Kimihiro Watanuki can see spirits and other assorted supernatural creatures, which is quite a bothersome ability he strongly dislikes. On the way home one day, while plagued by some spirits, he is inexplicably compelled to enter a strange house. There, he encounters Yuuko, a mysterious woman who claims to be able to rid him of the ability to see and attract the troublesome creatures—for a price. She demands that he work at her "store" that grants wishes to people, and thus begins Kimihiro's adventures through weird and wonderful events.
xxxHolic is an adventure which guides us through supernatural occurrences far and wide, through the troublesome, spirit-seeing eyes of Watanuki Kimihiro and the cryptic, omniscient presence of Yuuko Ichihara. Strap in - it's going to be quite a ... flat ride. Maybe you don't need to strap in, after all.
Our protagonist, Watanuki Kimihiro, enters the vicinity of Yuuko's enigmatic shop in an attempt to escape the grasp of a rather bothersome spirit. This results in the two signing a pact of sorts - Yuuko's promise to remove him of his uncanny ability to observe the supernatural plane was exchanged for Watanuki's service at her shop, whose purpose is to grant wishes to select customers.
xxxHolic takes an episodic approach to storytelling, constantly cycling through various arcs, oftentimes initiating with our protagonists bearing witness to a mysterious event and having the solution arise as a startling revelation, usually through the words of Yuuko. While the cases are diverse and often alluring in their introduction, the quality of these arcs gradually diminish upon concluding. Interesting ideas are scattered about, but the most unfortunate aspect is the margin of potential paved by a number of these ideas - it seems as if the show is hesitant to immerse itself any further than knee-deep.
One particularly memorable arc involved an ominous photograph containing the secret of a murder; another involved a house stigmatized by death, its dark past made visible to our protagonist once more. However, the former arc concluded with a profound, yet impractical solution, and the latter ended with a light-hearted finale which felt akin to... coitus interruptus. Yuuko's didactic tone often detracts from tense moments, and her nonchalance simply eliminates any sort of urgency which was already present. Chances are, any attempts at explanation within the contours of the supernatural would be fairly speculative, but Yuuko's abstract, often hole-ridden ideas, dappled with abstract crumbs of pseudo-philosophical themes, seem spewed out in a manner which coerces us to accept them without question - although I've often found myself perplexed while Watanuki was habitually nodding his head and seemingly losing his mental virginity by the end of every arc. (Or maybe, it's my own fault and Yuuko's too smart for me, but I'd rather not think so).
However, despite xxxHolic's unwelcome ability to morph enticing concepts into dull simplifications, there's some fun to be had here nonetheless. Watanuki, in all his eccentricity, is often victimized in comical ways. Doumeki, Watanuki's classmate and supposed "friend", can also be oddly charismatic with his tacit attitude. And while the target within Watanuki's scope, Himawari, is far too one-dimensional to be a main character (however, this is mitigated in the sequel, xxxHolic: Kei), Yuuko herself is very likable, her blasè and mocking manner the source of numerous scenes of hilarity and, perhaps, admiration.
With regards to the visuals, while the lanky character designs are certainly an acquired taste, I've found xxxHolic's contrast of colours both bright and funereal apt for its mix of material both dark and light-hearted. Yet, although there were sporadic moments of great animation - certain scenes involving supernatural beings in particular - the animation is largely unimpressive, although this is an aspect which was rarely noticeable to my eyes - the material, which is often monopolized by dialogue, simply doesn't call for it. The series is, however, strong in the audio department, which is a solid mixture of j-pop and eerily haunting instrumental pieces.
The biggest issue with xxxHolic is that it rarely bothers to dig deep. While there is a largely likable cast and production values of decent quality, these embellishments don't stand well enough on their own to alleviate the weaknesses of a story-driven show. For a series which spends such a large amount of time accentuating its themes, it sure seems reluctant to explore them as deep as it goes wide. Akin to a spirit, xxxHolic, straddling the lines between the real and surreal, seems to be sporadically blinking out of hesitancy - and likewise, began to dissipate from my memory soon after its credits rolled. read more
On the technical side of things, I have many bones to pick with the art and animation here. Actually there are too many bones to pick out on these spaghetti people, who I feel like I could easily snap across my thumb if I ever pat them on the back, even the supernaturally voluptuous Yuuko. Seriously, that woman should have SPINAL PROBLEMS with a rack of that magnitude on that beanpole, and throughout the entire series’ run, I never got used to the tiny-headed, long-bodied creatures they call people in this show, or the way they move either. Really fluid animation could have compensated for this bizarre art style, maybe even made it really cool, but the animation here is middling at best, and oftentimes slips into shaky and poor. It’s just unsettling.
