Tokyo Babylon is a seven-volume manga series that ran in the Japanese manga magazine Wings from 1990 to 1993. It is one of the earliest series of mangaka group CLAMP, which is also behind such series as Cardcaptor Sakura, Magic Knight Rayearth, ×××Holic, and Chobits, to name a few.
Set in 1990, Tokyo Babylon is the story of a 16-year-old onmyouji(?), Sumeragi Subaru. Subaru is the thirteenth head of the Sumeragi clan, Japan's premier onmyouji, and is frequently hired by the government as well as individuals to investigate strange or supernatural phenomenon or put spirits to rest. Subaru lives in Tokyo next door to his twin sister, Hokuto, who supports his work. The two of them are good friends with Sakurazuka Seishirou, a veterinarian with a mysterious connection to the Sakurazukamori, a rival of onmyouji clan to the Sumeragi. And Seishirou seems to have some connection with Subaru past his frequent declarations of love for the young boy...
Seishirou and Subaru appear again in CLAMP's apocalyptic manga X (also known as X/1999). The series ran for 18.5 volumes before being put on hiatus due to its incredibly violent content; it has been on hiatus since 2003 and is incomplete. In X, Seishirou and Subaru meet again for the first time in nine years, but this time, the end of the world hangs in the balance.
Finally, Seishirou and Subaru also appeared in Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, which featured a group of people travelling to different worlds inhabited by CLAMP characters. In Tsubasa, Subaru is a vampire and twin brother to X's Kamui, and Seishirou is searching for them. It makes about as much sense as the rest of Tsubasa, and as such this site doesn't cover this incarnation.
Personally, Tokyo Babylon remains one of my favorite manga series to this day. Seishirou immediately became one of my favorite characters, but as I read the series it was his fascinating relationship with Subaru that sealed it. Naturally, they were the characters I found myself most interested in in X, which ups TB's angst factor by about nine thousand. If you're a fan of CLAMP, supernatural/magical-based series, or reading about truly psychologically screwed up people, then I highly recommend these series. (Just don't read Tsubasa. Trust me. While the series had potential, by the end it was a clusterfuck that literally makes no sense.)
In the past few years, both Tokyo Babylon and X have been republished in English in omnibus editions, collecting multiple volumes into one. Tokyo Babylon's original 7 volumes comprise just two volumes in this new omnibus, while X is condensed to 6 volumes. If you're new to the material, this is a cost-effective way to get into both series.
Tokyo Babylon was adapted twice: once into a pair of OVAs, and once into a live-action film. I haven't seen the film myself (as far as I know it's never been subbed), but the OVAs are worthwhile if you enjoy the stories in TB; they're similar to the manga chapters.
X has likewise been adapted twice, as an anime film and a 24-episode series. Again, I haven't seen the film, but given the complexities of X's story I believe the reviews that say it falls short. The anime does a better job, but given that the manga was still running while it was airing, it has its own ending to the story.
Personally, I consider the manga the primary canon, and the various adaptations as their own separate canons. As such, this site is based solely on the manga versions of TB and X.
Tokyo Babylon and X use several Japanese terms, and if you're not familiar with the series you may find these definitions useful. The first definition is from Viz's rerelease of X; the others come from Tokyopop's first US publication of TB.
- A magical barrier or shield. In the world of X there are two different types of kekkai. The first is the individual barrier fields that the Seven Seals create in order to protect their surroundings from damage during a battle. The second is a huge magical ward that protects the entire city of Tokyo.
- Onmyouji are spiritual masters who use the principles of yin and yang and the five elements to combat supernatural forces and communicate with the spirit world. The term sometimes translates to exorcist or shaman, but it is a distinctly Eastern occupation which is rooted in the Buddhist tradition. In Japan, onmyouji are as important to pop culture and literature as wizards or Jedi are in the West.
- The power of any spell will rebound at equal power to the one who casts it. Even if a spell is not actively repelled, it will, in the end, affect the caster. A professional understands this and has defense mechanisms in place to combat it.
- Shikigami are oni (demons) summoned to serve an onmyouji, like the Western concept of a wizard's familiar. They can take the form of a bird or small animal, and more powerful shikigami can even possess a person. Subaru's shikigami is a two-headed crow.
Honorifics are also used in Tokyo Babylon and X, and are defined as follows (and again, were taken from Tokyopop's publication of TB). Please also note that all names on this site are in the Japanese order — family name first, then the given name.
- The most common suffix; -san is the equivalent to Mr. or Ms.
- Indicates friendly familiarity; most often applied towards girls.
- Indicates friendly familiarity; most often applied towards boys or by someone of a higher social status to someone beneath them.
It is also worth mention that the lack of an honorific is important in Japanese. Not using an honorific implies that you're close enough to someone to not need one, or you're being insulting by leaving it off. In Viz's releases of X in the US, honorifics are completely absent from the entire translation for some reason; they are there in the original Japanese.