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Tokyo Babylon

Anyone who has spent some time pouring over the collective works of Clamp will quickly notice a general theme when looking at the character designs in their manga. This is especially so in their works of the 90s. Elongated limbs and squared shoulders were the order of the day. It certainly gave characters in their creations a unique look. Thankfully, their stories were also engaging, and the company became one of the most respected manga producers out there. One early work they created that became popular was Tokyo Babylon, a story about an omyouji (a type of traditional Japanese spirit medium) living in modern day Tokyo who investigated unusual paranormal activities. Eventually it was adapted into a pair of OVA to introduce the series to a wider audience, which we’ll be looking at today.

Each video is a standalone episode that does an excellent job of giving viewers a basic idea of the world of Tokyo Babylon and its cast of characters. Everything centers around a young man named Subaru Sumeragi, who is the head of the Sumeragi clan. He is a spirit medium and routinely gets hired out to investigate strange paranormal happenings. Assisting him are his little sister, Hokuto, as well as Seishiro, another medium who poses as a veterinarian. In the manga, Seishiro actually has a massive backstory to him and is a central figure to its plot. However, viewers see almost none of that in the OVAs outside of a very subtle hint that there’s more to him toward the end of the second episode.

The first episode focuses on a construction company where many of the members of its board of executives have met with mysterious deaths. When Subaru goes to investigate, he discovers that one particularly ambitious executive has been harnessing the power of spirits to bump off his colleagues in order to take over the business. It’s a very straightforward story that does a decent job of introducing the characters and giving viewers an enjoyable experience. The second OVA is actually much better. There aren’t any nefarious spirits running a muck, but rather a plain ol’ mortal serial killer. Where things get interesting is that Subaru meets a couple other mediums whose psychic powers are quite different from his own. One is a girl named Mirei who is helping the police catch the killer since she can see into the past and witness events unfold. The other is a man with a similar power who likes collecting pieces of recently demolished buildings. It wouldn’t be wise to explain how they’re connected, as that would result in many spoilers, but it’s very satisfying to see how things come together by the end of the episode. While the Tokyo Babylon OVAs consist of only two episodes, they’re both very enjoyable and do more than enough to peak viewers interest for checking out the manga at some point.

As mentioned earlier, Clamp had a distinctive look to its character designs, and that is very noticeable in these OVA. Subaru and Seishiro in particular exhibit the long limbs and square shoulders so common in Clamp creations. Moreover, there is a lot of arbitrary religious imagery peppered throughout the show. Many of the characters appear to enjoy wearing oversized crucifixes as well. It was a fairly common visual trope to appear in anime and video games of the 90s likely because creators of these felt that they provided additional visual oomph to the otherworldly / spiritual themes they were presenting.

Perusing who was involved with the show, it’s interesting to see that a number of prominent figures lent their skills to Tokyo Babylon. First, it was directed by Kouichi Chigara, who would later go on to direct Magical Knight Rayearth and Full Metal Panic!. Then we have Subaru being voiced by Kappei Yamaguchi who also provided the voice of Conan from Detective Conan as well as the title role from InuYasha. Meanwhile, Seishiro was voiced by Takehito Koyasu who would later voice Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, and Shinsuke Takasugi in Gintama. Finally, Hokuto was voiced by Miki Itou, who also lent her voice to Android 18 in Dragonball and Taiga Fujimura in the Fate series.

People who are curious about the early days of Clamp would do well to check out these Tokyo Babylon OVAs. They’re well put together and give a basic idea of what to expect without spoiling some of the bigger plot points of the manga. They have enjoyable self-contained stories and provide a basic introduction to the story’s main characters. This is definitely an example of a “Please read the manga!” OVA done right.

- IroIro
July 22, 2019
Directed by: Kouichi Chigara
Studio: Madhouse
Released: 1992 / 1994
Episodes: 2

Tokyo Babylon Anime Image 1

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