With the introduction of the pipe fox recently, it’s become plainly apparent that this is the character that can steal the show, even from Mokona.
What They Say
"From the day you were born, you have always been different from those around you..."
For high school student Watanuki, this statement could not be more true! Between rain without end and ghostly visions from beyond, the young man is getting used to not being used to anything at all. His role as Yuko's minion seems as close to normal as anything, and the haunted teen trudges forth within this strange world of weaving wishes.
Many stop by to peruse the witch's goods, but more often than not the lesson must be learned the hard way. Greed, lies, manipulation, and broken promises. There is always a price to pay...
Contains episodes 13-16
xxxholic gets a pretty good treatment for its audio portion of the release but it really doesn’t seem to get much from the bump. The bilingual release includes the original Japanese stereo mix which is encoded at 192kbps as well as an English stereo mix which is done at the same rate. Both of these mixes are pretty good as the show is dialogue heavy with only a bit of music here and there to add some extra atmosphere. The inclusion of an English 5.1 mix at 448kbps is surprising since it really doesn’t seem to gain much from it. Generally areas such as the opening sequences come across as a bit bigger and more vibrant but even this great opening song feels the same as the stereo mix. Dialogue doesn’t gain any greater clarity or placement either. All in all, the mixes are good and we had no problems with them during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. xxxholic is a series with a good mix of real world designs that meets the supernatural. The visual design of the show is one that has a strong sense of depth to the backgrounds while the characters feel a bit out of place because of the designs. The transfer for this captures it pretty well and for the first three episodes it’s really solid for the most part. The small problematic areas are inherent in the source there as elements like Mokona shows some gradient problems and a bit of noise. This varies from episode to episode in how noticeable it is and how distracting it actually is.
The fourth installment does it all just right with a featured pairing of Watanuki and Himawari together in some very appealing fine clothing where they both look positively radiant Combined with the light background and the overall logo design, there is just a certain kind of class and elegance that comes across from this as we get various small story elements mixed into it as well. This is a very rich looking cover, the kind that you want to have framed on a wall. The back cover takes the general design and reworks it nicely with a brief summary of the premise and a pair of small strips that contains shots from the episodes. The episode numbers and titles are clearly listed below it as well as the extras that are on the disc. The remainder of the cover is given over the technical grid – which is really small again – and the standard production credits. The reverse side of the clear keepcase has a full length anime image of the three main characters with Mokona in resting positions with smoke wafting around them. The look of the young men in powerful suits really gives you an idea of where the show could go someday when they’re all a bit older.
Taking its cues from the front cover design, xxxholic utilizes many of the same elements and layout ideas here. The simple black background has the same kind of framing throughout it while the main part of the cover artwork is used as the main visual draw. The navigation strip is kept to the right where it has basic submenu access and the play all selection. Add in a nice bit of music to it and overall it’s a fairly standard and serviceable menu that fits into the theme well with a bit of simple style. Access times are nice and fast and the layout easy to navigate. The disc did not read our players’ language presets unfortunately and defaulted to English 2.0 and sign/song subtitles.
The extras for xxxholic aren’t much of a surprise but the couple we get are certainly welcome. In addition to the clean opening and closing sequences, we get a brief image gallery for these episodes.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
xxxholic glides gracefully into its second half but there are moments where you being to yearn for a bit more than what we’ve been getting. The series has been structured well around the standalone stories that deal with the supernatural as Watanuki is basically being groomed for something larger, but sometimes you want to get more of a hint of what that larger is. This volume doesn’t provide that, but after a rather low key first episode, they start to shift gears a little bit before ending with one of the more amusing episodes of the series to date.
The opening episode revolves once again around Watanuki simply coming across someone who stands out as being different only to him and he can’t help but to get involved. This young woman that he sees in his daily life has started to grow angel wings on her back and is seemingly becoming more and more disconnected from everyone. He’s unsure of it all at first, thinking that it might be little more than cosplay, but eventually the way he’s drawn to such things has him far more involved in it. There is inherent danger in getting involved in any situation and there is plenty to be had here as well, especially as Yuko warns him about there being possible victims. It’s a curious story and one whose resolution I liked, but at the same time it felt like the animation was off rather strongly at times even for a quirky series like this.
Where xxxholic starts to change things up a bit is in that we get a two part storyline. The extended storylines are ones that generally have a lot more potential to them since they can spread out everything more evenly, but the danger is in having a story that would simply be stretched for no reason. This is one of those stories where you could see them fitting it into one episode fairly easily, but we at least get some good character material out of it. Watanuki’s “special ability” to be a lightning rod for oddness has him meeting up with a young woman who has a twin sister. The sister he meets is one that is giving off vibes and spiritual energy of negativity, only something that he’s capable of seeing. When he meets the sister, it’s apparent that the two are very polar opposites of personalities but he can’t figure out what’s really going on.
The actual supernatural aspect of it is fairly easy to figure out once the two sisters are together, so the real fun is in watching how everyone gets along. The outgoing sister instantly takes a liking to Doumeki and begins plotting in a cheery way for a group date, something that throws off Watanuki because he’s being completely faithful to Himawari even though they’re obviously not dating. Watching him maneuver through this and then end up in various mini date moments is quite amusing. But nowhere near as fun as watching Doumeki go through the motions in his bland straight man way. Yuko is fairly minimal throughout this and even Himawari takes a back seat, so it comes down to watching the interactions between the main four characters that play out the story. It has its good moments, but it does feel like a stretched episode and one without anywhere near as much payoff as one would hope.
What really saved this volume for me was the last episode where everything simply came together just right. Ever since the introduction of the pipe fox, I’ve loved the way it interacts with Watanuki and steals every little scene. The pipe fox gets its own episode for the most part here now that it’s stuck in a larger form and treats Watanuki like a big lovable lug that it just wants to slobber all over. Watanuki can’t stand that aspect of it but it’s quite endearing to see the two of them grow so close in this particular manner. Of course, the pipe fox can’t stay in this form and Yuko has a way of getting that taken care of, but not without a bit of effort and potential danger for Watanuki. There is a really nice moment that goes back to an earlier episode involved Doumeki that provides for some closure and that helps to balance out the lighter comedic side of this episode quite well.
While xxxholic certainly hasn’t lost any of its appeal, it’s a show that can definitely have its lulls. This volume has a couple of them and it isn’t helped by a two episode storyline that doesn’t truly merit the extra time and attention spent on it. The real draw for the show does continue to be the characters however and watching them even in these kinds of slow and meandering stories is a lot of fun. They have such intriguing personalities and there is plenty more than meets the eye going on here with them that it’s easy to be continually fascinated by them. And the beautiful art style and expressions don’t hurt either. It’s still hard to see this as a more mainstream appealing property but it is a show that I find myself drawn to, even when it has weak offerings like this.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.