Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: May 2004
Synopsis: “Watanuki Kimihiro 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 work experience!”
XXXHolic starts with an introduction to Watanuki Kimihiro, a lively young man who’s spent his life trying to deal with the ghosts and spirits that constantly harass. When he tries to outrun a particularly annoying group one day after school, he finds himself at a mysterious shop run by the beautiful, Yuuko. She offers him a fix for his problem but, in exchange, Watanuki must work for her until he can pay off the debt.
Volume one proceeds to introduce the lead characters and builds up to the crossover with CLAMP’s parallel series, Tsubasa. It’s important to note that those who aren’t reading Tsubasa can still enjoy XXXHolic, but may not understand certain occasional references to past and future events in later volumes. Like with Tsubasa, CLAMP fans will enjoy some referrances to characters and objects from CLAMP’s other series.
Watanuki is a really entertaining individual whose spastic actions contrast nicely with Yuuko’s playful aloofness. The story switches from upbeat and cheeky, to eerie and solemn, as Yuuko proceeds to grant the wishes of others, often with unforeseen repercussions. And yet, as Yuuko says, “Nothing is coincidence, only hitsuzen (a naturally foreordained event),” a suiting catchphrase for the series.
The artwork in XXXHolic is quite noticeably different from CLAMP’s other series but has its own charm that works beautifully with the subject matter. Putting aside most screen tone and substituting it’s presence with lots of solid black, gives the series a really crisp feeling, and CLAMP is able to seamlessly weave delicate details into an otherwise simple style. Proportionately, the characters are very long and lanky and that’s probably the attributes that will take the most getting used to for readers. It’s an aspect of the designs that becomes more evident as the series progresses and isn’t as apparent in volume one.
DelRey did a professional job publishing XXXHolic, from the smooth interior translation keeping to the individual tones of the characters, to the extensive translation and reference notes in the back. Two full colour manga pages are included at the beginning of the book, including a two page full-colour illustration spread and an attractive front and back cover design. They also included a preview of volume two and Tsubasa.
Overall, XXXHolic is a refreshing series that’s full of fun, mystery and creatively portrayed social commentary, held together by wonderfully stylized artwork. For as entertaining as volume one is, readers who stick with the series will be rewarded even more so by more linear plots and page-turning suspense as the volumes progress.
Review written May 26, 2008 by Lissa Pattillo
Book purchased from independant comic book store, Odyssey 2000