Covers all of TOKYO BABYLON by CLAMP In an alternate Tokyo, Subaru, Seishiro, and Hokuto have otherworldly adventures in this prequel to CLAMP’s unfinished series, X. In a poll about which CLAMP series we should cover next, TOKYO BABYLON came out victorious. We’re here to give the people what they want, so on this episode, Shojo & Tell host Ashley and her journey-through-all-of-CLAMP buddy Asher Sofman answer many listener questions, like: Does Seishiro love Subaru? Why is Hokuto so great? What’s the true nature of evil? What were our favorite cases? This is a heavy episode to go with a heavy manga. Watch out for the turn about 30 minutes in. You’ve been warned.
Covers all of Tokyo Babylon by CLAMP
In an alternate Tokyo, Subaru, Seishiro, and Hokuto have otherworldly adventures in this prequel to CLAMP’s unfinished series, X. In a poll about which CLAMP series we should cover next, Tokyo Babylon came out victorious. We’re here to give the people what they want, so on this episode, Shojo & Tell host Ashley and her journey-through-all-of-CLAMP buddy Asher Sofman answer many listener questions, like: Does Seishiro love Subaru? Why is Hokuto so great? What’s the true nature of evil? What were our favorite cases? This is a heavy episode to go with a heavy manga. Watch out for the turn about 30 minutes in. You’ve been warned.
Next episode will be about Phantom Thief Jeanne by Arina Tanemura.
ASHLEY: Welcome to Shojo and Tell, where we discuss shojo manga, and tell who’s hot and who’s not, talk about themes, and just generally geek out. Today, April 5, 2019, we’ll shojo and telling about the series TOKYO BABYLON by CLAMP. I’m your host Ashley McDonnell, and I’m joined by journey-through-all-of-the-CLAMP buddy, Asher Sofman.
ASHER: Oh. No.
ASHLEY: Oh no! That is an appropriate response! (both laughing)
ASHER: Does that mean we are going to read X? (both laughing)
ASHLEY: So the thing that kills me about X is that it’s not completed, right?
ASHLEY: And so I keep being like, ‘but we live in the era where everything comes back.’ Like, CLAMP brought back Cardcaptor Sakura, maybe they’ll just be like, ‘we’re rebooting X!’ I don’t know!
ASHER: Oh god, no, I could not — well, if they rebooted X, maybe it would be better. (laughs)
ASHLEY: It would be better, yeah. Just delete those first 18 volumes and start it over. (laughs)
ASHER: this is not to, you know, hate on anyone who likes X the way it is. But if you don’t get into it in your high school years, I feel, like, it’s too late.
ASHLEY: it’s gone, okay! All of that is to say, this is NOT an X podcast!
ASHER: This is not an X podcast!
ASHLEY: We are not discussing X.
ASHER: Um, yeah, so if you asked questions about X, we don’t know the answers.
ASHLEY: We don’t know the answers.
ASHER: we don’t know what you’re talking about.
ASHLEY: No, we’re like, ‘what’s that mean? I don’t know.’ So we’re gonna ignore those, but y’all asked a lot of non-X questions.
ASHLEY: So we will address those. And, actually, I am lying, because there is at least one X question that I was like, ‘I want to answer that in a way that is only related to Tokyo Babylon.’ I feel that I have thoughts about it.
ASHER: Okay, I trust Ashley.
ASHLEY: Okay, Asher’s just going with it, that’s right. Okay, so this first section is going to be a spoiler — AN ATTEMPT — at a spoiler-free section, in case you have not read Tokyo Babylon before, and you’re like ‘should I read it?’
ASHER: (whispers) No!
ASHLEY: I disagree with that answer, but okay.
ASHER: it depends on what you’re into, and what you can stomach.
ASHLEY: Okay, yes, okay, preface this! Okay, so, you know, I always ask, what is our familiarity with the series? That’s not important right now — what is important right now is that Asher read this entire — there are seven volumes — Asher read all seven volumes in a night and then was like —
ASHER: It’s — oh yeah, it is.
ASHLEY: yeah, yeah, no — okay, you started in the morning.
ASHER: I did start in the morning.
ASHLEY: Okay, he got through all of them and he’s like, ‘where do I find X though?’
ASHER: Okay, but, not — (both laughing) It’s because I was so frustrated with the ending.
ASHLEY: Okay, I can see that, I feel you. I read it over the period of like, five days, and after each story chapter, I had to be like, ‘I have to sit down and be emotionally wrecked for a second right now.’ I was like, Asher’s in his room talking to his friend, laughing, and I’m like, on the couch, sobbing, crying, reading Tokyo Babylon.
ASHER: Ashley feels things much more deeply than I do. Like, always, I mean this is, I mean if you’ve heard me on the podcast before, you know this to be true.
ASHLEY: And I’m just like, god, it’s so sad! What is happening to my emotions?!? I’m just wrecked! So, yeah, so, different takes here.
ASHER: Very different takes.
ASHLEY: But I’m going to make Asher tell you what Tokyo Babylon is about, because I don’t wanna have to suffer.
ASHER: It’s fine, it’s actually not that difficult to summarize if we are leaving out all the spoilers. So Tokyo Babylon focuses on the story of — I forgot his last name — Subaru —
ASHER: Sumeragi! He is an onmyōji, which is a type of sort of priest, sort of purification expert. He largely exorcises ghosts and does all that sort of protect-y — is it Shinto or Buddhist? Maybe both? I mean, Japan has it’s syncretic religion, and it’s difficult to tell sometimes — I think it’s Buddhist. Largely. He’s basically like, magic Ghost Buster. And it’s his story of how he sort of learns about humanity through that, and he lives with his twin sister, Hokuto, who is the best.
ASHER: Yes. And they are currently living in Tokyo with this older man, older-ish man, he’s 25? Whatever.
ASHLEY: Something like that.
ASHER: Seishiro Sa-ku-ra-za-ka?
ASHLEY: Oh yeah, we should have practiced.
ASHER: they have really — look, I’m generally pretty okay with the Japanese pronunciations. These names are real long.
ASHLEY: Yeah, his is just real long.
ASHER: And real strange. I’ve never heard ‘Hokuto’ as a name before. It’s on the back. Sa-ku-ra-za-ku — (sighs)
ASHLEY: His, no, his last name is just Sakurazura.
ASHER: No, there’s another — oh.
ASHLEY: but then his CLAN is Sakurazukamori.
ASHER: oh, is it? Okay. Seishiro. (both laugh)
ASHER: And they suspect he might be part of this opposing clan to the Sumeragi clan, but they are not entirely sure. And he’s just this smiley veterinarian who keeps like, aggressively hitting on Subaru, but like in a teasing way, like, ‘oh ho ho ho! I’m serious — but am I really serious?’ And anyway, it’s about that! It’s about how he deals with all these magical problems, magical spiritual problems arising in this hedonistic Tokyo world. That did not actually feel that hedonistic to me.
ASHER: It was just like, normal ‘90s Tokyo.
ASHLEY: Yeah, it was just Tokyo. I don’t know.
ASHER: Like, they tried to make it sound so dark on the back of the books, and I was like, “you know, I’m not feeling that.”
ASHLEY: Yeah, no, no, it was just, this is just what Tokyo is.
ASHER: Yeah. The things he deals with are pretty dark, but like, Tokyo itself is not this like, you’re not going into Sin City here.
ASHLEY: Yeah. Okay Asher, did you like Tokyo Babylon?
ASHER: (long pause)
ASHLEY: Oh no.
ASHER: (laughs) Um. Did I like it? It definitely grabbed me — obviously, I read it in a day, I could not put it down. And obviously, I do have these very strong nostalgia feelings associated with CLAMP, because they were my first manga ever, was Magic Knight Rayearth.
ASHLEY: the CLAMP you definitely prefer.
ASHER: Yes! Well that, and Cardcaptors, yes.
ASHLEY: The happy CLAMPs.
ASHER: The happy CLAMPs. Which is, I’m learning as a grow, the minority of CLAMP.
ASHLEY: The minority of CLAMPs.
ASHER: Did I like it? It does definitely have a very early CLAMP feel to me, in which they had not actually perfected their storytelling and character telling abilities yet, particularly at the beginning of Tokyo Babylon.
ASHER: I was like, ‘what?’
ASHLEY: I feel like the first volume does not, is not what the rest of it is.
ASHER: Yes. Well, I think they like actively changed what it was — there was some discussion in the backs of one of the — or in the, on the Wikipedia or something that I read, where they were like, ‘oh yeah, we decided not to go with this comedic thing.’
ASHER: Because they like their dark, twisted stuff.
ASHER: Did I like it? The ending really threw me off. An ending can make or break a series for me, and that one was like, oh my god, why would you do this to me, personally, I knew you would do this, and yet, here I am! Which is why I want to go to X to get the like, closure.
