Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE 14 by CLAMP: B+

From the back cover:
The odd group of dimension travelers arrives in a country full of magic seeking a book that may hold the key to finding one of Princess Sakura’s powerful memory feathers. But the volume they need turns out to be a national treasure, off limits to the public. Now Syaoran, Kurogane, and the others must brave traps, ravenous beasts, and some of the universe’s strongest magicians in order to steal the book. When it comes down to enchantments versus martial arts skills, can the team pull off the biggest caper of their career so far?

A lot of important stuff went down in this volume and, though the individual chapters often seemed short and occasionally uneventful, the whole was definitely greater than the sum of its parts.

In addition to learning a little bit more about the motivations of the villain, readers also learned more about the main characters, as two of them displayed previously unseen sides of themselves. While battling for access to the book containing Sakura’s feather, Syaoran seemed briefly to be taken over by a more ruthless fighter. Kurogane noticed something afoot immediately. Later, when the group’s escape attempts were thwarted, Fai relented and performed some magic so they could transport to another world. “First one and now the next!” Kurogane noted.

By the end of the volume, the tone of the story had become quite serious. I thoroughly approve! It really seems that things are going somewhere at last.

Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE 13 by CLAMP: B+

From the back cover:
Five friends must journey through time and space to lift a curse from beautiful Princess Sakura. Their quest now leads them to a world of magic and mysterious learning. Syaoran, the princess’s young but fierce defender, is awestruck by this new world’s enormous library. But when he opens one of the books, he is suddenly whisked away to a different dimension—a rough, barbaric place that resembles medieval Japan.

There he witnesses the hardships faced by the family of a feudal lord who looks surprisingly like Syaoran’s gruff companion Kurogane. Now Syaoran must figure out how he was transported… if he ever hopes to see Sakura again!

This volume started kind of slowly, but finished strong. Turns out, a magic book with the power to reveal one person’s memories to another had been handled by Kurogane before it was passed to Syaoran, and so Syaoran took an accidental tour through some of Kurogane’s past. The first few chapters were okay, but Syaoran kept intruding on Kurogane’s memories as he took ages to figure out what was going on, causing the reader to go “Duh! Of course you’re in the world of the book! Didn’t you read Fushigi Yûgi?”

Once he figured it out, Kurogane’s tale continued and progressively got both more interesting and more sad. The significance of Ginryu (the sword that was Kurogane’s prized possession and his payment to Yuuko at the beginning of the story) was revealed as well as the circumstances of Kurogane and Tomoyo’s first meeting. In one of the chapters there was an image that made me go “Eww!” and “Cool!” simultaneously, which I appreciated.

I really liked the last chapter. In it, Syaoran woke from the book trance and immediately asked for Kurogane to talk about what he’d seen. A nice conversation ensued. Also, I was happy to see movement on the plot regarding the mysterious evil figure who’s been lurking in the background all this time. On the whole, this was a really good volume.

Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE 12 by CLAMP: B+

From the back cover:
All is not well on Piffle World. The magical land’s most popular sporting event—a race of lightweight aircraft called dragonflies—seems to have been rigged by one of the contestants. But winning the competition is the only way Princess Sakura and her friends can recover one of the princess’s precious and powerful memory feathers.

The five friends are determined to cross the finish line first, but the cheating is taking its toll—even Fai is out of the running! Can the travelers still win the race and discover who’s behind the booby traps before it’s too late?

This volume was a little disappointing, since the identity of the culprit was fairly easy to guess. I was hoping that a certain person wasn’t responsible, since it was so obvious, but alas.

Still, there were an awful lot of good character moments that made up for it. Sakura does particularly well in the race, and it was nice to see her looking determined and not helpless. Fai commented to Kurogane about it, and was surprised when Kurogane told him that he (Fai) had changed, too. I really love the dynamic between those two. The best moments, though, were between Kurogane and Tomoyo, especially a conversation they had outside while a celebratory party went on inside.

CCD watch update: The boys didn’t really have much to do in this volume, but the observant will spot Nokoru sleeping in Suoh’s lap the morning after the festivities. Also note that while Akira and Nokoru both appear to be somewhat hungover, Suoh looks perfectly fine. In character to the end!

Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE 11 by CLAMP: B+

From the back cover:
The Dragonfly Race is set to begin in Piffle World, and the prize for one lucky lightweight aircraft pilot is an amazingly powerful battery in the shape of a feather. But for the four dimension-travelers and one odd creature named Mokona, who have joined the competition, the feather represents more than energy—it’s one of Princess Sakura’s lost memories!

And Sakura’s feather isn’t the only thing at stake. Despite President Tomoyo’s best efforts to protect the race using her wealth and resources, unexpected hazards keep popping up, and the perilous contest could lead to death for unskilled pilots… like the princess!

This volume was a lot of fun. The race itself was entertaining (and could Kurogane’s contraption fit him any better?) but there was also the pressing reminder of Fei Wong Reed’s plan, which was to send a minion with a familiar face to do his bidding—a person they’d assume was not the same one they’d met before on a different world. Fai also remarked at one point about feeling the eyes of someone watching them, and it was nice that this aspect of the plot got a little more attention.

The best part, however, was Nokoru. I swear he completely stole the show. When I first saw the CCD boys rendered in this art style, I thought it was weird. I really liked it in this volume, though, especially that they looked a bit older than their 4th-6th grade selves. Nokoru was particularly pretty, and it was good to see his personality quite intact. I wish Suoh could’ve done a little bit more, though.

I’ve really enjoyed these past couple of volumes, and even liked volume 10 better on a reread than I did the first time. I’m glad I decided to get back into this series.


From the back cover:
Here is a revealing look at the acclaimed bestselling manga series Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE. Spanning the first seven volumes, this thrilling guide includes intriguing details about the characters, worlds, and mysteries of Tsubasa, including info on the popular crossover CLAMP characters who always seem to appear in the Tsubasa universe!

It also features a brand-new Tsubasa short story, an interview with CLAMP writer Ageha Ohkawa, games and quizzes, a fan section, pre-production artwork, and more. This is an essential book for any fan of the Tsubasa manga series and anime!

After I read the tenth volume of xxxHOLiC my interest in Tsubasa rekindled. As I hadn’t touched the series since November 2006, however, I decided to refresh my memory with the aid of this handy character guide before resuming with the regular volumes.

I’d forgotten so much! The wishes Fai and Kurogane made that got them traveling in the first place, Syaoran’s mysterious origins, the fact that Seishirou still has one of Sakura’s feathers and will undoubtedly be seen again as a result… Though the guide was rather dry reading and sometimes hard on the eyes, with lots of tiny white print on grey or black backgrounds, it was definitely successful in reminding me of many important plot bits.

That said, I’m not sure how much this book would offer to someone completely up-to-date with the series. There were some things that weren’t a story rehash, like quizzes and popularity polls and an interminable fan section, but the only one I particularly enjoyed was the interview with Ageha Ohkawa.

xxxHOLiC 10 by CLAMP: A+

From the back cover:
Months ago, when Kimihiro Watanuki became the indentured servant of the witch Yuuko Ichihara, Yuuko warned Kimihiro about his attraction to cute young Himawari-chan. But he refused to listen. How could his pretty classmate possibly pose any kind of danger? At last the secret is revealed… and with near-fatal results.

This was a great volume. It started off with Watanuki and Doumeki performing a job for Yuuko by hauling lots of water from a well on private property. Every time they went, they noticed an unmoving figure in a window. The atmosphere as they investigated was fraught with creepiness, and was a lot of fun to read.

I was happy that the reveal of Himawari’s secret did not involve overwrought drama. The secret itself was more subtle than I expected, but could create some very interesting repercussions later on. It also made me want to go back and reread previous volumes to see if I would now notice the clues that I was oblivious to before.

Naturally, after one central mystery was addressed, a new one had to be introduced. This one hinted at a greater connection between xxxHOLiC and Tsubasa and made me hopeful that the story will start to build into some sort of epic arc. Not that I’m not enjoying it the way it is now, but I would love a longer story, too.

xxxHOLiC 9 by CLAMP: A

From the back cover:
Without realizing it, Kimihiro Watanuki has purchased a dream. According to Yuuko Ichihara, the mysterious time-space witch, people usually buy good dreams—but Kimihiro’s dream is a man-eating nightmare. Even worse, it has come true! Then Kimihiro meets a wistful girl who, like him, can see the spirit world. Together they try to prevent a harmless ghost from being exorcised from its beloved resting place, an ancient cherry tree. The girl’s mother wants her to have nothing to do with Kimihiro, but the spirits say otherwise…

I’m not generally one to talk much about the art in manga, but it’s such a big part of what makes xxxHOLiC special. The lines are simple and clean, and offset by great swaths of solid black. Nothing else looks like this; it’s stunning.

