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Sesho's Anime And Manga Reviews

May 21, 2009

Manga review of xxxHolic Volume 5 by CLAMP. Translated and adapted by William Flanagan. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated 13+.

It's White Day, which in Japan means a guy has to give some sort of "white" gift to the girl that gave him chocolate on Valentine's Day. That is, if he likes her back.  Watanuki not only has to satisfy Yuko (she made him a gift of the chocolate that HE made!) but also has to think of a gift to give to a pretty spirit that gave him chocolate. But a job comes up to interrupt all this contemplation. An "Ame-Warashi", a rain making spirit, comes to Yuko's shop to borrow Watanuki for a rescue mission she says only he can take on. Domeki, his rival and pain in the rear, decides to tag along as well. Naruto fans will get a kick out of the fact that the Ame-Warashi gives Yuko a nine-tailed fox spirit as payment for the services of Watanuki. The fox spirit in xxxHolic is not a force for evil, though. In fact, it seems to have an affection for Watanuki, and ends up saving his life.

I wasn't impressed with the last volume of xxxHolic. The stories were ordinary, if not mediocre, and failed to capture the feeling of strangeness that plays to the strengths of the series. Volume 5 was a return to top form by CLAMP. First, the art is gorgeous, beautiful, and even sublime at times. CLAMP are one of a few artists today that never shrink from turning their panels into epic canvases with very wide shots which at times take up two pages. The bigger the panels, the more detail CLAMP adds to the art. There isn't any blank white space or cluttered screen tones thrown onto these super panels either. In fact, CLAMP seem to reserve their best work for them. I'm still trying to figure out how they make Yuko look so sexy, even with her bony figure and totally anti-photorealistic design. As for the story, some parts of this book made my skin crawl, because the creators succeeded in a sorta Lovecraftian way of letting us glimpse a spirit world where human life doesn't amount to a hill of beans. There are immortal spirits all around us that see humans as nuisances at best, and as not worthy of survival at worst and have no desire to interact with mankind unless it serves their own purposes. You get tiny hints of Heaven and Hell in Volume 5 which speaks volumes to the range of CLAMP.

My Grade: A+