Image Description: the book-cover of XXXHolic Omnibus – Volume 1 by CLAMP. There’s the main title, down the bottom of the cover, XXXHolic Omnibus 1, and there are three verticle bar-shaped images of the book covers of manga volumes 1, 2, and 3. From left to right, volume 1 is an image of Yuuko, she is wearing her fancy robes and has an ornate butterfly hair-piece decorating her black hair, while incense smoke swirls around her. Volume 2 is an image of Watanuki, with his head resting on top of his hands, turned to the side slightly, and smirking at someone out of sight. Volume 3 is an image of Yuuko, this time she is wearing olive-green fancy robes, with ornate pearl necklace which has an orange and yellow star, and an elaborate hair-piece with a similar orange and yellow star on it.
About The Book:
In Volumes 1, 2, and 3 of xxxHOLiC, Kimihiro Watanuki is desperate to escape the spirits and ghosts that haunt him, so he turns to Yuuko Ichihara, who is widely rumoured to be the time-space witch. When Kimihiro begins working for Yuko to pay for her services, he also begins his journey into the worlds of the occult. Unusual customers from mysterious lands, an old rival named Domeki who is an exorcist, and a beautiful young woman named Himawari-chan provide more danger, adventure, and excitement for Kimihiro than he ever thought he was going to get!
~Artwork: The artwork of XXXHolic is one of my favourites, I love the style, even smoke is pretty. I also like how Clamp use panels to focus on the faces, Yuuko often looks to the side (as if she’s looking at the audience), faces are often shown from different angles to demonstrate emotion, and then there’s all the costume-porn. Yuuko has the most amazing wardrobe and very rarely wears the same outfit twice.
~World Building: One of the strong elements of the series is the world building, it gives enough details so that these magical elements and other dimensions are believable, but there is a level of vagueness and mystic intrigue involved. Yuuko’s shop exists only for those who need it (this will become more relevant later on in the series).
Yuuko’s shop exists in its own pocket dimension within the universe (or is it multiverse?), only intersecting with people and beings when they have a need for Yuuko’s services, for which there is always a price. I like how the shop is presented as a neutral zone (so to speak) where the magical and the mundane meet. Although I would like some more information as to how the shop came to be. Hopefully, the manga series will cover this better than the anime series.
As a part of this World-building, some things are clarified better in the manga, than in the anime. Within the series, anime and manga alike, it’s obvious that there’s a connection between Yuuko and Clow Reed (from Card Captor Sakura), however, in the anime, it’s all very vague. Sure, Yuuko confirms that she knows him and that they both created the Mokona’s together, however, it never goes much deeper than that.
I found it very difficult to connect the anime series of Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE and the anime series of XXXHolic together. The anime adaptations of both these series lack those interconnecting elements and it’s only by reading the manga that I’ve managed to understand both series better. Now, let’s be honest, the manga can be vague too, but in the manga, there’s at least some confirmation of how Yuuko felt about him, and that there was a relationship between them. Although, the nature of that relationship has yet to be revealed, thus far.
The impression I get, as a reader, is that Yuuko and Clow Reed’s relationship was akin to something like rival magicians who (for some as yet unknown reason or reasons) decided to work together due to a mutually beneficial goal. What that goal would be, I have yet to figure it out, but I hope it lives up the hype.
~Sliding Scale of Character VS Plot: In sharp contrast to the Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE series, XXXHolic tends to focus upon the plot elements of the narrative, rather than on character. XXXHolic tends to focus on events, choices and actions made by characters, and how those past events or choices affect the present. A lot of the first volume is about getting Watanuki to recognise the events occurring around him are cosmic acts or Hitsuzen.
Watanuki has always seen spirits but he’s never known how to change his situation. Watanuki wants to help people, however, with some situations, once the dominos start to fall, they can’t be stopped. Yuuko is more realistic, sometimes you have to take a passive role if you want to help people, wait for them to come to you and let them decide. The different perspectives, Watanuki’s and Yuuko’s, are in stark contrast but they are compatible and work well together.
~Character Dynamics: While this series does focus more on plot events, that’s not to say that this series is lacking in character development, in fact, the character dynamic between the main characters is highly entertaining, and especially Domeki and Watanuki. Yuuko is the trickster-mentor type, she often encourages Watanuki to be better, but also to get along better with others. It’s pretty obvious that, as an orphan, Watanuki has spent a lot of time by himself, and understandably Watanuki struggles to emotionally connect with the living (he often can’t tell the difference between the real world and the spirit world).
All in all, a great series with beautiful artwork, and an intriguing plot. I highly recommend it for those with the patience for slow-build narratives.