>> Thursday, December 1, 2011
Next is the first manga found "on my own," Tsubasa: Those With Wings by Natsuki Takaya (author of Fruits Basket). I found it by accident. With the success of Fruits Basket, apparently they decided to republish a few shorter mangas she'd written previously. I picked up the first of both of them when I couldn't find a new manga I liked at Barnes and Noble. One I'll discuss in my "meh" mangas (Phantom Dream), but the other was this one, Tsubasa: Those With Wings. Still early in my obsession, I ended buying all of both series. I liked but didn't love Phantom Dream. Tsubasa, however, I loved.
Anime? No Volumes of manga: 3 Status: Complete
My rating: Gotta have 'em all
Age range: I think this was rated for older teen, and I tend to agree, say 15+.
Taboos and "warnings": Some sexual innuendo, some non-graphic sex, some nudity. There is also significant amounts of violence, though most of it isn't graphic.
Premise: Post apocolypse, the world is dessicated and contaminated, with military interests in control. Poor people scrabble to live. Orphans and other unwanted are mostly left to fend for themselves and only the rich and the army live well. An orphan/thief teams up with an exceptionally talented ex-Army officer. She's looking for work and searching for a legendary "wish fulfillment" object/entity called the Tsubasa. The former officer just wants to be with her.
What works: Raimon. I'll be honest, I fell in love with the ex-Army officer from the beginning. He struck a chord with me from his first panel, and, since the volumes are large, I was completely entranced before I'd finished it. The thief has her moments and there's humor as we go through, but, really, I was sucked in by Raimon's character and that's really why I put up with some really stupid plot developments (more later).
There is a great deal of emotional depth in this (as was true with Fruits Basket). I think that is part of the appeal of both series, that the art and the characters can pull emotional responses despite the general absurdity around them. We did have a real villain in this one, someone dark and vicious and ruthless and as talented as Raimon, so conflict we had in abundance. That was good.
I liked the style of the artwork, despite the comparative crudity compared to some other work, and I'm surprised how effectively scenes were set with only bits and pieces of the view (like kissing just off view where other parts of the contact convey considerable emotion). The contrast of this style with the smoother faces and blanker looking eyes the mangaka moved to by the end of Fruits Basket is very clear with the little blurbs she added in a current style far and away different than the original. A loss, in my opinion, even if the original wasn't as polished..
Favorite character: Raimon. Sarcastic. Brilliant. Devoted. Callous. Capable. Secretive. Shameless. Sneaky. Charming. Raimon was the first time I was exposed to the "perfect" male lead in manga who can do "anything," but literally had nothing to live for until he stumbles across someone who is everything he's not. He's usually a cynical character who's dragged into adventure and peril because the only thing he really cares about is driven and honorable and involved and tumbles headlong into trouble. And, yes, I've seen this variation on this character since and I still find it endearing. It is, perhaps, my favorite type of character EVER.
Raimon: I'll get you next time and if you lose, I'll make you mine.
Adelite: How do you know all this? About the army and stuff?
Raimon: I'm a genius
Adelite: What do you mean?
Raimon: (at Dr. Kamihara) Look I don't care whatever crap you pull, just leave Kotobuki out of it. For that reason I have to make you pay.
Kamihara: That's nonsense. You have any evidence? I'm just a scientist who's trying to make a difference in the world.
Raimon: We'll see about that when we launch your machine.
Kamihara: Afraid nobody but me can get it movin-- Wha? How did you break my secret password?
Raimon: I'm a genius.
Kamihara: If you make another move, you'll have to say goodbye to your crystal!!
Raimon: Do what you want, it's not mine.
Adelite: Hey! That's my crystal you're talking about.
Kamihara: Oh, one more thing! I set a bomb in the Wilson's house! With a push of the button, your house is all but gone.
Raimon: Push it. It's not my house.
Adelite: Don't you dare.
Raimon: Touch Kotobuki and you might just end up the next ingredient in my secret sauce...
What I didn't like: Phew! Plot stunk. Seriously. I went along because I love Raimon, but there was nothing happening in the whole series that made a lick of sense. Motivations of characters, chosen actions and adventures in general were creative but completely nonsensical, even for a manga. The whole Tsubasa thing was a case in point. Bad guys would go after them, be slightly thwarted but still have the upper hand and then inexplicably walk away, leaving their advantages behind them. This manga is proof positive that I can forgive anything if I love a character.
Kotobuki wasn't particularly endearing to me and I had a hard time identifying with her. Side characters were for amusement, but they seemed mostly silly. Some of the "logic" involved in resolution was, well, not even slightly logical. My main favorite, Raimon, is largely AWOL through the last volume, which was frustrating. Our clever and evil villain, ruthless and vicious to the last, truly a bastard clear through, is (somehow) entirely redeemed in the last few pages. Oy! A bit much to take.
Raimon and Raimon alone made this "Gotta have 'em all." That should tell you how much I love the guy.
I probably can't recommend this to everyone. I love it (really!), but, if you're interested, you might want to check out your library though you can find some of it on-line (look for "Tsubasa wo Motsu Mono"). If you like it, of course, I advocate buying all three - if you can find them now that Tokyopop's gone belly up.