And so the great Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle read through has come to an end. Shout out to William Flanagan, who wrote the English translation for all twenty eight volumes, churning out translations to keep pace with the publications in Japan. At the end of each volume he would include some translation notes, sometimes explaining a cultural norm, or showing the process of how he came to use the translation chosen for a particular section. The writer/artist collective CLAMP used Tsubasa as a way to mix a bunch of characters, from across different series, that they had previously created. Flanagan would also point out information about these cross overs. As a long time fan of CLAMP, it was a lot of fun to see this smashup of their creations.
The first English translation was released in April, 2004 and the final in November 2010. I started reading in 2004 and stopped 2007ish. When Borders went out of business in 2011 I bought up as many of the missing volumes as I could. Fast forward many years and my eight year old was frustrated that I didn’t have all the books. Fortunately, I was able to find the missing ones on Amazon’s used book market. She tore through the rest of the series and then insist that I read it too, so we could talk about it. And if I was going to read them, I was going to review them!
Some general thoughts and then review of the final volume below. I enjoyed reading this series. In my late teens and throughout my twenties, I was a big fan of Japanese manga and animation. In my thirties my attention turned elsewhere but I maintain a soft spot for them. It was fun to read a manga series, something I haven’t done in over a decade. When deciding to let my eight year old read it, I had only gotten through the adventure world hopping volumes and wasn’t aware of the dark twists that would come later. Having read through the whole series now, I would not recommend this for younger readers. A handful of instances of under age alcohol use gives me pause for middle grade readers. The rating on the book says +13 by the publisher Del Rey Kodansha and I would agree with that assessment. For the record, my daughter loved Tsubasa.
When I set out to write these reviews, my intent was for them to be a sort of ‘cliff notes’ version of the story. So theoretically, by reading all the reviews, you could go along the journey of this crazy story. If anyone has the time and interest to read through them all, I would be curious as to how you think I did.
Volume 28 – Wow, the time travel, and wishing, and paying the cost of actions, things get even more confusing as it all gets wrapped up. I’ve spent the past twenty minutes picking up volume 28, reading a bit of it, setting it down to type, but then immediately picking up the book again because I’m not certain how to untangle everything that happens. I don’t think I can go through this book in a linear fashion and will instead say how things played out.
The copies of Syaoran and Sakura were taken to the dreaming by Yuko. She gave them the chance to be reborn. They would keep all their memories, as they will have a role in the cycle of time that is Syaoran and Sakura’s story. They would be born at the same time, April 1st is their shared birthday, but in different places. Sakura becomes a modern day school girl in Japan and on a visit to Hong Kong sees Syaoran. They instantly run to each other, marry, and when their son is born, they realize that they, the copies of Syaoran and Sakura, are actually the parents of Original Syaoran! This was a twist I was not expecting. So they raised him, knowing what lay in his future and wanting to do anything they can to stop it because they recognized it is a closed circle. Hence, they put themselves in that stasis chamber to be able to assist the other versions of themselves against Fei-Wang Reed.
Because of this and other small changes the characters were able to make along the way, the cycle was finally able to be broken. There is lots of magic, and things regarding Yuko that I am glossing over, and Fei-Wang Reed is eventually defeated, but he has one last parting shot. When Original Syaoran first wished for time to go backwards, he created a hole in the universe where he used to be. Watanuki was created to fill the vacuum and is essentially made of the same essence as Syaoran, and shares the April 1st birthday. The Copy Syaoran, who ended up fathering Original Syaoran, ended his existence and distilled it to a memory feather, allowing O-Syaoran and Watanuki to escape a trap. However, in order for O-Syaoran and Watanuki to both exist, they must pay a price. Watanuki chooses to forever stay in one place, the shop where he apprenticed with Yuko, the Time Space Witch. Syaoran will continue to keep dimension hopping, never staying in one place too long. And hopefully with the passage of enough time, their debt will be paid and they will no longer be bound thusly.
That sounds kind of depressing but it actually wasn’t. Syaoran and Sakura love each on an exceptional level. They have been through so much, and though they have been separated across time and space, they always find each other. Sakura has seen in a dream that it will be more painful if she travels with the companions, so she will stay in the Kingdom of Clow and resume moving forward in the life of becoming a Priestess, as she would have were it not for Fei-Wang. Syaoran is able to leave, and Sakura say goodbye, because they know that Syaoran’s dimension hopping will bring them back together again. The Syaoran, Fai, and Kurogane who set out for the new round of dimension hopping are very different people from the ones who started the chronicles. They have become family and this time everyone is heading out filled with excitement of the adventure that is to come.