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Tokyo Babylon Ominbus Vol. #01 Manga Review

3 min read
Tokyo Babylon Volume 1
Tokyo Babylon Volume 1

The nicest exorcist you’ll ever meet.

What They Say:
It’s 1991, the last days of Japan’s bubble economy, and money and elegance run through the streets. So do the currents of darkness beneath them, nourishing evil spirits that only the arts of the onmyoji—Japan’s legendary occultists—can combat. The two most powerful onmyoji are in the unlikely guises of a handsome young veterinarian, Seishiro, and the teenage heir to the ancient Sumeragi clan, Subaru.

Writer and Artist: Clamp

The Review:
Subaru bears the weight of the city on his shoulders. Although only a teenager, he is the heir to the powerful and ancient Sumeragi clan who has defended Japan from supernatural threats for generations. He lives in Tokyo with his twin sister, Hokuto, and goes to school, dreaming of passing on his duties to someone more powerful and interested so he can lead a normal life as a zookeeper. His constant companion is the mysterious Seishiro Sakurazuka, who is nine years older, a veterinarian, and possibly the heir to a rival clan of onmyoji that has been quietly ruling Japan from behind the scenes. Seishiro claims that he is in love with Subaru, and Hokuto either likes to egg them on or she actually thinks their entering a relationship is a fabulous idea because she constantly pushes them together. Although on the outside he appears to be a relatively harmless, slightly goofy friend, Seishiro is a strong onmyoji and he hides a harsher side of his personality from the others. Together Subaru and Seishiro face down spirits inhabiting Tokyo Tower, women with possessed clothing, teenage girls playing with magic over the phone, and much more.

I had heard about Tokyo Babylon before, but knew little about it other than that it was supposed to be good. I’m happy to report that this is true. While I do feel that Hokuto’s role as comic relief is a bit overdone and distracting, the rest of the title is very strong. What really sets it apart for me is its very Eastern attitude towards spirits and the supernatural. Being a Westerner, I was raised in a highly dualistic culture that generally regards the supernatural and its denizens as being profoundly other—and therefore dangerous. Spirits, monsters, and demons are the enemy and must therefore be destroyed. To show compassion for them would be ridiculous.

However, Subaru possesses vast amounts of compassion and this sets him apart from Western characters that deal with the supernatural. When he confronts the spirit in Tokyo Tower, he does not banish her. Instead he talks to her and (with Seishiro’s help) aids her in moving on. He treated her with the same respect and dignity he would someone living, and this took away her otherness. This compassion informs his every action and at times he puts himself needlessly in harm’s way in order to protect people. Thankfully he has Seishiro as backup, even though he’s not always aware that Seishiro is there.

Moving on, the art style in this title is clean and would be unremarkable except that Clamp renders some truly great moments with light, shadow, and silhouette, often taking up entire pages to show one scene. These moments highlight the emotion of the scene and elevate the overall quality of the art in the title. The section about the cherry blossoms in particular is very fun and creepy and the first time we see Seishiro’s spirit animal is impressively done.

In Summary:
Hokuto aside, Tokyo Babylon is a fun title with a very Eastern take on sprits and the supernatural. The art is solid, but what really makes it a worthwhile read is the main character, Subaru. His compassion and dedication to his job make him a compelling, almost tragic character. Recommended.

Grade: A
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Packaging Grade:
Text/Translation Grade:

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: March 26th, 2013
MSRP: $19.99