23 July 2010 | moonmonday
A Miserable Disaster
CLAMP's writing has always been uneven. Their beginnings are often robust and engaging, but by the end stretch it's like someone else stepped in and took over the writing. As a result, many of even their more acceptable series are irretrievably ruined by bad endings, amateurish attempts at plot twists, and simply puerile 'tragedy'. CLAMP is a prime example of something where the presentation is often great, but behind the gloss and the attractive package, a decidedly disappointing gift awaits.
When their series are translated to animation, however, sometimes this can save them. The OVA series for RG Veda and Tokyo Babylon, for example, brought the strongest stories to the screen and wisely stuck with those instead of attempting to delve into the ruinous later developments. Similarly done was the TV adaptation of a recent manga, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles, by studio Bee Train for NHK. Like the manga, the anime was aimed at a 'shounen' audience of primarily 8-14.
Unfortunately, CLAMP once again decided to twist a series, and just as clumsily as they have every other, by introducing pointless, meaningless violence, gratuitous death and grotesquery, and completely cheapening characters and settings that were fine before. An already confusing series became incoherent and outright inane, and new developments flew in the face of character growth before that point in the story. Bee Train wisely opted to tone down the violence and closed the second season of Tsubasa's TV animation with an open ending, which apparently incensed CLAMP.
Rumours have spread about whether the anime's ending was CLAMP's meddling, NHK simply not wishing to renew it due to declining interest, or the increased violence making it impossible in the puritanical current climate of Japan. For whatever reason, the anime ended well enough and faded from popular memory. CLAMP, as usual, would not let it rest at that and hoisted this monstrosity of an OVA on the public.
Done for only hardcore fans, this is a twist in the story that manages to be pretentious, obnoxious, boring, confusing, off-putting, inept, and far overstays its welcome. Recasting the already-annoying X cast as otherworldly versions of themselves, our heroes are thrust into the company of apparently mass-murderers in a decaying future. Long-term investment in the plot or characters is answered with a two-fingered salute and raspberry with a plot twist that neither makes sense nor is welcome, and everything else occurs simply because the script dictates it. There is extensive gratuitous violence for no purpose other than to play to CLAMP's violence fetish, the dialogue is forced and awkward, none of the characters are remotely sympathetic or likable, and overall there is absolutely no reason for this OVA to exist other than a failed attempt to thumb a collective nose at Bee Train, who did a vastly superior job on the TV series in more or less every way that it is possible to do so.
Tokyo Revelations -- in which it takes place nominally in Tokyo and nothing is revealed, but things instead become more muddled and confusing -- is best summed up as an instance of attempting to give the audience more and ending up giving it too much, souring the experience. What was covered in the TV anime was more than sufficient, and it ended at the appropriate time. The OVA is a cluttered mess that would be a challenge for even a good writer to present in three 20-minute long episodes. And there is not a good writer in sight here. It's embarrassing that a series that was at least adequate was allowed to be turned into something so asinine and inadequate.
It may seem that I'm being inordinately harsh on CLAMP, but really they should have known better. Their interminable series X has run for over a decade off and on, the subject of high criticism and 'hiatus' due to -- guess what! -- gratuitous, needless violence. To try and inject it so awkwardly into a series that is meant for a primarily young audience is not going to work; if it didn't work for the teens-and-up audience of Asuka, it's not going to work for the boys' magazine where Tsubasa appeared.
Just watch the TV series and call it a day. It's better to want more than to be unhappy that you got more and it was as terrible as this.