*Light spoilers for Tsubasa Chronicle volumes 1-12*
Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE is my favorite manga (not that I’ve read many) and one of the most recent works of fiction that I’ve consumed that I feel has changed me, how I view life, how I view love and how I view fiction, and, therefore, being myself, I naturally want everybody else to jump on board and read this manga.
Tsubasa Chronicle is a mid-2000s CLAMP manga. Syaoran is a young archeologist in the Country of Clow who, although not officially dating, is romantically involve with the country’s princess, Sakura, a young woman with extraordinary ambiguous latent power within her. Their lives are thrown into disarray when, in a trance late at night, Sakura is drawn to the country’s mysterious ruins, which Syaoran has been studying, and has her memories scattered across space and time to several different dimensions in the form of feathers. Though a mystery to our heroes, it is revealed to readers that the man responsible is the mysterious Fei Wang Reed, a powerful warlock of unknown relation to Sakura’s late father, the equally mysterious Clow Reed.
The high priest, a warlock named Yukito, uses all of his power to transport Syaoran and the seemingly lifeless body of Sakura across dimensions to a distant world wherein lies a shop where wishes are granted kept by the space-time witch, Yuuko Ichihara (of course, that’s an alias). Syaoran wishes for the ability to save the dying Sakura and collect her feathers, a task which requires the ability to cross dimensions, Yuuko’s specialty. In order to grant Syaoran’s wish to save Sakura, Yuuko requires a fair price be paid, something of equal value—even if Syaoran recovers all of Sakura’s feathers, she will never regain her memories of him.
Joining them on their journey are the rugged samurai Kurogane, who was banished from his world by his retainer, princess Tomoyo, for his excessive violence, and the mystery warlock twink Fai D. Flowright, who hails from the icy country of Ceres. Kurogane requires the power to cross dimensions to return home, while Fai requires it to stay on the run from the mad king that rules his home country. Together, they will lend their assistance in Syaoran and Sakura’s journey to collect the feathers, each of which contains a fraction of Sakura’s latent power and therefore cause chaos wherever they land.
That’s just a synopsis of the first three chapters, the basic premise, but the appeals of Tsubasa Chronicle extend far beyond that. Tsubasa covers 14 worlds in 238 chapters (28 volumes), and each world is vastly different from the previous world. You might be wondering if the Sakura and Syaoran from Tsubasa are the same as the ones form CCS— they’re not. They have the same souls, but grew up in different worlds and were shaped by different societies. You’ll encounter quite a few characters like that in Tsubasa Chronicle, many of whom are alternate versions of characters from different CLAMP manga. Not just any alternate world versions of other CLAMP characters appear here, however, only those most overflowing with personality appear. Yo, Tsubasa is so fucking good, there’ll be moments where characters meet alternate world versions of characters they knew from their own world and get really confused, its great. Anyway, I guarantee you’ll fall in love with the cast of Tsubasa, core and supporting.
Another thing the different worlds allow for is genre hopping. Tsubasa will hop between several different genres, many of which correspond to the different settings of each world. Tsubasa, in its journeys across worlds, often feels a lot like Rolling Girls, and that’s especially pronounced in the first two arcs. The cool urban alternate world Osaka is a Jojo homage, the second arc is an alternate world of CLAMP’s earlier cancelled manga Shin Shunkanden and the creepy wintery pre-industrial eastern European Jade country is where the detective mystery arc takes place— that’s the arc when things really pick up. The Country of Oto is a spin on a concept that you’ve probably seen in anime, but to tell you which one would spoil it. Despite that arc being focused on fighting demons in an urban pseudo Taisho era setting, that arc is mostly filled with slice of life stuff. The Shura/Shara country arc is a classic tale of dual star-crossed lovers. The Piffle World arc is an extravagant and fun arc, one which, due to the prominence of Sakura and an alternate world Tomoyo, gives a great idea of the feel of your typical episode of Cardcaptor Sakura. Piffle World’s narrative revolves around an epic “dragonfly” race reminiscent of the pod race from Phantom Menace, except way better.
Of course, another obvious appeal of Tsubasa is CLAMP’s art, which covers a breadth of different aesthetics across its 28 volumes. I think the best demonstration of this would be visual. Once you get to the eighth world, Tokyo, Tsubasa changes substantially. I won’t spoil anything, but I guarantee you it turns the angst up to 11, and the shift in artistic style and aesthetic really reflects that. It’s really really good shit. So yeah, read Tsubasa Chronicle.