Sunday, March 10, 2013

xxxHolic Anime Review

Complete Collection - 4 discs
600 mins. - 24 episodes
$29.98 (2011) S.A.V.E.
$49.98 (2010)
$69.98 (2009)
$29.98 (2008) Vol. 1-6/ea.
$39.98 (2008) Vol. 1 Starter Set
ISBN 704400045486
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Tsutomu Mizushima
Studio - Production I.G

Synopsis: Watanuki is a regular high school student who happens to attract spirits against his will.  He considers this ability to be a horrible curse as creepy spirits constantly appear to him.  They are usually harmless, but some can be dangerous and most are very scary.  One day he ends up at a house after ducking some spirits and meets a strange, beautiful woman named Yuko.  She runs a wish-granting shop out of her home and offers to grant Watanuki's wish to be rid of his spirit-attraction power.  He accepts her offer, but the price is to work at his shop until she says his debt is paid.
Watanuki finds himself in Yuko's wish-granting shop
Now Watanuki cooks and cleans for Yuko at her shop every day.  His parents are no longer alive so he's used to taking care of himself.  He's actually a stellar, self-taught chef and makes amazingly complex dishes.  Yuko is a strange woman who acts immature, but is a powerful magician.  She is fond of drinking and lounging about the shop at all hours.  She has two young girls named Maru and Moro helping her.  They are very animated and run around repeating things people say.  They may not be human.
These two are Maru and Moro
Himawari is a girl in Watanuki's class and he has a massive crush on her.  She is his friend and a very nice person who is cheerfully oblivious to his true feelings.  A popular boy named Domeki becomes entwined in Watanuki's life because of his ability to repel spirits.  His family owns a shrine and he learned a great deal from his grandfather.  Yuko requests he helps Watanuki on supernatural errands because Domeki can defeat any spirits Watanuki attracts.  Despite this he considers Domeki to be his chief rival for Himawari's affection and dislikes him tremendously.
Himawari, Domeki, and Watanuki have lunch together - Watanuki is
spazzing out as usual
What are the secret wonders and dangers hidden in Yuko's shop?  Watanuki experiences many supernatural phenomena working for her (even though she is demanding and usually drunk).  He is constantly foiled by Domeki's presence around Himawari.  From pipe-foxes to spirit girls to hard-drinking Mokonas - it's never a dull moment and no  is too small to send Watanuki into a self-absorbed rant!
Yuko meets with a customer while Watanuki, Maru, and Moro eavesdrop
Pros: Great opening theme song (used throughout the entire series), cool ending theme songs and sequences (especially the one with Maru & Moro playing air guitar), excellent combination of humor and supernatural stories, characters play off of each other really well, Yuko is sexy
Watanuki befriends a pipe-fox from Yuko's shop.  It has magical powers
Cons: No definitive ending, characters have inconsistently long limbs and tiny heads throughout the series, Black Mokona is a little silly (and drinks too much!), Watanuki can be a bit over-the-top whiny and over-reacts to everything, those four dorky-looking little gnomes on flying surfboards who protect Zashiki-warashi
This is Mokona - hide your alcohol
Mike Tells It Straight: I was pleasantly surprised by xxxHolic (pronounced "holic") and found it to be an amusingly quirky show.  It's based on a manga (Japanese comic book) by a well-known, all-female artist group called CLAMP.  They've created quite a few manga series which have been adapted into anime over the years.  A few noteworthy titles are Chobits, X, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, Magic Knight Rayearth, and Cardcaptor Sakura.  The manga for xxxHolic and Tsubasa have some crossover characters - Yuko and each features a Mokona - Black Mokona in this show and White Mokona in Tsubasa.  I haven't read the manga or seen Tsubasa so I can't say I noticed anything in xxxHolic related to the other.
Yuko enjoys a cocktail at the beach
xxxHolic had great music and I really liked the opening theme song - 19sai (translated 19 years old) by Shikao Suga.  The ending theme songs and sequences were good too.  The series was episodic with each episode having another 'caper' for Watanuki and gang to 'solve'.  The story didn't really progress in any linear fashion, but it was more about the character relationships strengthening as they spent more time together.
Domeki and Watanuki get caught up in a spirit parade
Watanuki, the main character of the series, definitely gets a love/hate reaction.  He's whiny, selfish and has silly over-the-top reactions to every imagined slight.  I've heard some say he's exactly what makes them tired of anime - the extreme body contortions with wavy arms, gushing tears to portray sadness, and goofy slapstick.  My only response is "welcome to anime comedy, get used to it".  If you can stand Watanuki then you'll dig the series.  I'll admit it took a few episodes for me to warm up to Watanuki's personality.  After a few episodes he grew on me and I started to chuckle at his antics.
Yuko downs another sake!
Yuko was an immediate hit - she's beautiful and mysterious.  A strong female lead.  The character designs were kinda weird with long, gangly appendages and tiny little heads.  Over the course of the series the appendages seemed to get longer and heads tinier.  It added to the weird and supernatural aspect of the show, but may have been a tad overdone.
Zashiki-warashi is a wind-spirit who inadvertently causes trouble
for Domeki and Watanuki
It was all about character relationships.  Watanuki really hated Domeki for being a third wheel with Himawari.  He freaks out constantly when the poor guy shows up and is downright mean.  It was one of the best parts of the show as straight-man Domeki brushes aside another insult from drama-queen Watanuki.  The series felt very modern gothic with an offbeat sexual energy.  I tagged this ecchi/fan-service, but only because of the buxom Yuko and the beach episode.
Domeki is a skilled archer who can also dispel spirits with chi
Overall a fun, quirky series with episodic, supernatural adventures.  Never really frightening (except maybe the last episode - which was actually quite the perfect ending to the series when I think about it), but exciting and creepy.  Be warned - it has lots of over-the-top anime comedy.  It's the first CLAMP series I've watched and I liked it (this one stays in the collection).  Looking forward to checking out more by the group.
Poor Yuko has a hangover - she drank too much again last night!

TO BUY and Recommendations: