The last time I reviewed Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle for this site I noted that CLAMP had just kicked the plot of the series into high gear. Well, after many chapters of high drama, volume 22 finds our protagonists enjoying a temporary respite on yet another new world. Once again, it’s a place that one of them calls home: the Country of Japan. At first the gang’s stay in Kurogane’s country seems like a chance for them to recover from all the hurts, emotional and physical, that they incurred in Seresu, Fai’s homeworld, but their rest doesn’t last long. Not one but two other travelers soon break the peace at Shirasagi Castle, bringing reminders that the events around them continue to hurtle towards some sort of final confrontation.The feeling that the story is beginning to come full circle runs heavily throughout this volume. It’s not just that the characters’ world-hopping is bringing them home, one by one; it’s also the way that the narrative is continually revisiting past events from new perspectives. Even the two travelers who interrupt the gang’s stay in Japan are familiar faces; we’ve met them in previous volumes, and one fight in particular is explicitly presented as a re-match, though with a twist.
The group’s stay in Kurogane’s country also provides an opportunity for all the characters (but especially Kurogane and Fai) to look back on how much they have been changed by their travels. One recurring theme of the series is the prices that people pay for those that they love. Those prices are always high and, as some characters can now acknowledge, sometimes unacceptably so. The scenes where they do that hit just the right emotional notes, and after 20+ volumes of ups and downs, the newfound maturity of the characters in question feels very honestly earned.
Though some mysteries are explained in when the gang arrives in Japan, there are still plenty of others to provide fodder for fan speculation. A dream sequence reminds us that Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle is closely linked with another of CLAMP’s series, xxxHolic, in ways that remain quite fuzzy; also, there are a few cryptic references to Syaoran’s parents (as yet unseen) that suggest they will prove to be important players in later volumes. Combined with CLAMP’s tendency to give almost every major character a clone, replica, alternate universe counterpart, twin, and/or foil, it’s enough to leave even the most careful reader scratching his or her head in confusion. Princess Tomoyo’s observation that “reason itself is beginning to crumble” thanks to Fei Wang Reed’s schemes seems ominous in more ways than one!
In short, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles continues to be a very solid fantasy adventure series, though perhaps one that is best for readers who don’t mind muddling through occasionally confusing fight scenes and frequently confusing plot twists. I will keep hoping that subsequent volumes manage to answer more questions than they raise, but I also won’t hold my breath for it.
This volume features several pages of useful cultural and linguistic notes by translator and adapter William Flanagan at the back of the book.
Review originally published at MangaLife.com.