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.
Story: There is no such thing as coincidences. Only hitsuzen. I find myself saying that whenever I hear the word coincidence. That is how much xxxHolic's story sticks in my mind. I watched this a while ago and I still see hints of xxxHolic in my daily life. The way xxxHolic puts things in perspective is EXTRAORDINARY. It is incredibly profound and, when it's not being deep, it's being whimsical. Humor is not lost at all however. Relationships are complex and endearing. Also, a very fitting ending. I wished it wasn't over, and that's why there's xxxHolic Kei, but the ending was cohesive and felt final. For fans of the manga, xxxHolic is one of the best adaptations of a manga that I have seen. It was like the pages of the manga coming to life.
Animation: Beautiful. Clamp's work is amazing as usual. Vivid character designs especially Yuko's. Background are bold and movements are fluid. The mood always fits with the background and I have little negative to say. Character's designs are memorable and the opening is one of my favorites.
Sound: The sounds fits perfectly and is memorable. I would definitely buy the soundtrack. The opening and ending songs stick out instead of being generic and, like the soundtrack, i would definitely get the songs and listen to them often. Love the music.
Characters: One of the most unusual casts but so lovable at the same time. The characters are memorable and endearing. All the characters that are introduced are developed nicely and serve their purpose. No filler characters here. I love the characters especially Yuko and Watanuki. Their little quirks are funny and you really feel for them.
Overall: I loved this. The story, animation, sound and characters are all great and I would recommend this to everybody. I'm usually not into the supernatural thing but I had no problem with it at the very least. It's seriousness and fun all in one and ranks up their in my top five animes. Also, for those who want more xxxHolic, there is a second season, an OVA, and movie(not as great plot and character wise) and, of course, the manga.
I hate long episodic series. Twelve or so episodes like that are great, but when it starts getting into the twenties, I start cringing. Sitting through so many episodes with absolutely no plot progression at all seems like a complete waste of time. So that being said, it's remarkable how much I managed to enjoy xxxHolic.
The CHARACTERS were completely charming, despite sounding like broken records half the time. Yuuko was always getting drunk, Maru and Moro were always repeating everyone, Himawari was always telling Watanuki "what good friends you and Doumeki are!", et cetera. Everyone had their little niche within which they acted, but that's not to say they didn't have any character depth. Watanuki, for example, learned some sort of valuable lesson every episode, but after waxing philosophically about it with Yuuko for a few minutes, everyone would return to their usual wacky antics. You know they have depth, it's just hiding a lot of the time.
The ANIMATION is probably what won me over. I'm a total sucker for unique/untraditional art styles, (to the point where minor plot-based inconsistancies or whatever can be absolved if the art wins me over enough) and I'm not going to pretend otherwise. The character designs themselves were a little plain (plain=not terribly detailed, not plain=average), but the costume designs were superb. Yuuko especially sported some of the (if not the) most attractive outfits I've ever seen in an anime. I want her wardrobe. Right now. Other female characters also received excellent outfits, though the male cast's was more subdued. Also! I love the noodle people.
I don't really know what to say about the STORY, since it was episodic. Each episode was interesting. I liked it.
As for SOUND (anouther thing I don't like talking about), I didn't skip the OP or the second ED once. That's impressive for me. I think I'll go download them now.
Oh hey. An xxxHolic review.. a positive one at that... coming from a (le gasp) CLAMP hater.
I don't hold back when I tell people how much I think CLAMP is greatly overrated and how most of their present productions (TRC, I'm pointing my finger at you) is just... ridiculous and not all that noteworthy. Earlier, I had lopped in xxxHolic along with the anime deserving of my CLAMP hate.
I'm sure everyone knows Holic by now. Watanuki, a poor boy who can see ghosts stumbles upon the shop of a mysterious lady named Yuuko who grants wishes. Along with his love interest Hiwatari and his eternal rival, Doumeki, Watanuki encounters the paranormal while working as a part time worker, yada yada ya..
It sounded like something I'd like to get into... and lo and behold, I did.
The characters are charming. (I find it's the cast that makes me like an anime. Strange. Anyway.) I've always been drawn to the Black Mokona and that's what brought me back to the series though I dropped it a year or so ago. Watanuki faces everything like a typical human being: ghosts scare him, his weirdass boss pisses the hell outta him and he goes ga ga over the cute girl he likes. Yuuko is... well... -cough- Let's leave what I think about Yuuko alone for a while. -nervous laughter- Suffice to say that she can grant my wishes anytime. Rawr.
The only disappointing thing about this entire trek was the animation. Sure, the designs are nice, sure, the animation's not that choppy but my GOD. The proportions. Yes, I know that they based it on Japanese woodblock prints (not evident from the anime, evident in the manga) and I know CLAMP really draws that way but... really. Are their necks really that long? The character proportions and lack of consistency were what drove me away in the first place.
My verdict: If you're a CLAMP fan, then the drawings won't turn you away. The series kind of gets confusing somewhere around there when the crossover with Tsubasa happens but... nothing that'll leave you in the dark. All in all, it's a fun little number and good to watch if you like myth.
the best show i have seen yet love the Animation the sound was spot on and the Characters where great