Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Tokyo Babylon written and illustrated by CLAMP
CLAMP’s classic drama, Tokyo Babylon, follows sixteen-year-old onmyoji (exorcist) Subaru Sumeragi as he helps tortured spirits find peace amid the suffering and destruction of modern life. From the beginning, Subaru is pursued by another man, Seishiro Sakurazuka, a seemingly kind-hearted veterinarian with spiritual powers who often shows up to save Subaru from certain death. At first, Subaru’s shyness and strict demeanor make him reluctant to accept Seishiro’s affections, but Subaru’s rambunctious twin sister, Hokuto, constantly encourages him to open his heart to Sei-chan. Over time, as Subaru discovers his true feelings, mystery builds around Seishiro’s dark side, which always lurks just beneath the surface. This series is deep, emotionally-compelling, and heart-breaking. It explores the purpose of life, the nature of love, and the struggle of maintaining one’s ideals in an oftentimes harsh and broken world. The characters are so real that they haunt the reader long after the last page is turned. Thankfully, their story doesn’t truly end here, for they return years later in CLAMP’s X/1999.
My one hesitation in suggesting this manga is that I’m afraid for some, it may romanticize violent or abusive relationships. As we discover the depths of Seishiro’s depravity, the reader is led to hope for his redemption, to dream that he and Subaru can find a way to be together. In the world of manga, fervent dreams of unconditional love and forgiveness are wonderful. But in real life, this kind of thinking can lead to social isolation, black eyes, and murder. Remember that Tokyo Babylon is ultimately a tragedy, not a map for living one’s life. If you’re a romantic like me, then by all means, never give up hoping for Seishiro’s salvation, but also hope that Subaru finds the strength to let him go and find love someday in a healthy relationship. Remember that sociopaths never make good boyfriends. Trust me on this one.
Tokyo Babylon is composed of seven volumes. This series has no explicit sexual content, but there is plenty of violence and creepy occult goings-on. I didn’t read Tokyo Babylon until I was over sixteen. If I had tried it at a younger age, there’s a good chance I would have been plagued with nightmares and general trauma.
The team of authors, who name themselves CLAMP, are a fascinating and prolific team of manga artists. To learn more about these four incredible women, check out their Wikipedia site here.
Here are the other covers:
Review by Aaron Walsh. Add your review of "Tokyo Babylon" (any or all of the books in the series) in comments!