10 Nov 2008
Watanuki has a problem - evil spirits haunt his waking world, and subsequently he spends much of his time running like hell to get away from them. He has no idea what attracts them to him specifically, but a chance encounter with a mysterious shop owner is about to turn his world upside down...
xxxHolic is very closely based on the manga series (released by Tanoshimi) and as such it retains all the charm, humour and eerie supernatural wonder of the source, which is certainly no bad thing in my book! All the main players are here, which means plenty of screentime for Dimensional Witch Yuki Ichiharaand Watanuki's rival in love, Himawari Kunogi. This is more fortunate than you might think, as the calm and assured performances from Yuki and Himawari are a welcome to contrast to Watanuki's constant screeching.
If you can get over Watanuki's over-reactions then you'll find a wonderfully layered series which makes for superb repeat viewing. Each episode explores an angle of supernatural mythology, and whilst some cases are resolved, others end in tragedy for the poor soul involved. It also contains numerous Clamp references, which is fun for fans, and a great many daft moments that owe a little to Urusei Yatsura...
The character design is probably the most vibrant element to the production - everything is spindly limbed without being absurd, but it's just enough to throw your perceptions, and in the case of some characters it makes for some stunningly beautiful and other-worldly apparitions. This is Clamp at it's absolute best, make no mistake.
The music is also top notch, and while the English dub is very good, Watanuki's screeching might make you switch to the Japanese vocal track, to which his brand of over-acting is more suited.
What xxxHolic manages to capture is the balance between supernatural horror and genuine humanity, without becoming a senseless, depressing bloodbath. If the seriously depressing overtones of Hell Girl or Boogiepop Phantom made you search for the nearest noose, xxxHolic will make for a refreshingly uplifting, yet honest, experience.