It’s the 22nd century, and countless wars have left the cities in ruins, the fields withered, and the waters polluted. The rich and elite have access to the finer things while the common folk live in poverty, and things are pretty much controlled by a military regime. In this harsh situation, young Kotobuki took to thieving to survive, but as the story begins, she’s trying to put that life behind her and find an honest job. During her days as a criminal, she occasionally came into contact with an army captain named Raimon who really ought to’ve been apprehending her, but who found her quite charming instead. When Kotobuki left town to look for work, Raimon spontaneously quit the Army to come be with her. They become traveling companions and their romantic relationship slowly develops over the course of several months.
One of the major problems with Tsubasa: Those with Wings is that I couldn’t tell you what its main plot actually is. Is it Kotobuki’s search for honest work? Is it her evolution from child into woman, the recognition that her feelings for Raimon are changing into something new? Or is it the search for Tsubasa—object of a legend about a mysterious power with wish-granting properties?
The first several chapters are episodic and forgettable and each ends in the same way: Kotobuki blushing at something the flirtatious Raimon has done or said followed by an inset of some other character encountered during that chapter. With the fourth chapter, more of a serialized storyline develops, introducing various new characters from the Army who have “unfinished business” with Raimon and want Tsubasa for themselves. Overall, the second half of the book is much better than the first, but the central plot of the last few chapters—Raimon’s wealthy, bishounen dad is funding some orphanages but simultaneously hiring thugs to attack them—still doesn’t make a great deal of sense.
Another problem I had with this series is the characters, or rather, the relationship dynamics between them. Kotobuki, as an agile thief with an energetic disposition, has the potential to be a tough and competent character, and occasionally there are moments where she fulfills that potential. These moments are overshadowed, however, by the amount of time she spends blushing and aspiring to be “good enough” for Raimon. Raimon has his good points—he’s mysterious and sometimes amusing—but he’s also always right about everything and always shows up at the right moment to rescue Kotobuki. It’s like these two could’ve been really interesting characters but are somehow shackled by shojo manga stereotypes.
Although the cover boasts a new illustration of Kotobuki, the interior art is drawn in Natsuki Takaya’s earlier style, featuring super-enormous eyes and pointy noses in profile. Towards the end of the volume, the style grows a little more refined and begins to resemble more the art from the early volumes of Fruits Basket. Readers of that series will find several chibi expressions and haircuts to remind them of her more famous work. The packaging itself is quite attractive, bundling at least two volumes of the original into one chunky tome, but there are a number of errors inside where small Japanese text was not removed before the translation was overlaid on top of it.
Patience is rewarded when reading Tsubasa: Those with Wings. The first few chapters are not very good, but the story picks up steam as it goes. At least two of the half dozen new characters introduced near the end show some promise of being interesting, and I’m just intrigued enough to want to see what happens next.
Tsubasa: Those with Wings is published by TOKYOPOP, who seem to’ve condensed the series’ original six volumes into three über-chunky ones.
Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.