ASHLEY: Right, this definitely — so this is a prequel to X, and the end definitely is that.
ASHER: I feel weird calling it a prequel. It was written before X. When it’s just like, the first thing in a series, technically, but they kind of like, abandoned the storyline, and then picked it back up in X. That’s how I feel about it.
ASHLEY: Yeah. It’s like, the first volume of Tokyo Babylon is not at all representative of what it’s actually going to be like, and like, how good it actually ends up being, in my mind.
ASHLEY: It’s a storytelling thing, yeah.
ASHLEY: on a storytelling level, yeah. Like, the first volume’s like, whatever. Then like, the last volume is like, ‘hi! Here’s a whole new story that I’m just gonna leave you in the middle, and we’re not gonna resolve it.’ And I’m like, what?!
ASHER: Yeah. It wasn’t a whole new story, because they were hinting at what was going to come for forever.
ASHLEY: I mean, sure.
ASHER: But like, the abrupt — I don’t want to call it a tone shift, it was like an abrupt, paradigm shift even, of like what we are expected to expect.
ASHLEY: Yeah. All of that is to say, the middle five volumes, v good!
ASHER: They’re real good. They’re really good. Be warned, like, it’s super disturbing and dark in a lot of places.
ASHLEY: It’s dark. All the trigger warnings. All. Of. Them.
ASHER: I mean, if you’ve read Count Cain, not as bad as Count Cain. But like, that’s, you know, if we’re comparing it to Count Cain, that should tell you something about what it’s about. Ashley hasn’t read Count Cain.
ASHER: And I will never make her, I will never — don’t suggest that to Ashley!
ASHLEY: Oh no. Oh no. Yeah no, I, as I said, I cried, not literally after every chapter, but I mean, maybe half? Or during?
ASHER: I did not cry.
ASHLEY: Okay, you know, we’ll get into it.
ASHER: Again, I am a heartless Scorpio.
ASHLEY: A heartless, heartless Scorpio. What am I? I just feel too many things. There are also a lot of stories involving children and I’m sure we will get into purity, innocence, garbage of children.
ASHLEY: Yes, I know, Asher, we’re going to go there.
ASHLEY: I know, I’m sorry.
ASHER: It’s okay, I understand.
ASHLEY: And our obvious, very different beliefs about those things.
ASHER: Right. I feel it around children, like, that’s fine.
ASHLEY: Okay. So lots of children get dead, just be prepared for that, that’s uh….
ASHER: Okay, I can think of two.
ASHLEY: There are, okay, there are children in the process of suffering or are already dead.
ASHER: Yes, okay, alright. That kid, that kid is a good kid.
ASHLEY: Yes, and it’s sad, okay? So be warned. But it’s also very good, the storytelling is good in the moments where it’s not being like, CLAMP, what are you trying to do here?
ASHER: And like, once they get into developing Subaru as a character and not just having him like, not just like putting him out there like in the first volume and a half maybe.
ASHER: Subaru is real good.
ASHLEY: Subaru is a good boy!
ASHER: Subaru is a great boy, he did not deserve anything that happened in any of this manga.
ASHLEY: Hokuto is a good girl, too!
ASHER: Oh yeah. Oh, Hokuto’s chapter is probably the best chapter in the entire thing.
ASHLEY: Yeah, you’re just like, what!!!!!! Hokuto!!!! What is up!!!!!! You are too real! Okay, so, you should read Tokyo Babylon.
ASHER: If you can handle it.
ASHLEY: If you can handle it, you should.
ASHER: Be warned, the ending sucks.
ASHLEY: (laughs) Is the ending even?
ASHER: It’s not even an ending.
ASHLEY: It’s not even an ending.
ASHER: Well it’s an ending in that, the series ends, and now you have to go read X, and that’ll suck.
ASHLEY: And that doesn’t end, so, have fun! Have fun!
ASHER: Noooo, don’t remind me.
ASHLEY: Okay, so, unfortunately I am actually legitimately confused about the status of Tokyo Babylon’s license and things.
ASHER: Yeah, if Ashley is confused, none of us know anything.
ASHLEY: People at Kodansha and Dark Horse know things, but I don’t. Okay. So I was able to buy the first omnibus new from Right Stuf, they were the only ones that had it in stock though. And then I couldn’t find the second omnibus at all new, anywhere, and I bought it used from Barnes and Noble or something, because I don’t use Amazon. Amazon is the devil. And Kodansha has been getting all the licenses for other CLAMP works, like they now have CCS and I don’t know about Magic Knight Rayearth, Magic Knight Rayearth is also in a weird place now, like, they’re not available digitally, so I think that this is like, things are transitioning to Kodansha, so we’re in the hard in-between license place. But Tokyo Babylon was also published by Tokyopop before, so like, there are versions of it floating around that you can obtain, possibly from your library. Like, our library the Tokyopop versions, we could have borrowed those, but I was like, Tokyopop. I mean, that’s, Tokyopop’s perfectly fine, I’m sure you can read those versions and it would be fine, like, whatever. I just wanted to like, I wanted the pretty omnibus versions, because I’m a snob like that, I don’t know.
ASHER: They are very pretty. They are very high-quality. The paper is ridiculous.
ASHLEY: I know, there’s lots of color pages, like, it’s good, it’s good stuff.
ASHER: It’s good stuff.
ASHLEY: Dark Horse did a good. That’s all I’m saying. Okay, so, now we are definitely going to spoil things, if we did not already, I don’t know, maybe we did.
ASHER: I think we’re good. Largely.
ASHLEY: Largely, we’re good. But now we’re going to spoil all the things, so don’t listen anymore if you don’t want to know the things.
ASHLEY: Okay, so first I want to acknowledge that I ran a little poll about when people had read this manga last, because I really was convinced that it would be like, full of nostalgia, and that it would be like, the prime answer for anybody who had read it would be over 10 years ago. But it was not! The number one answer was “in the past five years,” and I’m like, oh damn!
ASHER: Well I also think a more telling poll would have been ‘when did you first read Tokyo Babylon?’
ASHLEY: I mean, yes. The first, the number one answer was ‘never,’ so I mean —
ASHER: Okay, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. (Ashley laughing). Granted, I also had never read this before, but I have, I had read a few volumes of X.
ASHER: But I don’t remember a lot about it. I don’t think I got to Subaru in X.
ASHLEY: Yeah, I should clarify also that like, both, we did not read X for this, and I don’t think, neither of us has gotten through all of X.
ASHER: Oh no, oh no.
ASHLEY: Only piecemeal of X.
ASHER: Yeah, and it was a long time ago.
ASHLEY: Yeah. It was in our high school years.
ASHLEY: Over 10 years ago.
ASHER: Which is why I feel that I can go back to X, because I do have that high school connection.
ASHLEY: Ah! Okay! Sure.
ASHER: If I were to go to it now, I think I would be like, ‘ugh, I have recipe books to read.’
ASHLEY: (laughs) Excellent. So, I feel like everybody who has read Tokyo Babylon really was like, very excited about this episode. I’m very afraid of disappointing them, but we’re gonna answer your questions and stuff.
ASHER: Oh yeah, another poll you should have done was, ‘if you have read Tokyo Babylon, have you also read X?’
ASHLEY: Have you also read X? Yeah, that’s —
ASHER: We have not.
ASHLEY: What, no, okay, what I like about the first answer being ‘never’ actually is that, you know, you get into this trap where you think everybody’s read all these things all the time, but no! But nobody’s read all the things! Most people haven’t read the popular things, either! It’s fine! You’re fine! That’s how I feel.
ASHER: Yeah, I was just like, this feeling is alien to me. I don’t need to read the popular things, I just kinda wanna know what they’re about.
ASHLEY: No, I always have massive FOMO, and then I like to be reassured that I’m like, oh no, I’m fine, I’m fine over here. Anyway. We’re gonna answer the questions now.
ASHER: Let’s do it.
ASHLEY: We’re gonna try.
ASHLEY: God. Okay. Again, I have thrown out some questions that were just like, only about X or would require more X knowledge.
ASHER: Right, or if they referenced material we just didn’t have.
ASHLEY: Yeah, so, sorry, but you have been warned. So these first couple questions come from @saigonalice on Twitter. The first one is: Do you believe that Seishirou and Subaru were a couple that we as readers were intended to root for, or are they a lucid case of a predatory relationship with a wide age-gap and power differential?
ASHER: I have many thoughts about this.
ASHLEY: (laughs) Okay.
ASHER: I think that it is a really good way to read that couple is the second option. I do not think that was the intent.
ASHER: I — yes. Especially given CLAMP’s history in other things. Like, CLAMP loves their age-gap romances and portrays them as super cute sometimes.
