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.
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
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.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:
There are many things we don’t understand about the world. But as much as we are stupefied by the unknown, we often take everyday human behavior for granted. And with a show centered on the supernatural, we’d think that the supernatural are the enigma, when in reality, humanity and society are the real mystery.
Enter xxxHOLiC, a show that explores the irrationality of human behavior in a supernatural context. I admit, this show wasn’t too high on my priority list. Though after my cousin watched and expressed his love for it, I decided to give it a shot and boy, was I in for an unexpected treat; a treat that spawned a second season, four OVAs, and a movie. Note that this review will only be about the first season, but rest assured that I will get to the other installments.
STORY - 7
xxxHOLiC is the story of a high school boy’s encounters with the supernatural after being taken in as an apprentice by a rather odd employer who claims to grant wishes. That pretty much sums it up. Nothing more, nothing less.
Pacing-wise, this is where xxxHOLiC shines.
Episodic shows are a double-edged blade. On one hand, they excel stylistically by putting the characters in various scenarios of differing themes, thus granting an expansion of premise and necessary character development. On the other, each episode has an individual story which allows little room to move the overarching plot along. It isn’t one unified narrative, but a collection of short stories; each with their own style, conflict, and lesson. For the first season at least, xxxHOLiC may not have a sense of plot direction yet but it takes full advantage of its pacing in displaying its brand of weird charm, unsettling atmosphere, and surprising insight. You get goosebumps on one episode, ponder on another, and smile after the next. The episodic pacing in this show makes it seem like a slice-of-life show more than anything, incorporating elements of supernatural, horror, suspense, comedy, and romance along the way.
ART - 8
Two words: Character design.
When you have characters that have the average height of a professional basketball player, hands as big as their head, arms as long as their legs, and virtually no muscle, you know people will love it or hate it. Fortunately, I belong to the former.
I commend Clamp for a job well done on the zany, slenderman-like character designs. Though anatomically incorrect and disproportionate, it intensifies both wacky and tense scenes by emphasizing body movement, and exudes an exotic vibe that complements the show’s eerie and mystical setting. Seeing the fleshed-out stick figure look is also reminiscent to the flat, gritty, and edgy cartoon style of the 90’s which are a refreshing departure from today’s smooth, vibrant, and meaty designs.
The animation, provided by Production I.G., is standard for a show aired on 2006. Colors are dull and faded, supernatural set pieces are smoky and oriental, lighting is dim and claustrophobic, and cinematography is still and calm. In general, the animation is… subtly off, and it works in the show’s favor surprisingly well.
SOUND - 9
For xxxHOLiC’s sound, I’ve taken into account the OP/EDs, BGM, ambient sounds, and voice acting, because all of these are worth the mention.
For your information, I have never skipped this show’s openings and two ending songs. Not even once. I might even go as far as to say that this show’s OP and first ED are one of the best I’ve heard in a while. Each episode starts with an infectious funk song of quirky synthesizers, hypnotic guitars, and groovy basslines riddled with dissonant angst and regret. “19sai” (19 Years Old) by Shikao Suga perfectly encapsulates what xxxHOLiC is all about: an otherworldly coming-of-age story in a strange and wonderful world full of temptation and misunderstanding where everyone just wants to break free and find peace of mind. All of that is neatly wrapped in a nice little bow by the end of each episode with Fonogenico’s “Reason,” a cute and light piece of keyboard and guitar pop which resonates with the show’s motif of inevitabilities; in that everything happens for a reason and embracing what has happened and what will happen is the only way to go. By the second half of the show, the show ends with Buck-Tick’s “Kagerou” (Shimmering Air), a straightforward rock song of wailing guitars and yearning vocals dominated with themes of dire escapism and obsessive attachment which fits the more serious tone of the latter half of the series.
The BGM did an exemplary job in covering a wide array of moods while being consistent with the show’s supernatural backdrop due to the songs’ dreamlike quality. The instrumentation ranged from hair-raising ambient scores of distant howls, sinister chords, and violent percussions to playfully halloweenish or heartfelt synthesizer, string, and piano pieces. It became integral in defining xxxHOLiC’s hauntingly eccentric yet down-to-earth nature.
