XXXHolic Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Release Date: Saturday, May 01, 2004
Translated by:Anthony Gerard
What They Say
Watanuki Kimihiro is haunted by visions of ghosts and spirits. Seemingly by chance, he encounters a mysterious witch named Yuko, who claims she can help. In desperation he accepts, but realizes that he's just been tricked into working for Yuko in order to pay off the cost of her services. Soon he's employed in her little shop - a job that turns out to be nothing like his previous work experience! Most of Yuko's customers live in Japan, but Yuko and Watanuki are about to have some unusual visitors named Sakura and Syaoran from a land called Clow...
I've got mixed feelings on the art itself - a shot of Yuko and Watanuki - but the packaging itself is nice. The cover has a very nice feel to it and reminds me of some of the covers that TOKYOPOP is now using. The author name is up at the top followed by "Creators of Chobits!" CLAMP is a big enough name now to where I don't think you'd need that "creators of" slogan, but I think if you had to use any of the series, you'd use "Cardcaptor Sakura" because of its heavy ties to that one series through Tsubasa.
This brings us down to the logo check!
It's one of those logos where I don't care for it, but it accurately depicts the creepy feeling of this series. xxxHolic is written in a strange, yellow font that mixes in well with the earthtones and purples in the main cover image.
The back is the continuation of the main image with the summary on the right side in white.
Del Rey uses the same type of paper that is used in their novels, so it gives the book a different feeling than most manga you purchase these days. The result is tha the artwork comes across a bit darker than what some people are used to, but the blacks are particularly vibrant when there are a lot of scenes of them. The pages feel durable, and considering the number of Del Rey novels I have, I believe they will stand the test of time well. The front of the book reproduces the colored panels at the beginning of the series. However, an unusual tone is taken when those same colored panels are repeated in black and white after the honorifics note. I'm not sure if this is a Del Rey thing or something that was in the original manga. It's a bit repetitive. They could have done the honorifics, then the color panels then go into the first black and white pages without repeating. The characters themselves are of a style that fans of Chobits will probably recognize. They're not as lush as Cardcaptor Sakura, but they're not as odd as Suki: A Like Story either.
The volume is unflipped and the SFX is subtitled, so you get the best of both worlds here. There's only one panel where Del Rey pulls an ADV Manga trick by having both the Japanese language text bubble and the English translation text bubble appear side by side. Other than that, the only non-SFX text that isn't translated is simply done so because it would had altered the artwork otherwise. The translation itself is a good read, and it accurately conveyed several references that were easy for me to grasp. Other, abstract references are fleshed out in the excellent cultural notes section at the back of the book.
A forum user once compared xxxHolic to the series Petshop of Horros, saying that this is the CLAMP version of it. That user pretty much hits it dead on, so I wasn't quite sure if I would enjoy this series. Petshop of Horrors simply creeped me out to no end. Instead, with xxxHolic, I found myself completely engrossed in an enjoyable story that mixes philosophy, a bit of horror and a good bit of dark humor.
Watanuki Kimihiro is drawn into the shop of a witch named Yuko, who says that she can deal with a problem of his - the ability to see and interact with spirits - but it requires a sacrifice from him. That sacrifice is that he's become her workhorse until his debt to her is paid off. Then she'll grant Watanuki's wish.
As he settles into his new role, Watanuki encounters the type of customers that Yuko treats - those with bad habits that they are ignorant of or can't seem to break. Watanuki is convinced that Yuko is insane, but she turns out to be pretty philosophical and eerily right all of the time. She believes in the concept of hitsuzen, that all events are fore-ordained. Throughout the volume, as she draws Watanuki further into her world, she prepares for the arrival of two people from the land of Clow - a young man named Syaoran who is in search of help for his friend, Sakura.
To me, Yuko really makes this series. She has a way of easily figuring out what people's weaknesses are and drives the point home to Watanuki repeatedly that people can't change unless they have the inner will to do so. Yuko is seen by people as a means to correct their own faults, but she repeatedly insists that while she can provide the material tools to do so, she can't provide the inner will to see that this happens.
This is woven around a lot of humor, as Yuko seems to bounce from one extreme to another. She drops a lot of 70s cultural notes into her speeches, which many people will not get unless they read the cultural notes - simply because of the generation gap. She refers to stuff like the Romper Room, and one of the best moments in the volume was when she turned a baseball bat into a personal Zantetsuken and cuts through a client's computer, following it up with "Once again, I have cut a worthless object." Fans of Lupin III will love this direct ripoff of the series as Yuko pays homage to Goemon.
There is also mentions of other CLAMP series in here, mainly Cardcaptor Sakura. The scene where Watanuki comes across a replica of Sakura's Clow wand is funny.
Watanuki is predictably naive, but he's not that annoying. Moro and Maru, Yuko's assistants, remind me a lot of the Nyan-Nyans from Fushigi Yugi. And then, there's Sakura and Syaoran. But, you learn more about them in Tsubasa.
My recommendation, by the way, if you picked up both volumes at once, go ahead and read xxxHolic first before reading Tsubasa. The very last page of this volume is also the ending of chapter one in Tsubasa, and so you'll understand better how Yuko can help Sakura and Syaoran by reading xxxHolic first. The above reference to the Clow wand also lets you know a bit better how Tsubasa fits into the CLAMP world.
xxxHolic was a surprise to me, a series that so far is filled with dark humor and philosophy, along a protagonist that I really like. I'm interested to see how this series turns out and what else Yuko will make Watanuki do before she fufills his wish. As for her involvement in Tsubasa, if you have that first volume, I'd go ahead and start reading it to see how things proceed in there. It is interesting to have certain events be told from two different points of view, as xxxHolic and Tsubasa will both prove to do in future volumes.
Mania Grade: A
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: All
Released By: Del Rey
Size: Tall B6
Orientation: Right to Left