A lot has changed in the last 30 years, but this is one evolution old-school Clamp fans didn’t want to see.

Old-school anime/manga fans got a special treat this week with the announcement that Tokyo Babylon is getting a remake. One of the earlier titles from creative team Clamp (whose resume also includes Cardcaptor Sakura, Magic Knight Rayearth, and X), Tokyo Babylon’s manga ran from 1990 to 1993.

The series also had an extremely compact video anime adaptation. Coming before Clamp really hit it big, and at a time when the anime market was far smaller (and less global) than it is now, the Tokyo Babylon anime consisted of just two episodes, the first episode released in 1992 and the second in 1994. So seeing the series suddenly get revived as the lavishly funded anime TV series Tokyo Babylon 2021, which updates the setting to present-day Tokyo, is something that has a lot of people excited.

Modern digital anime production means that Tokyo Babylon 2021 will be able to incorporate the sort of intricate, line-intensive artwork characteristic of shojo manga in a way that wasn’t economically viable in the early ‘90s. At the same time, though, long-time fans of Tokyo Babylon have noticed a few ways in which the new 2021 anime is far less faithful to the original source material, and they involves the character Seishiro Sakarazuka.

Here’s how Seishiro Sakarazuka looks in the trailer for Tokyo Babylon 2021.

And here’s a side-by-side comparison with how he looks in the original Tokyo Babylon. Can you spot the difference?

Original Seishiro has absolutely massive shoulders, about five times the width of his head. On the other hand, 2021 Seishiro’s shoulders are about three times his head width, meaning his physique is 40 percent narrower.

▼ Superimposing old Seishiro on new Seishiro really hammers home the difference.

With manga being a still-image art form, it can often get away with stylized designs that would look awkward or distracting in animation, which is a more grounded and detailed representation of motion within a 3-D space. But even the ‘90s Tokyo Babylon anime had Seishiro looking broad.

The change isn’t sitting well with original-design loyalists, though some have pointed out that the early ‘90s were still part of the big-shoulder-pad era in Japanese fashion.

The counter to this, though, is that Seishiro’s shoulders aren’t padded at all. Here’s a shot of him in a pajama shirt.

Online reactions to Seishiro’s new designs have included:

“Seishiro, did you leave your airport runway-width shoulders back in the Heisei era?”
“In the 2021 trailer, I almost thought the sakura flowers were hiding the rest of his shoulders.”
“It just doesn’t feel right to see his shoulders so narrow.”
“So that’s really how Seishiro is going to look now? Isn’t his build too delicate? He really needs those five-head-width shoulders.”

With Clamp now having a global fanbase, negative reactions haven’t been limited to Japan either.

This fan reworking also seeks to address the second change to Seishiro’s design that’s irking some fans: the more angular style of his eyeglass frames/lenses in 2021.

It should be noted, though, that the original Tokyo Babylon came out at just about peak shoulder-width in shojo manga/anime design trends, with things getting narrower for approximately the last two decades. Clamp’s artwork itself has gone through a similar change, and even when Seishiro showed up in the group’s Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, which ran from 2003 to 2009, he was nowhere near as wide as he was back in the early ‘90s.

▼ Seishiro in Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronocle (bottom right)

So while Seishiro’s appearance has changed between the original and new Tokyo Babylon, the basic design goal, a mature and sophisticated male character who fits with contemporary aesthetic ideals, is the same as it’s ever been. Whether the new look is going to be a deal-breaker for older fans, or significantly helps in drawing in a new audience, won’t be something we’ll know until Tokyo Babylon 2021’s premier in an undisclosed 2021 TV season, but for now this is another example of how very hard fans can be to please.

Sources: Twitter, Hachima Kiko
Images: YouTube/「KING AMUSEMENT CREATIVE」公式チャンネル
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s always happy to talk about ’90s anime.

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