Almost done with this manga series from CLAMP. Last volume had a major plot development in the very last pages of the volume. We’ll see how this picks up where this volume picks up where the last left off.
Title: Tokyo Babylon Vol. 6
Written & Illustrated by CLAMP
Translated by Ray Yoshimoto
Retouch and Lettering by Junemoon Studio
Originally Serialized in Shinahokan’s Wing Magazine
Seisharo has lost one of his eyes, defending Subaru from an attack by a bereaved woman who can’t get a kidney donor for her son. Subaru doesn’t take this well, and his sister Hokuto tries to pull him out of his Heroic BSOD.
I’ve previously semi-griped about the very bland backgrounds, and the layouts of the 4 volumes prior to 5. Here, CLAMP uses the layout and the backgrounds to great effect. I kind of realized in this volume that the rather bland backgrounds in prior volumes, and the somewhat bog-standard layout in prior volumes was a very deliberate decision, done to set up future volumes. By doing the layout in a very generic fashion in prior volumes, when they got to volume 6, their use of layout, particularly two-page spreads (and some particular panel layouts which take advantage of both pages) really plays up the significance of what’s happening, and what’s being discussed.
That reads kind of clunky, but it makes sense when you see it.
The toughness that Subaru shows when he’s dealing with the semi-punk kids messing with the blind guy’s seeing eye dog really could have appeared earlier in the story. If showing such toughness was meant to be a major character development, they could have set that up a little better.
We see a few bloody corpses here, and we see the incident where Seishiro loses his eye again in a flashback.
Originality: This volume recaps a bunch of stuff that we previously saw earlier, though they do expand on it a little bit. 4 out 6.
Artwork: The artwork here is still rock solid, and it’s even improved some. As I mentioned under the background, some of the layouts and backgrounds and other artwork decisions here are very good and are really impactful (which I’ll get into further on Emotional Response). 5 out of 6.
Story: The story here is well written, and while a fair amount of time is spent on recap, considering that the next volume is the last volume of this series (though it continues into X/1999), it’s a necessary story decision because it’s all coming to a head in the next volume. Plus, I like how they’re still fitting a little social commentary in there too (how Japanese society treats the blind and seeing eye dogs). 5 out of 6.
Characterization: That’s really what this volume was all about, through new story progress as well as flashbacks. Specifically, we get some progress with Subaru dealing with his excessive empathy – and by progress, I mean we that Hokuto basically does an intervention to help him deal with this. 5 out of 6.
Emotional Response: Not to put down the previous volumes of this series, but this is the only volume where, after I reached the end of this volume, I wanted to immediately pick up and read the next volume right away (which I did, because I bought the complete series at one whack, because it’s short). This is in a large part because they design the backgrounds and layout the panels in a manner that, when we get to dramatically important parts of the overall story, the panels and backgrounds emphasize the mindsets of the characters, and helps me get in their head. 6 out of 6.
Flow: 6 out of 6.
Overall: This volume really sets the series up for a very impressive conclusion. 5 out of 6.
In Total, Tokyo Babylon Vol. 6 gets 36 out of 42.