Publisher: Del Rey
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: August 2009
Synopsis: “In the Country of Oto, Syaoran fought his former mentor, Seishiro, and lost badly. Now Seishiro is back, and this time Syaoran is determined not to allow him to escape with Sakura’s feather. Many things have change since their first battle, but is Syaoran now strong enough to withstand Seishiro’s vampire-killing skills?”
Old faces return to stir up some new trouble, including the vampire hunter Seishiro, mentor to Syaoran and possessor of one of Sakura’s powerful memory shards. The end of the previous book saw another climatic fight for survival that this book offers only momentary respite from for the series’ band of weary travellers but its time well needed to fill in small gaps in the plot and prepare for the danger that’s followed them there, to Kurogane’s home country of Japan.
The potency of the characters themselves remain the series’ strongest and most compelling feature. In this volume one of the best examples of this occurs at the very beginning when Fai comes to confront Kurogane about the sacrifice made for the wizard’s sake at the end of the previous book. It’s a surprise to more than just the readers, rather amusing its abruptness, and the shortness of the scene only makes it that much better. The chemistry between those two in particular, easily interpreted in a variety of ways by a variety of fans (we know who we are), is continually both undeniable and utterly addictive in itself.
Kurogane on his own here shows considerable headway in his search for strength, finally having the chance to speak with Princess Tomoyo who reflects for him the truth of his own personal evolution. These little moments are what make the series for me and always remain the most memorable once I’ve completed another well-anticipated volume.
Also keeping up with tradition, CLAMP continues to tease their readers with suspenseful dangling of pinnacle plot devices. The key one of note here would be the yet unexplained true connection between XXXHolic’s Watanuki, and the original Syaoran that readers have been learning more about since his clone’s existence was exposed volumes ago. Two especially eye-catching cover designs drove this point home especially hard but I have a feeling it’ll be a while yet before we learn the truth.
As the plot carries itself along, ending with a dramatic confrontation that serves as follow-up to a previous altercation, much of it is spent in words exchanged between different characters. It’s interesting to see how CLAMP is weaving past and present events in a way you’d never expect, and with involvement from characters seemingly irrelevant when not present on page. While the addition of these new layers is always entertaining, it can be a little much. The who-done-its of the wishing system is a tad confusing and requires careful reading if you want to keep track of exactly who was the cause of what and what they offered in exchange for it. How Yuko keeps track of all these wishes, sub-wishes, connected wishes, and various forms of payment for said wishes is beyond me but I suppose that’s all part of what makes her so admirable and compelling to read about, short as her moments of involvement are here in Tsubasa.
This Del Rey edition of Tsubasa’s twenty-second volume also has on it the 20th Anniversary CLAMP logo, a pleasant addition to see on the series during this celebratory time when numerous companies around the world are releasing special editions in honour of the event. Del Rey continues to do CLAMP’s work great justice with fantastic translation work and super tidy lettering.
By the end of the book another battle has erupted, tearing into the world of dreams where Sakura, notably absent for the majority of this book, finds her soul contained. Even during the moments of story that fail to be as potent as one would like, due to a plot that occasionally gets knotted in its intricate weave, the fight scenes are always top notch, bolstered by the art style that remains itself reason enough to pick up any volume of the series and marvel at the energy this manga-ka team can build when swords clash and magic flies. I really loved how during the big fight between Syaoran and Seishiro, the story moves back and forth between them and the others who watch from the sidelines, keeping the tension of the fight taut while making sure the informational exposition required isn’t too densely delivered, including the revelation of Fei Wang’s up-to-now unknown intent.
Though not as excited as some may be for the showdown that this book’s end carries over to the next volume, with the two Syaoran’s preparing to duke it out with the fearful Sakura looking on, I’m still more than eager to read anything CLAMP has ready to throw at us with Tsubasa. They’ve well earned that dedication, and though they make us readers take a winding road at times, the destination has always proven worthwhile.