Del Rey loves us. By “us”, I mean fans who take the completist approach. People who don’t just watch the show or read the comic, but want all the ancillary goodies — the art books, the character guides, the bric-a-brac that used to never show up in English at all. Or when they did, they showed up in editions so trashy they made people wonder why anyone had bothered.
But they love us, especially us Tsubasa fans, and so Del Rey has graciously consented to present us with a domestic printing of the original art collection for the series, ALBuM De REProDUCTioNS (funny caps theirs; my Shift key works fine) as part of a flood of 20th anniversary CLAMP merchandise. The book is long on art and short on under-the-hood or behind-the-scenes stuff, which is actually at least as interesting to me as the pictures themselves. But Tsubasa fans will have very little to complain about.
The book’s a rich mix of eighty color plates — some single-page, some double — that cover a broad assortment of scenarios and character designs from across the series. Del Rey’s main contributions here have been translating the explanatory texts for each picture in the index, also translating the five-page bonus gag comic included in the back (exclusive to this book), and arranging to have the whole thing printed overseas using the same quality repro as the original book. At $20 list, it’s competitive in price with the import; if you already have that one, you could easily sell it and pick this up for what you’d make from the sale and have a few bucks left over.
The most striking thing for me about Tsubasa is how it contrasts itself with CLAMP’s other big current series, ×××HOLiC (itself the subject of another fanbook I’ve talked about). ×××HOLiC’s art is spare and moody; even the color plates that we’d see in a book like this for that series have a somber look to them. Tsubasa is splashier and more lively, and that probably squares with Tsubasa being the more adventure-oriented series of the two (and ×××HOLiC being more Gothic and psychological).
But don’t take any of this as a negative criticism. This book’s jammed with wonderful images, whatever the context. Among my favorites: a two-pager across pp. 26-27 that resembles the very first shot of the anime itself, and the painting of Toya on pp. 20-21 that’s spattered (quite carefully) with gold and brown to create the illusion of him fighting through a sandstorm. According to CLAMP’s notes for that image, painting the sandstorm created a mess on their work table. It was worth it.
Tsubasa fans of any stripe will want to line up for this, mainly for the way their favorite characters are rendered so richly and diversely. Fans of CLAMP’s other work can consider this optional, but still worth a look — especially if you can peek through a copy that’s out of shrink before buying it.