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 Watanuki's adventures through weird and wonderful events.
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.
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:
Prepare to be taken on a tour de force through the world of the supernatural. Or maybe just a regular tour. I wouldn't know. Having only recently experienced the genre of "supernatural" anime, xxxHOLiC (hereby referred to as simply "Holic") was a breath of fresh air from my usual action/fantasy fare.
The story behind Holic is intriguing and interesting, revolving around spirits, ghosts, and the very strange. Geared towards an older and more sophisticated audience, there's little action, but loads of thought-provoking and amazingly insightful dialogue. Holic is the kind of anime that gets your mind pumping about topics such as fate, destiny, and one's purpose
in life. Plus, there's a side to it that makes statements about how people live and society in general. Not to mention that it's educational as well. Holic offers an insight into a part of Japanese culture that most people rarely see.
Concerning the plot, however, Holic is another anime that is driven by episodic events. There seems to be no real overall direction for the story. Normally, this would leave me feeling slightly cheated and unsatisfied, but after surviving through the likes of Ouran and the Wallflower, I've come to accept that the episodic plot system is a genre on its own and it's here to stay.
Unfortunately, a plot that doesn't know where it's going hurts any character development. The characters are well made, with their own distinct personalities, but stay relatively the same throughout the course of the plot. No one shows very much significant growth. Granted, everyone is wiser and better, having learned the lessons distributed throughout 24 episodes of madness. Perhaps that's the elusive character growth that I've been looking for?
In terms of artwork, the artistic foundations were laid down in the manga by the increasingly popular mangaka group CLAMP. And they've done a very good job. Yuuko's wardrobe is definitely something to pay attention to (ahem), and though everyone has ridiculously long arms, legs, and necks, it actually provides a sense of levity in a serious setting (that, and the alcoholism). Alas, there's a slight issue with the fact that only the characters important to the plot are actually drawn in. Any bodies that are only required to be "fillers" (like a bunch of random people at a supermarket) are not colored and lack faces. In my opinion, it has symbolic meaning, but it could also be attributed to pure laziness. Dunno which to choose.
Oh, and speaking of laziness, the sound was great. Loved the opening theme, but didn't really pay attention to the background music. Voice-acting was top notch, especially with all the high pitched and slightly unique voices coming from characters like Mokona, Maru, and Moro. That is all.
In the enjoyment section: I finished Holic in the space of a week, and indeed, I was completely hooked. I savored every bit of supernatural strangeness, and I'll be looking for more with the second season.
Finally, Holic certainly isn't unique, for there seems to be an ever-growing list of anime that deal with the supernatural, the occult, and just really weird stuff in general. But as a starter series for the newly-converted, it's definitely worth watching.
Surprisingly enough, xxxHolic is the first request I've had for a Clamp review. For those of you who aren't familiar with the group, they're an all female group who started out writing doujinshi before moving on to professional work in 1987. They've been fairly prolific, but their end products tend to range considerably in quality. Some being spectacular, others being terrible. xxxHolic leans toward the latter.
xxxHolic is an anime that doesn't have an underlying plot so much as a series of loosely connected episodes that are all based off of Japanese folk lore. A young man named Watanuki can see spirits. He finds a shop
that grants wishes and ends up working there part time. Shenanigans ensue. Most of the episodes have only very loose connections to each other. An anime can be setup like this and still be well done, but xxxholic isn't. One major issue that pops up multiple times is that serious moments, which should have some impact on the characters or the plots to come, are dropped and never mentioned again instead. Another issue is that the episodes don't really do anything interesting with the folklore. Instead it just throws the reference at you, follows up with some faux intellectual statement to wrap things up and moves on to the next thing. The comedic aspect is another area where it fails since there are very few moments that are actually funny. Most of the humour is based on Watanuki having really over the top reactions to what's going on and it's not particularly funny when they do it the first time. So doing it multiple times every bloody episode just gets repetitive and really boring. The semi-serious moments they try to have are also ruined by them always reverting to "comedy" quickly after those moments end.
The characters certainly don't make up for the largely absent plot. Each one has one or two exaggerated personality traits that define them. Watanuki over-reacts to things and is a tool. Doumeki helps Watanuki and has no visible reaction to anything. Himawari either doesn't understand the obvious or toys with Watanuki for fun. Yuuko always knows what's happening but only deals with issues personally when she has too. She also drinks a lot. And I just described the four major characters completely with a few adjectives. I could do the same for the secondary characters, but that would take a while. One other issue with the characters is that there are several plot lines involving individual characters that seem like they could potentially lead to development, but they either get dropped or go unresolved in favour of keeping the status quo.
The art is terrible. I'm used to borked proportions in anime, but xxxHolic just takes it too far. The characters have ludicrously long and slim limbs and bodies with tiny little heads. This makes them look more like models made out of string cheese than actual people. The backgrounds are generally sparse and the supernatural beings don't have much impact. They just look bland most of the time.
The voice work is difficult to judge. There are a lot of really talented voice actors working on this such as Nakai Kazuya, Ohara Sayaka, Itou Shizuka and Fukuyama Jun but they all adopt these really exaggerated voices which add to the lack of depth for their characters. I blame the direction since I know that all of them can do roles with depth. The music ranges from bad to generic.
The yuri factor is a 2.4/10. Simply because Yuuko gets really touchy with some of the other female characters and it comes off as a bit homoerotic.
My final rating for xxxHolic is a 3/10. The art is bad. The characters have no depth. It's not funny and what little story there is lacks interesting content. If you want a good anime grounded in Japanese myths there are far better options like Mushishi or Kino's Journey. If you want something by Clamp specifically there are still better anime, like Magic Knight Rayearth or Cardcaptor Sakura. As for xxxHolic, you can skip it.
The ultimate fantasy for any anime fan is the anime crossover. How cool would it be if one of your favorite anime characters teamed up with another one of your favorite characters to make animated magic? Very, indeed. Let's explore some of the most creative anime crossovers of all time.