Anyone here a closet fan of Quantum Leap? Raise your hands. I admit, I loved that show beyond all reason, and would frequently catch reruns whenever possible. Who didn’t wonder what it would be like to travel to another place and time and influence the course of history? Well, CLAMP has decided to take on an ambitious and exhilarating project for any fans of their work that jives with Quantum Leap‘s simple premise leading to a myriad of stories. These master manga creators have decided to take all of their worlds, speculate on how they might’ve gone differently, and let loose their imaginations in creating just as many alternatives as they can come up with.
The framework for Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles takes its cues from CLAMP’s early series, Cardcaptor Sakura. With every page in Tsubasa, though, everything’s a bit skewed. Here is Sakura, Syaoran, and their fellows, but Sakura is a noble princess and Syaoran a common but brilliant son of an archaeologist. As the series progresses, many familiar faces will reappear, from every CLAMP series, except that this time around they’ll be different. In the end, Tsubasa is an exciting way to explore the “what if” scenarios so many readers like to ponder about their favorite series while still following a new storyline with new characters. For those worried about reading the series with no prior knowledge of CLAMP’s universe, in general it’s not a problem for enjoying the story as it unfolds. While the volumes are full of winks and nudges to other works, the drama and tensions always work on their own, and Del Rey Manga has worked hard to provide the best story notes they can to help you link series and understand references.
Speaking of Del Rey, they’ve definitely pulled out all the stops in launching their relatively new manga line, and Tsubasa is an excellent example. Beginning right off with an explanation of honorifics (including the meaning-laden lack thereof in intimate conversations), they also include at the end of each volume a short biography of the creators, a summary of related past works, some of the most useful translation notes I’ve ever encountered, and a preview of the next volume. If all of their series are this well produced, they’ll win all the hearts of newbies and fans alike.
The artwork in this series is definitely the usual CLAMP combination of excellent layout and character design, but they’ve managed to push themselves toward a wonderfully fluid style that distinguishes Tsubasa as a new level for the artists. Drawing inspiration from designs all over the world, they’ve created a unique series of costumes and patterns that reflect the eclectic and varied worlds they’ve invited the reader to visit. The depth of story information gathered from garments and scenery make the series lush with detail and information while at the same time maintaining a simplicity of shape and line that links everything together easily across the page and panels. If anything, their trademark characters have gotten even simpler allowing a shift in the width of a line to indicate sorrow or anger– no small feat.