I’m continuing with the CLAMP reviews with the first volume of Tokyo Babylon vol. 1. Why, yes, I am reading a whole bunch of manga at once. That said, being that this series ties in heavily to their later series, X/1999, I might as well read it before I continue to X. So, does this series lay the ground work for greater things to come?
Title: Tokyo Babylon Volume 1
Written & Illustrated by CLAMP
Translated by Ray Yoshimoto & Carol Fox
Lettering by Ablard Bigting
Originally Serialized in Shinahokan’s Wing Magazine
Available from Amazon.com
Subaru Sumeragi is a 16-year old Onmyuji (basically an exorcist), and the head of a long line of exorcists, living in Tokyo. Togeather with his sister, Hokuto, and his friend, Seishiro, they help restless spirits pass on, and protect the city from supernatural threats.
The High Points
CLAMPs character designs still look good. Some people might complain that their characters look a little too feminine, but I didn’t have a problem with that, particularly. The story also starts fairly episodically, which I’ve come to realize is a good fit for a first volume, but I’ll go into that more later.
The Low Points
First problem – there are a lot of dialog shots where they didn’t draw a background in the first and third stories. They do get some background art in the dialog on the second story, which spends most of its time on the Observation deck of Tokyo Tower, but is not a lot.
Second, you may have noticed that I only mentioned 3 stories in the last point. That’s because there are only three chapters in this volume. It’s very short for a manga – most other manga I’ve read have had seven or eight chapters. Normally, I wouldn’t make a big deal over this, but Tokyopop put their standard list price of 9.99 on this volume – the same amount they’d charge for a longer book. Admittedly, the Japanese volumes were the same length, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
No graphic violence here, or nudity. However, there are some homosexual overtones around Seishiro and Subaru’s relationship.
Originality – This isn’t the first series about Onmyoji to be made (they even name-check another series about Onmyoji in the book), but the take on this is certainly new. 5 out of 6.
Artwork – I already went into this under my Low Points. 3 out of 6.
Story – Again, we’re in pretty episodic territory here, but as I said under my High Point, I think that’s the right way to go. It gives the reader a chance to get hooked into the story and the world, without throwing him in to the deep end of the main story arc. It also gives you a chance to develop the personality of the characters, without having to get so involved in developing the backgrounds of the characters so quickly. 4 out of 6.
Characterization – The personalities of the characters are established pretty well, though their backgrounds aren’t fleshed out very much. (For instance, why is the heir of a family of assassins running a veterinary clinic? No, it doesn’t appear to be a cover for something) This is probably due to the lack of time. – 3 out of 6.
Emotional Response – Unfortunately, in the time we have we do get to know the characters’ personalities, we don’t get to actually know the characters, so I haven’t come to care as much for the characters, because I haven’t been able to spend as much “time” with them. 3 out of 6.
Flow – 4 out of 6.
Overall – It’s a good start to what I hope will be a good series. Particularly since I’m going to need to read the whole thing so I can read X/1999 later. 4 out of 6.
In Total, Tokyo Babylon Volume 1 gets 26 out of 42.