Jun 24, 2009
JesuOtaku_ (All reviews)
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.


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