TSUBASA: THOSE WITH WINGS • Natsuki Takaya • Tokyopop • 16+
Postapocalyptic psychic sci-fi romance by the creator of Fruits Basket. In the war-ravaged 22nd century, Kotobuki, a nimble young orphan, wanders from town to town accompanied by Raimon, a handsome, mysterious ex-military man who teases the shy girl with his romantic advances (”I’ll never let you go. I will make you mine”). Their mission: to find Tsubasa, (”wings”), an angelic force or mystic treasure said to have the power to grant wishes and possibly heal this troubled world of discrimination and war. But the military, led by the elegantly villainous Colonel Hil, also has its eyes on Tsubasa and the two young lovers. A good example of a manga that doesn’t hit its stride till midway through, Tsubasa: Those With Wings begins as fluffy episodic stories about people’s wishes, lightened by characters such as Adelaide, a spoiled rich girl, and Shoka, a bumbling Team Rocket-esque lady thief who also seeks Tsubasa. There’s also lots of snarky, self-deflating humor (”The total lack of clues on Tsubasa in this lame town is hella annoying!”). In the later volumes, it becomes much more of a coherent whole: the drama heats up, Raimon and Kotobuki’s relationship gets more serious, and the initially cheerful story turns to thoughts of darkness and the characters’ tragic pasts. By the end it’s a decent page-turner, which reads well despite the overblown writing. There’s a lot of action for a shojo manga; unfortunately, Takaya’s stiff early artwork can’t do much with the futuristic setting apart from a few very obviously ruler-assisted drawings. Another problem is the number of similar-looking characters who, like in Dragon Ball, clutter up the cast long after their initial usefulness to the story is over. (Bonus material in the back of the book, created for the reprint, shows just how much Takaya’s art has improved in the intervening 10+ years.)
** 1/2 (two and a half stars)
Today’s winner is Chad L. of Illinois. Congratulations, Chad!