Translation/Adaptation: William Flanagan
Letters: Dana Hayward
What They Say
Watanuki just can’t seem to get a break. Whenever he makes efforts to spend time with his beloved Himawari, he’s given an excuse – or worse yet, he ends up alone with Domeki. But when Watanuki finally gets a little more quality time with the girl of his dreams, he comes to discover the reason behind her constant avoidance and personally experiences the disastrous consequences of getting too close to her.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
All right, I admit it: I’ve been holding off on this one. The fourth, fifth, and sixth XxxHolic omnibuses have been sitting around at the bottom of the review spreadsheet for God knows how long, so I thought I’d snag them and get them out of the way. It can be difficult to get into a series when you come in at the middle (this collection comprises volumes 10-12), but I figured I could do some research and catch up and be fine.
How wrong I was.
So here’s what I do know: XxxHolic was created to be a crossover series with another Clamp title, Tsubasa. While the two do go together, they can be read on their own. The two series intersect with the characters Kimihiro Watanuki and Yūko Ichihara. Tsubasa is a high fantasy story about Sakura, a princess who loses her memories, and the archaeologist Syaoran, who attempts to help her. Taking his lead from the interdimensional witch, Ichihara, Syaoran travels to different worlds to retrieve Sakura’s lost memories.
Ichihara also plays a large role in XxxHolic. This story takes place in our world and centers on Watanuki—a high schooler who sees spirits. He stumbles upon Ichihara’s wish-granting shop and wishes for her to take away his power. She agrees, but on the price that he will work part-time in her shop until she deems the value of his work equal to the value of her removing his ability.
Really, the connection between the two is pretty tenuous (at least judging by my research).
Most of XxxHolic (really don’t know why it’s named this) deals with Ichihara sending Watanuki on some errand or another, which he does, grousing all the way, and typically getting injured in the process. He encounters magical creatures, psychics, and spirits often, including a classmate he crushes on whose very presence causes misfortune to those around her, and a young girl who works as a medium and exorcist and is pushed into stardom by her mother.
Quite a bit occurs in this manga, but it can never decide on whether it wants to be serial or episodic. At first I thought that the stories were episodic—standalone stories about the same characters—but the manga keeps returning to the idea that nothing is coincidental and that something dark looms over the horizon, creating the impression that each story builds to something larger. What that something larger is, I don’t know, and considering there are about two hundred chapters in this thing, I might not find out for a very long time.
While I did find the supernatural aspects interesting, I never felt engaged with the characters or what they were doing. They were very two-dimensional and pretty stereotypical. Maybe if I hadn’t read as much manga and watched as much anime as I have I would feel different, but as it is, this feels very much like a “been there, done that” sort of affair. I’m also not crazy about the artwork. It’s easy enough to follow, unlike some manga, but the character designs don’t appeal to me, and it generally lacks depth.
Also, if I were Watanuki, I would demand a refund. Unless I’m confused and he’s essentially saving up to have his wish granted, I don’t see how his situation has changed. Not only does he still see spirits, he interacts with them and other magical and fantastic creatures and people on a daily basis. I would feel cheated if I were him.
XxxHolic volume four is a pretty cookie-cutter manga with characters and storylines you’ve seen in countless other titles. There’s nothing really here to distinguish itself from other, better manga out there, and in general I felt like I didn’t entirely know what was going on. Dr. Josh gives this a….
Content Grade: C
Art Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: December 16th, 2014