Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

xxxHolic Review

08
xxxHolic is now over and it only took me a little over 2 months to get through the series. That’s pretty impressive if you ask me and it was certainly one of my quicker speed reads. This series was fun and to an extent, it’s a peaceful, episodic series similar to Yotsubato or Natsume. The main difference is that it’s more interesting and the characters are better. If you were expecting action then you will be disappointed, but if you come in expecting the right vibe, then you will be pleasantly surprised at how it’s handled.

Watanuki is your average kid who goes to school and tries to be a nice guy. He doesn’t really get along with his classmate, Domeki, but they still end up hanging out a lot thanks to interventions by Watanuki’s employer, Yuko. Yuko is a space/time witch who owns a shop which can grant wishes for people. Her abilities seem to only be limited by her imagination and most of the cases that she deals with are fairly meta. Watanuki is typically stuck with the manual labor when there is something to do. Things tend to freak him out but he adjusts as the series goes on.

xxxHolic was definitely a slice of life at first, but then it slowly started to take on a more somber note as Yuko hinted that things would have to end. The status quo can never remain for long as change is inevitable, but Watanuki didn’t want to have to past ways so soon. Yuko continues to lose power as the series goes on until she finally starts to fade and disappear, which leaves Watanuki with a new mission to uphold the shop until she returns. This is essentially the last part of the series. You can split xxxHolic into two chapters, the Yuko adventures where she messed with Watanuki a lot and then the second half is all about Watanuki being the owner and losing all of his personality.

Before I go into that, it should be noted that this series is in the same continuity as just about every other Clamp series. That’s nothing new, but it is heavily intertwined with the Tsubasa series to an extent that you would typically not expect. If you haven’t read the Tsubasa series, it won’t really affect your experience here, but if you have read it, then the interactions between the series is always interesting.

As expected, the art is fairly clear and easy to read. The Clamp series have varying levels of quality for me and I think they’re at their best in these slice of life series as the clear art works well for creating the characters. It doesn’t work quite as well for fights although Clamp gave it their all. I’d definitely give the art a thumbs up here.

All right, let’s talk about Watanuki. He’s the main character of the title and a decently likable character for the most part. He really overreacts whenever Domeki is on screen, which can get a little repetitive, but sometimes he’s right. Typically he’s not, but it’s good to see him take the win sometimes. Watanuki still means well for the most part and he’s a nice guy. My problem is his new personality in the second part of the series. Once Yuko is gone, Watanuki decides to run the shop, but he also decides to become Yuko to an extent. Now, he only wears the clothes that she would use to run the shop, smokes the same cigar that she had, and even goes as far as to copy her poses and dialogue within the chapters.

It’s simply overdone and I believe that this does have a term in real life as a person can try to essentially become a person that they were close to who ended up passing away. It wasn’t good character development for Watanuki though and I ended up not really liking the character by the end. I definitely miss the original.
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Domeki is the main supporting character and he’s always around. He really likes to drink and he’s a fairly loyal friend who came to Watanuki’s aid several times during the series. Unlike the main hero, Domeki can actually fight and he gets all of the action scenes in the series. He’s definitely a nice guy and while he is rude to Watanuki on purpose, it seems to all be a game for him. With everyone else he tends to be slightly more polite or at least more aware of the situation.

Yuko naturally has a very large role in the series. As Watanuki is always very serious, Yuko loves to tease him the entire series by making absurd demands or putting him in dicey positions. (Inviting everyone over for a sleepover) Watanuki always has a huge reaction which certainly encourages her. She’s a lot of fun and one of the reasons why the series is so enjoyable. Yuko always knows how to have a good time and she hides a lot of the tougher truths from Watanuki, like the fact that she is in a fairly tough fight at the moment.

Throughout the series, she gives a lot of wise advice to Watanuki. Yuko believes that nothing is by chance and everything that is to be was meant to be. She mentions this quite often, but also tells Watanuki about how strong desires can eventually just turn into darkness. For example, there was a lady who wanted to be with someone so badly that she turned into an evil spirit. Yuko will grant any wish for a price so it is a stretch to think of her as a hero. She tends to help the heroes and has a soft spot for them, but she is also content to just let a person fade away so that she could let Watanuki witness the irony of that person’s demise.

While Yuko’s the most enjoyable character in the series, Mokona is also a very good one. He loves to drink as well and messes with Watanuki when he has the chance. Mokona’s role is very small next to the other characters, but he makes his presence felt. Himawari is the main heroine of the series and she is mainly just around to act oblivious. It turns out that she has a rather dark secret which explains a whole lot, but I still can’t say that she was a very good character. She’s a nice character so I won’t say that she’s a downright bad one, but she just lacked character development and never became all that memorable.

