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xxxHolic Omnibus Vol. #05 Manga Review

4 min read

A manga that doesn’t quite know what it wants to be.

Creative Staff
Story/Art: CLAMP
Translation/Adaptation: William Flanagan
Lettering: Dana Hayward

What They Say
Unable to understand neither spirits’ attraction towards him nor the names of his own parents, Kimihiro is an enigma even to himself. His boss, the dimension witch Yūko, may hold the answers Kimihiro seeks. However, his missing past has a price. Kimihiro must uncover his memories to continue moving forward, but his future under Yuko’s tutelage grows uncertain. The secrets of Kimihiro’s existence are revealed, while the mysteries that surround Yuko’s continue to grow.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
As I said in my review of volume four, I’m coming at this at a disadvantage having not read the first three volumes. Perhaps because of that, I have a difficult time engaging with XxxHolic or even pegging down what type of story it is.

The basic setup is that Kimihiro Watanuki is some sort of spirit magnet. One day he discovers the shop of the dimension witch Yūko, who grants wishes for a price. Watanuki wishes for the spirits to leave him alone, and Yūko’s price is basically his indentured servitude. He must work for her and the shop until she deems he has earned his wish. Typically, this work involves him cooking and cleaning, but he also sometimes helps out others.

In this volume, Watanuki helps his friend Kohane-chan, a psychic whose mother basically forces her to perform on a John Edwards-type show where she contacts the spirits of the dead for audience members. Kohane-chan’s mother is almost Joan Collins in Mommy Dearest levels of awful, and Watanuki and his friend Domeki must find a way to free Kohane-chan from her clutches.

The other person Watanuki helps is a young woman who wants to learn how to cook. Apparently, she despises the taste of her own cooking, because it reflects a hollowness in her own personality (or, at least that’s what I think. It was pretty esoteric and confusing).

While all of this goes on, we learn more about Watanuki’s past, and an extra layer of mystery gets added when Yuko disappears. The volume ends with Watanuki tearfully declaring that he will wait for Yūko to return from wherever it is that she’s going.

Part of the issue here is that 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, Yūko, Syaoran travels to different worlds to retrieve Sakura’s lost memories. I haven’t read Tsubasa, so I’m missing out on a huge swath of information.

Even still, there’s a sense that this manga doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. It’s mostly episodic, but also contains some serial aspects. The episodic elements work well enough, and the setup works perfectly for that. Each story involves someone finding Yūko’s shop and making a wish, and the story takes off from there. The serial portions are where the story drags, and that’s a shame, because, despite of coming to this in the middle, I like the characters. There’s a good chemistry between all of them and that plus the strength of the core concept make this an immersive read. If the manga could ever find the right balance between these two elements, it would be even more enjoyable.

Although the writing leaves something to be desired, the art is quite good. It’s done, of course, in typical manga style, so there isn’t that much different from other titles out there in terms of character and set design, but the lines are clean and easy to follow (some titles out there might as well be Jackson Pollack paintings given how difficult they are for me to follow visually), and there’s a real deftness to the way the artists draw facial expressions and body language.

In Summary
I feel like I’m missing too many puzzle pieces to truly enjoy XxxHolic, but even with those missing pieces, I found the reading experience to be pleasant enough. Hopefully, the story will start coming together in the next omnibus volume. I’ll let you know. Dr. J gives this a…

Content Grade: C-
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: March 3rd, 2015
MSRP: $19.99

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