ASHER: And I can’t deal with that, but, ugh, god. Every time I remember that Rika and Mr. Terada romance in Cardcaptors, I just cannot ever trust that CLAMP is doing a critical commentary on age-difference relationships.
ASHLEY: Yes. So, I do feel that, if I read X, I might give a different answer. But, as I read Tokyo Babylon, just looking at Tokyo Babylon, I feel that it is supposed to be the second one.
ASHLEY: Yeah, because I do not feel that I was given any evidence that Seishiro has, knows what love is.
ASHER: Oh, no.
ASHLEY: And like, in that way, it’s like, well sure, Subaru loves Seishiro, but like, if Seishiro doesn’t love him, then it’s, they’re not a couple, that’s not a thing.
ASHER: Yeah, I think we — I had the feeling, as I finished, that, I was definitely like, oh no, if Subaru had come around earlier and showed that love towards Seishiro, oh no, maybe Seishiro would’ve figured out what love was.
ASHER: And ‘that’s the tragedy, oh CLAMP!’ No, I, I don’t want to feel that way, so like, I would love to read it as the second, but I do feel that like, oh, we were supposed to be rooting for this couple, and now it’s a tragedy. That’s how I feel.
ASHLEY: Interesting. I guess I feel like, if — I am all about the — this… Okay, so this is why so many stories about like fake dating, right, like, ‘oh, I’m gonna be your fake boyfriend, but then we actually fall in love with each other.’ Like, that’s why they work, is because, you know, we as humans believe if you come into influence with somebody, you will influence them, they will eventually like you, that’s kind of like, you want to like a person you have to spend time with, you know?
ASHLEY: So that makes sense. And I guess I read it as, if Seishiro did his whole bet dumb thing of like ‘I’ll hang out with you for a year and see if you influence me, and if you don’t, I’ll kill you,’ and if it didn’t work, then I’m like, okay, then, like, it shouldn’t matter if Subaru had shown him love, like I don’t think that would have changed anything.
ASHER: I think what intrigued me about the bet was that, okay, Seishiro didn’t change, Subaru did.
ASHER: Subaru, like, grew an entire like, a personality.
ASHER: No, what I mean is that like, in the beginning he is this selfless sort of like, machine for doing good.
ASHER: And what he comes to realize is that like, oh, I have these selfish feelings toward Seishiro. And I think that’s actually the good, the wonderful thing about this bet. Like, I don’t think this bet was wonderful in any way. This bet is awful in so many ways. But we do say Subaru grow. So in a way, we see this, what you posited as real, like, because of Seishiro, Subaru grows. He becomes a person instead of a tool.
ASHLEY: Yes. Okay see again, I don’t think I disagree with Subaru. Subaru’s all in.
ASHER: Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah.
ASHLEY: Everything he does is real. The everything that Seishiro does is super fake.
ASHER: Right, but, Subaru didn’t know about the bet, so if Subaru had known, what would that have changed?
ASHLEY: But they—
ASHER: I know! I know!
ASHLEY: It takes two to be a couple!
ASHER: Yes. I agree. I don’t know that CLAMP agrees. (both laugh)
ASHLEY: Well — oh boy.
ASHER: Or I don’t know that they agreed back in the ‘90s.
ASHLEY: CLAMP, just rewrite all of Tokyo Babylon, rewrite X, just rewrite it all.
ASHER: I think it’s supposed to be a romance that we root for, but also like, a tragedy and like, touching on those forbidden, dark agency things.
ASHLEY: Yeah. Well I mean, what’s bad about the bet, there are really kind of two bets going on here. I don’t, I mean — yeah, I would say, the other one’s not a bet, it’s a chance, with Hokuto being like, I — I’m like, Hokuto, why did you do this? — but she’s like, ‘I want you to — yes, Subaru is too selfless, so I want you to have a thing that you are devoted to, and if it hurt I don’t, this is too much.’ And she stakes that in Seishiro — bad move, Hokuto, bad bad move.
ASHER: Super bad move. As long as we remember that Hokuto is also 16, it makes sense.
ASHLEY: (laughs) okay.
ASHER: She’s the same age as Subaru.
ASHLEY: Yes. So in that way, yeah, Hokuto got what she wanted.
ASHER: I don’t think she wanted it to!
ASHLEY: She didn’t—
ASHER: She didn’t want Subaru —
ASHLEY: She didn’t want the betrayal, she wanted what
ASHER: Oh, yeah yeah
ASHLEY: Seishiro did for Subaru
ASHLEY: Which was like, grow a heart
ASHER: Right. I do want to know how this story ends. Because we don’t! We don’t know how this story ends.
ASHLEY: Stories don’t end, Asher.
ASHER: They end when they finish X.
ASHER: I want to know like, once — I mean, I hope to god that Subaru kills this guy, but after that, I want to know, does he go on? Does he find a way to be devoted to people again? Because I think that’s desperately important.
ASHLEY: Mmm. I actually was very reassured by the last Annex chapter, you know, where Subaru is obviously very different, but at least, I was like, oh he still does have a good heart.
ASHLEY: Like he interacts with these people. I thought he was gonna be like totally bad now, and I was like oh no! Poor Subaru!
ASHER: Maybe he is in X, I don’t know, I feel like that Annex chapter came out after X started. I could be pulling that out of my head, but I think was trying to gauge the art style, but I was so confused by Subaru not looking like a little girl.
ASHER: CLAMP has like, two faces that they do, like two body types that they do, and Subaru was like, neither in this Annex chapter, and I was like I’m very confused right now all of the sudden, CLAMP.
ASHLEY: what is this?! How gender?! Gender’s stupid, don’t gender.
ASHER: How gender, how age?
ASHLEY: How age? Eh. It’s all in the hair.
ASHER: You’re either 4 heads tall, or 16 heads tall.
ASHLEY: Yes! (laughs)
ASHER: With 8 heads of shoulder.
ASHLEY: Yes yes yes. Accurate. (both laugh) Where were we going with this? Okay, no, I — okay, so we disagree about this relationship.
ASHLEY: I interpret it, because Seishiro is just a psychopath, he’s just — yeah, he’s just a psychopath.
ASHER: Yeah, yeah.
ASHLEY: There’s no couple to root for here because one of them is not a participant!
ASHER: In a way, neither of them are participants!
ASHLEY: That’s not a thing!
ASHLEY: But maybe CLAMP disagrees, I don’t know. That’s how I read it. Because reading it the whole time I was like, yeah, Seishiro never came off as genuine to me. Like even, in any interaction, and so I’m like, I can’t root for something that never had any basis in genuineness. That isn’t, that’s not how I roll. Okay, so this question I feel we might not be able to answer, but multiple people asked us about them being queer, so let’s go. @saigonalice says: Furthermore, are you of the opinion that Seishirou and Subaru are accurate representations of Queer Japanese men, or are they rather caricatures based on Yaoi fictional tropes? And @lonelydistance on Twitter wants to know: Why doesn't CLAMP let gay characters be happy?
ASHER: I actually have a fundamental block on this question, cuz, I mean, how can you have any accurate representation of queer Japanese men with two characters and like, several million, like, queer people, I don’t think that’s a thing.
ASHLEY: Yeah, there are like, millions of people just in Tokyo.
ASHER: I think physically they are very much stereotypes. Because you’ve got the big dude and the little dude! I think that Seishiro is playing a part, so that doesn’t help.
ASHER: Subaru seems like a genuine person.
ASHER: Like, it’s just very difficult for me when I’m of the opinion that like, oh, queer people are just like everybody else, and everybody is different also, so like, there’s gonna be no — if they fee like a person, then they feel like an accurate queer person, that’s how I feel.
ASHLEY: Good answer.
ASHER: Seishiro doesn’t.
ASHLEY: Yeah, because Seishiro is weird.
ASHER: He’s — yeah. And, as for queer Japanese culture, I don’t know enough about it.
ASHER: I feel that this is probably not accurate to it, in part because I think CLAMP did a lot to define those stereotypes and caricatures. Like, this is one of the first manga that was marketed as a BL manga — I really don’t know if I would call this a BL manga.
ASHLEY: first of all, disagree with marketing.
ASHER: So it’s very, this is a very complicated and amorphous and spiderwebby question, and I cannot give a solid answer to it.
ASHLEY: Yeah. Well to the question, why doesn’t CLAMP let gay characters be happy, and I guess, Subaru is not happy and he is certainly represented as gay. I actually disagree, we don’t know Seishiro’s sexual orientation. I believe he is asexual based on all evidence presented to me in this manga.
ASHER: Yeah. I also feel that CLAMP doesn’t let any characters be happy.
ASHLEY: Yeah, nobody’s happy.
ASHER: They let — as for queer representation, I didn’t read Clear Card, so in my mind Toya and Yuki are happily married. Who else? Eagle? He’s fine.