The music is wickedly haunting and appropriate, and compensates for the limited animation well in some episodes where it’s dearly needed. Actually, the music is pretty top-tier, especially when the mood calls for SCARY!
The dub is actually easier on the ears than the original Japanese and this is mostly due to the soothing liquidity in Yuuko and Doumeki’s voicework. It was wise of them to play their characters so rich and low, because Watanuki is the most incredibly annoying little goober I’ve ever heard. I’m not saying the acting is bad, because Watanuki’s clearly supposed to reach that ungodly level of spastic that he does and sometimes it’s really funny, but MORE often, oh gosh, I just want to send him to that little internment camp in Japan where they keep all the School Rumble characters so they can whip him into shape. Still, there’s no big difference between the language tracks, so preferences will just split where they always do. Oh, one of these days I’ll get to slam some bad voice acting…but not yet.
This series really isn’t bad for wasting time on, but the fact that I have to use the word “wasting” probably indicates how original or striking it is. Most of the adventures of Yuuko and company are underwhelming and talky enough to turn a two minute neat idea into a twenty minute “what the heck was that?” Let’s just say that Yuuko has a very particular way of looking at the world, and her routine cautionary speeches can become grating at best, and childishly elementary or just plain stupid in a pretty package at worst. Occasionally, Yuuko would state some grand moral that REALLY rubbed me the wrong way, and given how much she has to say, I imagine that this will be the case for most viewers at one point or another.
Mixed in with all these middling ideas, there are a few glowing gems, though, I can’t deny that. Episodes involving a snowball fight where the snowmen do the battling, and a shoutout episode to the famous short story, “The Monkey’s Paw,” are a few among them. Still, I’m talking roughly an eighth of the episodes are really memorable. xxxHolic relies far too much on these tired platitudes and more tired running gags like Yuuko always being drunk and/or hung over and Watanuki going off on Doumeki like a pasty-white cherry bomb.
It’s a shame because we really want to know more about Watanuki’s gift and what it has to do with the death of his parents, his friendship with Doumeki, and most importantly, his “destined” servitude to Yuuko. It’s something that is constantly foreshadowed but never revealed to even the smallest extent, in favor of more Hogwarts-esque hijinks. Sometimes all an episode will have going for it is a fun little reference to one of CLAMP’s many other series, and if that’s a draw, you know you’re in trouble story-wise.
So, while there’s fun to be had, the basic fact is that everything xxxHolic attempts, the style and the spirit, or spirits, if you wanna get all punny, has been done much better in different shows with higher budgets. (Kino’s Journey, Mushi-Shi, Galaxy Express 999) As such, while not at all bad, this is the first show I’ve reviewed that I can’t honestly recommend. It’s tearfully AVERAGE in every way possible. A ghost, if you will, of what it seems to promise.
All in all, xxxHolic leaps out as visually strange and narratively exciting, but it’s a hollow façade hiding a frequently boring show.
*THIS IS A PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT OF MY VIDEO REVIEW WHICH CAN BE FOUND HERE:
Funny, creepy, dark, interesting and clever. Those would be the words that could describe this anime.
It’s funny – thanks to Watanuki’s wild antics as well as Mokona’s drunkenness. Creepy – mostly because it scared the heck out of me sometimes (especially episode 10, 12 and 24). Dark, because it presents the world in a way that people rarely see. It’s interesting – you get hooked into it and you actually become an xxxHOLIC-holic. Finally, it’s clever because it doesn’t take the viewers for fools.
The characters are just great. Doumeki and Watanuki are yin and yang. They always seem to have this love-hate comedy routine wherein Doumeki says one thing then it annoys Watanuki right off the bat, then Himawari comments on how close they are. I also like Yuuko. I am always amazed by her wisdom and how she takes on her job. I think the concept of just compensation in something other than money is very clever. I like her here more, instead of the Yuuko from TRC. The black Mokona cracks me up as well even though I’m a tad bothered that he’s not as well mannered as the white Mokona.
Production IG’s work was a bit interesting. The visuals seemed off to me sometimes, but there’s something about it that keeps me watching. I didn’t like the colors though, since most of it was concentrated on the main characters/elements. The background elements seemed a bit dull sometimes. I did like the demon parade episode, because the scenes were more vivid than usual. As expected of CLAMP, the characters have slightly deformed body types and tall and stringy characters. I guess it’s what separates them from others.
I’m not familiar too with the three main seiyuu, but I think they did a splendid job. Jun Fukuyama was very entertaining as Watanuki. Sayaka Ohara’s mature, sultry and womanly voice fit Yuuko’s personality really well and Kazuya Nakai’s voice was also well suited to Doumeki’s character. Of course, Mika Kikuchi was very entertaining as Mokona as well.
The music was very much like the plot – a bit dark, but contemporary. I like the catchy opening theme (19sai), the cutesy first ending theme (Reason), and the j-rock second ending theme (Kagerou). The BGM really helped in making things a lot more creepier too.
I’m really glad that I found the time to watch the series. I have to say that this is my favorite CLAMP series by far – mostly because the CLAMP series I’ve seen haven’t impressed me as much as xxxHOLIC. I’ll end this review with Yuuko’s words that resonated throughout the series – There is no such thing as coincidence in this world. There is only the inevitable.read more
What can I say, I honestly know that the only thing I felt from watching this (though it was only four episodes) was that I was completely disappointed. And that has never really happen before other than with most dubs.
First off we have a the story. A plot about a boy meeting a strange young lady who forces him to work for her, and together they discover the world isn't as what it appears to be. No matter how much I read and re-read the discription here, anime-planet, and many other fan sites, it still turned out with the same feeling when I was watching it. No sense. Confussion being the better word for it. There was nothing I could really tell that the discrib the plot at all, other than the few spirits roming about. But really in my opinion the story was rather dull and had no real meaning then episodic.
I think it was fair to say I though it was a 3. Cause really.. I never felt so bored, confused, and finding that it made no sense (when I myself can find things that make no sense, make sense.). This was a difficult thing to watch for me.
The art of this now.. I would say a four. It wasn't very good and it upset me to know that the background was so dull that you'd be forced to pay attention to the characters that are colored. That just sucked. There wasn't really anything good with it. Sure I admit I liked the few clothes that Yuuko wore and how they manage to pick out perfect color shades, but to be all honest.. there wasn't any life. I'd find myself drifting off at some points because of how dull the characters look, if it wasn't for the main boy making a big fuss I would have completely forgotten to watch.
But still it was descent enough.. to catch some interest, not much, but some.
The sound got another three. Now let me explain. When someone reviews the anime for sound they usually lower or higher between the version the watched ( I wish myanimelist had a reviewing system where we can review both, so no other users can get confused by the strange lower and higher reviews.) but this is for both the dub and subs. To be all honest.. I couldn't pay attention to them.. just like the art, the sound was no better.
The song choices... and I rarely find myself complaining. But I could listen to them.. The moment it came on I just had to put my dvd player in fast forward to avoid it. I also found myself doing that with the ending as well. I did bother to listen to them fully, which was almost as difficult as trying to flow the show itself. The problem was, was that the songs just were not good. Sure they may fit the anime to some degree (in most peoples opinion) but I couldn't stand listening to them.. once was enough.
The english cast now.. well what can I say. I am not surprised that FUNimation found away to mess them up as well, Tantum J.Michael was.. well like always.. dull and boring, with a gruff edge to it. ('sighs' I am still upset about him playing Sebastian.) The person who played the main boy.. well I think he was a bit wincy, and the other was just way to sweet. Yuuko was probably the only one I actually somewhat liked. Now I am trailing off.. Yes.. like everything else.. I found myself drifting off of the voice cast. The subs managed to catch some of my interest but not by much. Basically, I didn't really like either.
I would suppose Yuuko comes to the rescue here. Where as the other characters names I have forgotten, because of how bad they were, I found myself liking Yuuko. Her teasing nature, and oddness caught my interest right off. I couldn't help but laugh along with her on one occassion in this. If anything saved the other characters from my rating it was her. She was descent enough and seemed to bring some interest (though it was really low) to the other characters. Now for the other characters.. Like I said.. I have forgotten there names, which prooves that they weren't very rememberable. One complained a little to much, and the one was just unnoticable unless his name was spoken, the girl character now.. I just can't stand overly sweet. I couldn't bother to pay attention with them, when I knew I was just going to forget their names in the end, and what a shocker I did.
They way the limbs were draw looked like plastic stick figures. Arms were either to long, people looked six feet tall when they weren't suppose to.. Art was a tragedy in itself.
My enjoyment of this I will rate a 2. Because really this was just dreadful to my enjoyment. I rarely found myself liking anything about the anime other than Yuuko's sense of humor. I also couldn't pay attention to it very well (my own imagination was more interesting), and worst of all I felt completely disappointed by it. Just dreadful.
My rating for this one anime-planet is a 4.3. But seeing as I can't do it that way, I will rate it a solid 4. Though many things in this was poor, and one was dreadful. I have to say it was descent enough. It caught my interests a little, and provided me with one good laugh, but to be honest there are better anime that deal with the supernatural than this. read more
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