Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky. (slithytove) wrote,
Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky.

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Review: Tokyo Babylon DVD

TOKYO BABYLON anime is two OAV episodes, each about 50 minutes, based on the CLAMP manga, released in the US on DVD by U.S. Manga in 2000. I just finished watching my copy I picked up at Shoujocon.

Sumeragi Subaru is a medium with psychic powers. With his sister Hokuto and friend Seishirou he helps the police solve crimes. In the first episode, the leaders of a company that is building a skyscraper die in mysterious accidents one by one. Who, or what is behind it? Subaru and associates must find out. In the second episode, women are being killed on the subway. Mirei, a woman with 'post-cognition', who can see past events by touching objects associated with those events, is called in to help, but soon finds herself in danger, as does Subaru.

As a genre, this is action-horror. Both episodes are very action-oriented, and don't have much shoujo feel to them, beyond the character design, and occasional clouds of cherry blossoms blowing by the camera. They do have some thrilling action sequences, very nicely animated. The relationships between the characters are not the focus of the show, although there is a suggestion of shounen-ai going on between Subaru and Seishrou. Hokuto is little more than an accessory, she plays no important role in the plot. She appears once in a catgirl suit for no reason that I could discover. We don't get much insight into the characters or motivations of any of the principals. The second episode is better than the first, although I wish we got into the mind of the villain a little more. He resembles Vicious from Cowboy Bebop, although he seems to enjoy his work more than Vicious does.

I liked the music, very eerie and appropriate for the subject matter. The ED for the first OAV is sung in English, badly, and the ED for the second episode in Japanese, and much better. I'm not sure whether they're the same song. The OP theme is instrumental, spooky, and I liked it.

Technical issues: There are major audio and video shortcomings to this DVD. The subtitles are badly out of synch with the voices on the Japanese track (really badly, this is the worst example of this problem I've ever seen), and there are minor audio skips. The video transfer is very soft, the colors seem desaturated, and there are ugly edge-enhancement artifacts. The master tape appears to have been made for transfer to low resolution VHS, and putting it to DVD on a large screen reveals a lot of flaws. OTOH, I can't see a lot of the compression artifacts which are the curse of animation on DVD. This was one of the earlier anime shows released on DVD, and like the Bubblegum Crisis OAV's, it shows its age, the problem of a master tape made for VHS, and the inexperience of the personnel doing the DVD mastering process. More recent DVD's, such as Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040, and Gasaraki, are technically much improved. Caveat: I watch DVD's on a very large, 110 in. diagonal screen, which reveals every flaw. If you typically watch a more conventionally sized TV screen, the softness and edge-enhancement problems may not be apparent. This won't solve the audio problems, though.

In summation: I enjoyed this DVD, despite its technical flaws, although I was disappointed that it was so heavily focused on action, without much emotional content or depth of theme or plot. I'm curious to learn more about Subaru and his crew. Maybe I should try the manga.

Tokyo Babylon
ASIN: B00000I1SE
List Price: $34.95

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