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Review: Tokyo Babylon

Manga-ka: CLAMP
Publisher: Tokyopop
Rating: 13+
Released: May 2004 – May 2005
Volumes: 7

Synopsis: The story of young Sumeragi Subaru, 13th generation of the Sumeragi clan. Born with strong spiritual powers, he uses his abilities to confront and calm the restless spirits of Tokyo. Pure hearted and kind, Subaru is aided by his energetic twin sister, Sumeragi Hokuto, and the mysterious veterinarian, Sakurazuka Seishiro. A prequel to CLAMP’s X/1999.

Tokyo Babylon is one of CLAMP’s older works and a prequel to X/1999, thus also vaguely connecting it to their previous CLAMP School series of books. To those only familiar with CLAMP’s more recent works, you may be unfamiliar with the art style but do not let that turn you away. Here in this book you have the complete, classic CLAMP formula, compelling characters, wonderful art, an intriguing plot that keeps you guessing and, of course, a little homoerotic tension.

For the most part, this series focuses around Subaru and people and spirits he helps in individual occurrences. Through learning about these people and their problems, we are faced with quite a bit of social commentary. This however does bring a human element to the story, giving the reader something to think about after they’ve put the book down as we can relate to some of the problems people are faced with in the story. All of these factors are seen through the eyes of Subaru, who is so kind hearted that he has trouble understanding the darker sides of the world.

Among these events we have flashes to Subaru as a child, faced with a mysterious figure. He and this man apparently made a bet but the young onymoji can’t recall what it is. The readers will be teased with this up until the very end, though the identity of the man will be apparent to perceptive readers far before it becomes clear to the main character himself. It is through this that readers are set up for an ending more sinister than the often light-hearted antics of the main characters may suggest.

A lot of Japanese culture will be thrown at you throughout the story but it is often explained within the story very well, making it easier for readers of all nationalities to enjoy. This includes the use of honorifics (which Tokyopop keeps intact through the translation), spiritualism and general urban Japanese culture.

The art is classic for the time it was drawn in, consistent with other CLAMP works of the time. There is quite a bit of detail at times, but never enough to really get you lost. The images are brought to life with rich toning and dark shades often set the mood. As their art style matures, you will see a strong difference between the way characters are drawn in volume one and volume seven.

Overall, this is a great series if you’re just getting into CLAMP’s world or would like to experience some of their older works. If you’ve read their more popular X/1999 then this is a must read, helping you to better understand some of the series most mysterious and alluring characters. The series is only seven volumes long, enough to satisfy you but not so long as you get a chance to become bored with it. You will also be benefited with the knowledge there is a sequel story once you reach the heart-wrenching conclusion. For fans of CLAMP, ghost stories or mystery, this is a title you will probably enjoy.

Extra: This series was also made into a short series of OVAs (currently available in English from USManga) and a live action movie. The live action is currently available only in Japan.

Written March 10, 2007 by Lissa Pattillo
Books purchased in-store from independant comic book shop, Wilkies Wonderful World


Volume One


Manga-ka: CLAMP
Publisher: Tokyopop
Rating: Teens (13+)
Released: May 2004

Synopsis: “Tokyo, the cultural and economic hub of the Eastern world. Not unlike the legendary city of Babylon, its man-made tower stretches toward the heaven; a symbol of its people’s ambition and their indomitable spirit. Nowhere on Earth will you find such vanity or such beauty. This is my home. My name is Sumeragi Subaru, and I hunt the dead and return them to peace. No matter where my work leads me, I suspect I’ll never leave Tokyo in spirit…it seems so few people do these days …”


Volume Two


Manga-ka: CLAMP
Publisher: Tokyopop
Rating: Teens (13+)
Released: July 2004

Synopsis: “In his quest to protect Tokyo from the spirits, Subaru drifts off to the dream world where he encounters Mitsuki, a mysterious childhood friend with a painful secret. Will the horror of Mitsuki’s past drag Subaru into a permanent sleep state? Meanwhile, Subaru’s twin sister, Hokuto, tries to help a girl who is in need of something very important … a friend. This volume of Tokyo Babylon is a search for truth from the surface of sleep to the depths of our strange, beautiful world.”


Volume Three


Manga-ka: CLAMP
Publisher: Tokyopop
Rating: Teens (13+)
Released: September 2004

Synopsis: “We’re the ‘chosen ones’ …When a group of teenagers convinced that they are the ‘chosen ones’ brings sin rather than salvation, it’s up to Subaru and Hokuto to deliver everyone from evil. However, things go from bad to worse when Sieshiro-san takes matters into his own hands while Subaru attempts an exorcism on a member of the chosen ones.”


Volume Four


Manga-ka: CLAMP
Publisher: Tokyopop
Rating: Teens (13+)
Released: November 2004

Synopsis: “Subaru Sumeragi gives peace to the dead, but what can he do for the living? When he encounters a woman who is trying to cast a spell to avenge her murdered baby, he tries to stop her … but what will he do when the baby’s soul is crying out for revenge?”


Volume Five


Manga-ka: CLAMP
Publisher: Tokyopop
Rating: Teens (13+)
Released: January 2005

Synopsis: ”
It’s not easy living in a modern day Babylon. With 12 million people in Tokyo competing for jobs, wealth, possessions and power, it’s hard not to get stepped on–especially if you are among the elderly and the terminally ill. When Subaru befriends a little boy dying of kidney failure, he learns how brutal his fellow humans can be. There are very few things a mother won’t do to save her child…even if it means taking the life of another.”


Volume Six


Manga-ka: CLAMP
Publisher: Tokyopop
Rating: Teens (13+)
Released: March 2005

Synopsis: “Subaru is visibly upset about Seishirou getting his right eye torn out while protecting him. The experience has penetrated Subaru’s dreams, where he teaches a lesson to a bunch of punks. Will the visions allow Subaru to see the true meaning of life?”


Volume Seven


Manga-ka: CLAMP
Publisher: Tokyopop
Rating: Teens (13+)
Released: May 2005

Synopsis: “Finally, Subaru’s memory of his first encounter with Seishirou comes to light. At the same time, Subaru recalls a bet he made with Seishiro a long time ago–a bet where life and death continues to hang in the balance. As Subaru is frozen in the shock of his recollection, Hokuto goes off to fight Seishirou. Don’t miss the climactic end of this tragic saga.”

About the Author:

Lissa Pattillo is the owner and editor of Kuriousity.ca. Residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia she takes great joy in collecting all manners of manga genres, regretting that there's never enough time in the day to review or share them all. Along with reviews, Lissa is responsible for all the news postings to the website and works full time as a web and graphic designer.



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