English: Tokyo Babylon
Japanese: 東京 BABYLON
Published: 1990 to 1993
Authors: CLAMP (Story & Art)
Score: 8.251 (scored by 3659 users)
1 indicates a weighted score
2 based on the top manga page.
Popular Tagsclamp drama shounen-ai
May 19, 2013
Though the title "Tokyo Babylon" evokes a contrast between the urban sprawl of 1980s cityscape and the ancient city of desolation, perhaps Sodom and Gomorrah would be a better allegory for the cold and corrupt city that lends itself to the scenery of Tokyo Babylon.
The city’s influence on our main character, Subaru Sumeragi, is undeniable. Thirteenth in the long line of onmyouji (spell-casters, mediums, or exorcists), he is employed as a kind of spiritual psychiatrist to relieve Tokyo’s residents, past and present, of their emotional baggage. Despite his obvious power he has a passive, neurasthenic personality, as soft as wax and as wavering as candlelight. Ultimately a kind and selfless sixteen-year-old boy, the pressure and grime of city life slowly weighs down on his soul.
Not that Subaru’s life is one of introversion and agony – at least not at first. His twin sister Hotoru ensures that. Aggressively cheerful, her personality likely an unconscious front put on to support Subaru’s weaknesses. Her idiosyncrasies are a source of humour and warmth throughout, especially her endevours to push her brother together with their mutual friend Seishiro Sakurazuka. “I wanted you to have something you would love so much, that you wouldn’t care what others thought. Something you wouldn’t change your mind about. It didn’t matter what it was. I just wanted you to have something like that,” she explains to her brother. Seishiro, despite his surname having distinctly sinister connotations with death, is a mild-mannered and chirpy vet who couldn’t possibly be anything more than he first seems.
Starting in a generic monster-of-the-week format, Tokyo Babylon gradually reveals more and more of the characters’ backstories and the tangled web woven between fate and free will.
This is something of a hallmark of CLAMP: the notion of “inevitability”, though it may not be as evident in this as in their other work. Tokyo Babylon could be thought of as the encapsulation of their various themes and tropes: the occult, good and evil, self-sacrifice, sexuality. While some may view this as nothing but talentless repetition or ego masturbation, despite being somewhat cliche due to the context of CLAMP’s subsequent fame, Tokyo Babylon is what I consider the pinnacle of CLAMP’s craft.
Stylistically, the art in Tokyo Babylon gradually improves throughout the seven volumes. Subaru is drawn effeminately and with an elegance that belies his innocence. CLAMP in true form take great pains exploring extremely detailed fashion and distinctive character designs, replete with standard 90s CLAMP anatomical proportions. This is particularly prominent in Subaru’s dress-sense, with his trade-mark gloves and meticulously rendered coats with buttons, zips, lapels, pleats et al. Whether this is truly the style of a sixteen-year-old boy is up for debate, but it is certainly stunning to look at, especially on the full-colour covers and the small posters inside the front cover of each volume.
While Tokyo Babylon may seem like fluff, even in the earlier stories its use of Shinto ideology to present didactic inquests into social issues is scathing. Subaru’s power leads him to help many people, from the murderous to the lonely, and very few sections of society escape without commentary.
It’s this pull of inevitable reality where Tokyo Babylon’s true intentions start to unfurl.
In a dream, a man tells the child Subaru, “Did you know? They say buried underneath every cherry tree is a corpse. [...] The reason the cherry blossoms bloom so beautifully every year is because of the corpse buried underneath.”
Just as the true form of beauty is seen to be one of ugliness, everything we know about the characters is perceived a different shade in the light of truth.
As we saw through the relentless critique of society, so we see more starkly the juxtapositions of obligations and choices, industrialisation and sorcery love and death, and ultimately the selfishness inherent in selflessness.
We see how the catalyst of despair that ultimately manifests as malevolence in the last volume began as an undercurrent that has rippled in every page, panel and brushstroke since the very beginning. Perhaps it is this that gives Tokyo Babylon its unusual allure, palpable tension and lurking melancholy that has endured the 23 years since Tokyo Babylon’s first printing.
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Tokyopop (15 July 2004)
Originally posted on my blog http://marusamarento.wordpress.com/ read more
May 2, 2011
Story: Find yourself in Tokyo, the 90s, following Subaru, a young progeny onmyouji. Exorcist for all who don't know what that is. Sounds so ordinary, so very relative. You can't even begin to understand how absolutely tragic and emotional this manga is. Subaru's companions, Seishirou and twin sister Hokuto accompany him as he travels throughout Tokyo and what is ultimately the setting for X/1999. There's plenty of humor here, parallel with tragedy and drama.
If you're uncomfortable with shounen ai, you may not like this as well, although nothing outright is done. But there is always something alluded to it in Tokyo Babylon. Personally, I love CLAMP most for this fact alone. Their mantra, of someone's most precious person, no matter what gender, age or color has always been a redeeming quality. I support them alone for this factor in all of their work.
There isn't really much I can say without revealing spoilers for the manga and I can't ruin this beauty. The story will truly bring you in and you'll want to know just why Seishirou is always there for Subaru and you'll want to see more of Hokuto's deliciously charming fashion. This is certainly a twist of a story and you'll never guess it. Enthralling and completely CLAMPesque.
Art: It's a CLAMP classic and I love their older works. The artwork of their older ones is so beautiful and so rich in texture, I always feel like I'm watching it move. There's a sensual feeling to the older works of CLAMP and this one definitely has it. Especially when you see Hokuto's outfits that she makes for her and Subaru. It's highly detailed and dark, which adds to the effect of the dark tones to the story. It's so elegant that it amplifies that tragic atmosphere to the story, making it all so much more impacting.
Character: I love Subaru and Hokuto. Hell, I even loved Seishirou despite certain things. There's certain character development that happens, that is significant to the story and what happens after the story that makes it all so...tragic. God how many times have I used that word in this review? Subaru is the absolute representation of purity and good. Watching how he changes throughout the manga is wonderful (which means you must then read X/1999-you really must. I've written a review for that as well so check it out), and Hokuto is the sweetest sister ever. She's fiercely protective of Subaru and I loved that about her. And Seishirou is like an enigma. Their interactions throughout the story are what make it all and how everything comes together in the end makes it all so much more...
Just read it guys.
Enjoyment: If you can't see it now, you're blind. I love Tokyo Babylon. I fell in love with it in volume 1. Something about self-sacrificing Subaru just made me want to love him. I think, as humans, we can identify with tragedy because we all experience it in one way or another. And this is what makes us connect to what we read or watch. I can feel these characters and I can connect with the story and I love that I am pulled into this story not of my own volition. There wasn't one second where I thought, "Nah, I'm just going to put this book down and go wash dishes or something." This book gripped me by the heart and squeezed me for every tear that I had.
Oct 21, 2007
~ Story ~
The story is nothing but enthralling; you're hooked from the very first volume. Sure there are other stories that deal with the sort of supernatural things that happen in Tokyo Babylon but in my opinion, CLAMP pulled that particular kind of story off the best. Aside from entertaining, the plot is rather dark and towards the end, angsty, and for me there is nothing better than angst. Seeing the way things developed throughout the seven volumes was something that is hard for me to explain as CLAMP does it in their complex and expert way. You really have to read it to understand what I'm saying, there is just something about the story that makes you want to keep reading.
Most certainly a ten for the story.
~ Art ~
Tokyo Babylon is written and illustrated by CLAMP so great art is expected, however CLAMP's art styles are an acquired taste so the art may not appeal to some. I however adore their style and so to me, the art of Tokyo Babylon was a treat for me.
A nine indeed.
~ Characters ~
The character's are perhaps my favorite part of Tokyo Babylon. They are deep, believable, emotional, and very complex. Seeing the relationships between the character's growing and changing was something I enjoyed to the fullest extent. The relationship between Subaru and Hokuto is very characteristic of twins and I really enjoyed seeing their strong bond and Hokuto's protectiveness of her "little brother". It was also a joy to watch the way Seishirou and Subaru's seemingly innocent yet dark and twisted romance unfolded into a climactic battle and rather heart-wrenching end.
An inexplicable nine.
~ Enjoyment ~
As one can probably already tell, I enjoyed Tokyo Babylon to the fullest. The story, art, and characters were all wonderful, complex, and deep which is something that I love to see in a series. Tokyo Babylon is a beautifully tragic story and I think anyone who is a fan of CLAMP or a fan of dark, angsty plots, Tokyo Babylon is the story for you.
Definitely a ten!
~ Overall ~
TEN. TEN. TEN. TEN. I'd give this story an eleven if possible but alas, ten it the highest I can rate it. I strongly recommend this series and think you should go out right now and buy all seven volumes. You wont regret it.