Kohane is a fairly important character as she gets a whole arc to herself. She can see spirits like Watanuki so she is quickly thrust into the world of television. The heroes help her to repair the rift between her and her mother although it takes time and a few years since after the time skip, things aren’t quite perfect yet. She was a nice pal for Watanuki, but once her powers started to wane, so did her role in the series.

While I did mention that the series can be a little somber at some points as Watanuki wonders if he’ll ever see Yuko again, for the most part I’d say that it’s fairly light hearted. It’s a calming experience as you read through the volumes and that’s part of why it’s so enjoyable to read. The character interactions are handled well and even if some of the characters can act a little repetitively, it reinforces the whole slice of life angle.

If I had any complaints with the series, it would be that I didn’t like 2 of the cases. One involved a spirit who used to be human and there was hintings of domestic violence there. It’s never explicitly stated, but it’s fairly obvious and Watanuki wasn’t really able to help the spirit very much. It was a very somber story and there are a few that don’t get to have happy endings, but for the most part it’s either an ironic fate or one that is sad for the individual, but not in a really dark way.

The other arc that I wasn’t crazy about was Kohane’s as the media and the other stars decided to throw water on her and basically act rude because they were jealous of her abilities. The arc dragged a little and was mostly filler so I was essentially just waiting for it to be all over. The stand alone stories were typically the best one like the mysterious sounds so Yuko gave someone a bell case. There were a lot of other ones and they were typically all good. Even Kohane’s had a lot of good parts like the learning how to cook section. I always love cooking parts, which is why it’s too bad that we don’t have more good food titles. Toriko counts, but only to a very slight extent.

As for the interesting ending to xxxHolic, it’s definitely pretty unique. Let’s just say that there’s a pretty big time skip and while it’s customary to end a series with one, you typically don’t see one that’s quite so large. It just goes to show that the heroes will have to do a lot of waiting and it’s easy to imagine that Watanuki would be bored at this point. With technology, it’s safe to say that I’d never be bored even if I had 100 years, but Watanuki is a bit old fashioned in that sense so he should really give it a shot. I imagine that meeting descendants every once in a while is always interesting.

It’ll definitely be interesting to see how a sequel series handles this. To an extent, if it’s more of a nostalgia based sequel like Tsubasa, the series doesn’t have to introduce a whole lot of plot as the stand alone adventures can just continue. This series had a very small cast as you can tell from the review and I don’t expect the sequel to add many others. I also don’t see Yuko returning in the sequel either, but I could definitely see her being able to talk with Watanuki for brief periods of time. Spoilers time, although I essentially hinted at it already. Bringing her back just seems like it would defy a lot of what the first series talked about as death is one of the few things that is irreversible. Yes, Yuko’s disappearance cannot be called a normal death, but it’s essentially what it all boiled down too. She just slowed it down for a while.

Of course, that’s why a sequel series likely wouldn’t be as good as the original. Without Yuko’s interesting views on everything, the series may not be quite as deep as the first one. Watanuki intentionally copies her personality, but it’s not the same as hearing it all from the original. Also, I still don’t like Watanuki’s new personality and the timeskip likely will not have done him any favors either. Maybe he’ll slowly regain his old personality, but the odds of that are slim.

Finally, I may as well talk about the power levels for a second. Everything is pureposefully vague, but Watanuki and Yuko state that their abilities are greatest while in dreams. In the real world, they do seem to have some slight magical abilities as Watanuki can levitate and both of them seem to have telekenesis and general magic. They wouldn’t do too well against other magicians like Dr. Strange or Fai for me, but in universe, Yuko is much stronger than Fai as she contends with foes like Clow Reed. I would have liked to have seen some more action to see their true abilities. Domeki has his spirit arrows which can deal a good amount of damage, but his human state remain so it’s similar to the Sailor Scouts. He has good offensive powers, but he’s still a total glass cannon.
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Overall, xxxHolic was a pretty fun title. It’s certainly the kind of series that you could easily read again as a calming experience. I wasn’t a huge fan of the final saga in the series though and Watanuki still feels fake there, but it is what it is. At 19 volumes, the series is decently long so there’s time for quite a lot of adventures. With so much meta content, a lot of things are vague, but in a good way and Yuko’s wise words are always interesting to listen too. As already said, the series is just a lot of fun and I’m sure that you will enjoy it. Don’t go into it expecting a thriller, but remember that it is a slice of life with some fun supernatural elements. Then you’ll be fine!

Overall 8/10

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