xxxholic Complete Box Set (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Lori Lancaster
Review Date: Thursday, August 13, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A young man plagued by spirits stumbles across a magical shop who's owner seems to be able to grant a person's deepest wish. The only catch is that equal payment must be given for services rendered. As a butterfly's flapping of it's wings is said to cause storms halfway across the world, what far reaching changes will be brought about by this young man?

What They Say

There is no such thing as coincidence, there is only the inevitable...

Watanuki has been haunted by dark spirits his entire life, a curse flowing through his bloodline preventing peace. When his incessant demons drag him to the ornate door of the Dimensional Witch Yuko, he meets a mystical woman of insight and luxury, quick to help those in a bind... for a fee! One might very well end up paying with their soul! To be free of his visions, Watanuki will work in her shop of dreams and wishes. There is always a price to pay...

Contains episodes 1-24.

The Review!
Audio:
For the purpose of this review, the English 5.1 audio track was used. There was a nice balance between the sound effects, background music and vocal parts.  The classical background music did a lot to establish the mood of the episodes.  On more than one occasion, a tense situation that had a lot of rumbling bass could be felt vibrating throughout the floor.  The sound effects made full usage of the speakers.  One particular part that stood out was the sound of a door pounding from the rear speakers while other sound effects and eerie music was being used. It effectively made a spooky scene even creepier.  The overall end result was a very nice multidirectional audio track.  This ultimately provided the feeling of being completely immersed within the sound.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, this series is presented in wide screen format.  The transfer to dvd went very smoothly and the colors are very vibrant.  There were no noticeable interlacing issues or pan jutter. As expected from a Clamp related show, the close up and medium shot visuals are gorgeous.

Packaging:
A relatively small thin pack houses the complete first season of this series. The front features a curious image of Yuko, Watanuki, and Domeki standing waist-deep in water with lotus blossoms surrounding them. The back of the box has a brief introduction to the series. An image featuring a contemplative Watanuki and an alluring Yuko graces the middle section. Further below are a few more small pictures from the series. 

Inside of the box were two double hubbed thin pack cases which held all four volumes of this season. The cover art was reversible. The art for the first thin pack featured a picture of Watanuki and Yuko on the front, and Himawari, Domeki and Mokona on the back.  All four people were wearing kimono. The disc volume and its corresponding episodes were listed on the back. The reverse featured a picnic scene amidst cherry blossoms with the same group. All of them except for Watanuki seemed pretty happy. The other thin pack featured a nice image of Yuko, Mokona and Maru on the front, and Moro and Watanuki on the back. As before, they are all wearing traditional Japanese clothing.  The reverse was a very stylish picture done in a cool and dark color palette. A very stylish Yuko sits in what looks to be an upholstered chair. Watanuki and Domeki are dressed in suits and seem rather composed.

Similar to other Funimation thin packs, the "box" is paper thin. It's compact shape is rather sleek, but it tends to blend in with the rest of the dvds on the shelf.

Menu:
The main menu for all the disks featured a different static image for each volume. The menus themselves were very basic and had their own music themes.  The sub menus were for the audio setup, and the episodes themselves. At the top there was an option to play them all.

Extras:
The extras for this release were minimal.  Included on the last disk were a total of 3 textless songs and a series of trailers.  It was nice to see the full animation for the second closing as it featured the cute Maru and Moro rocking out to the ending song.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
No matter who you are, there are always choices to make.  The question is, will you be able to deal with the repercussions?

This series centers around a young teenager named Watanuki who is able to see spirits.  Having been orphaned at a young age and not having too many close friends he's learned to mostly rely upon himself. He does love to cook and he makes various dishes through out the season.  He has an after school job working at an odd shop that specializes in wish fulfillment. The proprietor of the store is an intriguing woman by the name of Yuko.  Yuko is in the possession of other gifts aside from the ability to grant wishes.  At times it seems that she also possesses a certain amount of divination capabilities as well as an unknown amount of magic. One example of this can be seen in the portal that she has set up between her home and a far off shopping district. She's a bit of an eccentric personality who loves to dress flamboyantly and is not shy about displaying her ample assets. Over her life time she has seemed to have acquired an amazing collection of random oddities that were given to her in exchange for services rendered.  She does tend to be hard on Watanuki at times.  On a few occasions she forces him to wear extremely girly accessories which end up helping in unforeseen ways at times. She does seem to have his best interests in mind. She also tends to try to push Watanuki and Domeki together at every chance she has in an effort to improve their friendship. Domeki is a serious and collected fellow. He is also an intensely loyal person.  Unfortunately he can't seem to help but push Watanuki's buttons in the beginning. Watanuki's extreme reactions do nothing to curtail this habit of Domeki's.

With his ability to ward off evil spirits, it would be in Watanuki's best interest to get along with him. It also seems that this ability of Domeki's can be transferred into other objects to effectively form talismans as well. Aside from this ability, he has a vast knowledge of related folklore that was gleaned from his grandfather's stories and growing up in a temple.  Another classmate of Watanuki's is a pretty girl by the name of Himawari.  Himawari seems to be Watanuki's main love interest throughout this first season. A very personable and outgoing young girl, she's under the misconceived notion that Domeki and Watanuki's routine is just an act. Early on it's hinted that she too might have some odd sort of power.  Every small action that Himawari makes is taken to heart by Watanuki.  She does view both boys as friends, but seems to like Domeki.  Two of the other girls in Watanuki's life are the lively Maru and Moro. They are a pair of very energetic girls who are very loyal to Yuko and they live at the shop.  The last member of the main cast is Mokona. Extremely outspoken, he is always bouncing about and does not mince words. He truly lives up to the adage that dynamite comes in small packages.

