Moving back along to Tokyo Babylon, I’m continuing to the series fourth installment. This installment brings us a stand-alone story, and a another two-chapter story arc.
Title: Tokyo Babylon Vol. 4
Written & Illustrated by CLAMP
Translated by Ray Yoshimoto
Retouch & Lettering by Junemoon Studio
Originally Serialized in Shinahokan’s Wing Magazine
In our first story Subaru comes across a woman at a Shinto shrine who is attempting to cast a nasty curse, to get revenge for the murder of her child. In the second story, Subaru is asked by the Japanese government to investigate a cult that is recruiting heavily among high schoolers. There he makes the acquaintance of a young girl who is being bullied horribly by her peers – not only taunted but also beaten.
The High Points
While CLAMP’s previous work, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, have excellent artwork, I’m really finding that Tokyo Babylon is much stronger in the writing department. I’ve said it in my previous reviews, and I’ve said it again, but it bears repeating – this is one of few manga I’ve read that have gotten political by directly criticizing society, with this installment focusing on bullying in schools, and also covering how Japan handles the mentally ill again, but from a different perspective.
The Low Points
I might even say that the art in this volume has gone downhill – CLAMP uses some photographs as backgrounds, instead of drawings. The art wasn’t great for the previous volumes, and this isn’t an improvement by any means.
Still no nudity here, but there is some blood, with one member of the supporting cast losing an eye.
Originality: This isn’t exactly the first cult story of the series (technically the story of last volume was something of a cult story). But this is a different take on the cult concept (most cults I’ve encountered in fiction are either of the Aum Shinryko type, the Heaven’s Gate type, or the Branch Davidian type). 4 out of 6.
Artwork: The artwork this volume is still as good for the characters, but the backgrounds feel like they’ve gone downhill. 2 out of 6.
Story: Again, I haven’t seen any manga that’s handled bullying the same way, or at least by this time. The anime “School Days” doesn’t romanticize High School as heavily as other series, but Tokyo Babylon pre-dates that. 4 out of 6.
Characterization: We get more development for Seishiro and for Subaru. The supporting cast (aside from the bullied girl that Subaru meets) doesn’t get any development in particular. 3 out of 6.
Emotional Response: Seishiro is definitely established in this volume as very scary person. I’m still kind of scratching my head about the character though – his actions in this volume definitely lead me wondering about his motivations. 3 out of 6.
Flow: 5 out of 6.
Overall: This is the best installment of this series thus far. 5 out of 6.
In Total, Tokyo Babylon Volume 4 gets 26 out of 42.