xxxHolic

xxxHolic

20140520-212757-77277491.jpgxxxHolic (pronounced just as ‘holic’) is about a high schooler named Watanuki Kimihiro. He has the ability to see spirits and, unfortunately, they are attracted to him. Plagued by these spirits, he finds himself stumbling into the shop of Yuuko Ichihara – a witch able to grant people wishes for a price equivalent to what they want to wish for. Watanuki has a wish of his own: to no longer be plagued by these spirits of his. Yuuko can grant his wish, but for Watanuki to pay for it he must become her part-time help in her shop. And so Watanuku cooks, cleans, and anything else that the mystical witch asks him to. Only when his payment has been received in full will Watanuki be relieved of these spirits of his.

xxxHolic was thought up by the talented manga-kas Clamp as a way to link elements of supernatural and fantasy with the real world. xxxHolic also works really well combined with another of their works, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle. The witch Yuuko acts as a bridge to link the two stories together. It’s not essential to read Tsubasa at the same time as reading xxxHolic, but you will often find the the appearance of other characters is intriguing, and you can’t help but think what it’s like ‘on that side’. Personally I found myself racing through both and enjoying every minute (but then again, I am quite the big Clamp fan).

At the beginning of the manga, the main story is based around Yuuko’s shop and the different people that visit her and want to have wishes granted. Most of them, as a rule don’t turn out well – the phrase “be careful what you wish for” rings very true here. As the story progresses, however, it is revealed that Watanuki is not so much Yuuko’s servant as he is her apprentice, and he has  a much greater role in Yuuko’s world than simply helping to grant people’s wishes.

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This manga is somewhat misleading – in a good way. It begins strong but then after a few volumes is changes course, bridges new ground, and we begin to see that the beginning was just a build up, and now things are really kicking off. Watanuki in particular is a character that grows with the storyline and as his relationship with Yuuko develops. But not just Yuuko – he also reluctantly forms a strong relationship with his schoolmate and ‘rival’ Doumeki Shizuka. He continues to grow into his potential as he comes to the realisation that Yuuko’s supernatural world, although fascinating, is also endlessly dangerous.

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Issues of morality are key in xxxHolic, and most being from a very non-Christian point of view. This manga is so steeped in Shinto beliefs that there is no way of ‘Westernising’ it through translation. I really enjoyed it. There is no ‘good’ and ‘evil’, but more about how all of our actions have impact and effects we cannot fathom. It embraces the concept of ‘hitsuzen’, more or less translated as ‘inevitability’. And xxxHolic shows, over time, that our decisions are always affecting our inevitable outcome. As Yuuko herself says: “There is no coincidence, only hitsuzen”. The people that come to her shop are there for a reason – the actions that they have taken up to this point have inevitably drawn them to her.

xxxHolic can almost be read on two levels: enjoying Clamp’s incredibly detailed and beautiful (as always) drawings, and the storyline, but you can also become really immersed in themes and ideals. It has complex and moving relationships as well as maintaining a great balance between humour and mystery. I rarely have a bad thing to say about a Clamp manga series, and this one is no exception.

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