Subaru Sumeragi (皇昴流, Sumeragi Subaru) is a fictional character created by Clamp first introduced as the protagonist of the manga Tokyo Babylon. The head of the Sumeragi clan, Subaru is a young onmyōji in charge of exorcizing demons and helping spirits reach the afterlife. When Subaru's sister Hokuto is killed by the man he loved, Seishirō Sakurazuka, Subaru goes on a quest to confront the assassin. In Clamp's series X, Subaru becomes one of mankind's seven protectors as well as Seishiro's rival. Subaru's fate in the battle of end of the world has differed across X multiple animated adaptations. An alternate version of the character appears in Clamp's crossover series, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle.
Clamp writer Nanase Ohkawa first created Subaru as a mascot for a dōjinshi about onmyōji. Writing Subaru brought Clamp difficulties due to the authors not being used to kindhearted characters. Critical reception to the character has been mostly positive. Publications for manga and anime focused on Subaru's romantical and tragic relationship with Seishirō and praised his role in both Tokyo Babylon and X.
In Tokyo Babylon Subaru appears as a cheerful yet bashful teenager from Tokyo, utterly devoted to helping others—both in his capacity as Japan's most powerful onmyōji. As well as exorcizing demons, helping lost souls ascend to the afterlife, entering the minds of comatose people to bring them back to the world, and fighting those who abused spiritual powers, he would often also stand up to bullies and provide comfort and friendship to their victims. Subaru lives alongside his sister Hokuto, whose personality had become the polar opposite to his own—eccentric and outgoing. Subaru and Hokuto are good friends with a kindly and magically-aware veterinarian named Seishirō Sakurazuka, whom they met at a railway station after Subaru's shikigami led him on a bizarre chase. Seishirō acts as guardian to both and claims to love Subaru romantically.
After Seishirō loses the sight in his right eye protecting Subaru, the onmyoji realizes he loves the man. However, Seishirō reveals that he is the Sakurazukamori, a ruthless magical assassin raised to be incapable of either love or hate. Lifting the veil he had placed on the boy's memory, Seishirō reveals he met Subaru as a child and made a promise with him: that if they met again, he would live with the boy for a year to see if his heart could be moved. However, the assassin claims he was as barren of emotion as ever, and attempts to kill Subaru, only for the boy's grandmother to rescue him at great personal cost. Subaru becomes catatonic as a result, but recovers when Hokuto dies at the Sakurazukamori's hands to spare Subaru. Subaru decides at this point to drop out of school so that he can focus on training. He continues his work as an onmyōji, remaining compassionate to others but acting more reserved; he also takes up smoking, like Seishirō before him.
Subaru has also appeared in two adaptations of the Tokyo Babylon manga. In the original video animation Subaru investigates the tragedies occurring in a construction while in the second he searches a murderer. The live-action film Tokyo Babylon 1999 features Subaru portrayed by Tonesaku Toshihide. In the story Subaru meets seven teenage onmyōji who wish to avenge their teacher murdered by Seishiro. A drama CD for the film was also released featuring Subaru investigating a murder case by Seishiro.
By the time of X, Subaru, in his early 20's, continues his work as an onmyōji under direction from his grandmother. He is recognized to be one of the Dragons of Heaven, and thus capable of creating a kekkai (spiritual barrier) – star-shaped in his case – to protect others during his battles. When joining the Dragons of Heaven to prepare for the battle in Tokyo, he brings Kamui Shirō out of the catatonia into which he had fallen after seeing his childhood sweetheart, Kotori Monō, killed by her brother Fūma. Subaru and Kamui develop a close friendship based on their similar hardships, with Subaru acting as a mentor to Kamui during his further trials.
When Subaru faces Fūma in battle, he allows the Dragon of Earth to blind him in his right eye—a lesser wish Subaru had held for some time. In single combat against Seishirō at Rainbow Bridge, Subaru reveals his true desire: he wishes to be killed by him, as thus he would exist in Seishirō's heart. However, due to a spell cast by Hokuto at her death, the killing strike is reversed, and Subaru kills Seishirō instead. Hokuto has told Seishiro this spell cast when Seishiro killed her as she said she has the last confidence for him because 'Subaru loves him'. This implied that Sheshiro is willing to kill himself by Subaru as he thought this is Subaru's real hope. As a result of Seishirō's death, Subaru loses his will to fight alongside his ability to create a barrier which causes him to leave the Dragons of Heaven. Fūma brings him Seishiro's eye which is necessary to grant the assassin's wish: erasing Fūma's mark in Subaru by replacing Subaru's wounded eye. Subaru accepts the eye, inheriting his powers and the Sakurazukamori title in the process and becoming one of the Dragons of Earth. Despite joining Fūma, Subaru is still interested in Kamui's true wish.
