CLAMP gives readers a nice treat, leaves anime fans in the dark
Tsubasa Spring thunder is CLAMP's latest installment of their ever ongoing Tsubasa/HOLIC project. Following the exceptional work that was "Tokyo Revelations" even I was beginning to think Production I.G was the better choice for handling future Tsubasa projects.
With the announcement of Spring Thunder it was no surprise the various CLAMP fanatics began jumping for joy and same with some of the fans such as me. Now after watching both episodes, I have to say, this was a real let down.
Tsubasa Spring Thunder is the bad example of what happens when the original creator of the source material comes to write in the adaption. Nanase Ohkawa (aka Ageha Ohkawa) the principal writer of CLAMP, whom I've found to have exceptional screen writing talent handled this script for this as well as "Tokyo Revelations", having taken over from the TV series writer Hiroyuki Kawasaki. Ohkawa crafted Tokyo so well, I would have handed her the Academy Award for Best Screen writing of the year. In the case of Spring Thunder I would easily hand her a Razzie award for the Worst Screen writing of the year.
Ohkawa proves that she and her fellow CLAMP mates are too married to their own story that all they can do is tell an animated version of their manga, basically wasting everyone else's time and production money. Spring Thunder proves to be nothing more than a carrot for the loyal fans who have kept reading through the years while basically saying "piss off" to those who have only followed the anime installments. Having only partially read the manga I was beyond confused. As Spring Thunder doesn't immediately pick up where Tokyo left off.
Production I.G's motto is, " to make anime that stands on its own ground without being an extension of manga." And to me I.G completely threw that motto out the window with this project. The film is cluttered with to many flashbacks to events we haven't seen, and likely never will, and it only leaves the viewer with a real sense of emptiness and endless plot holes that they won't be able to fill unless they claw their way through god knows how many books there are now. At the very least Ohkawa was still able to make a somewhat-coherent screen story that I could follow at the very least. However much of the storytelling is left to be desired.
Equally disappointing was Shunsuke Tada's direction. Tada used way to many cuts and hardly got creative, except with the action scenes. Too often than not we are cut into long and pointless exposition scenes that some of us really just don't care about. I found my self fast forwarding through this more than on the edge of my seat with anticipation of what the next scene holds. And of course Tada follow the old Animation creed of Animation first, Music second. Yuki Kajiura's score is forced into the background quite terribly. Rather than use music to heighten the scene and emotion, Tada makes it feel like it's just playing. As in I'm writing the screenplay my self and the music is just playing as white noise as I work. On the one plus side was he finally decided to use more variety of pieces from the Tsubasa OST archives than he did in Tokyo, where he only seemed to use two pieces ever and some slight ambient noises.
Yoko Kikuchi character designs while not dreadful aren't exactly appealing. That being said I do prefer Bee Train's designer Minako Shiba. The art style is a slab of strangely clashing color pallets dull pastel colors mixed in with dark blacks. Tomoyo is equally unappealing in her design as she looks like she's wearing football gear under her robes. There is no continuity to the visual style of this. It's bright and flowery yet strangely dark, almost filmed like a dark comedy.
The opening animation is just beyond obscure and doesn't set the mood appropriately for this short OAD series. While Maaya Sakamoto is probably one of the best singers from Japan I've ever heard, her themes never seem to ever to match appropriately to anything Tsubasa. Kajiura however has always mastered the theme songs as her ending has fitted a lot more. It's great to hear FictionJunction YUUKA perform yet again.
The overall animation quality is still very well done for this short production and I didn't notice any real problems with the animation. The fight scenes were well crafted and well animated which made for some great footage.
Spring Thunder isn't bad or terrible. It's simply average, boiler plate, run of the mill. It was CLAMP's little present to their die-hard fans. It makes me think they should give it back to series director Koichi Mashimo and just make another season, or at least maybe go to the movie director Itsuro Kawasaki. Any future projects will likely remain as this, a nice bone for their loyal fans only.
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