Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: May 2009
Synopsis: “Fai’s secret past is revealed in horrific detail, and all his lies laid bare. Now Fai must face the rage of Kurogane, and the one person who showed Fai kindness as a child is now his mortal enemy. Can Fai survive Kurogane, Ashura-ô, and Fei-Wang Reed’s final curse?”
This entire volume consists of two things: Fai flashbacks, which serve to finally fully flesh out the smiling sorcerer’s tortured past, and then overlapping present-time fight sequences. Thanks to the number of speedline intense, dialogue-scarce action panels, don’t be surprised if you fly through this volume quicker than most. Ultimately, however, all this speed does is induce longing for the next volume to happen sooner than later.
What entertained me most of all in this volume was when through some dictation by Kurogane, we learn concretely that thanks to some magical view-screen shards, the characters present are all privy to the flashbacks that Fai is having about his past. It brings the whole volume into a lot more focus, knowing that you’re sharing in something that everyone there is seeing and being affected by, instead of being pulled away from current events for a necessary, but somewhat distracting, memory excursion. I only wish I’d kept reading before sitting on a particular page and pondering how it didn’t seem to make any sense, since only a little while later the ever-observant Kurogane points out this inconsistency in Fai’s flashback.
Despite Kurogane’s quick thinking however, there were still some moments about the flashbacks that left me confused. Fai and his twin brother, Yui, have interchanging names throughout the story, intentionally mind you, but there are a few moments where the Fai as we know him is conversing with Fei-Wang Reed and the throwing about of the twins’ name had my eyes spiraling more than once as I reread panels to try and grasp who was talking about who. Either way, it didn’t change the melancholic bleakness of the twins’ story, a tale begun in the previous volume and completed here in the twenty-first. It’s near impossible not to feel sympathy for Fai, whose smiling face has been hiding a guilt-ridden past and a misguided devotion along with the subconscious weight of magical curses laid on him in his youth.
Always knowing how to keep readers waiting eagerly for the next book, CLAMP also ends the story with a solid ‘whoa!’ moment that’s bound to shock, and make a good lasting impact after you’ve closed the book after finishing, when the bond between Kurogane and Fai is tested once again with dire consequences. I love it, full admittance, as those two continue to appeal to my inner-fangirl, but regardless of that more shallow reasoning, the ending is another example of the effectiveness of the evolving relationships between characters in this fantasy adventure. The whole volume tailors heavily to fans of character-relation dramas as the connection between an emotionally-scarred Fai and his saviour, the awakened King Ashura, also prove to be some of the most sweet, but also chilling, moments of the series in recent memory.
A continued recommend read that I cannot stress enough the worth of sticking with. I don’t argue with those who found the series slogging around the 10 book mark, but read a few books more and everything is worth it. Compelling characters and CLAMP’s fantastically eye-catching artwork continue to make Tsubasa a must-have for me the moment it hits store shelves.