When the magical creatures discover that there are two humans walking among them, Watanuki and Domeki find themselves in very hot water.
Below, in case anyone is interested, is one of those paintings. It is called "Hyakki Yako" by 19th-century Japanese painter Kawanabe Kyōsai, and it is in the collection of the British Museum. One of the things I love about this series is that I always learn something interesting about Japanese culture, folklore or mythology.
The second story involves a very sad but kind woman who befriends Watanuki when she sees him doing yard work outside Yuko's shop. She is grieving for the loss of her son, and because Watanuki still grieves the loss of his parents, he and the woman become good friends. But there is something odd about her and her effect on him, and even though he fears his friends are right when they voice their concern about what is happening to him, the woman is so sweet and sad that he continues to spend time with her...and with Yuko away on an important assignment, things quickly get out of hand.
This story brings the often funny relationship between Watanuki and Domeki to a more serious, thoughtful place, and we begin to sense that there is much at stake, and that the way their relationship progresses will have an enormous impact on their lives.
Once again I have enjoyed my reread of another volume in the xxxHolic series. The artwork is lovely, particularly the detailed illustrations at the beginning of the individual stories. The falling leaves that accent the panels involving Watanuki and the sad woman are incredibly evocative, giving the story an autumnal flavor that complements her sorrow and their bittersweet relationship. The stories are intriguing and surprising, the characters continue to change and grow, and the enticing questions raised make me impatient to continue to the next volume - even though I've read most of them before!
xxxHOLIC, Vol. 6 by Clamp (Del Rey, 2005)
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