CLAMP. Known for its crossovers, varied art styles, and underlying themes of fate, love and inevitability. While xxxHolic is infamous for its tie-ins with Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, this first instalment of the former’s anime franchise requires no previous knowledge of the escapades of Sakura and Syaoran. Instead, this twenty-four episode series hones in on the day-to-day life of Kimihiro Watanuki, a young boy who can see spirits, and his fated encounter with a mysterious witch named Yuuko.
Though there is an underlying plot throughout, this remains an episodic series. Each individual story revolves around a chosen theme-of-the-week emanating from two central premises: moralistic parables and accounts of the supernatural or mysterious. The anime’s cautionary tales warn against bad habits or behaviour in a manner akin to Aesop’s fables, but with a twist. Instead of taking a more general approach to the karmic results of one’s wrongdoings, the payback Yuuko’s customers receive takes a much more personal toll. For example, where the original tale of ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ sees a young shepherd’s retribution in the arrival of an actual wolf and the slaughter of his sheep, xxxHolic dishes out a more terrifying (and literally paralysing) punishment for its own pathological liar, which ultimately makes for more compelling viewing.
Luckily, while lecturing the viewer on how our sins will come back to haunt us is an intriguing enough concept, xxxHolic’s primary focus lies with the paranormal. From bringing various mythological creatures to life to divination and Hyakukaidan (hundred ghost stories), the series covers a large scope of supernatural themes. While the latter usually expose a darker side to the seemingly harmless spiritual activities such as ouija boards actually summoning evil spirits, the former often takes a more positive route. For instance, instead of portraying kitsune as sly and conniving, they are simply kind and friendly foxes that run a mouth-watering Oden stand. The anime personifies these various Japanese youkai in such a way that it almost makes them seem human and they ultimately become more likeable. This provides a nice balance between the affable and the malicious in a similar manner to that of yin and yang, and mirrors the learning curve upon which Watanuki finds himself.
While the series’ subject matter can be quite heavy and even dark at times, xxxHolic offers up a fair amount of humour to counteract the weight of its themes. This generally comes courtesy of Watanuki’s exchanges with the other cast members, whether Yuuko and Mokona are teasing him or he starts ranting at Doumeki. His lively and at times athletic performance provides a hearty dose of physical comedy that sometimes borders on the slapstick. Luckily, none of this goes too far or overshadows the central essence of the show, but instead works nicely with it to maintain a suitable equilibrium of the fun and the dramatic.
It is near impossible to discuss xxxHolic without first and foremost mentioning its infamous visual design. The elongated and skeletal frames of its protagonists have become the anime equivalent of Marmite: you either love it, or you hate it. I personally adore the style, since each character’s spider-like limbs add to the weird creepiness of the whole series while simultaneously enhancing Watanuki’s exaggerated movements to great comedic effect. Regrettably, while the concept works, some clumsy animation mars its execution resulting in occasionally awkward movement.
When it comes to the seiyuu, without a doubt the star of xxxHolic is Kazuya Nakai’s performance as Doumeki. His deadpan deliveries really make the exchanges between him and the animated Watanuki spring to life.
Now, anyone who has read any of my previous reviews may well be aware of my distaste for dubbed anime, however (as much as it pains me to admit it) xxxHolic’s US adaptation fares surprisingly well. While I still prefer Sayaka Ohara’s softer inflections to Colleen Clinkenbeard’s more School ma’am-ish tones – since that smoothness makes Yuuko seem a little more sinister – the American voice actress does a very good job of portraying the witch’s mysterious nature. My only actual gripe with the dub is that Mokona’s vocals transform from lively and teasing to sounding like some kind of reject Pokemon.
Anyone who doesn’t agree that Yuuko steals the show in pretty much every scene that she appears most likely requires a lobotomy. The contrasting elements of her fun loving yet dark and mysterious personality, work well to mirror xxxHolic’s overall mood. While her carefree nature, hefty drinking habit, and slave driver attitude towards Watanuki contributes a reasonable amount of the show’s comedy. Meanwhile, when she takes on a more serious role, Yuuko becomes all the more ominous – particularly in episodes twenty-two and twenty-three where her presence is restricted to a cautionary voice on a crackly telephone line. She is all knowing, but while that gives her the power to know exactly how situations will evolve, she frequently allows Watanuki to become emotionally involved with her customers and experience the full force of the world’s darker side. Yuuko remains an enigma throughout, but her inscrutability works well in the series’ favour by adding to its suspense.
As a central protagonist Watanuki fares well; he has a lonely past, a mysterious ability and kind heart that make him intriguing and likeable enough. However, his personality truly shines when he teams up with fellow classmate, Doumeki. His seemingly unreasonable hatred for the quiet teen, alongside Doumeki’s apparent enjoyment of irritating the megane, spawns a fun and entertaining tsukkomi and boke double act. While this comedy duo continues throughout, the development of their friendship ensures that the pair don’t get stuck in a rut or become stale. Seeing cracks appear in Doumeki’s indifferent demeanour that show he genuinely likes and cares for the welfare of his classmate coupled Watanuki’s begrudging, yet more frequent, gratitude toward the young archer certainly adds much more depth to their personalities than had they simply remained consistently distant throughout.
Though xxxHolic only scratches the surface of the manga’s plotline, it serves well as an introduction to this particular CLAMP universe and sets the scene for the more plot-based xxxHolic Kei. As a standalone entity, this episodic series proves an entertaining and at times dark experience, which is well worth a look for anyone with an interest in the supernatural.
XXXHolic (pronounced as 'Holic') is 24 episodes of a positively peculiar comedy, supernatural anime set in the typical Japanese high-school setting. A unique story lies in wait for those who decide to watch it, episodic as it contains multiple self-contained story arcs. A slight bit of research and this anime is made by the same people who made other anime like Cardcaptor Sakura, Chobits and Tsubasa Chronicle. Some of these are great and others not so much, this anime features some cross-overs or the others feature this earlier anime as a crossover too. The short of it is that this an interesting anime and I'd recommend it to most people. Though at times it can get a bit creepy and occasionally it annoyed me.
From the start the animation blew me away. The quality is sufficient for a 2006 anime, I watched in 480p, only because I wanted a dual audio version of the anime, but I'm sure it it's available in HD. But it was the style that amazed me. The intro is very abstract (in a good way) and the animation style overall is very unique. Even the backgrounds, especially in the shop remain very artistic like old Japanese paintings and patterns. The character designs are distictive and of course the only other place this sort of art is seen is in the other anime related to this one, but even they don't have this great overall art style all the time. Once again, I'm glad to say there is no fanservice, despite minor suggestive images and the fact that apparently one of the main characters is supposed to have large breasts. I didn't really notice it, so good realistic character design I guess. I'll also add that Mokona opening it's eyes (it has those typical closed anime eyes most of the time) is a bit freaky, otherwise its adorable. And that rock band outro for the second half is pretty sweet too.
The sound is also very good. The intro and outro music are very nice, not exactly my favourite genre of music, but I can still appreciate the cool jazzyness and atmosphere it gives off. Though the second half of the anime has a different outro which is some sweet rock (Kageruo - Mayfly). The background music also plays appropriately and adds to the animation. No overusage or music playing at the wrong time. And damn is some is the music beautiful, the piano background tracks during some scenes and that sweet outro. Just so mellow and helps one to relax, combined with the adorable dance from Mokona.
The anime is available in both English and Japanese. With a few decent voice actors too. I recognised Watanuki as Todd Haberkorn's voice, who also did Nagasumi Michishio from My Bride is a Mermaid (Seto no Hanayome) and Haruo Nijima from History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi, which I watched recently. J. Michael Tatum, the voice of Doumeki has also voiced Erwin Smith from Attack on Titan, Scar from FMA: Brotherhood, Kraft Lawrence from Spice and Wolf, Ikki Takeda from History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi and Seishirou from Tsubasa Chronicle, coincidentally the last anime I watched. Yuuko is voiced by Colleen Clinkenbeard, the voice of Riza Hawkeye from FMA, Ayako Matsuzaki from Ghost Hunt, Kisara Nanjo from History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi, Minai Rou from the Shikibane Hime series and Marie Mjolnir from Soul Eater. Notable voices for secondary characters are Cherami Leigh as Himawari, who voiced Elicia Hughes from FMA Brotherhood, Mai Taniyama from Ghost Hunt, Lunar from My Bride is a Mermaid, Itsuki Yamagami from Shikibane Hime and Asuna from SAO. Mokona is voiced by Carrie Savage, who did roles like Haruka from Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, Satsuki from Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Nancy from Read or Die TV, Hina from Shikibane Hime, Rachel Boyd from Shikibane Hime and Artemis from Tsukuyomi ~Moon Phase~. As usual, VAs have been in other anime together, many of which are good.
