Tokyo Babylon Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, May 25, 2004
Release Date: Saturday, May 01, 2004
Translated by:Ray Yoshimoto
What They Say
Welcome to Tokyo, cultural and economic hub of the Eastern World. Nowhere on Earth will you find such majesty and splendor... and such excess and discord! Lurking below the surface of this great city simmer restless spirits and lost souls, products of society's insatiable greed and vanity...
But there are those among us who live to save us from ourselves. This is the story of Subaru, the 13th head of the Sumeragi clan. He gives peace to the dead.
The Review: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Tokyo Babylon, one of CLAMP's most intriguing and beloved stories, opens on 16 year old Subaru Sumeragi exorcising the spirit of a young woman betrayed by a selfish pop idol. We learn that his motivation wasn't to spare the idol from the vengeful spirit, but to give peace to the young woman the spirit once was.
The next story introduces us to Hokuto, Subaru's vivicious and outgoing twin sister, and Seishiro Sakurazuka, a 25 year old veterinarian and friend of the Sumeragis. Two things quickly become apparent about Seishiro; he's more than a simple vet, being the decendent of a long line of assassins who have controlled Japan's history from the shadows, and he has more than a passing interest in Subaru. The shonen-ai elements are an obvious nod to CLAMP's doujinshi fan-base who thrive on it, but it also is a great comedic devise for Hokuto to play off of. She constantly prods both to jump into each other's pants, which clearly leaves the much more somber Subaru flustered. Seishiro plays along with Hokuto, yet one is never sure if his advances are genuine or not. Subaru and Hokuto are both Onmyouji, or practitioners of Japanese mysticism, though it's mostly Subaru who does the work. Fashion is an important part of the style of Tokyo Babylon, and Hokuto plays the role of fashion-horse with enthusiasm, creating outrageous outfits for herself and Subaru. They even release the spirits of angry shoppers that inhabit a Chanel suit a young woman purchases. In another story, Seishiro and Subaru are sent to Tokyo Tower, the apparent center of all paranormal activity in Japan, to find the source of some recent earthquake-like tremors. Once the spirit is discovered, it becomes a picnic in the tower late at night as the ghost tells of her struggles to become an actress in Tokyo and the betrayal that led her to take her own life.
The final story is a prelude to something more, as Subaru reflects under a blossoming cherry tree, and tries to sort some troubling memories.
Tokyo Babylon is one of CLAMP's earliest professional titles, and the art may be a bit surprising to those who are more familiar to their later works. Mokona Apapa's art and Nanase Ohkawa's writing nicely complement each other. The linework has a very late-'80s feel to it with a simple, straight-forward look. The use of screentones, as well as light and dark is very important to the feel of the story, and Tokyopop has done very good with the reproduction. Everything looks crisp and clean, and the images seem to pop off the page.
The cover is very close to the Japanese version. It's red and black with Subaru in a paramilitary uniform with the background full of writing in Japanese. It's a striking cover. The color fold-out pages have been retained as well, which should please fans. There is an introduction, a few pages of Japanese cultural notes, and an index of sound effects. All honorifics are retained, and names are given in the Japanese fashion; family name first, given name second. There are only a few mistakes that can been seen. A line is repeated on page 115, and the table of contents has the final chapter, glassary and sound effects all on page 105. The glossary begins on page 142, and the sound effects chart begins on 148.
It's obvious by the first-class treatment this book has been given that Tokyopop is putting their considerable weight behind Tokyo Babylon.
Mania Grade: A
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Orientation: Right to Left