Reviewby Michelle Yu, Sep 16th 2008
As if a high school student did not have enough to deal with already. Kimihiro Watanuki is plagued by spirits who are attracted to him, yet invisible to all ordinary humans. One day, his destiny brings him to a wish-granting shop owned by the beautiful Yuuko. Wanting to be rid of his strange ability so badly, Kimihiro eventually becomes her employee and his life takes a turn for the unusual.
Kimihiro Watanuki sees dead people. He not only sees them, he attracts them.
Well not people, per se. Dark spectres plague his life and all he wishes for is life without his unwanted gift. One day, his struggle to escape the persistent spirits brings him to a mysterious and eerily empty shop. Inside, he meets a beautiful woman who informs Kimihiro that the shop is a wish-granting shop. The woman- Yuuko, claims that their meeting was inevitable (as the name of the first episode suggests) and that their connection will only grow, as destined. Demanding payment for her prophesising “services”, the dominating Yuuko takes Kimihiro's pendulum watch and later coerces him into working for her as a part-time lackey as equivalent exchange for her services.
One of the first and most noticeable quirks of xxxHOLiC is its artistic style. The characters are elongated to a point that the Harlem Globetrotters would be jealous of, and the costume design of the female characters (Yuuko in particular) are very typical of the girly, detailed style of Clamp. In addition, Yuuko's assistants Maru and Moro are added to the recipe, one with hair resembling chimney smoke and the other with short pink hair and quite possibly one of the most adorable one-piece dresses I have seen in a while. Their constant appearances together, finishing off one another's sentences, and either speaking in unison or mimicking one another proves to be a source of irritation for Kimihiro. Also be sure to watch out for the cutesy Mokona (from Magic Knight Rayearth) and some headphones that look remarkably like the ears of a certain baby faced robot.
The use of slapstick humour is also very prevalent throughout the series, often using Kimihiro as the butt of the jokes. His melodramatic personality also contributes to many of the supposedly funny parts, however it could easily be translated as annoying. However, after a few episodes into the series, he does become increasingly easy to sympathise with (albeit the script does push his luck.) Himawari! - the object of Kimihiro's affection, while physically beautiful and accordingly sweet, does not have much more to offer at this point in the series.
Amidst the lame jokes, the jazzy ending theme, easy-listening soundtrack, and lessons of morality in the plots are quite enjoyable. Clamp stays within their comfort zone in terms of themes (magic, the occult, etc.) however, I personally would have liked to see Clamp take a slightly different direction with their themes but it is understandable that Clamp fans probably enjoy the recurring themes. The character idiosyncrasies in the protagonist are also very typical of characters such as Sakura (of Card Captor Sakura fame) which are over-idealism, clumsiness, and that ability to be constantly involved with deus ex machina.
Already a hit overseas, expect Yuuko cosplayers to be here and there at conventions around Australia. She is quite easily the most interesting and likeable character in the series, with her beauty, bedroom voice, and penchant for alcohol. That said glimpses of positive growth in Kimihiro's character development towards the later episodes of this first volume show promise for his likeability. As a series, overall the vast majority of the fan base is expected to be Clamp fans and perhaps that female co-worker who pedantically checks their horoscope every day. Visually quirky and beautiful, xxxHOLiC is a feel-good series that is best saved for a rainy day.
Overall (dub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : C+
Art : B
Music : B
+ Pretty, quirky art.
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