At the start of this month, I reviewed the first volume of one of CLAMP’s most recent manga, XXXHolic. That manga tied in to the first volume of CLAMP’s other major manga starting around the same time XXXHolic started – “Reservoir Chronicle Tsubasa”. I’ve now read the first volume of that comic. So – how does CLAMP’s universe jumping comic start out?

General Information

Title: Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle – Vol. 1
Written and Illustrated by CLAMP
Translated by Anthony Gerard
English Lettering by Dana Hayward
Originally Serialized in Kodansha’s Weekly Shonen Magazine
Cover Price: $10.95 US

Available from Amazon.com

The Premise

Li Syaoran is an archeologist in the fantasy kingdom of Clow, where he’s excavating some ruins discovered by his father, who had since passed away. He’s also in love with the princess of the Kingdom, Sakura whose also in love with him (though they’re both too shy to admit it). In the course of his investigations, a magical device is activated which nearly kills Sakura, scattering her memories and essence across many multiple universes. Li and Sakura travel across dimensions to the home of Yuko, the Space Time Witch. There, he meets two others from other universes who arrived the same time, and Yuko sends them on a quest across the universes to gather the pieces of Sakura’s essence, with the companions trying to complete some of the side objectives they have along the way

The High Points

This is probably some of CLAMP’s best art, particularly in the scenery design. It’s maintains their regular not-totally-stylized-but-not-totally-serious-either other look, but still looking fleshed out, from the universes of the various members of The Party (I don’t quite have a name for the group yet), to the first universe they travel into.

Also, Del Ray’s translator notes are very helpful, and useful to people who aren’t familiar with many of CLAMP’s other works. I know a teeny bit about Chobits, I’ve read some Card Captor Sakura, and a couple volumes of Angelic Layer. Otherwise my knowledge of Clamp is minimal – I’ll get into this further at the end of the review.

The Low Points

The price Yuko charges to send everyone on their pan-universal jaunt feels like it’s basically contrived to  limit the powers and special abilities available to our heroes in the other universes. Especially considering the set up for Kurogane’s sword.

Oh, and while the translator notes help – there are a lot of references to other Clamp Manga here. I’ll get into this at the end of the review.

Content Notes

There’s some minimal blood splatter, but no nudity. Yuko from XXXHolic appears, and with her comes her pipe (and apparently, after some research, I’ve gathered that according to fanon she’s smoking Opium – there’s no canon confirmation on this, but take this as you will).

The Scores

Originality: Now, these sort of pan-universal crossovers have been done before in western comics, particularly with a group of characters from multiple universes that are similar-but-different versions of characters we’re familiar with. This concept is, however, not common in manga – and even when the concept has occured in Western comics, it’s usually provided the writers a framework to explore existing characters from a new perspective. As an aside – most of the promotion and buzz I’ve seen in the Anime press about Tsubasa has usually compared it to Crisis on Infinite Earths. From what I’ve got so far – eXiles is a better comparison. 5 out of 6.

Artwork: Again, this is some of CLAMP’s best art yet, with the comic starting off with a gorgeous 2-page spread. While it isn’t all that great, it’s an excellent start, and they do appear to have tried to keep the rest of the comic in line with that opening. 4 out of 6.

Story: Again, we’re just at the start of a comic that was planned to run for a while (it only ended earlier this year). So, we have a lot of questions asked, but none answered, as yet. 3 out of 6.

Characterization: Syaoran and Sakura are pretty fleshed out – at least to me, though I’ve got some familiarity with Card Captor Sakura, so I know the relationship the writers are trying to point out there. The rest of the alternate universe characters aren’t as well fleshed out. 4 out of 6.

Emotional Response: The first part with Syaoran and Sakura did a good job at tugging at my heartstrings – the other characters not so much (particularly Kurogane – who I currently don’t like very much). 3 out of 6.

Flow: I did run into some problems with the action scene at the very end of this volume, but otherwise it was okay. 4 out of 6.

Overall: Another good start, and I look forward to reading more of this. 5 out of 6.

In total, Tsubasa – Vol. 1 gets 24 out of 42.

Notes:

To be frank, I’m not too familiar with most of CLAMP other work. Being that, to a certain degree, Tsubasa depends on some knowledge of their other universes and other series, I’m going to start reading – and reviewing, some of their other manga so I’m not depending on the translation notes – as well as expanding to the anime as well – though I’m not going to rely on the anime (because of, you know, adaptation decay).