In this tenth installment of xxxHOLIC, my favorite manga series, there are some unusual developments. The premise of the series is that teenage Kimiharo Watanuki has become the servant of mysterious space-time witch Yuko Ichihara. In return for his service, she will make it so he no longer sees ghosts. Watanuki cooks elaborate meals for her, performs tasks at her request, and runs odd errands as well.
This volume opens in the sweltering heat of summertime. Yuko requests that Kimiharo fill several jugs with pure water from a particular well in the city. This apparently innocuous task turns out to be more difficult than he could have imagined - the well is in the yard of a private home, and he basically must trespass in order to obtain the water. He sees a mysterious figure at the window, and it gives him the creeps.
Meanwhile he makes a pinkie-promise with his beloved Himawari-chan, but the result of that promise leads him into trouble. Domeki, Watanuki's friend (although the word "friend" barely begins to cover their bizarre and complex relationship), points out that whenever Kimiharo is involved with Himawari, something bad comes of it. And, looking back on events in previous volumes, readers will have to agree with Domeki. But how can such a sweet, pretty girl cause so much trouble?
Certain events from previous installments are made clear in this volume, and there is a sense of further developments to come. This was a more serious story than some of the others, and while I wasn't laughing as much as usual, I enjoyed seeing the characters change and grow throughout the course of the story. Watanuki can be a nut, but he is a kind, decent person, and I'm growing quite attached to him. The artwork is splendid, as always, although this volume unfortunately lacks the color panels that are included in earlier volumes. There were the usual translation notes at the end, though, which I find enormously helpful and interesting (I learned, for one thing, that tempura is said to have come from Portuguese visitors to Japan in the 1500s, adapted to Japanese tastes. Who knew?). I am now waiting impatiently for the next installment of the series.
xxxHOLIC, Volume 10 by Clamp (Del Rey, 2006)
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