Foreign Friday: xxxHolic

“There is no such thing as coincidence in this world. The only thing is hitsuzen!” – xxxHolic

This week’s manga review will be Tsubasa’s sister story, xxxHolic (pronounced Holic) by the manga group CLAMP.

The Story

Kimihiro Watanuki is haunted by visions of ghosts and spirits. Seemingly by chance, he encounters a mysterious witch named Yuko, who claims she can help. In desperation he accepts, but realizes that he’s just been tricked into working for Yuko in order to pay off the cost of her services. Soon he’s employed in her little shop – a job that turns out to be nothing like his previous work experience! Most of Yuko’s customers live in Japan, but Yuko and Watanuki are about to have some unusual visitors named Sakura and Syaoran from a land called Clow… After all, there is no such thing as coincidence. There is only hitsuzen (inevitability).

The Characters

Kimihiro Watanuki (called by his surname, Watanuki by all save one person through the entire series), is a average person plagued by non-average problems. He is practical minded, good at housework and cooking, and doesn’t take to the supernatural very well, despite being plagued by spirits every day. He has a quick temper and complains a great deal, but always does what needs to be done is is actually a very caring, gentle person, to a fault. Yuko’s entire existence is a mystery: called the “space-time witch” and stating outright that the name Yuko Ichihara is an alias, she runs a wish granting shop that can only be seen by those who need to see it. She like to smoke and loves to drink, eat, and torment her new part-time assistant. Yet she can become quite deep and philosophical, hinting at the workings of a world that Watanuki cannot even grasp. In the shop are also Yuko’s two assistants, Marudashi and Morodashi (equivalents of “streaker” and “flasher”) who often speak in unison and look after the shop, as well as black Mokona, the comical dark colored twin of the one that appears in Tsubasa. To finish out the main characters there are Watanuki’s two schoolmates; Domeki, a serious faced, serious minded young man whom Watanuki doesn’t like, and Himawari, a pretty girl who Watanuki adores.

What I Thought

This series vies for the top position as my all-time favorite manga, due to the thought-provoking depth that the story dips into. I am also a big Watanuki fan, so I would claim this was my favorite based on his character alone. The story moves along fairly episodically, with the bulk of the story dealing with the various customers coming to the shop to have their wishes granted. The series focuses heavily on wishes, and what you are willing to pay to have a wish granted. You definitely walk away with a “be careful what you wish for” vibe. Most of the customers come to the shop to have a problem fixed, giving the series it’s title “Holic” since it deals with various (and often unusual) holics. However, there is also a nebulous, overarching plot involving the characters from the crossover series Tsubasa that later deals heavily in both Yuko and Watanuki’s past and present circumstances. I can’t say too much about it because a) it would take too long and b) I really don’t know all of it yet. The story is deep and full of dialogue with little action, (those of you looking for fight scenes would have better luck with Tsubasa). It’s a good read if you like Japanese folklore and philosophy rolled into one. I can’t vouch for the ending however, since while the series is over in Japan it isn’t completely out yet in English, currently standing at 15 volumes.

CLAMP’s artwork for this series was inspired by traditional Japanese paintings, giving the characters elongated bodies and a decidedly “black and white” feel. While the artwork is different from both their previous works and that of the crossover story Tsubsasa, I thought it was very well done. In some of the volumes we poor Americans are even given the first few pages in COLOR!!!

Like Tsubasa, xxxHolic was adapted into an anime, following the manga up through volume 6. The series is enjoyable, however all the Tsubasa references and characters are removed from the story.

Next week will be another great series!

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