Review: “Tokyo Babylon: Volume 1 (Omnibus Format)” by CLAMP


16231351Title: “Tokyo Babylon: Volume 1 (Omnibus Format)”

Author: CLAMP

Genre: Apocalyptic, GLBT, Paranormal, Manga, Classics

Publication Date: March 13, 2013 (Dark Horse Comics – North America)

Source: NetGalley Review Copy

Summary: Glamour has two meanings: the modern one of style, and the ancient one of sorcery. Tokyo Babylon is the realm of both! It’s 1991, the last days of Japan’s bubble economy, and money and elegance run through the streets like rivers of neon. So do the currents of darkness beneath them – obsession, greed, and exploitation, nourishing evil spirits that only the arts of the onmyoji – Japan’s legendary occultists – can combat. The two most powerful remaining onmyoji are in the unlikely guises of a handsome young veterinarian, Seishiro, and the teenage heir to the ancient Sumeragi clan, Subaru – just a couple of guys who Subaru’s sister Hokuto has decided are destined to be…a couple!

☆: 4/5 stars – a classic must-own for any CLAMP or shoujo fan!

Review: If you were a manga fan in the ’90s, you knew about CLAMP. CLAMP was just really getting big back then – first with early titles like this one, then its sequel, “X”, and later, “Cardcaptor Sakura” and other series. But if you’re really looking for some 90s nostalgia (pre-bubble), this is definitely the series for you to check out. It’s got pretty much everything you could want – romance, danger, diversity in sexual preferences, all that good stuff. And Dark Horse hasn’t done us wrong with these CLAMP omnibuses so far. They’ve released “Clover”, “Chobits”, and are working on “Gate 7”, and “Blood-C” now. Their work has been pretty excellent so far, but this omnibus has caused some worry on my part. Read on for more details.

Because I love this story so much, it’s definitely four stars, and I won’t go much into it because there are a TON (seriously, just check google) of reviews of this series out there. It’s before CLAMP got a little more cautious with its work, and there’s a great edge to this work that some of its later works don’t have. It’s definitely in the classic shoujo manga canon, and a must-read for any fan, or for anyone who’s just dipping their toes into the manga pool to see what they like. And if you find that you’re a fan, I highly suggest you move on to “X” (where Seishirou and Subaru return), see if you can find the short OAV anime, and the live action movie. They’re out there waiting to be rediscovered. This is decadent Tokyo culture at its height, originally published one year before the bubble burst and Japan’s economy went down the crapper – so if you’re going to read it for none of the above reasons? Just look at it for the fashions. I mean, seriously.

Now, I’ve read all of the original volumes (all seven of them) of “Tokyo Babylon”, first when they originally came out through Tokyopop. The translation there was horrendous, but they didn’t seem to censor or leave anything out with their releases. So when I was able, I picked up the bunko editions of the original in Japanese, and found that what Tokyopop released was also in the bunko editions and was able to read the rest of the series that way, since Tokyopop only got to volume 5 before they shut down.

So when I found out that Dark Horse was releasing this in omni format, I couldn’t help wonder how they were going to do it. Seven volumes isn’t easy to split, and this one contains five of seven. At only a little over 500 pages, I paged through everything. Each volume is roughly 150-160 pages. Now multiply that times five. That’s not 500 pages. While I’m not absolutely certain (only because CLAMP keeps repackaging and rereleasing this series every so many years – in fact, in 2012 there was yet another 3 book omnibus format release in Japan), I am starting to wonder if Dark Horse hasn’t cut anything. I don’t know what version they were working from, but some of the stuff later in the omnibus seems shortened.

Then again, I can’t be sure. As I said, there are so many different releases out there even in Japan, one can’t really be sure, because even CLAMP has cut or revised the original source material when rereleasing it. It could be that if they did cut any material from this volume, they might include it in the next one. I hope this is the case if indeed anything was cut.

On the plus side, this series has finally gotten the good translation it deserves. Gustav Horn is a vet in terms of manga and translation, and he’s done a fantastic job cleaning up Tokyopop’s mess. The translation is absolutely wonderful, and I’m glad that he’s worked on this series.

So when it comes to the formatting and release of this omnibus, I’m feeling a little lukewarm. Dark Horse always does a fantastic job with CLAMP’s stuff, so it’s a bit surprising that things seem a little shortened. However, they do include all of the color plates that have come with the rereleases over the years, and that’s definitely a plus if you’re a collector. But I’m feeling a little cautious (and a taste disappointed) with this release, which I won’t be rating just because I do feel so unsure about it.

Nevertheless, this is a must-own series if you’re a CLAMP fan, or a manga fan, period. This first omnibus of “Tokyo Babylon” drops March 13, 2013 in North America, so check it out when you get the chance, and let me know how you feel about this release.

2 thoughts on “Review: “Tokyo Babylon: Volume 1 (Omnibus Format)” by CLAMP

  1. Pingback: Usagi’s challenges for 2013 | birth of a new witch.

  2. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves: Week 39 | birth of a new witch.

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