Review by: Brenda Gregson
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $29.98 US
Running Time: 100 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Release Date: Available Now
CLAMP’s idea of a night at the movies is definitely fine with us.
Sitting in the middle row of a crowded movie theater in Ikebukuro, a lone blonde-haired American girl is giddy with excitement with the rest of her fellow CLAMP fans when the lights dim as a double feature of her two favorite anime series that is about to begin. That girl was me at the second showing of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle’s The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom and xxxHolic’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As happy as I was to see it on the big screen, I was even more to have it on Blu-ray as CLAMP Double Feature is released for the HD crowd.
The double feature, of course, has been released before on DVD but on Blu-ray the single disc is packed with plenty of extras but the main attraction – of course – is the whole audio and visual upgrade. We’re talking a sharper picture and better sound so expect this one to look even better than what was seen on the big screen. As for the two features, they play more like bonus episodes from each series that actually intersect with each another.
Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle: The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom
The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom finds our five dimensional travelers crash landing in another world in their continued quest to find Princess Sakura’s memory feathers. While Syaoran lands next to Sakura in this strange kingdom that seems to be encased in a birdcage-like barrier and that every citizen has their own bird. Unfortunately, this beautiful place has a tyrant King that wishes to locate the kind Princess he overthrew in order to bring darkness to the kingdom.
It doesn’t take Sakura and Syaoran (along with their cute companion Mokona) to meet a boy who takes them to meet Princess Tomoyo who happens to be another alternate reality version of a girl that their swordsman companion Kurogane knows from his own world. Cursed by her Uncle who overthrew her, she is only able to make her voice heard when people touch her and she makes it clear that the King is looking to use her as a key in order to unlock a mystical gate that will shroud the kingdom in eternal darkness.
Of course, the King’s servant bird warriors find the Princess and kidnap her so it’s up to our travelers to help a Captain of the guards loyal to the Princess to stage a rescue. There’s a skirmish along the way as Kurogane and the powerful magician Fay D. Flourite fight off monster birds. Meanwhile, Syaoran becomes the hero by letting himself be launched up into the air to battle the evil King atop his magical bird. I have to say that Syaoran has always put his life on the line many a time during their journey seen in the series but he’s just downright cool in this movie.
Like a good Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle episode, The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom is short but exciting with plenty of memorable moments crammed in there. Fan girls will love the scene where Sakura and Syaoran share an awkward ride inside a barrel (it was a highlight in the movie theater when I saw it) and yes the Dimensional Witch Yuko from xxxHolic makes an appearance giving the gang an item seen in the xxxHolic movie. It’s a great crossover moment that links these two feature films.
Overall, short and sweet definitely worked well but you can’t help wishing the story could have been longer. It really doesn’t give the viewer a chance to really experience the feeling of seeing Tsubasa in a feature that stands out over the televised series version. Given the beautiful art direction and stunning visual effects, this definitely could have been longer.
xxxHolic: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Watanuki finds himself still trailed by annoying spirits and while he gets a chance to say goodbye to Himawari (who is off for the summer break) he still finds Domeki even more annoying. On top of that his summer will consist of working at the shop with his demanding boss, the Dimensional Witch Yuko who immediately demands sake from the young High school student. Oh yeah, she also has him clean out the storage room.
It doesn’t take too long before a young woman makes a wish she wishes Yuko to grant that involves a mansion that is connected to a mysterious invitation that arrived for Yuko. Together with Watanuki and Domeki, the sexy witch enters the mansion only to find a number of avid collectors waiting for the mystery host to appear. Posing as collectors themselves, the three join the party as members of the group begin to disappear.
Watanuki suddenly finds himself alone in the strange mansion that keeps getting weirder with each room he opens and just who is the spirit that keeps following the wired up young man? As he is joined up by Domeki who was lost in the house when they make a startling discovery about the owner of the mansion … he’s a collector as well.
The story actually plays out like an excellent episode from the series with an emotionally charged finale that is true to the xxxHolic series. If anything, though, it will be best remembered for an impressive confrontation between the ultimate collector and Yuko who shows off that she’s more than just a sexy witch but a rather formidable opponent as well. Thanks to both Todd Haberkorn and Jun Fukuyama, Watanuki’s energetic flailing is still comedic gold. Aside from that, it’s a good story albeit a really short one.
Both The Princess in the Birdcage and A Midsummer Night’s Dream might be on the short side but will not fail to make fans of both CLAMP series happy with this double feature that looks amazing on Blu-ray. In fact, both features are like two great episodes from each series with even better visual effects. Unfortunately, the two features aren’t very accommodating for newcomers so this is strictly for those who know and love both xxxHolic and Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle.
BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN
In The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom, Syaoran and the others drop down on a most unusual kingdom where an evil King is looking bring eternal darkness into the land and the only one who can stop him is a young Princess in hiding. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Watanuki and Domeki join the Dimensional Witch named Yuko to a mansion where various collectors find themselves the target of the ultimate collector.
VIDEO QUALITY: A
The double feature was released on DVD a long while back and it looked good back then but on Blu-ray it’s a whole new ballpark. Really, this is even more visually pleasing to the eye than the theatrical release and I had the pleasure of seeing this on the big screen when it came out in Japan.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
If you have a good sound system hooked up you’ll really get the full Dolby Digital sound experience but even if you don’t the sound is impressive. The great voice cast from the series is back and they do an amazing job whether we’re talking about the English dub or the Japanese voice talent. The music in both features are fantastic and so are the closing theme songs for the two features as well.
The disc is filled with juicy extras that includes production art for both features, original trailers for the theatrical release, event coverage like the 2005 premiere for The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom in Ikebukuro or the opening day event at the Shinjuki Cinema Milano for xxxHolic. On top of that, there’s a Japanese staff and cast commentary track where we get to see a split screen of the feature and the talent during the recording of the commentary.
Dedicated fans will certainly find a lot to enjoy about the CLAMP Double Feature and both features do have a lot to offer despite its short length and the fact that both features aren’t very inviting for those who are unfamiliar with both series. Still, if you are a fan, this double feature is worth a purchase on Blu-ray if you’ve always wanted to experience these features the way they were meant to be shown.
Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment