Tokyo Babylon article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 3, No. 11, October 2000
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.
CLAMP has become a highly marketable creative phenomenon in Japan, one which is spreading to the U.S. With four CLAMP comics (X/1999, Card Captor Sakura, Reyearth, and Clover) and the Card Captor Sakura (Cardcaptors) TV series available in English, even more people are bound to become fans of this creative team. Despite all this attention on CLAMP, arguably their best title has been all but ignored in the U.S. Tokyo Babylon is a rich, vibrant, complex collection of stories revolving around the kind-hearted exorcist named Subaru.
The comic series starts in the middle of an exorcism in a fashionable Roppongi condo. With a chanted prayer, young Subaru transforms a horrible she-creature into her true form -the spirit of a beautiful young woman- and liberates her soul from its ties to this world. This quickly establishes the basic premise of the story, allowing the character-driven undercurrents of the series to stand out and pull you in. Sixteen year old Subaru and Hokuto Sumeragi come from a long line of spiritualists and are as close as twins can be. Subaru, the thirteenth head of his family, is the sweetest, most innocent young man you could ever hope to meet. Hokuto's charismatic, vivacious nature is one of the only ways to tell the twins apart, well, that and those outrageous outfits she makes them wear! Though Subaru is the primary exorcist in the series, Hokuto is very protective of her little brother. The third main character of the series is their close friend, Seishiro (long o) Sakurazuka, a veterinarian who helps them out and often chauffeurs them around. Though neither Subaru nor Seishiro (long o) speak of it plainly, there are regular comments made, often teasingly deflected, to suggest the two of them are closer than just friends.
Considering the fate of biblical Babylon, it's not surprising that this playful story with serious themes grows darker as the series continues. Artistically, CLAMP plays a lot with shadows, perspective and reflections in this story, suggesting hidden complexities and obfuscation. The multi-layered nature of Tokyo Babylon is woven into both the dialog and the images, making this series not only a captivating story but a powerful, masterful work of comic art.
The subtitle for Tokyo Babylon is "A Save for Tokyo City Story." It is a mystery how CLAMP, a group of ladies from western Japan, can have such remarkable insights into a city which is not their home, but the stories of Tokyo Babylon take us past the indifferent concrete and steel into the heart of one of the world's most dynamic cities. Perhaps the tales of the spirits and people we meet in this series are somewhat universal to any metropolis, yet the stories can not help but strike deep chords within the hearts of any who have visited or lived in Japan's capitol. Not only will readers learn to love the characters of Tokyo Babylon, but Tokyo itself.
First published in 1991 by Shinshokan's WINGS Comics, Tokyo Babylon ended in 1994 with seven collected volumes. Although a pair of Tokyo Babylon videos have been released (in English, too), two videos can not do justice to this beautiful, compelling series. Anyone who has not experienced Tokyo Babylon but wants deeper insight into Subaru and Seishiro (long o) in X (X/1999) or considers themselves a true CLAMP fan must try this series. Even people who are not CLAMP fans should find the stories in Tokyo Babylon entertaining, engaging and artistically stunning.