Tsubasa Volume 4A fairy tale turned nightmare! Young Syaoran embarks on a worlds-spanning adventure to restore the memory of the most important person in his life, the princess Sakura – even though he knows that she’ll never remember her love for him. The trail leads to a small town reminiscent of Europe at the turn of the nineteenth century, a place where the ghostly image of a golden-haired woman comes in the night to steal the town’s children. Syaoran and his band of outrageous friends – affable Fai D. Flowright, loose cannon Kurogane, the odd creature Mokona, and Sakura herself – mount their horses and venture into forbidding, barren woods to solve a mystery, rescue the children, and retrieve one more piece of Sakura’s missing memories.

Volume 4 of RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE puts us back squarely into Syaron’s tragic quest of regaining the memories of his most beloved person at the cost of her memory of him. So far Tsubasa has been an epic quest that draws together virtually every character ever created by super mangaka group CLAMP, and certainly has been anything but a disappointment.

With the emergence of the released Kiishim and the subsequent disposal of the corrupt Ryanban, the groups adventure in Koryo draws to a close and they have to say yet another farewell to the people who they have just helped out. After a short unsuccessful trip to a rather misty world which Syaoran has to explore from the bottom of a lake, the new territory that Mokona transports them to seems to be a place and era that is very much based on middle Europe during the beginning of the 19th century.

Fitting into the era is an easy enough task thanks to the amazing luck Sakura inadvertently has at gambling, but finding a trace of Sakura’s feather is proving to be not quite so simple. The only problem is that as wandering travelers, Syaoran and the group aren’t exactly welcome thanks to the current disappearing children phenomenon. Already suspicious and in the throes of grief for the missing children, the villagers aren’t exactly welcoming the group with open arms – particularly when it is Sakura who claims to have seen this ‘golden-haired princess’ that is said to be abducting the children…

The notoriously media shy, four women strong CLAMP group is responsible for Tsubasa and to date this is probably their most ambitious piece of work ever. Already famous across the globe for their titles such as Magic Knight Rayearth, Chobits, Cardcaptor Sakura, Angelic Layer, X/1999 and xxxHolic, CLAMP needs little introduction to the legions of manga fans the world over.

This fourth installment in the Tsubasa quest wraps up Syaoran and the gang’s Koryo adventure and immediately shifts its attention to the new location and as such the majority of writing for this volume is used to set the tone, mood and story for this new area. As it is, the story is told in heavier overtones that is befitting of the overall tone of the Tsubasa series and despite the frequent insertions of random comedic moments usually featuring the overactive Mokan terrorizing poor old Kurogane, Tsubasa comes across as a rather heavy drama with a lot of angst experienced by the various characters.

Because there are almost no action sequences the story tends to move a little slowly and by the end of the book you can’t help but feel a little cheated that you were forced to read for so long without getting a decent conclusion or anything along those lines by the end of the story. Still, the dialogue is all well written and the character dynamics are well-worked and the little comedic moments are more than sufficient to break the tension and get you to smile every now and then.

As always CLAMP’s signature level of detail in the character designs and their strange, elongated proportions dominate the visual aspect of this book, but it must be said that the art for this volume is certainly not as strong as a person would like to see. Backgrounds are very scant as always and the strange proportions look really poor on certain characters in certain frames, serving only to highlight the shortcomings of the artist on that particular shot. The linework employed is bold and solid, but sometimes this works against CLAMP as the artword feels a little oversimplified in places. Funnily enough though, thanks to the actual lack of action sequences this is one of the clearer CLAMP releases to actually follow and there is little in the way of art that forces you to turn the book upside down to try and see what is going on, a problem that is often apparent in their work where heavy action sequences interact with their particular take on physical proportions.

And as gorgeous as the usual character models (and backgrounds when they are actually present) are, the departure to the deformed and simplified sketches used for the comedic background bits are just as masterfully done and so fun that you will often find yourself sniggering at those little touches going on in the background of the main scene.

Volume 4 is an essential part of setting the scene for the story arc to come, but as it is, the problematic straddling of both the previous and upcoming story arcs means that this volume is a little devoid of action and as such moves at a rather slow and uninteresting pace. Sure all the usual trademark CLAMP is here, but because of all the story elements being outlined, this volume really comes across as nothing more than a gap filler, designed to try and hook you so that you will buy the next volume just to see what is going to happen next. If you are already in the middle of the Tsubasa saga then it is a must read, but it certainly is not the best jumping on point for anyone new to the series.

A little slow and devoid of action, volume 4 is still a solid piece of work, only it is probably best suited to those people already well stuck into the unfolding epic storyline.

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsubasa_Reservoir_Chronicle