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November 9, 2009

Bento Bako Weekly: Tsubasa: Those with Wings

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Written by: Kristin
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tsubasa1Title: Tsubasa: Those with Wings
Author: Natsuki Takaya (Fruits Basket)
Publisher: Tokyopop
Volumes: Originally released in 6 volumes in Japan, then re-released in 3 volumes; Tokyopop published the 3 volume version.  $14.99 each.
Vintage: Serialized in Japan from 1995-1998, republished in Japan in 2007, published in America by Tokyopop in 2009.

Not to be confused with CLAMP’s Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, Natsuki Takaya’s Tsubasa: Those with Wings is the mangaka’s second serialized manga (following, and probably written during, Phantom Dream).  Tsubasa is a fantasy story set in the 22nd century, on an Earth ravaged by the long, destructive wars of the 21st century.  Only those with money or who are in the army (which are often the same people) live comfortably, with things like electricity, plumbing, plenty of food, and other privileges.  Everyone else struggles to survive, particularly the Nameless – typically orphans, with no known parents, who therefore have no last name, and are not even considered to be actual citizens.  The young, sprightly Kotobuki is one of these Nameless, and became a thief in order to survive from one day to the next.  Around 16-years-old, Kotobuki fights her hardest just to survive; a trait that catches the eye (and heart) of one of the most prominent captains in the army – Raimon Shiragi. Raimon disregards his duties as an officer to follow her around and get her attention, but Kotobuki is only annoyed that he seems to be taunting and pestering her rather than doing his job.

Kotobuki isn’t particularly fond of thievery; it is simply a way for her to survive.  She tries her best to find a real job, which is very difficult considering the state of the economy and her status as less than a citizen.  At last she finds a job working at an inn, far away from the annoying and meddling Raimon who is stuck back in the army.  Unfortunately, Kotobuki misjudged Raimon’s level of devotion to her, and he has left the army to track her down and be with her.  The girl just can’t get a break, no matter how hard she tries to live a normal life.  Her pleasant time at the inn comes crashing down when another thief, a klutzy bomb-slinger named Shoka, recognizes her and asks for help tracking down a mysterious object known as a Tsubasa.


A typical interaction between Kotobuki and Raimon, in the early pages of volume 1. Click to enlarge, and read right to left!

Legends say that many years ago, a Tsubasa rose from the earth and granted everyone’s wish, then disappeared in a flash of light.  Many factions are looking for a way to find Tsubasa and have their wishes granted, and Kotobuki somehow winds up right in the middle of everything.  Fortunately Raimon is virtually glued to her side, and protects her from anyone trying to use her skills to track down a Tsubasa… even the army that he works for.  However Raimon isn’t just any old soldier – he’s a bona fide genius, and an asset that the army isn’t willing to give up, even with his eccentric, and often very dangerous, personality.

tsubasa2I will say this for the series – Takaya-san knows how to tell a story.  This isn’t the best manga, but it is rather charming.  Raimon’s over-the-top devotion to all things Kotobuki is pretty amusing, and Kotobuki’s efforts to become a better person for Raimon are very sweet (though one wonders why she desires to be a “better person” for someone who is undeniably not the most pleasant; Raimon’s total disregard for anyone and everything that isn’t somehow connected to his beloved, including human life, is a little disturbing, but that’s his character).  One of the biggest themes of the manga is “hope.”  The Earth, by all accounts, appears to be dieing, and the people are very depressed.  Kotobuki’s motto is to work hard and do your best, even in the face of insurmountable odds.  She is innocent, independent, tough, and in general a shining star in a desolate world.  It’s little wonder that Raimon, who is little more than a shell of a human being before he meets her, falls in love with her.  She’s exactly what he needs – a person who fights for her right to survive, no matter what, in order to find her reason for living.

Even for such an early work, Takaya-san shows artistic talent, though it’s still quite a ways off from the style she eventually adopts (which you can see on the updated covers of each volume).  The only other things I really feel the need to say about this book are publishing issues.  The volumes are a mess of misplaced dialog and pages (well, alright ONE page was misplaced), differently spelled character names and places, poorly structured sentences, etc.  I wonder what Tokyopop’s editing department does all day, when they can’t even keep something so simple as the spelling of a name consistent throughout every chapter and volume.




  1. It’s interesting that those with money are also those who are in the army… seems like it’s the other way around in real life.

    Are you serious about those editing glitches? That’s pretty bad…

    Oh, and what’s a ‘mangaka’?

  2. Kristin

    Well, they don’t want to pull just any ol’ person off the street. The army is the “elite” basically. They get all the perks and privileges. They probably buy their way in too, I’d imagine.

    Tokyopop doesn’t have the best editing department. Everything they publish is riddled with those kinds of errors. It’s totally unacceptable for the volume of text and the cost of the books. These aren’t 1,000 page novels, here. I don’t get what their problem is.

    A “mangaka” is a comic artist. Technically, a person who both writes and draws a comic (or manga).

  3. […] At ComicAttack: November 2009 Previews Review of the manga Tsubasa: Those With Wings […]

  4. […] Natsuki Takaya fan?  Her three volume Tsubasa: Those With Wings completed its American Tokyopop release late this summer.  (I reviewed it here.) […]

  5. […] voice… And 18-year-old boy tries to learn to be a man… And in a side story to ‘Tsubasa: Those with Wings,’ ultimate love thrives.”  Tokyopop, April 2010, […]

  6. […] Dream is Takaya’s first serialized manga, though she started Tsubasa: Those With Wings during the middle (so she was writing them simultaneously, or switching between them regularly).  […]

  7. […] Songs to Make You Smile Author: Natsuki Takaya (Tsubasa: Those with Wings, Phantom Dream) Publisher: TOKYOPOP Volume: A single-volume collection of short stories throughout […]

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