XXXHolic Vol. #03 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, February 06, 2006
Release Date: Friday, October 01, 2004
Translated by:William Flanagan
What They Say
Kimihiro Watanuki is haunted by spirits–and the only way to escape his curse is to become the indentured servant of the mysterious witch, Yuko Ichihara. But when his beloved, beautiful Himawari-chan, asks him for a favor, he and his eternal rival, the exorcist Domeki, must go on a spirit-busting adventure without Yuko there to save them!
Meanwhile Yuko gives a young woman a precious cylindrical box from her treasure room. There’s just one caveat: She must never open it. Inside is a magical device with a terrifying reputation! Can Kimihiro save an ambitious young lady from her own overconfidence?
This series uses the original Japanese cover with only minor differences in the volume number, border, and title color. The book cover and paper is of high quality and it feels good in the hand. In comparison to the Japanese cover, with black text, the cover art is rather gaudy and made worse by Del Rey’s choice of red colored text surrounded by a yellow glow. On the front cover, Yuko is sitting in a green dress with many multi-colored beads and then wraps around to the back with Watanuki kissing Yuko’s outstretched hand.
The book has plenty of extras, including a table of contents, description of honorifics, information about CLAMP and some of their past works, as well as multiple translation notes. The translation notes are always a great addition, and get a big thumbs up from me.
I continue to be impressed by the quality of printing. This series has a lot of solid black shading and it stays dark and clean from start to finish in this volume.
The artwork maintains clean lines and cute characters. I especially like the way smoke is drawn and the simple beauty of the abstract lines or waves in the background. The artwork does lack shading, and I’ll admit I wasn’t thrilled with the two-tone artwork when I began reading this series. The characters’ eyes take some getting used to because they’re drawn with very little detail and sometimes just look kind of dead. At first I wasn’t fond of the lack of background detail and the ultra-skinny characters with long limbs but I’ve grown to appreciate this art style, especially since the story is strong enough to support the art. The panel layout and the angles the characters are drawn provide enough hint of depth to describe the situation and character’s movements.
Honorifics remain in the translation, along with the Japanese SFX and smaller English translations next to them. The translation flows well and contains a humorous mention of Star Wars, which the translator notes assures us was in the original Japanese text.
Contents: (please be aware the contents portion may contain spoilers)
Watanuki is a high school student with ‘spirit vision’, which allows him to see ghosts and spirits of all kinds. Unfortunately, this also allows him to physically interact with these spirits, who are constantly seeking him out. But lucky for Watanuki, the mysterious witch, Yuko, and his classmate, the exorcist Domeki, help keep the spirits at bay. But there are two problems with this, Watanuki and Domeki are complete opposites, so their friendship seems tenuous at best. Since Yuko has promised to grant Watanuki’s wish to never see spirits again, he has to work in her shop of the supernatural until he can pay off his debt.
In the beginning of this volume we get another glimpse of the connection between this world and that in Tsubasa via the black and white versions of Mokona. With the small bit of world sharing out of the way, Himawari asks Watanuki to help her friend because strange stuff is happening at her school. Being the love-sick puppy that Watanuki is, he agrees and heads off to do what he can, with Domeki for back up. Once they get to the school, they discover angry spirits summoned by Himawari’s friend during games of Angel-san (Japanese version of the Ouija board). This storyline is interesting and can touch most people because just about everyone has played with a Ouija board at some point in their life. There are also some witty references to Chobits that really cracked me up.
I enjoy this series immensely because its occult aspects create an interesting adventure that forces the reader to think, while doing an excellent job of balancing it with humor. But this volume takes a decidedly darker twist when a woman comes into Yuko’s shop and offers to buy what appears to be a scroll case. The woman is overly confident in her good luck and promises Yuko she won’t open the case. Of course the woman does. The case contains a magical object that grants a certain number of wishes. I don’t want to give this chapter away, but I was pretty surprised at the outcome when the wishes end in less than ideal ways.
I continue to enjoy the quality of story telling in this series, especially the large amounts of cultural jokes and references, often highlighted in the Translator Notes. This really intelligent manga series is part comedy, part philosophy and part supernatural adventure. However the overall story did slow a little in character development. We don’t learn any new background on the characters, but the tenuous friendship between Watanuki and Domeki does gain a little strength after their run in with the evil spirits around the Ouija board story.
If you’re a fan of CLAMP, comedy or smart series that make you think, this is a must have. This series remains one of my favorites and I’m really looking forward to reading the next volume. Not to mention my barely contained excitement to see the movie adaptation and TV series once they make it to the U.S., especially if the storytelling remains strong in the TV series.
Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Del Rey
Orientation: Right to Left