Story and Art – Clamp
Japanese Label – Kodansha, Shinshokan Publishing
Serialised in – South
English Label– Tokyopop
Release Date – 05/2004
First Volume ISBN – 1-59182-871-6
Genre – Action, Fantasy
Age Rating – 13+
Volumes – 7 (currently at 5)
Welcome to Tokyo, cultural and economic hub of the Eastern World. Nowhere on Earth will you find such majesty and splendour… 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.
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 vivacious 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 descendent 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 thrives 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 sombre 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, and 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 centre 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 line work has a very late-’80s feel to it with a simple, straight-forward look. The use of screen tones, 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 colour fold-out pages have been retained as well, which should please fans. It’s obvious by the first-class treatment this book has been given that Tokyopop is putting their considerable weight behind Tokyo Babylon.
A teenage Omyouji (spiritual medium) and 13th head of the powerful Sumeragi clan. Subaru and his sister work to appease the spirits who threaten the saftety and balance of Tokyo.
Subaru’s twin sister, she makes her own clothes and matching outfits for her brother. She supports her brother in his exorcisms and assists from time to time with a little magic of her own.
A 23-year-old veterinarian who provides assistance to Subaru on his missions. He is a man of many mysteries with a dark past.