Wednesday, December 16, 2009

xxxHolic, Volume 1

I have been reading the manga series Tsubasa these past few months, which I started because I have enjoyed this series, xxxHolic, by the same authors so very much - it is my favorite manga series right now. While the two series are separate stories, they share an interesting connection with each other - there are occasional scenes in which the two series "cross over" with each other - and reading those scenes in Tsubasa made me want to reread this series. It is fun to see events from an expanded point of view - I now understand things that I overlooked the first time around.

Volume 1 of this series sees Kimihiro Watanuki, a young man haunted by ghosts that only he can see, stumble across a very strange shop. The moment his hands touch the fence outside the shop, his legs take control of his body and literally walk him -against his will - inside. Once there, he meets a beautiful, enigmatic woman who calls herself Yuko. She is a space-time witch, and she has the ability to grant people wishes - for a price. Watanuki wants to stop seeing ghosts - she can arrange for that to happen. Her price? Watanuki must help out around the shop. His tasks include cleaning up and running errands - and, when Yuko discovers how skilled he is at cooking, preparing meals as well.

Watanuki is a funny guy - he's sweet and sincere, but has a terrible temper, which leads him to make hilarious caustic remarks under his breath. He is new to this strange world of fortune telling and magical objects, and the reader is introduced to all these strange things along with him - plus has the benefit of his humorous, over-the-top reactions to things as comic relief. Customers come into the store with interesting problems, usually - but not always - of a supernatural nature. Typically, they're addicted to something (hence the "holic" in the title, with the "xxx," I assume, standing for whatever their addiction happens to be), and Yuko fulfills their wishes in unexpected ways, with varying success.

At the end of the first volume, the main characters from Tsubasa appear. To Watanuki's astonishment, they fall out of the sky. Yuko is not surprised - she was expecting them, she says, sending Watanuki into the shop to fetch the black and white bunny-like Mokonas, each of whom features prominently in both series. Apparently the Mokonas were created in yet another CLAMP series, Chobits, which unfortunately my library does not own. I will have to look for it.

There are so many things I love about this series, and rereading it has been extremely rewarding now that I understand the back story and characters from both series, which lends it more depth this time around. I adore the character of Yuko - she is complex and surprising - one minute she's a sexy party girl, laughing and joking, poking fun at Watanuki so he might learn not to take himself so seriously. But when important things are happening, Yuki is dead serious, skillful and powerful, and very wise. She teaches Watanuki essential things, usually by showing him in such a way that he figures things out on his own - which has a much greater impact than just being told something.

I also love the various aspects of Japanese folklore that permeate the series, as well as the episodic tales of the various customers who come into the shop. It was fun revisiting this first volume, and I can already tell I'm going to thoroughly enjoy my series reread. I also have to mention the arresting, expressive artwork that defines these books. It evokes the otherworldly atmosphere of the story perfectly - and the characters wear the most fabulous outfits, depicted in glorious, stunning detail, particularly in the full-color panels. If you haven't tried manga yet, and you enjoy a mix of of fantasy with folkloric elements - along with a healthy dash of humor - give this one a try!

Reviews of other books in this series:
xxxHOLIC, vol 9
xxxHOLIC, vol 10
xxxHOLIC, vol 11
xxxHOLIC, Vol 12

xxxHolic, Volume 1 by CLAMP (Del Rey, 2004)

Also reviewed at:
Comics Worth Reading: "Yuko’s character design is classic, though, all slinky glamour and long straight black hair. She makes a terrific host for tales of people trying to shake the addictions in their lives."
In Spring It Is the Dawn: "Some panels are very nicely drawn, but I often found the art a bit chaotic. And like I mentioned above I really disliked the over-exaggerated expressions of the main character, Kimihiro, to show his anger."
Unflipped Pages: "This was initially a total blind buy for me.... The unique artwork and good stories both made this a worthwhile purchase."

6 comments:

  1. This sounds just like the type of manga I'm getting interested in! I've added it to the wishlist. Thanks.

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  2. Nicola - Great! Can't wait to hear what you think of it.

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  3. I have so much love for this series. I kind of abandoned it when I started my Ranma-a-thon, but it's back to this and Tsubasa when I'm done that. I really love the art, and Watanuki is just plain awesome. Even if a little dramatic. But I like this series enough to actually buy it (I'm up to... volume 8, I think) so that's saying a lot.

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  4. Kiirstin - I'm so glad to hear you love this one, too. When I'm finished with this and Tsubasa, I will go back and reread/continue with Ranma, which was I think the very first manga I ever read. I love that Watanuki is so dramatic - he cracks me up. :-)

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  5. I want to read this, but my library doesn't have it unfortunately...

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  6. Kailana - Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. I tend not to buy manga because they are such quick reads, and there are typically so many of them in a series. The library is a great place to get them! I guess that's why I see so many teens sitting around reading them in the big bookstores. I hope your library will start carrying them!

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