XxxHolic: Not Porn

Another series has fallen before my voracious appetite for anime: XxxHolic, which you can currently see for free streaming either via Anime News Network or on Funimation's YouTube channel.  Granted, I've yet to find a legitimate source freely streaming XxxHolic:Kei (the second season) nor either of the OVAs, but on completing the first season I've certainly an opinion.

The plot is a relatively interesting setup.  The main protagonist, Kimihiro Watanuki, has been born into modern day Japan with a bloodline that grants him the ability to see and be interacted with by spirits.  This is largely a burden he has to deal with alone until he stumbles into the shop of Yuko Ichihara, a seeress who grants wishes in exchange for something of equal value.  Watanuki is informed by Yuko that everything has destiny, nobody meets her by coincidence, and he is hired on as a part-timer in exchange for granting his wish to stop being plagued by spirits.



While xxxHolic may appear to be an anime primarily about creepy supernatural occurrence, something that is weaved remarkably compellingly throughout, it just as frequently deviates into stories about human nature.  Though prone to spaz out at the drop of a hat, Watanuki is a well-meaning fellow, and he easily becomes entangled in the troubles of strangers.  Inevitably, this leads to intervention by Yuko, who points out that many of these problems are the manifestation of karmic retribution associated with bad habits or past wrongs committed.

As the script sticks close to the ideals of karmic balance and destiny, not every story behind each episode has a happy ending.  Yuko's dialogue puts a very interesting spin on each happening, her words are weaved so compellingly in the narrative that it's hard to say how much of her wisdom is dramatic exaggeration.  I came away from many episodes feeling like I've learned something... then I think about it a bit and realize that what I learned has quite a few holes in it.

My main critique with xxxHolic would be that the characters seem a tad two-dimensional at times, vestigial at others.  Watanuki's stubborn idiocy might produce some laughs, but he comes off as being too thick-headed to fulfill his role.  His high school chums, love interest Himawari Kunogi and "rival" Shizuka Domeki, are dragged into each story in order to give Watanuki somebody to share his unusual experiences with, but more often than not play no real role in that story.

Overall, xxxHolic was a lot more interesting than shojo and shonen for me, and earned a "very good" rating.  I tend to reserve better ratings for works that affect me powerfully and frequently, but xxxHolic's overall affect is that of interesting but sometimes droll philosophical bantering. 

Of an interesting additional note, CLAMP (a mangaka group of four women) has a tendency to cross worlds between their various manga series.  XxxHolic, a contemporary supernatural series, is a bit of a nexus series, most closely linked to simultaneously-developed Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, a fantasy adventure series.  Both Yuko and Watanuki come to play an important part in this alternate world, not as copies of themselves but rather as the same characters making a journey between worlds.  Taken individually, CLAMP manga series are not so complex, but put together in a whole they form rather a rather elaborate web.

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