a bit of break-up to it. With the xxxholic movie, there’s so much detail in the backgrounds that it can get a little fuzzy. Both films maintain a good look overall and are basically having to deal with source issues more than anything else. There’s a fair bit of line noise in the xxxholic movie with as much CGI that they use and that can be distracting at times. The Tsubasa movie just deals with a very minor touch of banding in a couple of places and some mild noise in the background towards the end with all the blue that has so much detail, but it’s minimal overall. Each film, presented on its own disc, has a decent amount of space to work with and the bitrates show that they do utilize it throughout with consistent numbers in the high sevens and eights. Films like these can benefit from a high definition release but for the DVD they look quite good.

Packaging:
Double feature films tend to be difficult to work with when it comes to packaging and this one is no exception. While some try and work both films together into one “poster” theme, others provide a split form to showcase each of them on their own. This double feature falls into the latter camp as it splits the cover in half with the top featuring a small Tsubasa piece of artwork in the them used for the TV series while the bottom has a strip for the xxxholic feature. Both of them look great in their own way, with Tsubasa being very brightly colored and vibrant while xxxholic is dark and mysterious. The titles for each feature are listed between the two pieces of artwork and the framing overall is quite good as it draws attention to the artwork and logos pretty well. These kinds of covers are never easy to do and there are hardly any that I can think of that are done well when it comes to double features. The back cover works in a similar nature as it is laid out with the top half dealing with Tsubasa and the bottom with xxxholic. The center strip is really nicely done as it talks about the CLAMP universe and connection and has artwork for each film above and below it where it belongs. The reverse side of this keepcase plays to the nature of the double feature with the left panel providing a nicely framed piece of character artwork from Tsubasa and the right for xxxholic. The bottom portion of each panel has the credits for the English version production and a lengthy but well sized credit listing for the Japanese cast.

Menu:
The menu designs for each volume utilizes the artwork from the cover in some way with a different kind of placement and different framing that suits the material. The music works well with the content and helps to set the mood nicely. The menus are simple with just a static piece of artwork but they look nice and vibrant with some good detail. I particularly found that xxxholic menu to be the best because of the colors and Yuko’s character designs. As is usual with FUNimation, we didn’t bother with player presets because of how the full subtitle track is listed as Japanese instead of English. What is surprising is that once again FUNimation puts the 5.1 track in the third position so that it isn’t picked up by default if you have English language set as your default. You would think they’d want to push their best quality mix to the forefront.

Extras:
Each disc has its own respective set of extras to it which works out well as they aren’t competing for space resources and tend to have rather high bitrates:

Tsubasa Disc Extras:
The Tsubasa disc is nicely loaded with material, which is a plus considering the length of the movie itself. The first piece is from the premier in Ikebukoro which runs just over eight minutes and shows the fans getting into the theater and the actors getting ready for their brief introduction to the audience. Of a similar nature is the movie event in Shibuya which takes place in the Shibuya Tower Records and has the opening song performed. This runs just over eight minutes as well with Kinya starting it off with the song before it goes into a more general Q&A and introduction of a few of the actors. It’s light fluff but it’s good to see a partial song performance. A brief bit of extra footage is included separately, which runs just about 30 seconds, from the Shibuya event as well. A two minute recording session montage is included which has the principal cast at work though we don’t get to hear them much since there’s music playing over it. There’s a great production artwork gallery that runs for just over six minutes and a background plates section which runs for just under two minutes. Each of them showcases some great pieces and it flows well, if a bit fast, with the instrumental music attached to it. A two minute storyboard piece is included which details the origins of the Birdcage Kingdom which is subtitled in Japanese (and translated for DVD subtitles) about how it all came together which helps to flesh out the film a bit. The really big extra included in this, and my favorite, is the commentary by the Japanese cast and staff which is presented as a picture in picture piece that’s separately encoded from the main feature. It moves back and forth between the two video streams so that we can see the actors talking about what’s on screen and the film itself.