One day Watanuki ends up stumbling across a special shop that grants wishes ...for a price.  It's mistress is a rather intriguing young lady by the name of Yuko.  Due to his family's lineage, he has always been able to see spirits.  Unfortunately for him most of the ones he sees seem to be malicious.  As a result he has come to dislike his ability to see them.  As might be expected, his desire to rid himself of such a heavy burden has led him to Yuko's shop. However such a large wish garners a rather hefty price. Yuko decides to make him an offer to allow him to work off the 'price' of the wish as her part-timer. In return he would be able to get his wish granted after he's put enough work towards it. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems though. To his dismay, Yuko has a wicked sense of humor and is a particularly demanding boss. Not only does she force him to say embarrassing things to Domeki, but she also has him making late night house calls to cook up special meals. Aside from that she constantly has him cleaning and maintaining her ample collection of artifacts, while still expecting him to run errands of an other-worldly nature. Spending all that time at Yuko's isn't without it's upsides though. Where else could he gain such friends who border on almost being family?  As the series continues on, he becomes more aware of people and a deeper understanding of a larger world around him.

One of the main themes in this series is Watanuki's personal journey of growth. It is not just coming to terms with his ability or learning to rely upon others. It's also about allowing himself to acknowledge that he does have people who care about him.  By having Watanuki do all these different errands involving the spirit world, it seems like Yuko is trying to give him an appreciation for his gift. At the very least, it does get Watanuki to appreciate the unique beings he stumbles across.  One of his major hurdles seems to be his relationship with Domeki.  Domeki is an intensely loyal friend.  While quiet and a bit reserved, he always seems ready to help Watanuki.  When Watanuki seemed to have been sucked underground, Domeki immediately started digging in the hope that he would be able to free him. Yuko happened upon the scene and mentioned a way that he'd be able to help free Watanuki. As a result Domeki followed Yuko's recommendation and stood in dismal weather for 10 hours straight, and gave up a treasured keepsake of his grandfather's as payment.  The main issue that comes in between a strong friendship developing between the two always stems back to how Watanuki perceives Domeki and Himawari's friendship.

The snowball fight episode is one of the funniest in this set.  It all started out simple enough. Watanuki was doing his typical house cleaning and organization of Yuko's relics when he stumbled across an ordinary looking chest.  According to Yuko it was capable of granting the wish of the person who opened it. There was only one catch, the box would only open if certain conditions were met.  The next day everything seemed to be back to normal, only to have Watanuki receive a bewitched letter from Yuko that looked suspiciously like a love letter.  As always, Yuko charged him with bringing Himawari and Domeki along with him after school. While waiting for Yuko to appear, Watanuki ran into a shy friend of his and her blunt friend. Yuko soon appeared after that instructing them all to build snowmen and that after their snowball fight the victor would win the wish-granting chest that Watanuki had unearthed the day before.  Everyone's snowman was extremely different and seemed to reflect at least some part of the person's personality.  The most innocent seeming of the bunch was the cute and fleet footed snow rabbit that Watanuki created.  The rather boisterous Yuko created an equally impressive Kill Zone soldier with matching machine gun to do her bidding. What happened next was truly something to be seen. 

Yuko's methods in grant wishes aren't always what one might expect from one with magical abilities.  In one instance, she named a recently purchased item so that she would be able to empower it.  She then managed to wield it similar to a samurai would his katana and sliced through the object she wished to destroy. It is perhaps her unorthodox methods and her bad habits that make her that make her seem all the more real.  While Watanuki's character is likeable as well, his extreme reactions to Domeki at times become too much.  After being saved so many times by him, he should at least acknowledge the fact that Domeki views him as an important friend. Still, they say that the mark of a good story is that the audience cares about the fate of the characters. XxxHolic definitely seems to do that.  Aside from having a nice story, it also has very nice music and gorgeous artwork inspired by the original Clamp manga. The art has only 2 downsides.  The first is that the full shots reveal the fact that the characters are all extra ordinarily tall and as a result the heads are too small in proportion to the very slender bodies. The other is that most of the people in the background are all grayed out. They are just outlines and colored in a neutral grey. Perhaps its indicative of the fact that Watanuki feels himself that far removed from the rest of society due to his circumstances. Overall, it would have been nice to have seen more progress made between the friendship of Domeki and Watanuki considering all the situations the two had faced. The question of Moro's and Maru's circumstances is raised but never truly answered as well.

In Summary:
xxxHolic is what you might get if you took the old Twilight Zone series, added a liberal dosage of comedy and turned it into an anime. This series is able to add just the right amount of spookiness to the stories to keep it interesting without turning it into a full blown horror series. During the series there are quite a few references to other Clamp works and the horror movie "The Ring." There do seem to be a couple loose ends left in the air at the end of this season, but overall it has a good balance of music, art and story. Whether you like suspenseful and supernatural series or just like Clamp in general, this is a nice series to watch.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closings

Review Equipment

106" 16x9 DaLite HC Screen, Panasonic PT-AX100U LCD Projector 720p native, Playstation 3 , DVD Upconversion handled by Playstation 3, Sony STR-DE835 500W Receiver DD/DTS,  Klipsch Reference System (RB-61, CS-52 and RS-42) speakers, Sony SA-WMS5 100 Watt powered subwoofer, DVI to HDMI (PC to Projector),  Digital Coaxial Cable (PC to Receiver).



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 16 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 69.98
Running time: 650
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: xxxHolic