Even if you didn’t already know it, the title of this series should tip you off that the team of manga artists known as CLAMP has a weird sense of humor. In spite of this, or perhaps because of this, I generally like their stuff. I’ve spent many enjoyable hours watching anime series based on their work. That’s what makes this particular series such a disappointment.
TitleTsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE
GenresFantasy, Adventure, Romance
Contents52 Episodes on 12? DVDs
LanguagesEnglish, Japanese with subtitles
Based ona manga by CLAMP
DirectorHiroshi Morioka, Koichi Mashimo
Character DesignMinako Shiba
Art DirectorShin Watanabe
Animation StudioBee Train
Region 1 PublisherFUNimation Entertainment
The central conceit of this series is that there are a large number of universes which include multiple versions of familiar characters from other CLAMP series.
The people you know and the people you have met in previous worlds will have sometimes lived completely different lives in other worlds as well. You may meet persons who have the same appearance in many different worlds, many times over.
Those two are the same…and yet not the same. You might say they have the same essence.
One reason that the show has been harshly criticized is that Princess Sakura, one of the main characters, is clearly presented as an alternate version of Sakura Kinomoto of Cardcaptor Sakura. If you happen to own the rights to one of the most beloved heroines in anime you had better be careful how you treat her or some people will indeed get very annoyed with you. Princess Sakura seems a nice enough girl but she is so completely different from Sakura Kinomoto that it seems ridiculous to suggest that they are essentially the same.
I am not going to downgrade this series for that. I think that a series should be judged on its own terms, not on how much it resembles, or fails to resemble, another series. On the other hand I’m not going to give this series extra points just because it is full of references to other, superior, series.
But I will criticize this series for its ending, or lack of one. I’m fairly open-minded about endings, but I do have a pretty inflexible rule that if you start a quest you must show the end of it. Before the final credits role, Jason must find the Golden Fleece, the One Ring must be thrown into the Cracks of Doom, the shikon no tama must be glued back together, or Sakura must collect all the cards (or in this case feathers.)
This series has a strong dramatic start, but it quickly falls into a repetitious pattern of 2- to 4-episode story arcs, all of them rather similar. The heroes arrive in a new universe, scout out the territory, make some acquaintances, solve a problem or defeat a villain, locate and acquire the McGuffin, then depart for the next universe. New mysteries are added but few are resolved. There is little sense of progress being made toward the goal. Ultimately the series ends Inuyasha-style, with nothing but a promise that the quest will continue.
To a large extent this series is about fan service. No, no, not sexual fan service–there’s nothing like that here. It’s more a matter of “spot the cameo,” the little in-joke thrill of recognizing characters from other CLAMP series. But this tends to wear thin since these aren’t, after all, the real characters.
Still, for dedicated CLAMP fans there are occasional tidbits of information that shed light on other stories. For example, if you have ever wondered who controls Piffle Enterprises, the giant industrial conglomerate that financed the development of the Angelic Layer game and the persocoms of Chobits, this series provides a surprisingly logical answer .
As far as the TV series is concerned, I don’t see too much to worry about. There is a fair amount of bloodless cartoon violence, but there’s nothing likely to upset any but the youngest children.
The OVA is another matter. It is much darker and bloodier. I would only recommend it for teenagers.
Premise and Characters
A short 40-minute movie called Tsubasa Chronicle the Movie: The Princess of the Country of Birdcages was released in 2005 and shown as a double feature with a similar episode of the related series xxxHolic. Both are available on a combined DVD from FUNimation.
This adventure can be inserted anywhere in the story-line without making any difference to the overall story.
According to rumor the abrupt end of the TV series was related to a falling-out between CLAMP and the animation studio. Whether or not this is true, a different studio recently released a 3-episode OVA called Tsubasa Tokyo Revelations which continues the story.
This adventure is set in a variation of the world of X/1999, and not surprisingly is much darker than the TV series. It answers some of the questions raised in the TV series, but also raises new ones.
In the end the story seems no closer to a conclusion. However what originally seemed to be a mostly upbeat story, somewhat reminiscent of Cardcaptor Sakura, has now become grimmer and more tragic, more reminiscent of X/1999.
Anime News Network Encyclopedia entry.
Wikipedia entry (major spoilers, including storylines from the manga that have not appeared in any version of the anime.)
 Tsubasa means “wings”, which explains that part of the title. “RESERVoir” may refer to the reservoir that is featured in the OVA.