Manga Review: Tokyo Babylon by CLAMP

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When this post gets published I’ll be chillin’ out in Tokyo. This is one of my favorite manga of all time! I think it would be considered a classic today! I thought this would make a good post to welcome April with.divider

I read this manga a long time ago, in fact, I own all 7 volume of the Japanese version; and recently purchased the English compilation version by Dark Horse Manga, where they have compiled all 7 volumes into 2 volumes.

The format for this review might be a little different from the previous manga reviews. I really enjoyed working on this review…gave me a reason to check out gorgeous art and is sorta like a walk down memory lane for me.

16231351Genre: Manga, Fantasy, Shonen Ai
Republish Date:
March 13th 2013
Synopsis: Glamour has two meanings: the modern one of style, and the ancient one of sorcery. Tokyo Babylon is the realm of both!

It’s 1991, the last days of Japan’s bubble economy, and money and elegance run through the streets like rivers of neon. So do the currents of darkness beneath them – obsession, greed, and exploitation, nourishing evil spirits that only the arts of the onmyoji – Japan’s legendary occultists – can combat.

The two most powerful remaining onmyoji are in the unlikely guises of a handsome young veterinarian, Seishiro, and the teenage heir to the ancient Sumeragi clan, Subaru – just a couple of guys who Subaru’s sister Hokuto has decided are destined to be…a couple!

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Republish Date: July 23rd 2013
Synopsis: Tokyo, 1991, rich and glittering: the city of twelve million dreams – and just as many nightmares, none darker than the vision Subaru retains of his meeting under the cherry tree with Seishiro as a child.

The kindly Seishiro begins to show a sinister face to the mirror as Subaru’s grandmother, the matriarch of the Sumeragi clan, arrives in Tokyo – warning her young relative of what she has foreseen – and never to remove the stylish gloves she has insisted he wear all these years.

What will be revealed, and what touched, in the conclusion to Tokyo Babylon?

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Art: I love Clamp! Their art is gorgeous. Just look at the covers designs! I grew up with their artwork, they have this gorgeous mix of strong defined lines mixed in with the whole softer curves and large eyes, which was the trend in those days. Their fashion/costumes were absolutely out of this world, they drew some of the most gorgeous outfits. And Subaru gets to wear quite a lot of those outrageous costumes. Clamp always delivers on their pretty boys, while many are a lot more acquainted with their Card Captor or Tsubasa style, but Tokyo Babylon’s art is closer to their Xxxholic artwork.

Plot: The synopsis above provided by Dark House, makes the story sound a lot fluffier and lamer than it really is. Tokyo Babylon is the prequel for their longer more complicated series X (which has a butt load of characters and more pretty boys…), with a concentration on the Subaru and Seishirou‘s history and relationship. It starts with each chapter focusing on specific/individual supernatural occurrences (monster/spiritual beings per chapter) type storyline which then expands itself into fleshing out the history surrounding these two characters in particular.

Characters: Tokyo Babylon probably has my 3 favorite characters out of all the Clamp series in one series! That’s not easy to do, but I love all three of them equally!

Left to Right: Seishirou, Subaru & Hokuto

Subaru – is absolutely a dear, while he’s suppose to be this bad-ass powerful omiyouji (a Japanese exorcist of sort), the child is shy, innocent and extremely kind. There are times he would feel bad and cry for the spirits he’d exorcised. He was absolutely the sweetest, so much so, you couldn’t help but want to hug him.

Hokuto – Subaru’s twin older sister. She is the complete opposite of Subaru in personality, bright, bold and just a force to be reckon with. Thanks to her, we get to see Subaru in all sorts of crazy gorgeous outrageous costumes; and of course Subaru being the sweetheart he is, just goes along with it. Hokuto adores her brother, and always acts in her brother’s best interest, trying to draw him out of his shy, introverted shell.

Seishirou – is complicated. He is probably the most complicated of the 3, but I adore him equally. It’s difficult to discuss Seishirou without ruining the plot…so I will just allow you to discover him for yourself if you ever decide to pick up the series.

What did I think about the series: I think it is one of the more underrated Clamp series. It really deserves more recognition. The storyline is not particularly complicated and I guess if you read it today it wouldn’t be very original. But it actually address many of the social issues which were popping up in Japan at the time (gives you a little glimpse of Tokyo in the 1990s – its pretty much that way without all the supernatural stuff). The series doesn’t veer into what we normally expect for shoujo/shonen manga(s) such as how good shall always prevail and happy endings will come for those who fight for it. Tokyo Babylon just shreds those tropes apart and basically delivers some pretty raw situations where, there isn’t always an answer to why something bad happens, or why evil prevails, or why good can’t always triumph. It shows you the ugly side of human nature, which ends up a lot darker than one would expect. It is that honesty meshed into all that fantasy and supernatural which I really enjoyed.

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Would I recommend this? YES! If you’re into the whole Japanese fantasy supernatural genre. If not just for the gorgeous arts and the crazy outfits Hokuto puts Subaru in! But if you’re looking for something light, I wouldn’t advise it, the series does take a dark dive. And if you want more of them you can continue on with reading X (I’m still working my way to purchasing the English version).

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Have you read the series? If you haven’t would it be something you’d be willing to try? If you have read it, did you enjoy it? Would love to hear what you thought of it.

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