Theoretically I read volume 6… I know I did. For some reason, I didn’t write it in here, though. Maybe I didn’t read the English one, just thought I did.
The thing about the ending to this series is that it is great. I know it is. However, the impact is absolutely ruined for me in this edition. Whenever I imagine the end of this series and how good it is, I think of what a huge twist it is, and how its handled, and what it must’ve been like going into it unaware and reading it for the first time. However, not only was I spoiled before I even read the series (not only by the internet, but also admittedly by reading X), I’ve read it in Japanese as well, so I was completely aware of what was going on. I think the ending loses almost all its impact if you know what’s going to happen so well, and this time through I was just reading it to get through it. I was hoping reading it in English would help me find some nuances I hadn’t picked up on before, some new angle… but that wasn’t quite the case. The scenes with Hokuto were still most heartbreaking, though.
Overall, as the conclusion drives completely and totally home, it is almost entirely character-based. On one hand I like it, because they’re all three very good characters, on the other hand there is no action. But I guess that’s two different audiences, though. It doesn’t have to be great at both to excel at one.
I don’t know how I feel about this series, though. I don’t think time has weathered my opinions of it well… I thought it was kind of boring this time through, which was disappointing, but again, not only had I read it twice in Japanese, I had entirely spoiled myself on it before even setting eyes on volume one the first time through, so that could have a lot to do with it.
Tokyo Babylon, while a great series, isn’t on the top of my “to read” list simply because I already read it in Japanese. It doesn’t mean anything in particular however, since it’s one of those series I would probably recommend to any manga fan. The beginning does go a bit slowly, but these last three volumes, especially if you don’t see them coming, are some of the finest in my collection… a good reason I own them in both English and Japanese (but again, I plan on collecting Japanese editions of all of CLAMP’s work, so that doesn’t mean much ^_^;)
There are three stories in this volume… one involving Subaru and an old man who lives with his bitch of a daughter and her family, one that starts off with all three main characters and winds up being Subaru talking to a woman in a karaoke booth, and one involving an adorable little kid who needs a kidney and his scary mother. I’m not sure which is my favorite… the kidney story serves as a catalyst for the rest of the series while the other two are sort of standalones, but those two are probably my two favorite standalones in the series.
The old man one in particular is quite touching. Tokyo Babylon suffers slightly for trying to hard to make its shorter stories sad and tragic… and on one hand its pretty successful for the most part given the length of many of the stories. However, the first time I read this one (an old man who lives with a daughter who is stressed out about family finances and bitches to him about how he doesn’t contribute, grandkids who ask him when he’ll die so they can have separate rooms, and he all the while is trying to fulfill a promise to his dead wife to make his daughter happy one hundred times), I bawled despite my loose grasp of what’s going on. It’s even more moving in English. It’s really one of the better moments in the series… right up there with volume seven, really.
God… TOKYO BABYLON!
Yes, I can admit that Tokyo Babylon has shallow characters in volume 1, and that it’s boring and rather… not worth coming back to. But it’s Tokyo Babylon. Volume 2 starts to introduce depth and whatnot.
I don’t really care for the annexes. Truth be told, there are things I like about Hokuto, but I don’t really care for her overall either. So I’ll just be talking about the main story. Granted, I complain in other series about nothing ever happening, and here we have a volume that consists entirely of a single story, and a story where Subaru does nothing but lie next to a girl in bed, at that. But it really engages his character and offers up a bit more depth. He talks about himself, the girl’s memory offers us scenes from the past, and when he visits his grandma, there’s even more about him there. One of the themes in the manga is that Subaru will not harm another person, no matter if it kills him in the process. That comes forward here, and continues to be a theme more and more in the rest of the manga, culminating in volume… eh, five I think. The story was awesome past Subaru being a really good character… the way the girl’s rape was handled was quite well-done and believable, and it was sensitive as a result.
The art is very striking in this series. Black is used as negative space a LOT, which is quite different than most series I read. Minimalism is also key, as the panels will generally just be a figure and background, or a two page spread will just have the figure to represent loneliness in Tokyo, blah blah blah. It’s good, and much different than what you would expect out of flowery, girly CLAMP at this time. The artbook is a really good show of minimalism. It’s almost boring to flip through, but at the same time… it’s interesting. Can’t describe it. But I am a big fan of minimalism, so there you go.