If you've read or seen X/1999, you know what happens to the three main characters of TOKYO BABYLON, but you don't know how or why. I will not reveal the exact what here; please don't do so in the comments, should you be moved to add one. As the manga X/1999 is still unfinished, was TOKYO BABYLON completed before X/1999 started?

Subaru is a sixteen-year-old onmyoji (exorcist/wizard/shaman/etc), the heir to the Sumeragi clan, "here from the distant past to protect modern-day Japan from hostile spirits," as his twin sister Hokuto likes to proclaim. Seishiro is a CLAMP-handsome young man, heir to the rival onmyoji Sakurazuka clan, but currently a veterinarian who likes to hang out with the Sumeragi twins. Hokuto likes to tease Subaru that Seishiro is in love with him and the two of them will get married some day, to Subaru's embarassment and Seishiro's amusement. Despite the age difference, this doesn't come across as creepily as it could. Or maybe I've just read enough manga that I've gotten inured to Lolita themes.

The art places the stylized, elegant characters against almost photographically detailed Tokyo cityscapes, to striking effect. Every panel has much to enjoy, whether it's Hokuto's outrageous outfits to Seishiro's adorable glasses to the puppy, apparently one of Seishiro's patients, that turns up in Subaru's lap for two panels and is never seen again.

The first volume follows Subaru as he resolves hauntings, counsels lonely ghosts, and looks on with that uniquely teenage blend of embarassment, hope, and terror as Seishiro flirts with him and Hokuto eggs Seishiro on. Hokuto, incidentally, is a pixie straight out of a Francesca Lia Block novel, and not at all what I would have expected after her appearance X/1999.

It's odd reading the first volume of TOKYO BABYLON knowing what I know from X/1999. The tone is light, almost lightweight, and without my foreknowledge I might not take the intimations of darkness, loneliness, and the heartbreak of cities to come too seriously. But Viz released much of X/1999 before Tokyopop published the first volume of TOKYO BABYLON, and thus turned us all into dreamseers, knowing the future but powerless to prevent it, or to read with an innocent eye.

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