ASHLEY: He’s fine. Oh yeah! Magic Knight Rayearth. Everybody just read Magic Knight Rayearth!
ASHER: Yeah. The tragic ship is het!
ASHLEY: There we go! Actually, read Clear Card, but only after we see how it ends.
ASHER: Oh, it’s not done yet.
ASHLEY: It’s not done yet, no.
ASHER: Next question I think we will have many feelings about.
ASHER: oh yes
ASHLEY: Oh yes! Okay! Still from @saigonalice. So, Hokuto was reportedly a well liked female character, and this took CLAMP by surprise. Why do you personally think this is the case, (considering how a lot of other CLAMP female characters are rather damsel in distress by comparison...)? As we have said, Hokuto is the best character in this manga. She only has one chapter dedicated to her, and it was the best.
ASHER: THE BEST chapter. That chapter is like, everything that feminism manga should be.
ASHER: I do feel that this is very much a Japanese culture versus American culture thing, particularly in the ‘90s, in that they are surprised that Hokuto is a popular female character because she is outspoken and selfish and dismissive of certain things and brave. Like, not — I think she’s very pure-hearted, but she does not present herself as pure-hearted, particularly not in comparison to Subaru and I think even to Seishiro. Cuz, oh, he’s such a nice vet! And oh, he’s so in love with Subaru!
ASHLEY: He’s so nice!
ASHER: No. (laughs) Whereas in the West, we do romanticize our tomboys. I wouldn’t call Hokuto a tomboy either, but she’s got the short hair and the take-no-shit attitude.
ASHER: Which are not considered feminine in either of our societies.
ASHLEY: Yeah no I was definitely like I am about Hokuto’s brand of pure-heartedness that is just like, I don’t take your nonsense, I just go and beat you up, because I’m right, and that’s great! I’m like, yes!! Hokuto! And her story with the prostitute, right, yes?
ASHLEY: You gave me such a look right now.
ASHER: They did not, they did not try to make that subtle, they wanted you to understand.
ASHLEY: I give all benefits of the doubt until —
ASHER: That’s not true! You were the one that told me that “She WIll Be Loved” was about a prostitute.
ASHLEY: Okay, my bad. Whatevs.
ASHER: I was pure before then!
ASHLEY: I corrupted Asher, oh no, how dare I! (both laugh) But yeah Hokuto just being like, ‘men who treat women badly are just bad people so I beat you up,’ I’m like, ‘excellent, I am all about this!’ And then Hokuto’s attitude of like, being a foreigner is not like a place, that’s not a thing, we’re all just human. And I’m like, oh!
ASHER: That’s EXCELLENT!
ASHLEY: That’s so nice!
ASHER: Hokuto’s so good!
ASHLEY: Hokuto’s so good! And she’s like I’ll be your friend! And I’m like, yassssss!
ASHLEY: The best. Where is the manga just about their friendship? That’s what I want! The pure, pure manga about their friendship.
ASHER: I would want some ghost-busting in there, too.
ASHER: Is that okay?
ASHLEY: Hokuto has enough power.
ASHER: Yeah, she has enough power.
ASHLEY: To do some things.
ASHER: Yeah, yeah.
ASHLEY: Sure, that’s fine, we can throw that in there.
ASHER: Alright, that’s our next fanfic project.
ASHLEY: That’s our next — ohhhhh!! (both laugh) Yes. Okay, yes. I also just liked Hokuto — like, Hokuto was the best part of the first volume that didn’t fit with the rest of the series. Like, reading her rants about the environment, I think, are actually like more relevant in 2019 than they were in 1991? Like, people were just like getting on that train back then. Yeah, Hokuto knows what’s up, that’s all.
ASHER: She does.
ASHLEY: And uh, it is weird that, you know, her and Subaru look exactly the same, aside from clothing. That always made me feel a little weird, but that’s fine.
ASHER: It’s like, they knew they were gonna use that eventually, but they took too long getting to it.
ASHLEY: Very true. Oh, boy. Yeah, I don’t know what to say, Hokuto’s really good. Hokuto’s great. Okay, wow, this is a question. @blusocket on Twitter wanted to know: How do you feel about how the series depicts the nature of evil re: Seishiro? I have many thoughts, but I…
ASHER: You start.
ASHLEY: Okay. But I feel like I’m going to throw it off immediately, because I don’t think that — Okay, so obviously Seishiro is evil. I do not think that Seishiro is supposed to be the depiction, like, the end all, be all depiction of evil.
ASHER: I think I agree with that.
ASHLEY: Yeah, because a lot of this manga is about the everyday people being evil, or mean to one another, and the harmful effects that spiral out from that, but with the understanding that like, those people are not all evil. Like, they do actions in times of distress, when they don’t know what to do, that are very bad. And otherwise, they are good.
ASHLEY: Whereas — that’s why Seishiro is actually the least interesting character to me. Because he’s just fake, and he’s just like this hyper-depiction of evil that I’m like, I don’t care.
ASHER: I actually, I disagree with that a little.
ASHER: Good, that’ll make you talk.
ASHER: Obviously Seishiro is evil, but also like, he is evil based on our conception of what, like, okay, he killed a child. Yes, that’s evil. We all agree that killing children is evil. But his whole point and the reason that he comes in so often in these particularly difficult cases — I’m particularly thinking of the religious sect one.
ASHER: Where that woman did genuinely think she was doing good, even though she like, did not, could not conceive that what she was doing was harming others, and harming vulnerable people.
ASHER: Because the, we don’t actually see Seishiro do evil things. Like, on screen. Like the killing the child is a flashback.
ASHER: Everything he does is to protect Subaru. I think the, whatever little seed of want — like, Seishiro wants to understand what this feeling is.
ASHLEY: Yes, I agree with that.
ASHER: Means that he is not pure evil. He does not — and I, I have never, I don’t think the manga does a good job of explaining what his clan does. What we get is that, oh, the Sakurazukamori — did I get it?
ASHER: Alright! The Sakurazukamori clan uses their onmyoji powers to assassinate people. But usually assassinations have a purpose.
ASHER: And it does not seem that these assassinations that have been done have like, thrown the world into chaos or put powerful people — like, we don’t know anything about them.
ASHER: The fact that it is for a purpose does not speak to me of pure evil. Although I do not know the effects of these things. Except that it’s regular Tokyo.
ASHLEY: Sure. I guess it’s hard, because, yeah, the first thing that we know is that he killed a child, and it’s like, what could possibly have been his motivation to kill a child?
ASHER: But we have no idea.
ASHLEY: I know.
ASHER: That’s powerful juju right there is like, the snuffing of a life of a child, in all its purity, and all its potential, is typically, it’s like, it’s so forbidden, but people still do it because it’s so powerful, typically in these fantasy things, and even these spiritual things, like it comes up in old religious stuff too — child sacrifice.
ASHLEY: Mmmhmmm. Yeah. I guess it’s also like — I’m not saying that he didn’t have a good reason to kill that child, like —
ASHER: I mean, I can’t think of a good reason to kill that child.
ASHLEY: Sure. (Asher laughs) I’m not saying he did not have A REASON to kill that child, right, okay? That’s a better way to put that. Just, reasoning to kill that child. And — okay, I guess this is where like — yes, CLAMP clearly has this entrenched thing that we have about children being — I think that there’s a difference between pure and innocent, that I will try to articulate now.
ASHER: I’m interested in this.
ASHLEY: Okay, yeah. So I do not think that children are necessarily innocent. We are shown that children are not necessarily innocent in the chapter with the grandpa, and those kids are really mean to him, they’re like ‘when are you gonna die? We heard that if you die, we can have our own rooms.’ And that is obviously them learning that from their mom, without understanding, like, without having learned empathy and all these things.
ASHLEY: Like they are just parroting.
ASHER: Well yeah, and I also think that like, generally, not just in CLAMP, I personally think.
ASHLEY: Right, right.
ASHER: I personally don’t think that children don’t have empathy. It’s just like something —
ASHLEY: Right, no, this totally accurate —
ASHLEY: — of how I’ve interacted with children, like, when I had to interact with children as a camp counselor. I’m like, oh, these children have learned awful things, but they don’t understand — like, they’re just doing it because adults did it, and they think that that’s right because adults have been shown to be who they’re supposed to listen to, and whoever, and these things.
ASHER: I don’t make that link. For me it’s like, children just haven’t had the time to learn empathy, they don’t have the experience. So children are — they can be absolutely adorable and good and whatever.
ASHER: And they’re bullies and brats
ASHER: And like I would do awful things to little lizards that I caught, without realizing that it was like, bad.
ASHLEY: You’re like, the lizard feels things! Okay. (both laugh) Excellent. But yeah, so, in that way I don’t think that they’re innocent, because they definitely do actions that are bad.
