The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 69 – Tokyo Babylon

Tokyo Babylon

Continuing on from last week’s piece, we shall look more at the early works of the all-women group of manga artists known as Clamp. This series, like RG Veda, is a short adaptation of a much larger work, and is noted for its art. However, this series is also noted for featuring one of, and my opinion the top, coolest-looking anime character ever.

Tokyo Babylon started as a manga and ran from 1990 to 1993, but like with its predecessor the anime version was only two episodes long, the episodes released in 1992 and 1994 respectively. There is also a live action film released in 1993. The series mixes detective fiction with the supernatural. But it also features another genre that we have not covered before: “shonen-ai”, a form of gay fiction. To put it into context, yaoi, which we have covered before in this column, tends to be erotic, while shonen-ai is more romantic.

Set in modern-day Tokyo, the central character is 16-year-old Subaru Sumeragi, who is a skilled magician and exorcist. He is often called upon to solve mysterious cases of non-human origin, or just solves a case that he stumbles upon himself. Subaru lives with his twin sister Hokuto, whose main passion is designing unusual ranges clothing for both herself and her brother; and with Subaru’s love interest Seishiro Sakurazuka, a 25-year-old vet.

As the series progresses, we release that there is more to Seishiro than first appears. He too appears to have his own supernatural powers, and often helps Subaru in times of crisis. However, Seishiro’s purpose is discovered to be much darker and deadlier.

If you just see the anime, Seishiro’s true purpose is never revealed. In fact, the stories that appear in the anime are totally original stories that do not occur in Clamp’s original manga. However, as stand-alone stories they are pretty decent. Obviously however, the manga is the superior creation as it contains the entire original plot and displays Clamp’s great art.

Indeed, I would argue that Subaru Sumeragi is the coolest-looking character in all anime. Because of Hokuto’s taste in fashion, Subaru is always dressed in a range of strange clothes. In the anime, the one that stands out for me features Subaru in a red jacket, a black porkpie hat, a trousers/sleeveless shirt one-piece, and black gloves. I just love that look.

He is also often seen wearing large cross necklaces. In the manga his outfits are sometimes military themed and his outfits can be even more extreme-looking at times. I like the fact he stands out of the crowd, but at the same it does not overpower you. If you were to see him in the street he would catch your eye, but not in a garish way.

As stated before, like with most of Clamp’s work, there is a lot of cross-referencing between their series. Both Subaru and Seishiro appear Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE, like Ashura and Yasha in RG Veda. Subaru and Seishiro would also have major roles in the anime I am covering next time, which is arguably Clamp’s magnum opus, as well as being the anime with one of the shortest titles: X.

Tokyo Babylon is available, second hand only, on Region 0 DVD from Central Park Media. It was also released on video cassette by Manga Entertainment.