xxxholic Disc Extras:
The xxxholic disc has a lot of similar extras relating to the theatrical opening and the like. The first one is an eight minute piece that brings out the voice actors to the opening of the film at the Shinjuku Cinema Milano where they’re brought out and talk briefly about the work. There’s a very short recording montage of the actors at work which lasts just over a minute unfortunately. I tend to find these cute depending on the personalities of the actors and this one looks like it could have been more fun. A slightly lengthier piece is a three minute slideshow session that shows off the character designs in the conceptual stage both in black and white pieces and color. So much of it is appealing with the detail and color that it’s very enjoyable to check it out. A similar section is only two minutes long that goes through a variety of the beautiful background plates used in the film. There is such detail and beauty to so many of tem that having them in this form is great. The really big extra here though is the Japanese staff and actor commentary on the film. It’s a separate piece (that could be done really well in a high definition format along with the original program) which has a video of the three main actors and the producer talking about the film as it plays along. The film plays in a smaller window (and in three monitors in the background) and they talk plenty about it. The visual of them in the room, albeit with headphones, is really fun since you can see them as they express their opinions and laugh about it at times. Also included is a brief set of original theatrical trailers for the film.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When CLAMP launched the manga for Tsubasa and xxxholic, they made it plain from practically the first panels that the two books were going to be heavily tied together at times. They also made it abundantly clear that they were going to touch upon many aspects of their overall CLAMPverse by hitting alternate realities, re-imagining characters and threading some of the stories back and forth in ways that would really work well. What surprised me with the two series in manga form was that I found Tsubasa harder to get through at first but took instantly to xxxholic.

The two features here, the first running thirty five minutes and the second sixty minutes, are loosely tied together in a roundabout way. They both stand alone in total and don’t seem to take place anywhere within the continuity of the series that’s been seen to date in the US. We watched the films as they’re billed on the package by taking in the Tsubasa movie first. I’m still hard pressed to call it a movie (especially since by Hollywood standards, it must run for at least 82 minutes to be considered a movie) but it has a great theatrical quality to the presentation and animation. The story is incredibly simple and not that detailed in terms of background that we usually get from the TV series. The gang gets dropped into a world that’s contained inside a massive birdcage to discover that there are things afoot by the King to turn it into a kingdom of darkness. Naturally, the group gets split up and discovers different angles to deal with while trying to head off impending doom while still trying to find another feather of Sakura’s memories.

While this part of the double feature is fun, light and quick moving, it lacks any real sort of impact. It’s like an extended episode with some beautiful animation quality to it. The xxxholic movie on the other hand captivated me right from the first frame as it introduces us to Watanuki and his specific problem of being an attractor to unusual things. With xxxholic not being out here in TV form yet, it was good that the feature took a bit of time to go over some of the basics to expand from what we know from the opening of the Tsubasa series itself. Like much of the xxxholic franchise, things tend to fall into Watanuki’s lap through his service to Yuko as a general maid and jack of all trades. Just in doing his normal job he ends up attracting people there that need problems solved for a price.

The story is one that is pretty predictable however as Yuko agrees to help a young woman who claims she can’t get into her house anymore. It’s actually a mansion and inside there is some strange event going on where unique collectors have come to take part in an collectors auction of sorts. Watanuki, Yuko and Domeki end up getting caught up in the event, which isn’t a surprise since Yuko is something of a collector in her own way, and it becomes a great yet obvious mystery as the collectors begin to disappear. The mansion is unique in how it constantly changes and seemingly toys with Watanuki. Much of the fun comes in watching how Watanuki deals with all these absurd situations while Yuko either smiles knowingly or Domeki plays the straight main to all of it.

While neither of the stories for this film are especially compelling, they are quite beautifully told. Tsubasa really shines in comparison to its TV series in how fluid and lush it is while xxxholic plays more in the near experimental stage with its visual design at times. Where the problem can lay with all of this however is the viewers expectations for the actual character designs. When these properties first started in manga form they were fairly controversial for some fans because of the designs. I’ve always found them to be far more appealing and engaging because they aren’t cookie cutter CLAMP designs. They all share a similarity to fit in with this particular series design, but I love the lanky body design and the exaggerated motions that characters like Watanuki make in xxxholic. Seeing these designs done on a theatrical level with some great fluid movements combined with lush backgrounds really just brings it all to life quite beautifully.

In Summary:
The double feature for these two properties are really little more than love letters for the fans. With no direct ties to the TV series continuity as they don’t really change anything or introduce anything new, you can drop in, check it out and not worry about needing to know a ton of things. They provide some basic background to keep you up to speed if you’re unfamiliar with it, and of course you’ll enjoy it more if you know the cast and their relationships in more detail, but without it they give you enough to work with here to enjoy it. These films aren’t deep but they’re a lot of fun and kept me smiling and enjoying the experience all the way through. If anything, I’d really like to see a proper full length feature with this level of animation quality for both films. Fans of both properties will have a lot to like here and FUNimation has put together a solid package overall.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Ikebukoro Premiere,Shibuya Tower Records Premiere,Shibuya Extra Footage,Tsubasa Recording Session,Production Gallery,Plates Gallery,Storyboards,Origins of the Birdcage Kingdom,Tsubasa Japanese Commentary Video,Shinjuku Opening Night,Character Designs,Background Designs,xxxholic Japanese Commentary Video,Theatrical Trailers

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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