ASHLEY: I do perhaps think that they are pure.
ASHLEY: Because I think that they do not know, they do not have the empathy, they are still learning the things. They — yes. So that’s just how I feel. I feel that they have much potential and to snuff it out that young is bad. As it relates to evil, like, yeah, so like, Seishiro might have a reason to kill that child, I still think that there would never be any redeeming quality to it.
ASHER: No, no, no, no. I just — I feel that Seishiro is not the true face of evil.
ASHER: As presented in Tokyo Babylon. I think that he does actually put an interesting, another interesting facet onto the depiction of evil throughout Tokyo Babylon. Cuz we see lots of different kinds of evil.
ASHLEY: Lots of different kinds of evil.
ASHER: Lots of different kinds! Usually involving death!
ASHLEY: Usually involving — or people losing an eye, that’s a lot of —
ASHER: That’s just CLAMP.
ASHLEY: That’s just — CLAMP doesn’t like eyes, okay. (both laugh)
ASHER: No, they clearly do. They love drawing eyes! You can just like, they put so much effort into the eyes and the hair!
ASHLEY: And then they’re like, ‘but what if I stabbed it?! Wouldn’t that be cool?!’ What?!?! (both laugh)
ASHER: maybe that’s like, a thing between — you know how they depict themselves in the little chibi forms? Maybe this is some kind of epic battle between Nanase and Mokona and — because Mokona always has her eyes closed.
ASHLEY: Yeah, no, I would love to know — someday perhaps we will know the dynamics between all the CLAMP ladies and like, how all this —
ASHER: I kind of like having it a mystery.
ASHLEY: Obviously they’re doing really well with it being a mystery, because it makes people talk forever, but like that’s, that’s fine. Yeah, I don’t know. I do agree that Seishiro has this desire to understand, and that is the one like, good thing about him.
ASHER: I wouldn’t call it good, I would call it interesting.
ASHER: As much as I hate that word.
ASHLEY: That is the one —
ASHER: That is The Thing that draws me back to him and like makes me want to explore him more.
ASHLEY: Yeah. It is the one pure thing about him. (laughs) No? Misuse of the word pure?
ASHER: Eh, no, I — pure, eh — I wouldn’t not call it pure.
ASHLEY: (laughs) okay.
ASHER: I don’t necessarily equate pure with good.
ASHLEY: Ah, yes, this is the difference.
ASHER: This is the difference between us.
ASHLEY: Ah, yes, there we go. (laughs) it’s coming out now.
ASHLEY: Alright. So @mercurial — blebblehblehbleh
ASHLEY: I’m just gonna —
ASHER: With an E —
ASHLEY: Yes, on Twitter, has some statements, that like, maybe we have some responses to, so: I think it's really interesting how given the unfinished nature of X, Tokyo Babylon really does make X Subaru and Seishiro's story above anyone else. It's the most meaningful closure we really have. Also I think Everything Seishiro ended up doing was to get Subaru to kill him because he loved him so much and there's no greater feeling for the — oh no —
ASHLEY: Yes, I can say it, but when I look at it, I’m like, it’s too many syllables. (both laugh) Too many syllables there! “— than to be killed by their great love. And for Subaru he finally learned those true feelings from Seishiro.”
ASHER: I, again, did not get to their story in X.
ASHLEY: Yeah, that’s the thing. And, it’s like — that’s why I feel like some of these answers would obviously be influenced, I think, had we read X. But, going only with what I’m presented with in Tokyo Babylon, I don’t know that Seishiro — ugh — does it out of love for Subaru, again.
ASHLEY: I DO think that his curiosity for like, how these things feel are what drive him to do these things. Yes, like, he wants to be like, if I let myself be stabbed in the eye, will I finally understand? And it’s like, no, he doesn’t!
ASHER: Right, yeah. It’s an obsession that is not necessarily love.
ASHER: I think that is explicitly stated not to be love, at least in Tokyo Babylon. Even if, I mean, Seishiro might not understand it as love, but I think that’s getting — for me, it would be a stretch.
ASHLEY: Ha, oh, yeah. Like, what Seishiro thinks is anything and what I think is anything are different things, I think, in the end. Obviously, yes, Subaru’s feelings are always pure.
ASHER: Well, they’re definitely real.
ASHLEY: They’re definitely real, let’s go with that. (both laugh) Okay, now we have a series of questions from @spiegelflut on Instagram. Yeah, I just went all —
ASHER: I’m glad YOU pronounced that one, because I would have —
ASHLEY: I went all German on y’alls! Isn’t that fun! Okay, so first they say: This is one of my favourite mangas ever! I LOVE IT! Here are some questions. Okay, well we already answered: Do you think Seishiro loves Subaru?
Asher + ASHLEY: No. (laugh)
ASHLEY: Absolutely not. No. So this question —
ASHER: We can’t answer that one —
ASHLEY: No! I have —
ASHER: Alright, okay.
ASHLEY: — one thing to say about this question. But it is about X. So: “How does/did your perception of Tokyo Babylon change when you read the sequel ("X") and find out that the telephone chat girls were right and that not only Tokyo but the whole world is doomed?” Okay, so I would like to say that I don’t think that would change my reading at all, because I have always had the sense from Tokyo Babylon that the world was actually doomed.
ASHER: I also, I feel that I cannot answer this, because I did read part of X first, so I was reading that whole chapter with the girls like, “oh yeah! No, I know.”
ASHLEY: Oh, okay.
ASHLEY: Well there you go. (laughs) But yeah no, for me, again, Hokuto going on her environmental rants, like again, they feel more real in 2019, so I was like, yeah that’s real, that’s true, that’s coming for us, that’s a thing. And generally I think the main thesis of this — or like, not thesis, but the main theme of this manga is about how awful actions spiral out into more awful actions, and there is no real way to like, correct those actions.
ASHER: There is no way to correct those actions without compassion and empathy.
ASHER: I think —
ASHLEY: We’ll get there
ASHER: The lesson that we were supposed to take from the girl who was bullied is that like, she was like, ‘I’m just ending this chain.’
ASHLEY: That’s true.
ASHER: And there was that — with the 1999 girls, like, the two that refused to ask for help died.
ASHER: And the one who did ask for help from both Subaru and her parents — well, I don’t, she wasn’t fine, but, she survived.
ASHLEY: Yeah. Okay. That’s fair. But in general, I think that this manga is about like — because most people are not able to like, break out of the chain, necessarily, most of the time, I feel, it is about how those things just spiral more and more out of control. And like, if I was going to make a comparison to real life, it would be like how we discuss reparations for terrible things that we’ve done in the past. Like, can you ever actually have reparations? Like, no. The answer is no.
ASHLEY: You can try, but it’s —
ASHER: You HAVE to try.
ASHLEY: You have to try, you HAVE to try, but it’s never going to actually make that better.
ASHER: I like that.
ASHLEY: It’s never going to correct that.
ASHER: I like that.
ASHLEY: And so in that way I’m like, yes, the world is doomed, because it will always just cascade into more chaos, like, that is Chaos Theory 101, right here.
ASHER: I don’t like thinking that the world is doomed.
ASHLEY: Fair. (both laugh) I’m just saying that —
ASHER: I like to think stories like this show us how necessary it is to stop and break that chain and be mindful.
ASHLEY: Yes. That is the point of this story. But yeah, no, Tokyo Babylon never made me think the world wasn’t doomed.
ASHER: Fair. That’s fair.
ASHLEY: That’s the answer to that question. Yeah: “Why do you think Seihirou sacrificed his eye to protect Subaru?” I think we touched on this briefly, but I think it’s just because he’s like, you know, “the time on the bet is coming up, almost ending, if I do this extreme action, will I finally feel the thing?” And he finds out the answer is no.
ASHER: I agree.
ASHLEY: Yeah, that’s the answer.
ASHLEY: Okay, so this is a little addendum to our Tokyo Babylon podcast, because we got a question after we had recorded, and then I felt bad. And I don’t know where this is going, maybe I don’t need this addendum, maybe I can just like cut it in and nobody will ever know, who knows, we’ll find out. Okay, so this was a statement/question from @Goldenpelt on Twitter, saying that: “The series stands out to me from other manga, including CLAMP’s, on how it uses its supernatural elements” — yes, I know how to read — “to discuss social issues directly, rather than using metaphors or being fully realistic. It really captures the zeitgeist of the lost decade, even just a few years into it. On a related note, do you think Subaru could be read as trans?” Asher’s face just now (laughs) was pretty good.
ASHER: I mean I can answer that second part first, if that’s okay.
ASHLEY: Great, go for it.
ASHER: Uh, yeah. Sure!
ASHLEY: Sure! Period.