=D read more
Nov 4, 2011
Pain, tragedy, pain, tragedy, throw in some more pain and tragedy. Not to say that the plot is bad, not at all. In fact CLAMP here uses the urban landscape quite well, delving into the lives of those cursed by its overwhelming power to either let you rise or sink to the bottom. Tokyo is basically the main theme for a large part of the manga, and apparently it is filled with many restless spirits who can't seem to break their chains.The plot while containing the words "supernatural" and "magic" happens to be quite grounded on the tiles of reality. Interesting philosophies are thrown about now and then which overall raises the level of intelligence of the series.
However the drawback is the over the top tragedy that takes place, yes, tragedy exists in this world but when presented a number of times over and over it eventually seems unrealistic and makes the story heavy for no reason whatsoever. There are also many typical approaches to certain things (like dreams from the past and such, loss of memory) that follow the leads that make the whole thing become predictable from scene one, an atmosphere of mystery is supposedly created but fails.
Well, it's CLAMP,as overdone as that sentence might be it's the truth. Their art is really a matter of taste, with unusually proportioned bodies and over the top uncomfortable clothing, big eyes and pretty boys and girls. They also manage to put a bit of a cinematic feel to their drawings, overall the art is always well done.
Soubarou, our main lead, is not anything exceptional. In fact he holds many of the cliches one would encounter in anime one too many times, throughout the series it is noted multiple times how "kind,gentle,pure,caring" he is. He is nothing too complex or original but his put together quiet nature makes him likeable and during the process of the series he has an interesting formation of character. In other words he starts off dull but gets better on the process.
His sister Hokuto is a delightful comic relief of a character, her eccentric outfits and sassy attitude make her enjoyable. The relationship of the two is well done, they don't have the rather typical approach of twins where they look, act, talk alike. Rather they both share a different personality and different perks.
Seishiro, well, is all you would probably expect him to be.He is probably the most predictable character of the three from the beginning of the series. There is an attempt to create a certain mystery around him from the jump start but ( at least for me) failed miserably since from the very beginning it was pretty obvious what he is and is not. His jokes are cute but nothing outstanding, he is overall from beginning to end pretty bland and overdone.
Tokyo Babylon is a light read, it's nothing too groundbreaking or too complex, however it is the start of another series called X and X also links to Tsubasa which links to xxxHolic...so basically it is the start of a very very looooooong story. So expect to have to read further into other series.
Feb 1, 2009
Warning, this manga does contain some elements of shounen ai (boy love).
Looking at the summary one would think that che, it's your typical magical boy running around Tokyo exorcising your ghost for the day. I must say, the story line reflects more than that and it addresses some of the issues society is facing from the aging population to bullying. There are some really cute moments (a big hug for Hokuto-chan and her very loud fashion!!) in the story but overall it has a pretty dark storyline with a tragedy for its ending. Great story twist and sob!!
It's CLAMP, so safe to say the art it really detailed and beautiful. Of course it is pretty outdated now (it being drawn in the 90's so the clothes were quite old fashion).
I love the three main characters!!! Each of them have a complex personality, all contrasting each other. Even some of the supporting characters are pretty interesting. My personal fav is Seishirou.
Enjoyed it to the max!!!
I give it a 9 due to the artwork (and I'm stingy w/ marks). And when you are done with this manga, move on to X to watch the conclusion of Subaru and Seishirou's twisted, twisted relationship. read more
Nov 7, 2012
★ Story (10) – Tokyo of the 90’s– a modern, powerful cityscape, a glorious empire of sprawling lights and commercial skyscrapers; a bitter world hurling itself evermore into a state of Babylon, and eventually utter destruction. Dark, sinister, and brooding, this manga focuses on the problems of this modern society by following the life of young Subaru Sumeragi; a 16 year old onmyouji – a powerful exorcist and the head of the powerful Sumeragi family. The premise of this manga sounds so simple, so very dull; so very overdone. I can assure you, it is anything but. Subaru goes through the manga solving different cases, each of which focus on different social problems and issues that run amok in the world. Every story does not have a happy ending, yet the readers eyes are opened to the different points of view surrounding the problem, and are asked some hard, insightful questions directed to solving the issue. Tokyo Babylon is far more than a fantasy story; it is a social outcry and a voice for the problems of a modern world which still exist today.
