Length: 3 series, 1 film
Sakura is princess of a desert kingdom, Syaoran * is an archaeologist exploring ruins nearby. One day the princess visits him on site, but is struck by some strange magic: her heart is shattered into fragments, which are scattered across dimensions. These fragments take the form of feathers, and wherever they land they bring great power, to be used for good or evil. Syaoran must now travel between worlds, retrieving the fragments and restoring the princess’s memory. But there is a price for being given the chance to save her: even when all the fragments are collected, Sakura’s childhood memories of Syaoran will never return.
It’s worth keeping in mind that before they were famous, CLAMP wrote dojinshi: fan-fiction that uses other people’s characters in their own stories. Here they’ve done it to themselves. Tsubasa misappropriates characters from every story CLAMP have ever written, often more than once.
So for example there are two Chiis, each approximately the same character as in Chobits but each living different lives in different worlds. Lame as this sounds, this is used to quite good effect. A character that they meet may be evil in one world, but good in the next – while still sharing many characteristics. Syaoran and Sakura themselves are similar-but-different to the younger, alternative-dimension versions of them from Card Captor Sakura.
Each world is different. One may resemble ancient china, the next a technological highway (complete with ray-guns). The heroes – five of them in all, including the Chibi mascot – must adapt themselves to where they land: clothes, speech, demeanour, and all the basic rules of a society. In some worlds they must fight the bad guy and save the day to retrieve the feather; in others, they simply need to earn enough of whatever the local currency is to purchase it.
Bringing all this together are forces behind the scenes who are interfering in their journey for their own ends. It actually does a reasonably good job of bringing all of CLAMP’s different stories, including references to the late Clow Reed. If you’re a fan of other CLAMP series, you’ll enjoy this. It benefits from having seen the things it refers to, especially Card Captor Sakura and xxxHolic; others include Chobits, X/1999 (the series is better than the film), Magical Knight Rayearth, Angelic Layer and Clover. If you don’t know what any of those are, you’ll probably miss the point of this series.
This film is basically just an extended episode, set between the first and second seasons, but being divorced from the main plot means it feels a little pointless. Tsubasa: Tokyo Revelations
Length: OVA (3 episodes)
Rating: 12 for violence
Score: Very Good
The team arrive in a version of Tokyo that is ravaged by acid rain; only a few magically-protected shelters are able to survive, and the gangs living in each of them fight for the precious resource of uncontaminated water. Sakura falls into a coma as soon as they arrive, due to the presence of something buried under one of the shelters. Meanwhile, the other Syaoran finally awakes and comes looking for them.
This third season of Tsubasa Chronicle kicks the story into a darker mode. It raises some interesting questions: for the first time, they are in a world where removing the feather will do harm rather than good, forcing Syaoran to decide just how far he’s willing to go to save Sakura. And Sakura must also fight on her own for the first time.
Unfortunately, three slightly-longer-than-normal episodes isn’t enough; it raises questions that it doesn’t yet have time to answer. If it continues in this vein for another proper series then it will be good. If it turns into a series of movies, OVAs and specials then it won’t have the space to develop properly.