ASHER: I mean I’m of the opinion that anyone can be read as trans. Like, any character can be read as trans, because there is no one trans experience, there is no one trans narrative. Sure! Subaru could be trans. Hokuto could be trans. Seishiro could be trans. I’m saying this as a trans person, like, you can — whatever story feels like yours and feels — or, not even — you don’t have to be trans to read other characters as trans, I don’t believe in that. I think that is a dangerous discourse to have, like, a dangerous rule to have, but, whatever story feels compelling and right to you, can be what you do, like, I don’t — sure.
ASHER: Trans people are just like all other people, like, if you feel like this, this story makes sense, then do it.
ASHLEY: I mean, yeah I can see that there’s a strong argument for this considering Hokuto and Subaru have the same face and that’s sort of weird — I actually think that Hokuto looks more male than Subaru looks female. Does that make sense? Yes.
ASHER: I would agree. I would also be like, “And that’s just CLAMP.”
ASHLEY: And that’s just CLAMP, exactly. (laughs) I don’t know, I guess, I’m not, I normally just do what the text tells me, like, so — Asher’s like, that’s dumb.
ASHER: I don’t, I love fanfiction.
ASHLEY: Listen, I just, everybody, I just use the pronouns that are presented to me, but if suddenly you know, Subaru was like “hey, I’m trans,” I’d be like, okay, cool.
ASHER: I’d be cool with that, too.
ASHLEY: That’s fine. (laughs)
ASHER: Subaru says trans rights.
ASHLEY: Yeah, you know, Hokuto pretended to be Subaru for a year, apparently, so, what’s up, Hokuto?
ASHER: Dang, where’s our story about that?
ASHLEY: Oh! Damn!
ASHER: No, I still like our fanfiction idea better, but like
ASHLEY: Okay, yeah, we’ve been working on a fanfiction idea for real, you guys. (both laugh) Amazing. We could do both?
ASHER: We could, but I feel like Tala wouldn’t be in the —
ASHLEY: That’s true, Tala wouldn’t be — well
ASHER: I mean she could be, but that would just be real sad.
ASHLEY: (laughs) I like — I feel like I should leave this and people will be like, what are you talking about?! Amazing. Okay. So the first part of the statement about the supernatural elements. I agree, that is definitely what makes it stand out, it’s like, I think we commented in the main recording that you know, you’re led to believe this is some weird Tokyo, and you’re like, no, it’s just actual Tokyo though! Like, sure there are ghosts, but like, ah, shruggie, who cares?
ASHER: Are you saying there aren’t real ghosts in Tokyo?
ASHLEY: I don’t, I mean, I don’t know, there could be. Sorry. Sorry, ghosts in Tokyo.
ASHER: Tokyo Babylon says ghost rights. Actually, no it doesn’t.
ASHLEY: No, it doesn’t. No. No no no no. Uh, yeah, so I feel like that is pretty rare. I don’t know if it’s rare compared to other CLAMP titles, is that our dispute here?
ASHER: I think we did talk about it, and the way it uses it to directly address social issues, maybe? Cuz a lot of it is metaphorical in other places, but then I’m thinking about Chobits, where it’s not supernatural, but it is sci-fi, and like, it goes there.
ASHLEY: It goes places.
ASHLEY: I guess I was thinking of Cardcaptor Sakura, which I do think that Tokyo Babylon does a better job of like, the supernatural elements are there but you don’t, it doesn’t like take away from the very human parts of it, whereas I think that the supernatural elements in Cardcaptor Sakura, cuz they always have to like, cover them up and stuff, that that gets distracting in a way that it doesn’t in Tokyo Babylon for me.
ASHER: Yeah, I don’t think anything distracts from the human elements in Cardcaptor Sakura, but they’re not, they’re not social, they’re not so much social issues in there. It’s more family, the connections that young people make.
ASHLEY: I dunno, I guess I just always hate when it’s like, “and now we have to go cover up the magic elements and people forget things,” and I’m like, ugh, I’m over this. Something about that bothers me
ASHER: it’s just like, they’re very different, they’re very different genres. Like, Cardcaptors is a magical girl manga. Tokyo Babylon is not.
ASHLEY: No! Tokyo Babylon is definitely not a magical girl, although —
ASHER: That would be amazing.
ASHLEY: Yeah, right? I’m like hmmm, what’s up? Tokyo Babylon, but magical girl, and Hokuto is the star. We’re always just looking for ways to make Hokuto the star.
ASHER: She’s just so much better.
ASHLEY: Hokuto, RIP.
ASHER: Come back!
ASHLEY: Come back! Be the ghost!
ASHLEY: Be the ghost that always haunts Tokyo!
ASHER: Oh man, can that be our fanfic?
ASHLEY: Can that be a our fanfiction?
ASHER: And she haunts Tala and like, helps her do things?
ASHLEY: (laughs) wow, actually, this podcast has just turned into our fanfiction session.
ASHER: we’re jammin’.
ASHLEY: we’re jamming. But then we would have to read X.
ASHER: we’re gonna have to anyway.
ASHLEY: Ugh. I don’t want to right now.
ASHER: Fair. It can be the second part of our fanfic.
ASHER: It can be a series.
ASHLEY: Yeah, we’re making a little series of one-shots featuring Hokuto.
ASHER: Hot damn.
ASHLEY: Hot damn. Yeah, I think that’s all we have to say about that.
ASHLEY: Look forward to our fanfiction if we ever actually write it. We’re not great at follow-through all the time, so. But you heard us, we thought about it, we have our thinking caps on. Okay, final question — I think this is the final — yes, this is the final question that will spiral us into main themes and talking about the cases in more particulars. So it was just: Which of the supernatural cases did you like best and why? I’m gonna let you go first, Asher.
ASHER: I need to look at this list.
ASHLEY: Oh, come on.
ASHER: I read this in one day!
ASHLEY: Ahhh! Not all of them are supernatural, so watch yourself.
ASHER: Okay, I think I do have an answer for this, and I think it is — you called them ‘call girls,’ Ashley, that’s not what they are! (laughs)
ASHLEY: You don’t have to point out my dumbness in —
ASHER: Um, I did have to do that. I think my favorite story probably was the religious cult case, because it was so complicated. Also because — I went to seminary.
ASHLEY: That one was very good.
ASHER: Important thing to know about me. Yeah. I liked the — I think that one did a really good job of showing the, what we were just talking about, like, the chain of badness spiralling out of control, nobody was in the right completely in that one, and that’s, I think that’s part of why I want to know more about the Sakurazukamori, because he went and murdered that lady.
ASHLEY: Mmmhmm, yes he did.
ASHER: And like, yes, that was for Seishiro, and also, he was also like already interested in that case, like he saw that that lady was doing, was stirring up some magical trouble, spiritual trouble, and he was already on that case, so I wonder if the Sakurazukamori thing is, in some way, providing balance.
ASHLEY: Again, see, putting it like that, I’m like, oh yeah, Seishiro is like, this person is doing a bad, I want to kill them. And I’m like, that actually seems fair. That seems fair, almost.
ASHER: Fair isn’t the word I would use, again —
ASHLEY: It seems — understandable.
ASHER: It’s — yes, I, and, it’s yet another facet of this what is good, what is evil thing.
ASHLEY: Right. Yes. My favorite part of that one, I think this was that one, right? It’s the one with Hashimoto, is that her name?
ASHER: I don’t know her name.
ASHLEY: Yeah, the names were hard to keep track of, cuz they’re all there for like, a chapter or two, but whatever, the girl who’s being bullied and eventually loses her eye — that is the right one, yes?
ASHLEY: What I appreciated most about that story was that, in explaining what was happening to her to Subaru, you know, she’s going on, she’s like “oh, you know, all my classmates bully me, they like, push me into all these terrible things, and then like the teachers don’t really understand, they maybe see it, but they’re trying to deny it” or like, they give her bad advice, as teachers always do.
ASHER: Yeah, they blamed her. They were like, you need to — well, it wasn’t a question of blame, like the, they were like, you need to try harder.
ASHLEY: the onus is on her to fix it
ASHER: right, rather than the bullies to stop.
ASHLEY: And it’s, and then she goes to this religious cult, and the teacher’s like, “you just need to think better of yourself, and then others will think better of you.”
ASHER: and pray harder.
ASHLEY: And pray harder. And she’s like, “I do all these things that these people tell me to do, and it doesn’t work!” and Subaru just listens and is like, “I don’t know what to say.” And I was like, that’s a beautiful answer.
ASHER: It was really good. That is a really good arc.
ASHLEY: It’s a beautiful answer because like, all she wanted was for people to be like, I understand, I see you.
ASHER: That sucks.
ASHLEY: That sucks.
ASHER: That is not your fault.
ASHLEY: And like, the only person who gave her that was Subaru, because he’s a good boy.
ASHER: He is a good boy. I think she also did want to be saved.
