This second volume of the fantasy manga series xxxHolic (which, I've learned, is simply pronounced "holic") continues the story of Kimihiro Watanuki, a young man whose desire to rid himself of the ghosts that plague and pester him has led him to the shop of the space-time witch, Yuko. In exchange for helping out at her shop, Yuko will fulfill his wish to no longer see ghosts.
In his job at the shop so far, Watanuki has seen some unusual - even unbelievable - things. Most recently, two people have fallen from the sky (Sakura and Syaoran from Tsubasa). Yuko has given them what help she can, for an equitable price (she says), and has sent them on their way, along with their companions (their adventures are detailed in Tsubasa, and are well worth following).
Watanuki has an enormous crush on a very pretty, sweet girl named Himawari. When she discovers his birth date, she tells him that because he is an Aries and she is a Sagittarius, they are compatible. He comes into the shop that afternoon walking on air. When he shares his good news with Yuko, however, she tells him that horoscopes are much more complex than that. To illustrate her point, she takes him to visit her personal fortune teller - only to discover there is a new woman telling fortunes at that shop now. What follows shows Watanuki that just because he has seen that many kinds of supernatural things exist, not everything that makes supernatural claims is necessarily so.
In the second part of the book, Yuko decides that the summer heat makes it the perfect time for a ghost story party. She persuades Watanuki to talk with his friend /rival Domeki, who lives at a temple, and see if they can tell ghost stories there. What follows is a chilling, but elucidating experience.
This second volume sees the major characters for the series introduced, and explores their relationships with each other. Watanuki has a love/hate relationship with Domeki, whose deadpan humor contrasts hilariously with Watanuki's histrionics. Pretty Himawari does an excellent job of setting up explosive moments between the two guys, and it's unclear whether she does it because it's just too funny to push Watanuki's buttons, or if she's genuinely unaware of her effect on him.
I continue to enjoy my reread of this fantastical series, and the ghost stories told at the temple is one of my favorite scenes in the series. Yuko may seem to be acting on a whim, but her motives are very serious indeed, and there is a sense that events from that night are going to have far-reaching consequences for the three friends.
Books in the xxxHolic series:
xxxHolic, Volume 2 by CLAMP (Del Rey, 2004)