Tsubasa Vol. 20

By CLAMP
192 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey Manga

I will admit that for the past few volumes of Tsubasa, I’ve been less than thrilled with CLAMP’s dimension-hopping series. I’d always liked the original conceit of the book—traveling across the universes to reclaim the scattered fragments of Princess Sakura’s soul—and CLAMP has certainly proven that they’re not afraid to mix things up a great deal. Any book which thousands of pages in suddenly reveals the main character to be a traitorous clone of the real, imprisoned hero automatically gets a second look, after all. But with the latest volume of Tsubasa, things seem finally back on track, in no small part by tackling what I’d always thought was an odd omission: the history and back story of the supporting cast characters.

Up until this point, we’ve known very little about Fai, the enigmatic magician traveling with Sakura and Syaoran as they search for the missing feathers that are pieces of Sakura’s memories and soul. His spells have certainly come in handy, and his teasing relationship with Kurogane have provided a lot of the comedy in the form of a double-act going on in the background. Now, though, everything has changed with Fai’s history revealed, and a journey to the frozen world of Seresu where everything first went horribly wrong for Fai. And then, of course, things get worse.

It’s hard to believe that it’s taken 150 chapters to finally get to the heart of Fai’s story, but it was certainly well worth the wait. CLAMP’s story of twins being imprisoned as a sign of evil is compelling and chilling, with Fai and Yui’s desperate attempts to reunite in their prison and somehow escape to another country where twins would be accepted. CLAMP also here show their knack of taking a bad situation and then making it worse, as Fai and Yui’s imprisonment is by no means the end of the blame that they receive for simply existing. Ever since the introduction of the real Syaoran into the book (and the departure of Clone Syaoran), Tsubasa has felt like it’s been floundering a bit for a direction, stalling for time until the next big story. Here, it feels like we’re finally getting it. (Could it be that Kurogane’s history will finally be next on the agenda?) It’s certainly a skillful take on the idea of a main character having lied about their past earlier in the story, and it doesn’t feel tacked on or conceived at the eleventh hour; instead they’re able to show some of the hints and seeds they placed earlier in the series and make them all come to life here.

Perhaps more importantly, Tsubasa feels like it has a purpose again, that things are being accomplished. While the previous story was, in retrospect, a massive set-up for this current volume, at the time it felt like the book was treading water with yet another contest for one of Sakura’s feathers to be retrieved. Here, things are moving forward full steam, and considering that half of the book is a flashback to Fai’s childhood, that’s no small feat. It also helps that CLAMP’s art is quite strong here, with scenes of Fai’s missing twin as well as the flashbacks to their imprisonment having just the right air of creepy and sad infused into the art. You can actually see the desperation on the twins’s faces during their attempts to escape, and the drawings of the young twins being given their sentence have such sadness and resignation that it’s hard to not just feel horrible for the two innocent boys.

It’s great to see Tsubasa really get rolling again; with too many dips into other universes that felt like nothing more than the creators playing for time, having the book strike forward again is a welcome relief. Installments like the latest volume of Tsubasa are, to me, a reminder on why this four-person comic collective is so beloved. Tsubasa Vol. 20 is a lot of fun, and I’m really eager to see what happens next. It’s been a while since I could say that about the title, and hopefully I’ll be saying it about future volumes to come, too.

Purchase Link: Amazon.com

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