The main protagonist of this story is Kimihiro Watanuki, the typical highschool student protagonist who wears glasses and lives on his own. Thankfully, the trope is dissipated by the explanation that he is an orphan who enjoys cooking (he's good at it too), good at doing housework and is generally able to take care of himself. Sometimes he seems to be well reserved and he behaves rather sensibly. But other times he acts like a real jerk, he seems to really hate Doumeki and doesn't get along with him. He also seems to act wierd around his crush, Himawari and seems to completely lack any tact. Of course, there is a reason why he is the main character here, Watanuki has the ability to see spirits (Youkai), attract them and experience the supernatural. In particular, he can smell a foul stench of evil spirits. He doesn't like this and just wants nothing to do with it, he runs away from trouble, but trouble catches up to him. He's often accused of being a crybaby. People are picking on him, especially Yuuko making him pay for all the food and such. He's a bit of a comic relief character, a fool that often gets screwed over. His personality makes the story interesting, but it really annoys me at time.
Shizuka Doumeki is pretty much Watanuki's only friend and another highschool student. He's a bit of a perfect guy: smart, athletic, popular with the girls, he eats a lot and is skilled at archery. He;s very perceptive and notices things quickly, though he may not mention them. He is similarly special like Watanuki, but in the opposite way. He lives at his family's temple. He can't see spirits or experience the supernatural, but is able to repel spirits. He's very stoic and emotionless, he doesn't care for much. While Watanuki doesn't like him, he doesn't mind hanging around with Watanuki, though he makes the occasional cruel remark as any normal guy would towards someone like Watanuki. Like saying he cries and calling him a moron. Despite Watanuki's fears, he doesn't have any feelings towards Himawari or any girl for that matter. A real nice guy and a likeable character, despite the lack of emotions. A shame Watanuki won't make friends with him.
Yuuko Ichihara is the apparently well-endowed owner of the shop where Watanuki works. She grants wishes for a price (something worth a similar amount) and her catchphrase is "there are no coincidences, only inevitability". She seems to have a decent and interesting sense of fashion too, wearing all sorts, though nothing inappropriate. Like the other two, she also has some sort of supernatural powers, which she is able to handle much better than the others do theirs. She is very mischievous and likes to abuse her authority over Watanuki and sent him into trouble. Though she usually has faith and just knows that he'll be alright. She has many bad habits like drinking excessive alcohol, smoking a lot and generally acting mean and childish. When bad things start to happen to people, she doesn't necessarily always help them and sometimes she lets them suffer. She just too mean in my opinion, I kinda don't like her.
Himawari Kunogi is another of Watanuki's classmates, a pretty girl with pigtails upon whom Watanuki has a crush on. She's always nice to both Watanuki and Doumeki and always has a positive demeanor. It seems obvious that she doesn't have any feelings for either of them. Even though she often comments how lovely and romantic things are. She feels like too much of an accessory or add-on character.
Yuuko has two girls Maru and Moro (twins apparently) living with her, along with the adorable rabbit-monster-thing Mokona. Yuuko allows Maru and Moro to slack off and run around doing what kids do. Heck, there's one scene where they are trying to hit a butterfly on a carpet with baseball bats and the like. Mokona is Yuuko's best friend, or the closest thing as it shares the same like, dislikes and opinions as Yuuko. I don't quite like it, but Mokona also likes to drink alcohol with Yuuko, kinda like a child copying and adult. Mokona is also a character in Tsubasa Chronicle and while I love it there, the Mokona here is actually quite annoying, despite being cute.
There are few other recurring characters since most appear for a single episode. The pipe fox looks cute, but is just annoying in my opinion as it drags Watanuki by pulling him by the neck when it's wrapped around it. It does seem to be attached to him and follows him around like a faithful pet. The rain sprite thing Ame-Warashi is pretty damn mean to Watanuki and not in a tsundere way either. Though she seems to like Doumeki. Just a typical egotistic meany. On the other hand, the shy Zashiki Warashi is quite the opposite and likes Watanuki so much that she even has a crush on him. She cries tears of happiness often and this alerts her 5 protector creature thingies to unnecessarily attack Watanuki.
Watanuki randomly stumbles into Yuuko's strange shop where she tricks him into working for her. He takes care of customers to the shop and even does all of the housework and is essentially Yuuko's personal servant, depsite his protests. Yuuko's shop grants people wishes, for a price of equal value. Fairly soon, Doumeki ends up helping him out with work at the shop (or rather outside of it). Yuuko doesn't take direct action to serve her customers and help them, but she gives them the ability to do so for themselves.
