Tentacle-Free Anime: "xxxHolic" Anime Double Review
- by Kazekun, 27 October 2014
Personally, I feel it's limiting for authors to write just one area of fiction, but not be familiar with another at all. One group of writers I look up to when it comes to flawlessly blending genres and being incredibly versatile in writing several different kinds of stories is the 4-woman manga-ka group CLAMP. So let's talk about one of their more popular series.
Let's get it out of the way now: the title. You're probably raising your eyebrows as to why there are three x's in the title. Well, you see, those are placeholders. When someone is a collector or addicted to one thing, they are a holic. Alcoholic being a great example. The x's are there so that you can put any kind of addiction in there and end it with 'holic'. It has NOTHING to do with pornography, although a porn addict would be another great example of a holic.
There is a solid amount of humor in this series, with a fun cast of crazy characters. Accompanying Watanuki is the ever so blunt Domeki who knows he's Watanuki's best friend but the two will never admit it; Himawari who Watanuki has just the greatest crush on but is totally clueless to it; and of course the absolute stand-out of the series: Yuko, who's the owner of the shop where the story is centered around. While Watanuki does carry the series through his experiences, it's Yuko who is arguably the stories central protagonist. She's Watanuki's employer, and runs a shop where she can grant anyone's desire – but only if something of equal value is given up in return.
The most interesting things about xxxHolic to me are the main antagonists seen throughout the series. Being very episodic, there are several “villains” in the story in the form of people who are seeking Yuko's help in banishing some great negative flaw in their life; usually their addiction. No matter how badly you want to get rid of something, are you willing to give up everything to do so? And how badly do you really want to give that something up? These are the kinds of things Watanuki is forced to learn as Yuko “helps” these people through various means. Some endings are happy ones, but several are not. What stuck out to me the most though was that almost all the “villains” are women. I'm not sure if CLAMP, who is an all-female group, did that on purpose, but during the course of this anime there are very few, if any, actual male characters as villains who are seeking Yuko's help. I just think it is kind of interesting to note.
The episodes that drew me in the most though were the ones that focused on the hidden spirit world and the pure imagination accompanying the creatures we get to see during these stories. They're spread out, but I always felt more compelled to watch when we got to see the unseen realm rather than the everyday life of people with “bad habits.” There is an episode dedicated to a monster march in the spirit world where Watanuki and Domeki must act like monsters in order to not get spotted. It's a lot of fun, and really shows off the many number of folk lore and fairy tales CLAMP draws on to tell the story with Holic. It's episode 18: “Ground Cherry.”
As I mentioned earlier, one of the stand out “creepy” episodes is one with a picture frame. Without giving too much away, there is a nightmarish fiend haunting a photo that is even too powerful for an insanely powerful seal Yuko has placed on it. When the lady who wants to get rid of said picture reveals the true nature behind it, we really get a show of just the kind of price that can be aid for the more evil the secret. Yuko's job isn't easy, and can be a rather difficult on at times. The episode is called “Atonement” and I highly recommend checking it out. It's episode 20 in the overall series.
One final glaring aspect of xxxHolic, and this is what generally turns people off from CLAMP series' in general is their unique art style. As you can see from the photos strung throughout the article, Holic's characters are very, shall we say... lanky. They're sticks, and all CLAMP series are like that. Personall I like the art style. A problem the anime does have though is that the heads at times will look like small potatoes strapped to ungodly giant bodies. I always laugh when that happens, but I do consider it a problem. If you can get past the noodle bodies, I think there's something to love in every CLAMP series for every person.
The animation can be pretty amazing to sub par, depending on how important that story seems to be. The fact that it jumps around isn't a good things, but it doesn't “show” right off the bat either. If that makes sense. You don't necessarily jump from one episode to another going “well this one obviously had a bigger budget than that one.” No, that doesn't happen, but if you pay attention you can sometimes tell where they decided to cut corners for the sake of money.
xxxHolic is a good series to try out if you're new to anime, it's just creepy enough while also being light hearted. You get a lot of fun while also getting your mind challenged and that's always a good thing. The anime isn't a “complete” story though. There are several questions raised that, by the end. you'll have to head over to the manga to find out the answers to. It's a drawback, but in the case of Holic not an extreme deterent. With the Halloween season upon us, now's the perfect time to dig up Yuko and the gang and get to binging. There's also a pretty creepy ghost story episode in there – episode 10: “Lamplight.”
Final Score: 4 Wishes Granted out of 5
Fun Fact – This movie actually aired before the anime series did. I assume the movie did so well that they decided to make a series, which then told stories that take place before this movie. Watanuki already works for Yuko and his friendships are well established. That being said, you don't have to walk into this movie having seen the anime first. It helps, but the movie is very new user friendly and that's a good thing. There is only one real... non-new user friendly moment in this movie, but we'll get to that later as it's both important and neat.
Yuko, Watanuki and Domeki are given most of the screen time. With Watanuki and Domeki having to solve most of the puzzles. Speaking of, the puzzles are fun but predictable. So there's not a lot of surprise when they're solved. That's okay though, as overall the movie is supposed to be enjoyable.
The animation in A Midsummer Night's Dream is top notch. A lot of detail is put into the scenery and the action that it really does eclipse that of the show. There are some misteps in the 3D animation, but that's more or less on par with the time period this film was made in. For its time, the 3D animation is pretty damn solid. We also get to see a lot of action from Yuko in this film, a lot more than we get to in the TV show. It's really neat, and goes to prove just how powerful, and cunning, of a force she can be. If you mess with Yuko, you're gonna have a bad day.
Finally, this movie has a moment in it that ties directly into another movie that was made around the same time as this one. And this goes back to CLAMP's achievement at telling different kind of stories as well. SPOILER MODE ON: The group of creators has created an entire multiverse out of their properties and Yuko's shop kind of acts as the central for all of them. Whether you realize it or not. During the film, Yuko and the gang recieve a message from characters in another anime called Tsubasa: Reservior Chronicle – these characters feature in another movie called The Princess of the Birdcage Kingdom which is where the mssage scene comes from. So if you watch this movie, you get to see the message from Yuko's perspective, and if you watch the Tsubasa film, you get to see it play out through those characters' persepectives. It's actually really neat. There's also another tie these two series have in the form of a character named Mokona, but I'll save that for a later review...
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a wonderful introduction to the xxxHolic universe, and if you saw the anime first than it's a fun continuing adventure for the gang. Either way it's a win-win.
Final Score: 3 Complete Collections out of 5
Have you seen "xxxHolic"? How did you enjoy the movie, the show and the review?
Tagged: Tentacle-Free Anime.