This week we finally get our first really strong connection with the Tokyo Babylon series in this, and have discovered the identities of all of the Seven Seals/Dragons of Heaven.
Title: X/1999 Volume 5 – Serenade
Written & Illustrated by CLAMP
Translated by Fred Burke
Retouch & Lettering by Wayne Truman
Originally Serialized in Kadokawa Shoten’s Monthly Asuka
Kamui has learned of the fateful choice he must make – that he is both one of the Dragons of Earth/The Seven Harbingers, and one of the Dragons of Heaven/Seven Seals. His decision on what side he joins will determine whether the earth will be destroyed or re-made. Also, the identities of all the members (or potential members) of the Dragons of Heaven have been revealed.
The High Points
After last volume spent a lot of time providing exposition illustrated with dreamscapes, this volume provides spends considerably more time in the real world, and adds a little bit of action, but without much to show for it – I’d almost call it the psychic warfare equivalent of the scene in Predator where the commandos level a small chunk of forest trying to kill the Predator – visually impressive, but ultimately ineffective.
As mentioned in my preview above, the audience – if they didn’t know that they would be appearing here already is now told that Subaru and Seicharo from Tokyo Babylon will be significant characters in this series, and makes it clear what sides they’ll be on, while doing this in an organic fashion (Seicharo is depicted in silhouette, while Subaru is discussed openly in a conversation about who the other two members of the Dragons of Earth might be).
The Low Points
After the last volume, this feels a lot like falling action. Most of the volume is spent by characters speculating what side Kamui will be on and who the other Dragons of Heaven and Earth are, and less action or planning. We do get less Kamui this volume, and the majority of him we get is spent more in flashback. The flashbacks still don’t make him more sympathetic or explain his attitude as much as I’d like, but he’s more likable as a kid than as an teen.
Not as much blood as in previous volumes, though there’s still some here. Also, one of the Dragons of Heaven who is introduced this volume does dress like a prostitute – because she is – she works in a Soapland. (Cultural Note: A “Soapland” is a sort of Japanese brothel based around bathing with attractive women, who perform sex acts on customers).
Originality: The series concept still feels fairly fresh, and I like how they’re spinning the concept of the Dragons of Heaven each representing various Shinto and Buddhist shrines in Japan, and I’m interested in seeing any common themes among the Dragons of Earth. 5 out of 6.
Artwork: The art still looks fantastic, though I did lose track of what was going on some in the volume’s one action sequence. 4 out of 6.
Story: The story for this volume is alright, as while there isn’t a lot of character development, the speculation by the characters was well done, and fit in fairly well with this point of the story, and set up the next couple of volumes rather nicely. 4 out of 6.
Characterization: The remaining members of the Dragons of Heaven get fleshed out a little more this volume, and the new characters we meet get their personalities fleshed out pretty well. 4 out of 6.
Emotional Response: Kind of weak this time, as in particular there wasn’t really much to respond to. 3 out of 6.
Flow: There were some problems with the flow in the little action scene towards the beginning. 5 out of 6.
Overall: I feel like this volume lost some momentum from the last volume. Not a lot of momentum, but it was notable. 3 out of 6.
In Total, X/1999 Vol. 5 gets 28 out of 42.