Though it is a dark story, Tokyo Babylon is nonetheless supplied with plenty of lighthearted scenes. The humor is laced in-between the darkness and balances it out nicely. The mile-long speeches of Hokuto, the suave and silly flirting of Seishirou towards Subaru, and of course Subaru’s adorable embarrassment at the hands of the other two partners in crime is very adorable and fun. The humor is a very sharp contrast to the ever evolving tragedy and drama that in fact lures the reader into a false safety net of “everything will be okay in the end”. Which is exactly what Tokyo Babylon sets out to do, and succeeds. Whatever tragedy you expect to happen will happen, but it will be far, far more horrific than expected.
Throughout the tale, young, shy and sweet Subaru is flanked by his two companions – his energetic and witty twin sister Hokuto, and the charming, flirtatious but mysterious Seishirou Sakurazuka, a 25 year old veterinarian and head of the Sakurazuka clan; the age-old rivals of the Sumeragi. Throughout the manga, innocent and gentle Subaru becomes more and more worldly wise in his job and his duties as he is exposed to a darker and darker world; the pinnacle of his heartbreaking change from an innocent child into the brooding, tragic young man of X (X/1999) is brought about at the end of this series through a shocking, brutal betrayal that destroys and breaks him down entirely. In the end, Subaru’s childlike faith and trust in people, and the belief that they will not betray him is utterly destroyed, and he stands alone; a bitter figure amidst a world heading towards to inevitable Apocalypse; a person left in ruins among the towering skyscrapers of Babylon.
★ Art (8) – An older series, the art style has a distinctive late 80’s early 90’s touch that makes it very nostalgic and stylish in a retro way. The art is beautifully drawn nonetheless, in Clamp’s detailed but neat style, reminiscent of their older, far more lavish works. Slender, long-limbed good looking characters and whimsical clothing are supplied in all their attractive glory; a handsome, seductive older man, a very pretty boy and an adorable, stylish girl all become eye candy at the hands of Clamp. I did not give the art a perfect score, because at times, some of the bodies look a bit awkward, the positioning is rather off and the proportions can be odd. Overall though, while Clamp’s artwork may be an acquired taste for some, Tokyo Babylon is still very appealing to look at, especially in the later and final volumes where everyone looks their best, and the style is perfected.
★ Character (10) – A series with only three main characters? How will that work? But it does, and very well. With only three characters, the story becomes very intimate and close-knit (which of course, further goes to hike up the sheer tragedy of the ending).
There is a reason that Subaru is one of Clamp's most popular characters even after 20 years; he is a completely endearing, loveable, innocent person, and utterly adorable. His gentleness, kindness and sweetness are constantly at odds with the dark work he is destined to do; yet they all remain with him -though much more subtle- even when he loses so much at the end. In all my years of keeping up with Clamp, I can honestly say that I've never come across even one person who disliked Subaru.
Hokuto is the comforting, encouraging and bubbly twin of Subaru's - she the loud to his soft, the friendly to his shy and his number one supporter (especially when it comes to Seishirou). On her own, Hokuto is extremely likable, loving and very self-sacrificing; everything she does is for her brother's happiness, and she's willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that...
And last but anything but least, there is Seishirou who is the enigma of the group. By day he is a friendly, flirty veterinarian; friend -and more- of Subaru's, and Hokuto's partner in crime. And yet, his real personality and true agendas are incredibly shocking and sinister; giving out anymore would ruin the secret of the story, but however sinister you think Seishirou is...When it is truly revealed, he is far, far worse, and the results of his true personality are utterly devastating.
★ Enjoyment (10)- While some may be turned off by the light shonen-ai, there really is nothing NOT to enjoy with this little gem. Don't just sit there reading my review; go and read this yourself.
★ Overall (10) - Everything from the cases, to the art and the wonderful characters are all very worth a read and more. This story has the humor, the darkness and the overwhelming shock of brutal tragedy all wrapped up in a highly appealing package. This is an absolute classic from Clamp, that delivers far more than expected in the 7 volumes that this story spans. And afterwards, when you're done, and the final volume is finished leaving you saddened and shocked with more questions that answers...Turn to Clamp's X, the somewhat sequel of this manga. There, you'll find the answers to what happened, and IS happening to Seishirou and Subaru nine tragic years later. Don't expect a happy ending for them though; after all, how could there be? There can never be a perfect ending for those who lived and were victims in the crumbling world of Tokyo Babylon.
Aug 5, 2012
I found it very enjoyable, despite it's plot, which also nearly had me in tears. :p