The two stories in this volume almost had a slice of life vibe. Sometimes episodic stories bother me, but that wasn’t the case here. The visit with the dream merchant in the other world was a lot of fun, and CLAMP also made sure to show the gradual way in which Watanuki and Doumeki were beginning to get along. They even had a relatively friendly conversation for six whole pages!

I guess I might’ve been annoyed that no progress was made on revealing Himawari’s hinted-at secret, but since I already know that volume 10 is going to take care of that, I didn’t read this volume anxiously awaiting answers.

xxxHOLiC 8 by CLAMP: A-

From the back cover:
Kimihiro Watanuki’s after-school job working for the mysterious witch Yuuko Ishikawa has taken a dangerous turn. A recent assignment cost Kimihiro his right eye to a spider with a grudge. Now the missing eye has become the latest must-have item in the spirit world. Even the Zashiki-Warashi, the pretty spirit who has a crush on Kimihiro, has become entangled in the mess… and she’s being held captive by an unknown evil! Can Kimihiro save both the girl and his eye—without getting himself killed by beings more powerful than he can imagine?

Watanuki continues to grow on me. Though he continues to spaz, he displays a lot of quiet bravery in this volume that put him in a new light. I was a little surprised to realize how much I really like him now.

Yuuko seems to be orchestrating things to ensure that Watanuki learns certain lessons, which he duly does. The first time, it’s obvious that that’s what’s happening, but the second time, in the very cute final chapter wherein Watanuki and Doumeki build snow creations, it’s much more subtle. I particularly liked the possible foreshadowing of the very last panel.

I want more!

Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE 10 by CLAMP: B

From the back cover:
The battle between Yasha-o and Ashura-o is at an end. But now Ashura-o seems depressed. What this means for the country of Shura, none can tell… not even the five friends on a desperate journey through dimensions to find the memories of Princess Sakura—memories in the form of immensely powerful feathers. The five have been racing from world to world, separated and then pitted against one another as enemies. Now young Syaoran is at the center of the maelstrom—and only wits, luck, and some help from his friends will save the tiny band from destruction.

I have been toting this around for over a month, waiting to get the desire to read it. It turned out to be pretty good, and there’s actually a bit of movement plot-wise. Villainous dude continues to be pretty ho-hum, but makes a reference to his “next plan” (I don’t remember any coherent former plan) so there seems to be a possibility that we’ll start to see some sort of organized attempts to thwart our heroes in the future. I hope so, because this story really needs some strong narrative backbone. It can’t bank on cameos forever, as fun as those are.

The art is lovely, especially with Ashura and another CLAMP character who is an important personage in Piffle World, where they end up next. On a side note, while they’re there, Syaoran’s outfit is totally reminiscent of Gatchaman (as are the little dunebuggyesque cars).

Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE 9 by CLAMP: B

From the back cover:
Five friends continue their desperate search for Princess Sakura’s memories, which have been scattered across parallel worlds in the form of magically potent feathers. But this time Syaoran and Sakura are pulled from a tumultuous land where two factions battle over a statue of the God of Calamity—and into the realm of that very divinity! Now they find themselves on one side of a long, bloody conflict between two gods and their minions. Unfortunately the experienced fighters in their band, Fai and Kurogane, seem to be aligned with the opposition. In a war that can be ended only by the death of a god, how can Syaoran and Sakura hope to stay alive?

I liked this volume’s battle scenes and new setting, though I wouldn’t rate it as excellent. It does advance the plot with a couple of revelations, though still more remains unexplained. I’m still not fond of the creepy-haired villainous dude and his random appearances; he’s far too two-dimensional for me to care about him at all. I have the feeling that this won’t change much in the future, even when we eventually learn what he’s truly up to.

Ashura and Yasha are both extremely pretty, and I particularly liked the panels in which they appear together. I also thought Del Rey elegantly tackled the issue of Ashura’s ambiguous gender. Other publishers take note! The translation wasn’t at all clunky without specific pronouns. Now I’m left wishing for a Del Rey edition of Wish!