Tsubasa: Those With Wings Volume 1 by Natsuki Takaya
I enjoyed this manga much much more than Phantom Dream, even though they are both earlier Takaya works that appeared in the mid 90s. Kotobuki is an orphan thief in post-apocalyptic world. She has a love/hate relationship with an officer of the military named Raimon. Kotobuki doesn’t seem like a very effective thief, as she is always getting caught. Luckily Raimon always lets her go instead of arresting her. Kotobuki wants to give up thievery and do honest work. Raimon decides to quit the military and journey with her.
The only thing giving people hope in the desolate world of the future is the legend of Tsubasa – a mystical creature who lives in the earth and grants people’s wishes. As Kotobuki and Raimon travel from town to town, they begin to gather vague hints about where Tsubasa may be and what it is. Kotobuki realizes that she cares for Raimon, and wants to become a better person in order to be worthy of him. Raimon is in some ways a typical stuck-up shoujo male protagonist. He thinks of himself as a genius, but finds Kotobuki so adorable that he throws away his career in the military in order to become her traveling companion. Raimon has a dark side to his personality as well. When Kotobuki gets in trouble he turns cold and somewhat murderous.
At first I was a little confused by Kotobuki’s constant feelings of insecurity about herself and her relationship with Raimon, but as Tsubasa progresses the reader learns that she’s from the lowest group of society, the “Nameless Ones.” Raimon comes from a privileged background. While there is an obvious attraction between the two, they have only progressed to kissing by the end of the volume.
This manga was 400 pages, and I continue to like the larger omnibus editions that Tokyopop is putting out. The original manga in Japan was six volumes, but it is nicer to read larger chunks of story in three oversized volumes. Although the art in Tsubasa is still far away from Fruits Basket, I found the quality of the art much less distracting than it was when I read Phantom Dream. I usually enjoy post-apocalyptic storylines, and the mystery of Tsubasa is intriguing. There are Tsubasa based religions, phony scientists trying to create Tsubasa location detectors, and roving bands of thieves dedicated to hunting down clues about the whereabouts of the winged creature. The combination of the quest for Tsubasa along with gradual revelations about Kotobuki and Raimon’s past experiences provided enough variety in plot lines to keep me entertained even though some of the characterization was a bit repetitive.
There was a brief back-up story featuring Kotobuki that Takaya has drawn in her current style, and it was interesting to see how much her sense of character design and composition has changed over the years.
Review copy provided by Tokyopop.