We’re going to do something of a double feature this weekend.
Now that I’ve finished reading Tokyo Babylon, I’m gonna take a moment to review the anime. The manga was adapted to the screen twice – once as a two-episode OVA, and once as a live-action film that serves as a second epilogue to the manga. The film has not been licensed for a stateside release to my knowledge. However, the OVA was brought over to the US, though the DVD is currently out of print, as it was put out by US Manga Corps/Central Park Media. However, I was able to get a hold of a copy of the OVAs, and for the sake of completeness, I’m going to give my thoughts on it.
Kappei Yamaguchi as Subaru Sumeragi
Miki Itou as Hokuto Sumeragi
Takehito Koyasu as Seishirou Sakurazuka
Shuuichi Ikeda as Shinji Nagumo
Emi Shinohara as Mirei
Hiromi Tsuru as Kazami Asou
Kouichi Yamadera as Yamagawa
Sayuri Ikemoto as Yukari-chan
Tomomichi Nishimura as Enterprise President
Directed by Koichi Chigira
Written by Yoshihiko Urahata
Animation by Studio Madhouse
Subaru Sumeragi continues his work helping to put spirits to rest throughout Tokyo. In the first episode Subaru must contend with an ambitious corporate executive who is exploiting the fact that he lives a literally charmed life to climb to the top on the bodies of others. In the second episode, after witnessing a murder on the Tokyo Subway, he must try to defeat a serial killer preying on women in the Tokyo subway.
The animation for this is gorgeous. I often complained about the manga having bland backgrounds or none at all. Here we get very detailed paintings of Tokyo at street level, which really give the series a sense of place the manga didn’t have.
Additionally, the two episodes of the OVA were made 2 years apart, one near the start of the manga, and one near the end. Each episode meshes well, in terms of its tone, with where the manga was at that time. With the first episode, Seishiro is just a mysterious vet with powers who may-or-may-not be related to a clan of assassins. On the second episode, on the other hand they bring up Seishiro’s “bet” with Subaru at the start of the episode, though they obviously don’t give out all the details, and they do bring up the implication a little higher that Seishiro is a nastier character than Subaru and Hokuto think).
Much of the social commentary that was fixture of the manga is absent. The closest we get is with how corporations (in Japan) are able to use their influence to quash criminal investigations, and that little piece of commentary lasts about 5 seconds.
Also, with the exception of a little bit in episode 1, Subaru doesn’t display as much empathy as he does in the manga. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t show any empathy, but considering that one of Subaru’s character traits in the manga was that he was displayed too much empathy for his own good–which was in turn the factor that drew him into the plots of the chapters. This wouldn’t be quite as big a deal, except for one the fact that in the second episode he witnesses an actual murder – the first he’s seen firsthand to his knowledge. For that matter, he makes a friend whose surrogate mother is then murdered as well, and he’s there when she discovers her mother is dead. This should be, by all rights, the toughest case that Subaru ever faces, until his final case from the manga.
No nudity but a lot of blood here, as well as off camera cruelty to animals.
Originality: The two stories here are original in the sense that they’re not adaptations of stories from the manga, and they cover territory that isn’t covered in the manga either (the “Charmed life” of the executive and the serial killer). However, neither covers new ground with the characters from the manga. There’s no new character development, or even re-iteration of character development from the manga. 4 out of 6.
Acting: The voice acting is good, and fits with how I imagined the character’s talking in my head, especially Hokuto and Seishirou. 5 out of 6.
Animation: The animation here is excellent, and it helps that we’re in the early-90s OVA boom, so animation studios are willing to take the time to do a good job–even if it takes 2 years to get the second episode. 6 out of 6.
Production: The music and sound effects are generally solid, though the actual songs we get in the episodes have some notable Engrish. 4 out of 6.
Story: The two stories here have less social commentary than I’d come to expect from the manga, and the second episode takes the focus off of Subaru & Co, but I otherwise enjoyed them. 4 out of 6.
Emotional Response: I’ll be frank. Because of how the episodes are set up, I didn’t find myself worrying about Subaru, or Hokuto, or Seishiro being in danger. Further, because Subaru’s usual over-empathy was toned down, I didn’t find myself worrying for Subaru’s emotional well-being particularly much. If any character provoked a significant emotional response, it would be some of the supporting protagonists who were introduced for these stories (Mirei and Yamagawa) for example. Even then, they don’t appear outside of their specific episode. This is particularly disappointing for Yamagawa, since the second episode has a police detective who looks a lot like Yamagawa, and since he survives the first episode, you’d think the character would be a perfect fit for this episode.. 4 out of 6.
Overall: I liked this OVA series. It was short and generally solid–nothing stellar, but nothing god-awful either. 4 out of 6.
In Total, the Tokyo Babylon OVA series gets 31 out of 42.