I must add the main story is 23 episodes, the 24th is a flashback side-story, though one could argue there is no difference. The plot is quite literally episodic, each episode is a different story tackling a different issue. There is no overarcing plotline, but there is enough progression in each episode so it isn't lacking in narrative. The various plots tackle everyday issues and supernatural dilemmas too. Some of these episodes can be very creepy like the one involving ghost stories or the token beach episode with the eerie beach house. I enjoyed those episodes, though I was ignoring some of the beach episode since I was trying to catch up on writing this review. I was so immersed in the anime itself, that I was too busy watching to write much XD Anyhow the topics this anime tackles in it's self contained episodes also involve serious matters and here I uncovered some subtext/social commentary. Episodes include things like people dealing with personality disorders, insecurity, addiction, depression and more. I felt like there are somethings to learn from this anime. Looking at episodes in general Watanuki and Doumeki gain experience in helping people with problems and dealing with the supernatural. A lot of philosophy lies in this anime and I enjoy that aspect, it makes one think more about both this anime and life in general. Often Yuuko is the one who emparts it. It makes this anime a bit more than just a cast of characters in a story to enjoy.
There are some parts of the overall story that feel pointless, like Watanuki never learning to tolerate Doumeki and never realising that he isn't a threat to his feelings for Himawari. Incidentally, he can never get anywhere with her, whether its his own cowardice in not being able to ask her out or whether its other people and problems getting in the way. She always has plans and can never spend time with him, leaving Doumeki escorting him instead. Yuuko
always goes on about giving and taking things of equal worth yet she takes (seemingly) infinitely more from Watanuki than she gives him. The occasion episode can be rather predictable too. It gives a positive atmosphere and dashes it with attempts for laughs when Watanuki gets screwed over by the likes of Yuuko.
This anime kept my attention most of the time and was mostly enjoyable to watch. There were a few things that got on my nerves like the characters, but overall the episodes were enjoyable and entertaining. While this anime is a unique one, I'd recommend that everyone at least try it for a good few episodes. It can make for the occasional laugh and even suspense from the freaky bits.
Family-friendliness Rating: 2/5 Nothing too offensive besides a little suggestion, excessive alcohol and tobacco consumption (lower is better)
Overall Rating: 8/10 (higher is better)
XXXHOLIC is a great work and I loved it. It's about a seventeen year old boy who can see spirits. He tumbles into a wish-shop where he meets Yuuko. She promises to help him but with a price. The humor is excellent and no complaints about the lines.
The art is beautiful (Sometimes it reminds me of Slenderman though), although the anatomy will take some getting used to. It took me two episodes, but it might take you more than that. the costumes are breath-taking and the backgrounds are wonderful. The designs are well-thought out. There is something about the art so-so complete, but I can't say what.
I'd reccommend subtitles with this anime. The music (Especially the opening!) is awe-inspiring. I haven't heard better music in an anime. It clings to your brain but isn't annoying.
The characters are all loveable and epic. They are not annoying and hateable.
NOTICE: This review covers the whole franchise; not just the first season. No need to make different reviews for the exact same show.
- Animated by Production I.G. which means it will have a good budget but the characters will behave like robots, or in this case like string puppets.
- Directed by Mizushima Tsutome, who has some fame for his fondness of making comedies with cute chibi girls who act all erotic and/or violent (Hare+Guu, Dokuro-chan, Punie-chan, Squid Girl). Other than that, he is not good in anything else he was part of (especially with the crap he did in Blood-C and Another) and since this show is not about chibi girls it is not one of his better works.
- Based on the manga by CLAMP, one of the most famous team of mangaka in the 90’s. Most of their numerous works have been adapted to anime and most of them were a hit in airing shares and sales. They have a style that combines the cute with the dark and know how to create spicy premises and hot romantic pairings. Sadly their stories are good only as far as premises go; their plots always fall apart under the lack of proper handling of their themes. You end up reading or watching just for the kinky situations and give up on the story. A note must be said here that they primarily make shoujo shows with lots of action and romance that ends up appealing to both genders. But since the shoujo is their base template, it is expected to focus almost entirely on character chemistry and visual aesthetics than… well, anything else.
It is an almost entirely episodic show about Watanuki, a high school boy with a curse, working for Yuuko, an eccentric witch, in order to remove it and together dealing with supernatural cases concerning ghosts and demons. There is very little to write about the story; you can read the description of the premise and this is as far as the whole thing goes. There are some episodes in the second season that offer development to the main characters but it is still close to zero. And there is an OVA that exists purely to have a cross over with Tsubasa Chronicles, another CLAMP title that was nothing but a parade of cameos.
