The TV anime was great and the OVAs were faithful to parts of the manga, but we still think the manga deserves a more extended anime.
By: Nicole S. Castro on August 25, 2022 at 12:21 PHT
For fans who watched Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle on TV channels such as Animax, it's hard to believe the anime first aired in Japan way back in 2005.
While to some people this show merely featured teenage versions of Syaoran and Sakura, us fans are here to take you down memory lane and explain just how epic this series was (especially when it got darker in the manga).
Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle (Japanese: ツバサ-RESERVoir CHRoNiCLEレザヴォア クロニクル-) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by the manga artist group CLAMP. As fans can see, the series features character designs from earlier, mega-hit CLAMP manga Cardcaptor Sakura.
Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle was serialized in Kodansha's shōnen manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Magazine from May 2003 to October 2009. It was collected in 28 tankōbon volumes, totaling 232 chapters.
The manga was adapted into a TV anime series, Tsubasa Chronicle, by studio Bee Train. It aired with a total of 52 episodes over two seasons from 2005 to 2006.
Production I.G also released an interlude film between the first two seasons titled Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle the Movie: The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom, as well as five original video animations (OVAs) between November 2007 and May 2009 (Tokyo Revelations and Spring Thunder Chronicles), which acted as a sequel to the second season.
Plot and Throwback (anime)
Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle takes place in the same fictional universe as many of CLAMP's other manga series, though it is most notably tied to xxxHolic.
The plot follows Sakura (CV: Yui Makino), the princess of the Kingdom of Clow, who loses all of her memories right before she could confess her love to her childhood friend, the young archaeologist Syaoran (CV: Miyu Irino). With Sakura's memories scattered across dimensions in the form of magical feathers, the High Priest Yukito (CV: Kōki Miyata) sends them to the Dimensional Witch Yuko Ichihara (CV: Sayaka Ohara) to ask for help. Syaoran makes a wish to Yuko to save Sakura, so Yuko gives him the ability to travel across dimensions to retrieve Sakura's feathers. But in exchange, Sakura will never remember him even if she regains all of her other memories.
Throughout their journey, Sakura and Syaoran are accompanied by the rough-mannered ninja Kurogane (CV: Tetsu Inada) and the mysterious magician Fai D. Flourite (CV: Daisuke Namikawa), who are traveling for their own personal reasons. The four are able to travel through Mokona Modoki (CV: Mika Kikuchi), who is based off of the original Mokona from Magic Knight Rayearth. But this time the white Mokona (Soel) accompanies Syaoran and company while the black Mokona (Larg) stays with Yuko and serves as their mode of communication.
How did the anime end?
The beauty of Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle shines in the diversity of the dimensions they visit and the battles they go through to retrieve Sakura's feathers. Fans of CLAMP's works will also recognize many characters from other series such as Princess Tomoyo (Cardcaptor Sakura), Princess Emeraude (Magic Knight Rayearth), and Kimihiro Watanuki (xxxHolic).
Some of the memorable worlds they visit include the virtual reality game of Ōto Country (where Syaoran and Kurogane become Oni Hunters while Fai and Sakura manage a café they named The Cat's Eye), Piffle World (where they compete in a race using airborne vehicles to win Sakura's feather as the grand prize), and the countries of Shara and Shura (which focus on the forbidden love between Ashura and Yasha).
For anime-only fans, the series ends at episode 52 in Tao Country where Syaoran fights against King Chaos (CV: Kenshō Ono), whose true form is a giant bird containing many of Sakura's feathers. The battle ends on a good note with the feathers on Chaos scattering once more across dimensions, implying a continuation of Syaoran and gang's journey.
But for fans who read the manga, the story diverges after episode 42, while the cast are in Rekord Country. Syaoran accidentally reads a copy of the Book of Memories that reveals to him Kurogane's tragic past. Kurogane later realizes there is something wrong happening to Syaoran, and the cause is revealed in the two-episode OVA Tsubasa Tokyo Revelations, when they land in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo. The series takes on a tragic turn and Syaoran's connection to main antagonist Fei-Wang Reed (CV: Kazuhiro Nakata) is revealed.
Even as a standalone, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle is an entertaining show because there's a new adventure after every 2-3 episodes. The different worlds are unique, the battles make use of all sorts of powers, magic, and abilities, the music (by the legendary Yuki Kajiura) is phenomenal, and the CLAMP visual aesthetic simply never disappoints.
But fans of CLAMP's many works are likely to appreciate this show twice as much. The scale of this series is simply too large to condense into two seasons and this resulted in many loose ends (which probably couldn't be helped as the manga was still ongoing at the time). While Fei-Wang Reed is implied as the antagonist throughout the anime, his side of the story is never fully shown. The strong connection of the series to xxxHolic protagonist Kimihiro Watanuki was also unexplored in the anime, and while the Tokyo Revelations and Spring Thunder Chronicles OVAs were well-done, we just feel that the underlying true seriousness of the manga deserved more screen time.
In short, watch the anime for the adventure, read the manga for the thrill and the tragedies. Yes, plural.
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NICOLE S. CASTRO
Nicole is based in the Philippines and works as a freelance Japanese Translator/Interpreter and copywriter (English). She is a JLPT N2 passer who watches anime to "study" for N1. She has a long career history on LinkedIn (with primary focus on media and translation), but her anime watchlist is much, much longer.