chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)
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Kimihiro Watanuki is a orphaned teenaged boy who can see spirits, so his life is already complicated even before he starts working for shopkeeper and "space-time" witch Yuuko Ichihara. The elegant Yuuko, a devotee of strong drink, gourmet food, and flimsy, revealing outfits, always has plenty of arcane tasks for her young employee, along with the more mundane drudgery of keeping her shop clean and her plate and glass full.

This series starts out as a string of mostly unrelated anecdotes involving the odd situations Watanuki encounters as he works for Yuuko, but about halfway through these 8 volumes (all that are available thus far), a single, stronger plot emerges, joining Watanuki's fate to that of his classmate Domeki, a handsome strong-and-silent guy who's the descendent of powerful priests. As Watanuki and Domeki are forced to work together, both of them learn a number of truths about what it is that people (of all kinds) owe each other.

Although I enjoyed this series from the start, it didn't touch my heart until the arc about the boys' shared existence got going. However, all the way through, I appreciated the elegant, Art Deco-style artwork (although I do think its nature only increased the emotional distance I felt from the story) and the many notes that the publisher, Del Rey, has included about Japanese culture and folklore.

xxxHolic, vols. 1-8 (review)

I find myself wondering whether Himawari, Watanuki's ever-oblivious crush, is ever going to be more than a cipher. At the moment, she seems to exist only to emphasize Watanuki's distance from normal teenagerhood and to allow the reader to hear Watanuki's views on what's been happening to him, because he tells her everything. She's amazingly unfazed by everything her tells her, so maybe she'll turn out to be more interesting than she seems thus far.

I'm also curious to know more about the twin boy and girl moppets that help Yuuko a bit in the shop and act as a preternaturally annoying Greek chorus to Yuuko's less-flattering observations about Watanuki. At one point, Watanuki generously offers to take them out to a night festival, and they sadly demur - they can't leave the shop (IIRC, it's something about their not having souls).

On the other hand, the Tsubasa crossover stuff left me pretty cold - it was delivered in a way that felt like smug name-dropping to me, and my reaction was always along the lines of "Yeah, you have another series going - get over it, and get back to the real story."

One more thing is worth noting: I had bought the first three volumes of this just to see whether I liked it when I had my Mother's Day manga spree. The Mr. has ignored most of what I bought that day, but when we were hanging out in a bookstore a couple of weeks later, he showed up at our table in the store's cafe with the remaining five volumes of xxxHolic, saying "We don't have these, do we?" So I'd say that if you're looking for a shoujo series that could appeal to guys as well, you might try this one!

I do have one big question though: how do people say the name of this series? I've been saying "ex-ex-ex-holic," but that's pretty awkward!

Date: 2007-06-11 04:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
xxxHolic - maybe it's "30 holic"? Just a suggestion..

Date: 2007-06-11 07:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The pronunciation is just "holic" (or "horikku", rather) in Japanese, but I've heard plenty of English fans call it "ex-ex-ex-holic"... ^^;

I really like the art style of xxxHolic, especially the color illustrations, but I agree that they seem rather distant...especially next to CLAMP's older illustrations, which are so detailed and engaging in comparison. xxxHolic feels sort of experimental and atmospheric... which is cool for illustrations (they used it to good effect in Clover) but not so cool for plot... xxxHolic meanders a lot and never quite feels like a fully developed series. It teases with little snippets of knowledge that you have to put together to figure out what's going on, but nothing ever gets revealed or resolved! That gets frustrating after a while... and with CLAMP's habit of not finishing series, who knows if we'll ever see a real ending.

I love the bickering relationship between Doumeki and Watanuki, though - it's basically recycling characters from a previous CLAMP manga, Legal Drug, but I don't mind so much because they're cute~ Himawari gets on my nerves even after her "secret" is revealed. She's a very shallow character... she's always buying gifts while Watanuki makes things from scratch, and he's too dumb to realise that she's not that nice of a girl...

Yeah, Maru and Moro (both girls, btw) are just soulless parts of the shop, so they can't leave. Annoying, but I rather like them anyway~

The little nods to Tsubasa and other CLAMP series are especially annoying because I (and a lot of other fans) feel that CLAMP has grown lazy by resting on all of their past successes... now all they have to do to have a guaranteed hit is throw together the good parts of all of their old stuff and give the characters new names (if they bother to do even that much). When they have to explicitly reference the past series that they're copying from anyway, it draws attention to the decline.

Not that xxxHolic is a bad series, though. I really do like it, but I wish it would just be a straightforward Japanese supernatural mystery story with a slashy touch to (one of my personal favorite subgenres~) instead of stretching itself thin by trying to cover too much.

Date: 2007-06-12 11:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Welcome to Engrish!

Oh, I've got the first volume laying around somewhere, I think! I'll bring it when I come visit!

CLAMP is rather notorious for leaving the readers hanging... they have four or five series on long-term hiatus for various reasons. And xxxHolic's popularity doesn't protect it, either - they dropped X (which was very popular and had an anime and a movie and everything) right before the climatic finale supposedly for "excessive violence" (despite the entire series being fairly violent), but it was pretty obvious that they'd just hit a creative wall and didn't know how to end it...

I think I see the Doumeki/Watanuki pairing more because they're so similar to characters from Legal Drug who were almost definitely in a relationship. (actually, I think those characters make a cameo in xxxHolic as the guys who run the drugstore). For that matter, they're very similar to most CLAMP gay couples... so if you're used to CLAMP, you know what to look for. Any time guys start losing eyes for eachother, my CLAMP gaydar goes off...

Date: 2007-06-14 09:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, I totally agree. Doumeki/Watanuki (aka "Donuts) doesn't seem to have the impact of other CLAMP couples... so whenever they're flat, I can just mentally substitute them with well-developed CLAMP stock characters. The art style is *neat* but it's so stylised that it's hard to make the characters expressive.

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