XXXHOLiC Kei is the 13 episode sequel to the 2006 comedy, supernatural anime in the typical Japanese high-school setting. The episodic nature of this anime continues and there’s still an aspect of Japanese mythology involved. Though this sequel seems to have more of an over-lying plot dedicated to it, just because the narrative is more concentrated and interlinked in fewer episodes. The characters remain as they are, their interactions remain as funny as it was before. I’ve reviewed the first season and I recommend you read it and/or watch the original before watching this one and reading this review.
Please read the review of the original series for clarification. The animation remains exactly the same. The amazing art-style returns, though the fidelity is the same as ever. It seems this anime might have been made immediately after the first and not 2008 since the quality is limited to 480p. That lack of quality might not have mattered in an anime a couple of years older, but many 2008 anime make the effort to release in HD. This anime is especially let down by that, since it had great art design that would have looked even more beautiful.
Once again, I direct you to my review of the first season for more of my thoughts on sound. The intro music here is very similar to the intro in the original, in fact it sounds like the same band. The new outro is also fairly decent and a bit entertaining to see Mokona return in the credits to sleep/dance to it.
One issue I had with this sequel was that it was Japanese only, no more English dub. This wouldn’t have mattered had the Japanese voice acting been perfect, but it wasn’t. While most of the voices were good, certain characters like Watanuki sounded a tad more compelling in English. But that alone wouldn’t be enough reason to miss the dub. The biggest mistake and the most surprising was Mokona’s voice. The English voice was very appropriate, but the Japanese voice for Mokona here sounds like they didn’t even try. Mokona just sounds like a normal Japanese woman. Which is disappointing since we all know that there are Japanese voices out there, which are more than suitable for voicing a cute mascot character like Mokona. Where are all those cheery high-pitched voices gone?
The characters remain mostly the same. Doumeki’s grandfather now starts appearing in Watanuki’s dreams, helping him figure things out. There’s more oddness about the always happy and care-free Himawari, who seems to mean bad-luck for Watanuki. Even Yuuko questions why Watanuki even likes her in the first place. Doumeki is as stoic as ever, but he means well and wants to help Watanuki where possible. Even if Watanuki doesn’t regard him as a friend, Doumeki seems to treat Watanuki like his friend. Yuuko continues to take advantage of Watanuki for her personal gain and leisure, at one point she makes him pump water into a shower so she and the twins can sit under it in a pool, in a hot sunny day. Mokona continues to be a mean character, even more selfish than Yuuko. A shame since the Mokona in Tsubasa Chronicle was much more pleasant. Maybe the black fur indicates its dark void of a heart?
There is the addition of the seductive, yet very evil spider queen Jorogumo, who is actually based on a bit of Japanese folklore (I got the ‘whore-spider’ while googling it). There’s also a very stylish nimble girl who is apparently a cat girl, though she really doesn’t look like it. She doesn’t have the ears or tail that anime catgirls usually have and instead sports some fashionable clothing including high-heels and a nice hat.
There’s also Kohane Tsuyuri, a child who has the ability to see supernatural things like Watanuki. Her distanced mother is abusing this and using her to get fame and riches (their house is full of stuff her mum has bought with the money earned), by ‘managing’ her career as a TV spiritualist. Watanuki and this girl become very close, she’s a kind and peaceful girl at heart.
It continues to be the same episodic story that we got in the previous season. So please do refer to that review once again. But the shorter length of the series and the longer, intertwining story arcs mean this sequel has a bit more plot behind it. Particularly the overall plot, since they take 3 episodes to start that. Watanuki starts to have problems after interactions with Himawari and there’s also the sad and serious story of Kohane.
And with that last item, this becomes more than just 13 episodes of fiction to enjoy watching. There’s some real themes here (more obvious than what was there previously) about fame, money, love and hate. I think at one point even suicide is an idea this anime explores.
The whole romance with Himawari takes a back seat thankfully and I think it just peters out. With that final loose end tied, the story of this shorter sequel actually improves over the first. It’s got much more to it that the freaky supernatural, episodic stuff.
Considering the first season was decent, this one is even better despite how short it was. Maybe the compressed length allowed for the story to be more concentrated. If you like supernatural stuff and Japanese folklore. There’s nothing in terms of pervy stuff to be put off by here, even though the spider lady and Yuuko look very alluring. If you like episodic stuff, maybe a bit of spookiness and a unique art-style you’ll be at home here. If you really want overall plot, then this is a better bet that the first season. Of course, some folks won’t like it. Just try the first 3, maybe 4 episodes to get an idea of what it’s like and ditch it if you aren’t interested. For the rest, myself included, this was a nice break from all of those romantic comedies action-packed shounen (or not) anime.
Family-friendliness Rating: 2/5 Sexy spider queen, Yuuko’s fashion choices and a pool party (lower is better)
Overall Rating: 8/10 (higher is better)
Bonus – Thoughts on the Live Action Series
Since this review is so short, I’ll give you an extra segment on my thoughts on the live action TV series. I watched it very recently, though I haven’t found the time to watch the last episode. It’s short, about 9 episodes and these episodes are longish at longer than 30 minutes. The actors are okay, I was initially taken aback by Yuuko’s ‘asian’ look, but I got used to it and they chose a good actor for her. A tall lanky woman, capable of looking seductive particularly in the intro. Maru and Moro are done well and Doumeki is on point, he looks just as handsome and stoic as the anime version.
One of the two disappointments was Himawari, while of course there’s very few Japanese actors that could pull off a similar look to the anime version, the more pressing concern was the character herself. In the anime, Himawari is always smiling and happy, even when bad things happen. But the Himawari here actually shows other emotions and just seems much more like a normal girl, not the same Himawari who likes scary/creepy stuff. When bad things happen, anime Himawari puts on an emotionless face and walks away. LA Himawari reacts like a normal person and gets very upset. The other disappointing character, or lack thereof, is Mokona. I know this is a live action series and they don’t have the budget for CGI like the Death Note movies did (though most Japanese movies look shit, the best looking I’ve seen didn’t have CGI). But Mokona is a maion character just left out. I would have loved to see how cudly Mokona would be in a real life setting, even if this black-fur Mokona is very mean.
As for the plot, it mostly follows a few stories with season one but of course a few small details are changed and this annoys me. I remember the angel-sama episode, the monkey’s paw episode and the hydrangea episode appear with quite the differences. The actor they chose to be the substitute teacher in the monkey’s paw episode was a guy (discrepancy) and looked young, too young. So I guess this is proof that Japanese people can look exceptionally young for their age (unless they cast an actor younger than the role played) and we should get mad at people looking too young/old in anime? Well here they had an excuse since he was in his twenties. The live-action series finishes with the whole spider fiasco, referring to this second season of the anime. And it is vastly different.
While the anime doesn’t have much in term of fan-service and awkward sexual moments, the LA series shocked me by actually having some. Usually it’s the other way around, LA is known for being very sensible and family friendly, but the intro and the content of the latter episodes seemed very suggestive. At one point it looked like a dude was about to get banged (by some seductive chicks) and it seemed like he was being given drugs or something. I guess it shows how sensible this anime is in comparison. Though we are all more forgiving and accepting of it when it’s in the LA series, I admit they did have context to justify it, so it wasn’t necessarily a bad addition. Overall, I prefer the anime. More to watch and more consistent.
XXXHolic Kei works as the continuation of the fisrt season. It spreads on 13 episodes instead of 24 like it's predecesor. It develops manga chapters from volume 8 to 13. And again, like the first season before it, it completely put aside the links with Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. In the paper version, both series have important links to each other. It is startling that in the anime version you do not feel at all this important aspect of the original material.
The story continues right after the conclusion of he first season. It continues with the same developpement, same characters and aura. Once again, the manga chapters were well used. But, in terms of writing the series is not as brilliant XXXHolic. The first few episodes and last episodes were utterly brilliant but I can't say the same about half-series episodes who just felt down. let me say that the end of the Kohane ark was disapointing. It was a lame end compared to the one in the manga related to the Tsubasa universe. I just felt the director hadn't thought this well and presented this to close the ark. A bit lame.
The animation here is not surprising. Still, it manages to be WAY better than the lame animation of the first season. It was a surprise here. Still, it is not perfect. It is still way to go before eye candy but an improvement is an improvement no less.
Sound is top notch as in the first season. No point to add. Nakai Kazuya voices here a second character, Doumeki's grandfather and he did perfectly well. It contrasts with the actual Doumeki and the way their attitude is completely different (a chiery and talkative Haruka with a silent Shizuka). Other voices actors were good. The main two characters were terrific as figured.
Opening section: Another song by Shikao Suga. In exactly the same way of thinking than 19 sai, the song fit perfectly well with the series atmosphere.
Ending section: A random J-Pop song with a random slideshow. Disapointed.
The soundtrack was good. I think it is the same one than the first season with few improved tracks.
The characters were already developped in the first season. It added almost nothing to their chemistry. The end though with Himawari's revelation added the last touch of salt. A well- thought move.
Overall, if you liked the first season then I suggest to watch this second season. It is slightly the same quality so you won't be startled. In my part, I thought the first season was a bit better. It was bolder than this one. Still, I enjoyed it a lot and I still think is it one excellent adaptation. The animation got better but the scenario slightly fell back.
Score: 4.1/5. I can't give it higher than the first season because I felt something XXXHolic had that Kei didn't. Really good in the image of it's predecessor.
NOTE: It is sad that Funimation didn't license this one out. Truly a shame.
Next! XXXHolic Rou and Rou Adayume along with Darker than Black
I'm not good with reviews, so pardon if this sounds bad, but I hope to be capable of conveying my opinion about it this way, so here we go:
xxxHolic Kei is full of likeable and unique characters, both human and not.
The animal-ey Mokona, kind foxes. Shy Zashikiwarashi and somewhat bold Amewarashi. Wise and mysterious Yuuko, stoic Doumeki and his mysterious grandfather, adorable but powerful pipe fox, cute Maru and Moro and more. I think only Baccano! had this much memorable characters.
Story was pretty loose and more of a background for the characters and their interactions, but nonetheless interesting and full of supernatural and mysterious occurences.
I'd recommend this anime to anyone. While personally I do not believe in paranormal stuff, xxxHolic is very romantic and true to it's motto(I guess you could call the most used phrase in the whole show so): "There are no coincidences in this world.", and indeed. Every word spoken, every action and detail can lead to interesting and very fascinating results.
Considering I barely made it through the first half of season one the fact that I enjoyed season two so much is saying a lot. Somehow things finally came together and I'm now hoping that we get a third installment!
Positives: Finally we've managed to develop the characters and world enough that the mysteries and relationships are all starting to come together. xxxHOLic has always been about enjoying the exploration into CLAMP's world together with the characters, but at last I'm feeling like there's more reward for the time being invested.
The art has always been fun to watch, but more importantly the characters are really coming to life in this season. The relations between the main characters and the sub characters all grow significantly in this season to the point where the characters are becoming dear. It's also fun to see that within this anime that there are actual consequences for your actions. I'm not all about super realism in my anime, but I do get tired of there being nothing but silver linings at the end of every story.
You'll get in this batch a healthy dose of fun story arcs and with each conclusion you'll find yourself eager to find out what Watanuki decides to drag himself into next.
Of special note I really enjoy a few of the characters, namely the pipe fox, and his secondary love interest who's name I can't seem to recall right now.
Negatives: Overall this season was a pleasure to watch. With the first I'd had a few issues, but most of those have been washed away. If I had to come up with something I would say that a few of the plots were regurgitated stories we've all heard before. I suppose this isn't a big deal since what we're dealing with is traditional japanese supernature, but I was a bit disappointed to be watching a show about the monkey's paw, for example.
All in all a good series and a solid follow up to a decent first season. If we get a third and it's as good as the second I'll be first on board!