Because of the episodic nature there is very little character development throughout the seasons. Watanuki is just a typical hyperactive high school boy, and Yuuko is just an enchanting witch that loves to change clothes every episode. Just like in all CLAMP works, you mostly like them for their simple-minded personality and eccentric clothes. You tolerate everything just to see the sexual tension of Watanuki building up slowly next to the super hot Yuuki and you just wait for some spicy romance to occur… slow as always. There are some other interesting secondary characters from time to time but the show barely tries to offer backdrop stories for most of them, so they too have close to nothing as far as fleshing out goes.
The artwork is very good as far as cinematics, clothes, and decorations goes. There is a lot of detail given to make everything dark and plethoric as means to attract your attention. It is average to bad when it comes to animation, backgrounds, or character designs, since there is little actual motion, the sceneries are simplistic, and the characters look damn skinny and simplistically drawn.
There is nothing overall great regarding the music part. The first opening is somewhat good and there are some famous and professional voice actors in the cast but in all there is nothing I found above average or memorable. Most dialogues are dull, most BGM is passable.
Having close to no on-going plot and mostly style than substance is of course nothing new in the genre but it definitely looks less interesting than its cousin shows.
- Mushishi is far better in atmosphere and philosophy.
- Mononoke is far better in aesthetics and fleshing out the characters.
- Bakemonogatari is far better in cinematics and fan service.
- Natsume Yuujinchou is just… cuter with those cats.
So in all, it is a boring and passable anime.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 6/10
Analysis: General Artwork 1/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 1/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 2/2
SOUND SECTION: 6/10
Analysis: Voice Acting 2/3, Music Themes 2/4, Sound Effects 2/3
STORY SECTION: 4/10
Analysis: Premise 1/2, Pacing 0/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 1/2, Conclusion 1/2
CHARACTER SECTION: 4/10
Analysis: Presence 2/2, Personality 2/2, Backdrop 0/2, Development 0/2, Catharsis 0/2
VALUE SECTION: 1/10
Analysis: Historical Value 0/3, Rewatchability 0/3, Memorability 1/4
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 1/10
Analysis: Art 0/1, Sound 0/2, Story 0/3, Characters 1/4
*this review contains spoilers and it's an honest review. so if you want to read a fluffy kitty review you best go elsewhere*
Welcome to the wonderful world of Japanese Harry Potter! Wait a minute oh my mistake I thought this was Japan's version of Harry Potter it's just XXXHolic.
We start out with our protagonist Watanuki which literally translates to April Fool in Japanese. Ever since he was very young he has the ability to see and communicate with spirits. but these spirits aren't human most of the time or look a likes from a Medium reject show. but the only problem he's the only one who can see them so he looks like a mental patient escapee frequently. So one day Watanuki is walking home from school when he is chased down and molested by a huge Pokémon reject. when Watanuki gets away from it he touches a wall and the spirit abruptly vanishes. He looks to see a strange quaint shop in the middle of a modern city. When he goes to check it out he is suddenly dragged on to the property and two little girls pop out. Escorting him into the stranger's shop where he sees a beautiful mysterious woman. He explains the whole story about how he got here. But the woman goes on about fate and how if you give people your real name and birthday they can be your soul's pimp. or something to that matter. He also introduced to the two young girl names being Maru and Maoro. The mysterious woman introduces herself as Yuko. She goes on about equivalent exchange and all that good stuff. oh wait wrong anime. She offers Watanuki that she could get rid of the spirits that keep pestering him. so he accepts and the payment being he is now Yuko's bitch. Watanuki is sent on an errand to pick up a guest when he finds a Ryo-ohkie reject named Mokona. While Watanuki is sent out to do other various errands he runs across this girl who can see and hear spirits or so claims to. when soon he returns back to the wish shop. Where the he tells Yuko about the girl and after some cryptic babbling from her. the main point being that what we wish for isn't always good or turn out the way we planned. that is pretty much the end of episode one so that's what you're in for.
The only issue I have with the story it's a good idea and has a lot of potential but wasn't executed rightly. It seems like the series gets ADHD frequently and I have always wonder how much would it cost for Watanuki's wish to balance everything out?
The animation is hit and miss throughout the series there are times when it is amazing. then there are times when it looks like they had a kindergartener draw the scenes.
I know Clamp fans are probably about ready to shoot me. But it irritates me that through the entire serious Watanuki is useless without Domeki. All of the characters look anorexic and so tall that they would give Jose Conseco a hard time. I do admit there are times when Yuko looks pretty but other than that I hate all the main characters.
The music is about the only thing well executed in this anime. I like the openings but the endings meh nothing to jump up and down about.
It has potential if you can look past the crap characters then you might enjoy this anime.
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