XXXHolic Vol. #04 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: Del Rey
  • MSRP: 10.99
  • Pages: 176
  • ISBN: 03-345-47788-X
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

XXXHolic Vol. #04

By Matthew Alexander     February 08, 2006
Release Date: January 01, 2005


XXXHolic Vol.#04
© Del Rey


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Clamp
Translated by:William Flanagan
Adapted by:

What They Say
It’s Valentine’s Day–and while Domeki is showered with chocolates and cards from girls, Watanuki receives none. To make matters worse, he must also do the usual chores for Yűko, which includes making chocolate cake for her and Mokona, as well as the treats his boss wants to give away as gifts. But when Watanuki discovers he has a shy and secret admirer who is not quite human, he finds that chocolates can be more than just sweets.

Then, after seeing identical twin sisters pass by in the street, Yukomakes a curious remark: that there are chains that only humans can use to bind others. Watanuki meets the sisters and senses that the relationship between them is not what it seems. . . .

The Review
Packaging:
This series uses the original Japanese cover with only a small amount of differences in the black border size and shape. Thankfully CLAMP got away from the gaudy cover of volume 3 and back to the elegant style seen on the covers of volume 1 and 2. The cover art for volume 4 is beautiful and continues the wrap around theme seen on earlier volumes with Yuko on the front cover and Watanuki on the back. Yuko’s upper body is visible wearing a beautiful kimono depicting swirl patterns and swallows, and her thin hair is spread out in every direction. Yuko is oriented upside down, which is a little confusing because it caused me to pick up the book and accidentally flip it upside down on more than one occasion. The logo is red with a yellow glow to the lettering, it’s not great, but it is a lot better than the all yellow logo found on the first volume. The back cover shows Watanuki lying back with the same kimono pattern wrapped around him.

The first two pages of the story are in color and there is a beautiful colored version of the two-page spread depicting Yukoin a sexy maid outfit. My only complaint with this plate is the puke green color scheme for the background, otherwise it’s a nice touch.

The book has plenty of extras. There is a table of contents, description of honorifics, information about CLAMP and some of their past works, multiple translation notes, and an un-translated preview for the next volume.

I was disappointed with the washed out black tones in parts of this volume. I understand that solid black, especially large areas of it, is difficult to print. But the first three volumes didn’t have much of a problem with this, so my annoyance with this problem slowly grew throughout the book.


Artwork:
The artwork continues to impress me with the clean crisp lines. I really enjoyed the depictions of ghosts and monsters in this volume, they remind me of medieval Japanese art, such as the Scroll of the Hungary Ghosts from the 12th Century. I also like the strong contrast the black/white tone gives to the art. But what I enjoy the most, and what originally attracted me to the first volume, is Yuko’s sexy poses and the beautiful variety of her wardrobe. Her clothes are different in every scene, and one outfit is as beautiful as the next. The artist does an excellent job of portraying her elegance and her mischievousness. In addition, the full-page art at the beginning of each chapter is also very attractive.


Text/SFX:
The translation is good and reads smoothly. However, I did find one or two misspellings, but nothing major. There was a reference to flying “like something out of a Disney movie”. I don’t know if this was what CLAMP wrote originally, but I thought it a little strange they didn’t make reference to something native like a Ghibli movie. Otherwise, the text is physically well centered and reads with a good flow.


Contents: (please be aware the contents portion may contain spoilers)
This volume picks up the day before Valentines Day. Yuko has Watanuki make chocolate for her to eat and give as Valentines presents to others. After she eats her fill and distributes her gifts, there is one remaining chocolate, which she gives to Watanuki. He’s ecstatic, because now he has a special Valentines present he can give to his cute classmate Himawari, whom Watanuki has a massive crush on. But Watanuki is too afraid to tell Himawari how he feels about her. The next day at school, Watanuki is crushed when his love interest stays home sick.

Later that day, on the way home from school, Watanuki and Domeki are visited by a pretty girl who is looking for a special Valentines chocolate to give the guy she likes. Much to everyone’s surprise, the girl reaches into Domeki’s stomach and pulls out the chocolate he had eaten earlier (gross, but the chocolate is in it’s original form, apparently uneaten). Then she flies away and Domeki collapses. Yuko, who’s on the way home from the store, appears and claims the girl is a Zashiki-Warashi (ghost or guardian spirit), and she stole Domeki’s soul. Watanuki is sent in pursuit the girl and eventually catches up. She apologizes and eventually gives the chocolate to Watanuki as a symbol of her love for him. Which is pretty interesting considering most of the spirits Watanuki encounters are just out to harm or molest him in some way.

After the Valentine’s Day debacle, Watanuki meets identical twin girl college students. The twins invite Watanuki and Domeki on a couple of dates. The older sister is shy, clumsy, and always in the background when her younger sister is around. The younger sister always seems to find a way to put down the older twin, making her feel less capable. It’s almost painful to see the way the twins interact with each other and I really began to feel sorry for the shy older sister.

The interaction between the twins builds to a crescendo at a cake shop, where the older sister works as a waitress. The older sister has an accident and the younger twin begins to tell her she’s not good enough to work there. The younger twins’ pessimistic words cause the older sister to break down emotionally. Yukoappears and mysteriously offers to grant the older sisters wish to change her life. Later, when the older sister visits Watanuki and Domeki, she appears to be happier and more outgoing. Taking Watanuki’s advice, the older sister professes her love for Domeki. He turns her down, but she’s just happy she told him. This shows she has advanced further in changing her life than Watanuki, because he still can’t tell his classmate Himawari that he loves her.

The volume ends with a short flashback to Watanuki’s childhood. We get see a brief glimpse into how, as a lonely young boy, he raised himself in the absence of his parents. It also shows that spirits have been bothering him since he was a small child. It’s a nice glimpse of some factors that made Watanuki the person he is. It successfully invoked a feeling of sadness in me and for the fist time I really felt feel sorry for him. Up to this point he had always just been comedic relief.

Comments
The first portion of this volume, dealing with Valentines Day, has interesting references to Japanese mythology and magical creatures. I especially enjoyed this part because I like learning about the mythology of various cultures, and greatly appreciated the translators’ notes on them. Even if the Tengu were drawn as little cupid-like creatures, I still appreciated the reference.

The portion of the story with the twins reminds us that words hurt more than physical abuse. No matter how much you apologize for something hurtful you said, there is no way to erase those words from the memory of the one you hurt. It also shows us that you will never accomplish anything if you don’t try, and it’s better to regret failing something you tried than to regret not trying at all. I thought the use of twins for this lesson was a nice touch.

Upon first reading this volume, I thought there were higher production values when compared to the previous three, because the first four pages are in color. But with a little research, I discovered the reason my copies of the first three volumes in this series lacked the color plates was because they were second and third editions. Shame on Del Rey. I’m really disappointed that for the same price, the buyers of printings after the first edition do not receive the color plates. So try and get a first edition if you can.

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