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xxxHOLiC 1-2

This is the first of two titles I picked up this season based on title alone. Granted, I was secretly hoping the xxx part was some allusion to a H-title, rather than CLAMP, though being CLAMP, it's helpfully risque. I've never read the xxxHOLiC manga, and the last CLAMP title I ever watched was Cardcaptor Sakura (which I liked). By all accounts, it's supposed to be a kind of Little Shop of Horrors. Having watched the first two episodes, it is that, but also a kind of modern "strange stories" collection. For the unwary, Chinese and Japanese strange stories are folktales of mysterious phenomena. They're often translated as "horror" or "ghost" stories, but they're not necessarily frightening, and in many cases, might even be quite bland for modern sensibilities. Strange stories can include local deity myths, mischievous spirits like the fox spirits, or any number of urban legends about curses and vengeful ghosts.

I already have two other "strange stories"-type series on my plate this season, Jigoku Shoujo (Hell Girl) and Ayakashi ~Japanese Classic Horror~, so I was quite wary of grabbing another show along this line. xxxHOLiC is pretty solidly animated, in that while the quality of the animation is reasonable, character-designs are interesting. There's a kind of bendy, twisty, art nouveau-esque style at work I've come to associate with CLAMP that translates to the screen very well. Yuuko, the female lead, also has the CLAMP habit of ornate costume changes in every episode, with the upside of being a mature female (you laugh, but I can't think lewd thoughts about a 12-year-old in a frilly dress), and the added upside of showing far too much leg per minute of air time, at a ratio guaranteed to keep one's concentration in the right places. There's a habit of pairing the essential characters of the show with gray shadows for non-talking NPCs in crowds, particularly in street scenes. While it might be cheap, I like this tactic as it actually it helps keep the focus on the story.

As far as music goes, both the OP and the ED are certainly among the betters that have shown up this season. The OP, in particular, a kind of dance beat + rock melancholy about being a suffering teenager, works well. The ED is buggy pop, but at least it's not annoying pop. Actual OP and ED footage can be quite dull, being little more than clips of the show for the OP, and a dancing dumpling for the ED. People who've seen Cardcaptor Sakura can probably remember how many times that show's ED sequence involved a dancing plushie. A similar conspiracy is afoot. But it works! Hamutaro recently passes its 360th episode in Japan because having a furry animal bouncing to your horrible ED music sells.

xxxHOLiC revolves around a high school student, Watanuki Kimihiro who sees and has been haunted by spirits his entire life. He stumbles upon a shop run by Yuuko, an enigmatic courtesan-witch-soothsayer, who tells him she sells wishes, provided the one who wishes can pay the equal price. Watanuki enters a contract with her to remove his hauntings. In return, he becomes Yuuko's bondmaid, and turns out to be a good gourmet cook. The stories thus far are stand-alone episodes about the customers who frequent the shop. The idea is that they're all fated to find the shop (the only way inside), and they're all fated to enter a contract with Yuuko. Watanuki, as Yuuko's servant, gets the job of righting whatever wrong requires it, though the idea of fate plays heavily into the plots, and equal measures don't usually mean nice endings. Case in point, the first two episodes appeared to be lessons for Watanuki about fairness often being the raw end of the deal.

We see hints of a broader cast, including Watanuki's potential love interest, Himawari ("sunflower" - it makes my heart bleed); Doumeki, a mysterious classmate; Maru and Moro, Yuuko's familiars (their names literally mean "stripping" and "flashing", and the OP sequence shows the two chobitly-underaged girls kissing -- when all else fails, remember that this is CLAMP); and Mokona, a creature who looks and behaves like a dumpling crossed with a ryo-ohki (does that make it a Jigglypuff?).

I'm also told Buck-Tick have recently signed on to provide a new single for this show, which is going to be quite interesting indeed. The last two songs they've provided for anime series have been connected with sub-par vampire shows. It'll be nice to have one decent show attached to their name. That, and well, the prospect of a new Buck-Tick single in general, is a bonus. xxxHOLiC is a decent watch, bordering on getting better, and is definitely worth sticking around for. And the legs are still nice too.

Recommended Fansubs: Go for Shinsen-Subs, for their liner notes and quality are still godly.

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Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
countlibras
Jun. 2nd, 2006 08:24 pm (UTC)
You know that I have to comment...
Oh, so Buck Tick isn't the ending song yet? BOO! I was really hoping that maybe we could get our grabby hands on the song sooner than August (I think it's August anyway).

What was the song they provided for an anime series that was not "Dress"?

You might already know this, but Mokona is a recycled character from Rayearth.

Anyway, the art work is definitely CLAMP but I find that there's something about it that feels starker than their usual stuff - probably to fit the atmosphere of the storyline better. I am just referring to the manga, which, if I recall correctly, uses very little shading. Just black and white. No grays or textures like in CCS.
vampyrichamster
Jun. 3rd, 2006 06:53 am (UTC)
Re: You know that I have to comment...
Yep. Buck-Tick is only scheduled to come in much later in the series. Hopefully, they get a better looking animation sequence to go with it.

The song is "Gessekai", for Nightwalker ~Mayonaka no Tantei~. :)

Tried watching that show once, just didn't work. Trinity Blood was just plain awful. xxxHOLiC will get us a ton of new converts.

I knew Mokona was recycled, but not from where. Haven't seen Rayearth yet. Thanks!

And yes, the art does appear starker (good word for it). I really like the clarity of the lines and the rich inking (even for the anime, it shows). I do like this series for it, because I think it does bring out the story too.
countlibras
Jun. 3rd, 2006 03:12 pm (UTC)
Re: You know that I have to comment...
Oh! Gessekai! Nightwalker, right, that does ring a bell in my head. :)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )