Now it’s time for me to come back to the Tokyo Babylon reviews, with the series’ 3rd to last volume. As the series starts to come to a close, does it continue to provide some social commentary on the state of Japan (when the stories were written), or does the series push that aside in favor of the main plot?
Title: Tokyo Babylon Vol. 5
Written & Illustrated by CLAMP
Translated by Ray Yoshimoto
Retouch and Lettering by Junemoon Studio
Originally Serialized in Shinahokan’s Wing Magazine
In this installment, our too-empathic-for-his-own-good hero Subaru encounters an old man whose children and grandchildren treat him like (and refer to him as) “excess baggage”, a child dying of kidney failure, and the ghost of a woman who killed herself after the unhappy end of a love affair. Varying degrees of tragedy (witnessed by Subaru) ensue.
The story is still solid, and the background designs have some significant improvements. We even get some more hints about the nature of Seishiro’s secret(s) and his goals.
Unfortunately, it feels like they’re running on to social issues to comment on – this issue it’s suicide, treatment of the elderly in the Japan following the burst of the bubble, and religious and spiritual beliefs prejudicing people against being organ donors. Additionally, the ending of the last story in the volume feels like it leaves things hanging without the promise that they’d pick things up (though they do pick things up in the next volume).
Again, no gore here, but there is some blood, and discussion of suicide here. We also get an injury to the eye again. This time with Seishiro being slashed in his right eye with a knife.
Originality: The themes covered here are again, not totally original. The issues with the elderly had been covered before, with films like Roujin Z. I am not aware about contemporaneous commentary about Japan’s suicide rate following the end of their bubble economy however. The organ donor topic, if I recall correctly, had previously been covered a couple times in Osamu Tezuka’s long running manga “Black Jack”. 4 out of 6.
Artwork: The artwork has improved some more since the last volume of the series, with more actual backgrounds in various scenes, and no usage of photographs as backgrounds – just about everything’s drawn here. 4 out of 6.
Story: After judiciously adding some cornstarch foreshadowing to the stories, the plot appears to be thickening quite nicely. 4 out of 6.
Characterization: We get some more explanation about why Subaru acts the way he does. He can’t detach himself. His onmyoji powers already make him a powerful empath, but the fact that he can’t emotionally detach himself means he gets involved whenever he witnesses or senses that someone is suffering. 5 out of 6.
Emotional Response: If Subaru wasn’t the Woobie before this volume, he sure as hell is now. 5 out of 6.
Flow: 5 out of 6
Overall: It just keeps getting better and better. 5 out of 6.
In Total, Tokyo Babylon Vol. 5 gets 32 out of 42.