ASHLEY: I mean, yes. But then I think that that was the seed, like —
ASHER: Oh yes.
ASHLEY: — Had she not gotten stabbed in the eye after that, or had this not been an episodic manga thing, I think that it would have been like, oh yes, her and Subaru are now friends, and like, that is the thing that helps her get over it. That’s the thing that helps her actually do the advice that other people were giving her.
ASHER: Yeah, yeah.
ASHLEY: Because you need that spark.
ASHER: Yes. So that one’s my favorite.
ASHLEY: That’s a pretty good one. I don’t know — it’s hard to say you have a favorite, cuz they’re all so sad. The one that I appreciated the most is very hard for me, because it was very personal. I took 25 minutes to just like, be sad afterwards, and read more about this very high-profile case, actually, that is part of my family. So, the one that I appreciated the most was the one where the — I’m trying to remember —
ASHER: There was a mother
ASHER: Who was trying to summon inugami, which is like a spirit of revenge, basically, in order to avenge her girl, who was murdered. Because the criminal system did not put the murderer on death row, cuz he was deemed insane.
ASHLEY: Yes, so there was a little girl who was murdered and then the mother’s like, you know, like “criminal justice, I need something to happen with this dude, he can’t just be marked insane.” And then of course, like, she’s going insane from this, basically. So the whole like, two wrongs don’t make a right thing comes in here. But it really hit me the most because I was like, “wow, that’s really similar to a story that happened to my aunt’s niece.” My aunt who married into the family, so I was not related to this little girl. Back in 1988 — you can look this up on the Internet, like I’m not going to tell you anything too personal that you can’t just Google based on things that I tell you. So, Barbara Jean Horn is a big case in Philadelphia. She was murdered in 1988, and left in a TV box naked. And then they never found her murderer. And then by the time I’m like, I think I’m like, two, they coerce a neighbor, apparently, to confess. And then he gets tried, and then they were going to acquit him, but there’s a mistrial because one of the jurors is like, “no, I don’t agree with this statement.” Then, in 1996 or something — I’m six, so I am hearing whispers of this in my family at this point — you know, he gets retried, and now he’s on death row. And, so this has been over 30 years, he is still on death row, but they are trying to, again, open the trial again, based on DNA evidence, and now like, there was a snitched involved who’s like, nothing that he said is believable now, and again, they’re like, you know, the police coerced him into this confession, so now it’s like, maybe he didn’t murder her. You know, it’s just so hard, because it’s like, my aunt will post things on Facebook every year about this little girl dying, and her mom will be like, “here are four pictures from past Christmases” — because this girl was only four. And it’s just hard to be like, what — there’s no good solution in this. Because there’s no solution! You know, if, if that guy didn’t murder her, and has been on death row all this time, like, there’s so many injustices there, because his whole life is gone.
ASHER: Yeah, it’s been almost 30 years.
ASHLEY: Yeah! His whole life is basically gone, because he was 25, so he’s old at this point. You know, her life is gone. A murderer is free. And our whole, is the death penalty — does killing him — killing him would never make it better. And so like, this story just really hit me, because I was like, yes, there is no — like, I was glad that CLAMP didn’t, didn’t have a solution.
ASHLEY: They were not like “this is right.” And it’s like, yeah, because there is no right.
ASHLEY: There is never going to be a right. And even in the way that Subaru handles it. So the main emotional thing with Subaru in it —
ASHER: He channels the girl.
ASHLEY: He channels the girl, and he is hopeful — he is trying to tell the mom like, “no, your little girl wants you to be happy, you need to break the chain so that you can go on with your life and not throw your life away by trying to get revenge on this other guy.” And then he summons the girl, and the little girl just says, “help me! I’m in pain!” and he doesn’t let the mother hear the girl’s voice. And then he lies to her, and he says that like, he’s like, just giving the narrative that he wanted.
ASHLEY: And then he goes back to Seishiro, and he’s like, “I feel bad, because I lied.” Was his main point. And I was like, wow, like, nothing in that story is right, or is a solution.
ASHLEY: And so that story I was like, I appreciate it.
ASHER: No, that one’s a really good one too. Powerful.
ASHLEY: Powerful, yes.
ASHER: And well-done, it was also like the first time Subaru went against all the things he had been taught, in a way. Like he used his gifts to not, not to follow the moral standard, but to like, do what he thought would be best. And then he was still unsure afterward.
ASHLEY: Yes. And it’s like, everybody needs a hug.
ASHLEY: Really badly.
ASHER: Yeah, yeah. Did Seishiro hug him? I think he did.
ASHLEY: Everybody needs a hug, not from Seishiro!
ASHLEY: Ughhhh. And it’s like, yeah, that’s the story to me that was like, the hardest hitting, the world is kind of screwed, because you can never correct this.
ASHLEY: And like you can, the mother can break that chain, she can go on living, but just like…
ASHER: That little girl…
ASHLEY: Yeah, you kill people, and they don’t come back. That’s not a thing.
ASHER: If they come back, it’s bad. (both laugh) Alright.
ASHLEY: Alright, so we, we, yeah. But in general, like many of these stories were very emotionally impactful.
ASHLEY: I first started feeling it with Mitsuki. I think we both did — the rape one.
ASHER: Oh, yeah.
ASHLEY: And how she’s like, “Subaru, you were special to me.” And all these things. This manga is a lot, okay?
ASHER: It’s a lot, it is a lot.
ASHLEY: I managed not to cry, okay, excellent. (both laugh)
ASHER: Awww. The tissues are right over there.
ASHLEY: I know, I forgot to get them.
ASHER: If you’ve changed your mind.
ASHLEY: No, it’s unnecessary to cry.
ASHLEY: But I think this gets into the very big main theme of the story, which is agency. You wanna talk about that?
ASHER: Agency! Subaru has no agency at all! In the entire story! Except he starts to, a little bit, at the very end, and then Seishiro screws the pooch.
ASHLEY: Thanks, Seishiro.
ASHER: Thanks, Seishiro.
ASHLEY: Okay, that is a take, I guess. You think Subaru has no agency?
ASHER: I think he does not exercise agency for most of the manga. I think that thing with the little girl might be the first time I see him going by his heart and not by his rules. I mean — no, no I think that’s true. I think that the entire bet, which is like, the heart of the manga, is absolutely done without any input from Subaru.
ASHLEY: Oh yeah.
ASHER: There’s Seishiro, who makes this bet, Subaru does not hear the bet, he is also nine years old, or eight years old?
ASHLEY: Mmhmm. He also gets his memory wiped.
ASHER: He also gets his memory wiped. He does not agree to the bet. He is marked. His grandmother makes him cover his hands for the rest of his life.
ASHLEY: Yeah, I have very curiosity about how groudy his hands are.
ASHER: He takes them off when he sleeps, except for when Hokuto moves in with him.
ASHLEY: Then he’s just dirty all the time.
ASHER: I think he washes — he takes them off in the shower and to wash his hands.
ASHLEY: I don’t like to believe this reality.
ASHER: You just believe they’re always on.
ASHER: Ew. (Ashley laughs). What else? Hokuto and Seishiro are kind of always pushing him around.
ASHLEY: Oh yeah, no, definitely.
ASHER: Like Hokuto does it in like a kind way — well not kind, but in a well-intentioned way.
ASHER: But she’s the alpha twin.
ASHLEY: Yeah. One hundo.
ASHER: Seishiro is like, controlling his life. Not really — well, the bet, it’s really the bet with Seishiro. What else? He does whatever his grandma tells him. Subaru does not exercise much agency until the end, and then at the very end, like, suddenly we run into all the roadblocks around his agency.
ASHER: Hokuto dresses up as him, and like, takes his thing, his the onus of his thing, like being killed, without his consent. He like, goes catatonic for a while. Like that’s the epitome of non-agency.
ASHLEY: That’s true — okay. True. Those are facts.
ASHER: Those are facts.
ASHLEY: I agree. How does that play into the larger, the larger thematic elements of everybody, or like, most of the stories deal with…
ASHER: People infringing on other people’s agency.
ASHLEY: Yes, like people who are like, I just wanted to be left alone, what right did they have to come and do very terrible things like rape me? Like, that’s, that’s the crux of Mitsuki’s story.
ASHER: Yes. It’s the crux of her story, it’s the crux of Hashimoto’s story.
ASHER: It plays into the call girls a little bit.
ASHLEY: Hey yo listen, you don’t have to keep calling them that.
ASHER: I think it’s funny.
ASHLEY: Okay, excellent.
ASHER: Because they, that one is the, sort of the, the cultish mentality of, “oh, we’re special, oh we know all these things, and the more they say, the more the others and themselves believe it.” So there’s that. There’s the grandfather who has sort of lost control of his life in a lot of ways, and like, it’s not his fault, it’s not his daughter’s fault, it’s not the kids’ fault.
ASHER: Disability with the blind man, like, that’s difficult, agency comes into that, too. So how does Subaru play into this?
ASHLEY: Yeah, like what is CLAMP trying to tell us here? What are the lines? There are no lines, are there? There’s no clear lines.
ASHER: Yeah, I think CLAMP is in no way proposing an answer.
ASHLEY: Yes, which is the beauty and the frustration, only questions.
ASHER: Yes…. I don’t feel that — you have a question here like, “is Subaru now corrupted by Seishiro’s influence?”
ASHER: And I’m just like, no, I don’t think so.
ASHER: I don’t think so. I mean I don’t have this purity thing you do, also, I think that’s part of it. I think that actually, in this year he was with Seishiro, Subaru grew as a person, and he was not damaged, he was hurt, for sure —
ASHER: But I do not feel that the experiences he went through made him less of a person. I think it sucks that now he’s going to spend the rest of his life hunting down Seishiro.
ASHER: I don’t think that’s great, nor do I think it’s a good use of his agency, cuz now he’s not breaking the chain that he helped other people break. But I don’t think that’s all Seishiro’s fault. It also like, it’s not Seishiro’s influence, I think Seishiro’s influence helped Subaru, I think that one thing he did hurt Subaaru way too much. (both laugh) That one thing he did.
ASHLEY: That one thing — some things good, one thing, very bad!
ASHER: Yes, exactly, exactly.
ASHLEY: Okay, that’s fair. Yeah, it’s just so hard, because the beauty of these stories, I feel, is that, you know, you look at them and you’re like, “obviously somebody is wrong!”
ASHER: (whispers) they’re all wrong.
ASHLEY: They’re all wrong.
ASHER: They’re all wrong.
ASHLEY: For the ways that they intrude on other people’s life, and like, the emotional and/or physical hurt that they exact on them. And then you’re like, but how, how resolve?
ASHER: You can’t — I don’t think Tokyo Babylon gets into this exactly, except with maybe the grandpa story, but you cannot live with other people without touching their lives in some way, and the difficulty is like, where is the line of agency? Which I don’t think Tokyo Babylon really gets into like, addressing.
ASHLEY: Especially since it doesn’t normally flirt with like — like, they’re all so dark, right? So it’s not flirting with more innocent ways that we all influence each other.
ASHER: No, it’s already going to the extremes.
ASHLEY: Yeah, it’s just like, here are the most extreme ways this could happen.
ASHLEY: Why you like this? CLAMP, who hurt you, seriously?
ASHER: (laughs) I don’t think we want to know.
ASHLEY: I don’t think we want to know, yeah. Whoa! New darkness! (both laugh) Let’s keep that over there. Yeah.
ASHER: And then the other half of your question: “Was Seishiro really not swayed at all by Subaru’s influence?” No, I think he was a little, but it’s so hard for him — it’s so hard for us to translate his experiences into what we know, and I think, by that, it is also difficult for him to understand what is or isn’t happening inside him, because the culture he’s in is so radically different from what he experiences. He doesn’t have a vocabulary and like, also, he’s a psychopath.
ASHLEY: (laughs) he is a definitely a psychopath. Just one hundred percent. Oh my god. I just wanted to say that when I visited Tokyo — I also — every time I visit Tokyo, I’m like, this is a cool place! But it does feel very lonely. Like you’re in this sea of like, advertising, people, and all these things, but it’s so like, so lonely.
ASHER: I think that’s probably also exacerbated by the fact that you don’t understand Japanese.
ASHLEY: Maybe. But no, I get the sense, even — what I simultaneously like about observing Japan, like, the differences between Japanese culture and American culture, is that one of the things I like about it, is in Japan it actually seems much more socially acceptable to go out and be in very public places by yourself, and not have that be weird. At the same time, I am an American, so I’m like, that seems very lonely.
ASHER: Right, right. Yeah. In general, big cities do not make me feel lonely, so I wonder if it is just a Tokyo thing, because I haven’t been.
ASHLEY: Yeah. I don’t think every big city makes me feel like this.
ASHLEY: There’s definitely something like, Tokyo is very, very large, and very, very like, in your face, that, I’m like, I understand. Like characters who go on rants in this, and what’s her face, the evil one in Princess Jellyfish, the developer girl.
ASHER: Oh, yeah yeah yeah yeah.
ASHLEY: When she goes on, I’m like, yeah, I feel you. I understand. (both laugh) It makes sense. Not to say that Tokyo’s not cool, you should go to Tokyo, Tokyo’s great.
ASHER: Oh yeah. Someday.
ASHLEY: Don’t think about Tokyo Babylon while you’re there. Think of happy things.
ASHER: Think about Magic Knight Rayearth.
ASHLEY: Yeah, think about (laughs). Go to arcades and just have fun, okay? So, yeah, we Tokyo Babylon-d. We did it!
ASHER: We did it.
ASHLEY: Cool. Hope this didn’t disappoint most people. It probably disappointed somebody.
ASHER: You can’t please all the people all the time.
ASHLEY: Yeah, you can’t please all the people all the time, god.
ASHER: Sorry we didn’t read X.
ASHLEY: Yeah, sorry we didn’t read X is the main theme of this podcast.
ASHER: we’re gonna have to.
ASHER: I’m just saying, we did Tokyo Babylon, we’re gonna have to do X.
ASHLEY: Wait wait, does that have to be the next one?
ASHER: I don’t think it has to be the next one. But I feel that it is now in the future. You did this to yourself, buddy.
ASHLEY: I didn’t, I, I, I was innocent, I didn’t know!
ASHER: You were pure!
ASHLEY: I was pure before y’all wrecked me with this manga! What’s wrong with you?!
ASHER: They wanted to hear you cry.
ASHLEY: Ugh, too bad. Asher adds enough levity to this podcast for me not to cry.
ASHER: Did I do that this time?
ASHLEY: There was no levity in this podcast.
ASHER: I might have said a funny thing or two, I can’t think of anything.
ASHLEY: Whatever. Okay. Thanks for listening to Shojo and Tell. If you have any comments, questions, constructive criticism, or concerns you can email us at shojoandtell [at] gmail.com or leave a comment many places. We have the social media things, the Twitter and the Tumblr and the Instagram, like the cool kids. Maybe I should get a Snapchat? No, that sounds terrible.
ASHER: That’s weird, I don’t — no.
ASHER: That’s for people, not for things.
ASHLEY: Yeah, tell that to brands. Tell that to brands. Okay. You can tell us what case emotionally destroyed you the most. I want to know, I definitely want to know. Asher, where can people find you and whatever you do on the Internet?
ASHLEY: Are you, yeah, you know what, you’re not on the Internet.
ASHER: I — what?
ASHLEY: You’re always on the Internet.
ASHER: I am always on the Internet.
ASHLEY: But in your little cultish places.
ASHER: In my little cultish places. No, ummm, let’s see, I don’t know, if you want to read my fanfiction? You could go to @dashery at Archive of Our Own. It’s a lot of Homestuck and Final Fantasy XV, at the moment. But who knows —
ASHLEY: We’re gonna write our fanfiction about Hokuto.
ASHER: Please! I would love to.
ASHLEY: Oh my god, we’re gonna work on it. We also have a fanfic about Digimon on there, you can read that. (laughs)
ASHER: Yeah, yeah we do. We can do better. Bigger things.
ASHLEY: Okay, we’re gonna make our Hokuto fanfic bigger, better.
ASHER: We have to like, make a name for that person, because we never found out her name.
ASHLEY: Oh, yeah, we can work on it.
ASHER: We have to figure out where she’s from. (laughs)
ASHLEY: There are so many things we can invent.
ASHLEY: It’s so good. Anyway. Look for that, maybe, in the future. But uh, right now, if you love this podcast, please go leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher, because that would be dope. Thanks against or listening, we’ll be back next time for probably Phantom Thief Jeanne? By Arina Tanemura. Y’all voted for that in a poll of which Arina Tanemura thing I should do first, and —
ASHER: And, thank you.
ASHLEY: And that was the winner. Y’all also told me to read Tokyo Babylon as the next CLAMP thing, should I trust you? It’s very difficult to say.
ASHER: You should not.
ASHLEY: You should not, no. Untrustworthy.
ASHER: But I’d rather talk about Jeanne than Full Moon, so thank you.
ASHLEY: That’s true.
ASHER: Well, actually I have lots to say about Full Moon, BUT —
ASHLEY: They might not all be positive.
ASHER: I would like to read Jeanne again and see what happened in that.
ASHLEY: Yes, yes, let’s pronounce it all French. Jeanne. Okay. Well, until then, goodbye, go get emotionally destroyed by Tokyo Babylon, I don’t know.