Subaru appears briefly in the movie version of X; he and Seishirō destroy each other in magical combat early in the film. In the TV series, Subaru sinks back into a catatonic state following Seishirō's death. The rebellious Dragon of Earth dreamseer Kakyō Kuzuki allows the spirit of Hokuto to cross into Subaru's mind, to convince him to continue the fight; Subaru protects Kamui in his final battle against Fūma. He urges him to grant his own wish regardless of the consequence. Outside manga and anime, Subaru also appeared in the video game X: Unmei no Sentaku. He is also the focus of the third CD of the X Character Files audio drama series where Tomokazu Sugita provides his voice.
In volume one of xxxHolic, the witch Yūko Ichihara mentions knowing an onmyōji with a twin sister whom she has known since the onmyōji was very young. She hopes that the boy will be happy, but there are many definitions for happiness. This onmyōji is Subaru.
In Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Subaru reappears as one of a pair of twin vampires alongside Kamui Shirō for whom Seishirō Sakurazuka is searching. He makes his first appearance in the Tokyo arc, in which he talks to a comatose Sakura and urges her to wake up before she is lost to her dreams. It turns out that he himself was left in a comatose state at the bottom of a large water reservoir, leading to Kamui's fierce protection of the site. Eventually he wakes and is at last rejoined with his twin.
Subaru and his twin sister Hokuto, as well as Seishirō, were first conceived by series creator Nanase Ohkawa for a dōjinshi novel about an onmyōji who hunts elves, of which only the beginning exists. The characters were twice drawn for covers, and when South asked Clamp to create a new series for them, these characters were used. Originally, the twins were conceived more as mascots with Subaru being a penguin. His name was taken from the car Subaru Leone. Ohkawa remembers having troubles when writing Subaru as she was not used to writing kind hearted characters. Subaru and Seishiro's respective designs pay homage to Yasunori Kato, the protagonist of the fantasy novel Teito Monogatari, widely credited with starting the "onmyoji boom" in Japan. At the beginning of the Tokyo Babylon manga, Kato even has a cameo appearance as Subaru's "helpful ambassador".
Subaru and Seishirō appear in X because their relationship parallels Kamui and Fuma Monou's. They serve as an example to Kamui and Fuma: One of X's most important developments is the question what these two will do so they will not end up like Subaru and Seishirō. Subaru's bond with Kamui has been compared with the ones of siblings by Clamp.
Subaru's character has received positive critical response by publication from manga and anime ever since his introduction in Tokyo Babylon. Mike Dungan from Mania Entertainment noted that Subaru's relationship with Seishiro carried nods to Clamp's doujinshi fan-base. While reviewing the Tokyo Babylon OVAs, Chris Beveridge from the same site found Subaru's portrayal interesting and recommended it to X fans to explore the character more. On the other hand, Stig Hogset from THEM Anime Reviews criticized Subaru for being unfitting for his job due to his quiet personality.
The character's personality has been the subject of analysis. Writers from Manga Bookshelf noted how Subaru deeply believes in the philosophy that nobody is fully able to understand another person's pain and thus is unwilling to get attached to other characters. As Subaru develops feelings without realizing for Seishiro he starts growing as an individual. In retrospective, Rebecca Silverman from Anime News Network noted that Subaru's darker characterization in the series' ending was so similar to Seishiro's that he "became" Seishiro. Silverman commented that this changed was paralleled in their work xxxHolic where its lead character Kimihiro Watanuki starts acting like his former boss Yuko Ichihara. Manga Bookshelf's writers agreed on the similarities between Tokyo Babylon and xxxHolic and compared Subaru's work with Watanuki's. In regards to Subaru's darker characterization, rather than comparing it with Seishiro like Silverman, they focused more on how Subaru lost part of his identity as he saw Hokuto as another part of him.
Subaru's role in X has also received similar response. Mania Entertainment's Chris Beveridge found Subaru's introduction in X as one of his favorite episodes from the volume he reviewed due to the portrayal of the character's state ever since Hokuto's death. In the book Understanding Manga and Anime, writer Robin E. Brenner states that while western readers have previously seen Subaru and Seishiro's dysfunctional relationship in other series, it stands out because western authors tend to avoid homosexual relationships. Additionally, he referred to Subaru's and Seishirō's relationship as one of the most explicit ones from X. Zac Bertschy from Anime News Network referred to his confrontation with Seishirō in the TV series was praised mainly because how their character designs were updated from the ones from Tokyo Babylon. Beveridge also agreed with Bertschy, calling the episode of their final battle one of the best ones from the series focused on how their backgrounds are shown and tragic elements portrayed. Sandra Scholes from Active Anime shared similar feelings calling Subaru "one of the most endearing characters" within the series based on his tragic backstory and his fight against Seishiro.