Kimihiro Watanuki continues his work at the strange, magical shop owned by Yuko, the space-time witch. He has agreed to work for her in exchange for Yuko making it so he can no longer see ghosts, which have been plaguing him his entire life. Watanuki is continually being surprised and confused by Yuki's demands, though - she often neglects to fill him in on important details until after the fact, which causes her no end of amusement and him no end of frustration.
Each of these manga volumes contains several story arcs. In the first part of Volume 5, Watanuki is approached by an Ame-Warashi, a rain or water spirit. She has an issue that she'd like some help with, and Yuko sends Watanuki with Domeki, a classmate with whom he has a sort of love/hate relationship. It turns out that Yuko's apparently whimsical actions are made with insight and wisdom, and Domeki's presence there is crucial.
In the second story, Watanuki notices a girl at school who appears to have wings growing from her back. No one else can see the wings, though, but at this point Watanuki is used to being able to see things nobody else can. What catches his attention is the vast amount of rage the girl carries with her - that, and the fact the every time he encounters her, the wings have become bigger. These are clearly not angel wings - they are something else entirely.
Watanuki also has a personal problem in this installment. In the previous volume, he had been given a gift of chocolate on Valentine's Day by a Zashiki-Warashi - a kind of spirit being who seems to have a crush on him. In Japan, there is a tradition that on White Day, a holiday a month after Valentine's Day, all those who received chocolate reciprocate with a gift to their Valentine's Day giver. Watanuki has no idea how or where to find the Zashiki-Warashi - and he really doesn't want to hurt a powerful spirit's feelings - not just because he's a nice guy, which he is, but also because he suspects the consequences would not be conducive to his continuing good health. But how to find someone who doesn't exist on the same plane as he does? The answer is surprising and wondrous.
The stories in this series range from amusing, to slightly creepy, to poignant. Watanuki is highly emotional, which allows the writers to inject a lot of humor into the tales. Yuko is a fascinating character, capricious and apparently self-involved, yet wise and deadly serious when events demand her attention. I continue to enjoy my reread of this series, and I recommend it to those who enjoy fantasy with folkloric elements - or to anyone just looking for a good manga series that's entertaining but with substance.
xxxHOLIC, Vol. 5 by Clamp (Del Rey, 2005)
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