It’s common sense that ambient sounds are supposed to match a given atmosphere. So in this case, there will be two instances when I mention ambient sound engineering; either when it stands out in a bad or good way. In xxxHOLiC, ambient sounds surprisingly affect a scene’s inflection in such a way that it disconcerts the viewer even in the most mundane of scenes. The ambience rides along with the show’s animation by exhibiting a nuance that there’s always something wrong, despite a given context being normal and safe. xxxHOLiC gains this added horror/suspense edge even if that isn’t necessarily what the show is all about. But like the BGM, it immensely aids in immersion and made the setting darker without feeling unnatural to the show’s premise. Because let’s face it, what you don’t understand scares you. And the sound department did a great job of capturing the fear and awe of the supernatural experience. xxxHOLiC knows when to use silence, cut off sound, modulate voices, and mix in subtle noises, whispers, and sounds to enhance the profound yet dubious undertone lying beneath the show’s innocent exterior.
The voice acting expressed each character’s key trait very well. The lovably annoying Watanuki gets an incessant high-pitched voice that hushes down on the show’s more solemn moments. Deadpan Doumeki remains a deep and monotone pitch all throughout but can give off a softer vibe while still keeping his cool. Yuuko’s voice completely captivates the ears; shifting from immature exuberance to alluring sultriness while maintaining a neutral and elusive stance. Maru, Moro, and Mokona keep up with the playful high-pitched voice to even out the show’s somber tendencies. Himawari’s typical schoolgirl voice is cute and unassuming. Let’s just leave it at that. The characters often change in every episode with these being the main recurring characters with ample screen time.
P.S. The dub wasn’t really my cup of tea. Todd Haberkorn’s Watanuki turned the lovably annoying character into a whining wuss.
CHARACTERS - 7
The characters in xxxHOLiC are similar to that of a fairy tale. They are very distinct from one another and portray a striking personality all throughout the series to fulfill each of their respective roles.
Watanuki is the ceaselessly complaining and hardworking nice guy we all know and love. Doumeki is the dull and straightforward jock as well as Watanuki’s polar opposite and comic foil. Together, they banter their way into their own supernatural misadventures under the watchful eye of Yuuko. Occasionally joining them in their struggle to address Yuuko’s customers (if they aren’t doing various odd jobs), we have:
Maru and Moro, a jolly pair of kids serving Yuuko. Mokona, Clamp’s bunny-like mascot that serves as Yuuko’s mischievous friend and drinking buddy. And Himawari, Watanuki’s ditzy and innocent love interest.
The rest are either the shop’s customers or supernatural entities involved.
Interactions between the main cast can get formulaic and most of the character development can only be credited to Watanuki. His character development was more personal than substantial. It wasn’t a noticeable growth spurt nor a radical shift in ideals. It was more of a hushed voice within the character telling him that he learned something that he still can’t fully comprehend. Though lacking well-roundedness and middle ground, the characters were all lovable and relatable, with both the humans and the supernatural having independent and realistic ideals. The huge cast of episode-specific characters also left a memorable impact which made up for their static personality.
ENJOYMENT - 9
As you can already tell, I love this show. It was like watching a more light-hearted yet more sinister version of The Addams Family with all the grim and whimsical energy evident in the show’s production. With constant references to superstition and common social stigma, it provided enough realism to make it accessible and understandable compared to most supernatural lore. What it lacked in plot direction, it made up for in style, immersion, and groundedness. But what really left a lasting impression on me was the insight.
xxxHOLiC tells us how little we understand life, society, and ourselves. How learning, growing and transforming into something better means going outside our comfort zone and exploring the world. How meeting different people with various problems helps us understand that there is nothing good or evil. How inherently selfish and fickle we are.
Ultimately, how strange it is to be human.
We are riddled with inconsistencies and flaws which drive us to suffering and bitter realization. And in those moments when we are most vulnerable, we understand how beautiful it is to feel pain and embrace reality. We bask in our imperfection and eccentricity because it is what defines us.
OVERALL - 8
xxxHOLiC is a wondrous, uncanny, frisky, and sentimental ride through the life and times of Watanuki, a highschool boy blessed and cursed with the blood that attracts spirits. It deserves praise, not for overwhelming the viewer with something revolutionary, but for telling a story that says something about ourselves. Maybe I’m just putting too much thought into this. Overall, the show was simple, yet clever in its execution to deliver the full force of its content. As for where that content is going, I’m eager to find out in the next season. read more