XxXholic 19

CLAMP – Del Rey – 2012 – 19 volumes

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve spoiled myself on the ending of this series, which is why I didn’t pick up the last volume right away. I knew it would only break my heart. Mainly because it simply stops what it’s doing abrupty, with no resolution. I was pretty angry when I found about about that. Happily (I think?), it looks like a sequel series called xxxHolic Rei started a month or so ago, so maybe that will bring the resolution I crave.

Again, I’m most upset about this series because I do like it so much, and I was so excited when I first started reading it that I thought it would de-throne X as my favorite CLAMP series. But Tsubasa seems to taint those around it, and it’s a shame that some of the plot elements are convoluted and just not included in this series at all.

Anyway.  More of the one-shot stories in this volume.  Somewhat more reflective and character-focused than their one-shot natures seem on first blush, but there were disappointingly few revelations to be had here, for it being a final volume.  The first story was my favorite, since the beginning went over some of the older Japanese festivals (one of which I’ve never heard of before, and the others I didn’t realize were ancient traditions), and Watanuki wound up brewing seasonal sake in a rather creative and magical way.  Most of them are very quaint, actually, about various old Japanese wards, ceremonies, et cetera.  It’s also a bit about the time passing outside the shop for Watanuki, which is what the conclusion shockingly comes back to.  I was a bit heartbroken, actually, by the final revelation.  I do wonder how the sequel will pick up from there… but honestly?  It doesn’t even look like that change even made a difference.  Oh well.

Hmm…  still pretty down on CLAMP after finishing this volume, even though it was mostly charming.  It was just… underwhelming, and I expected better.  I’ll still pick up the sequel, because I did like this series for the most part, and I’ll hope it’s good.  Maybe Drug & Drop is good too!  I should read that as well.  I was never Legal Drug’s biggest fan, but maybe it’s better now, or maybe I’ll appreciate it more now.

Look, I’m trying not to think about Kobato and Gate 7, okay?

xXxHolic 18

CLAMP – Del Rey – 2011 – 19 volumes

At one time, this was my favorite CLAMP series ever. Then it started to meander a bit. I’ve spoiled myself silly on the end, which is why I’ve left these last two volumes so long. I know. I know it breaks my heart in the end. CLAMP, I’m losing faith.

This volume isn’t really bad in and of itself, though. It’s still maddeningly vague about some things, even one volume from the end. Most of that is resolved case to case, though. The majority of the volume is stories about two of Watanuki’s customers, with a little bit at the end that checks in on the dimension hoppers since the end of Tsubasa.

The first customer is a mystery wisp of smoke that follows Watanuki around. Neither Domeki nor Kohane can see it, and Watanuki seems to be going to absurd lengths to protect it. Again, the vague hints and leading on throughout this story, which takes up the first half of the book, are maddening, but all the questions are answered by the end. It’s a nice story, and it’s great to see Watanuki coming into his own so much. It’s got a great sense of foreboding throughout, and the malevolent force that attacks at the end of the story is one of the most violent things in the series. It is really good, I’m not giving it enough credit, but I really was hoping for more from xXxHolic at this point.

The second story was more along the lines of what I wanted. The customer is a young woman that wishes for an individual to fall in love with her. Watanuki isn’t sure how he wound up playing matchmaker (his customers usually have more on the line) until he realizes she wants Domeki, and is almost cursing him in order to get him. This almost-not-quite hints at a relationship between Domeki and Watanuki, though ultimately I believe the object of Watanuki’s desire is still Yuko. To be fair, Domeki is basically taking care of Watanuki, since Watanuki can’t leave the shop, and seems to be devoting his adult life to the study of folklore in order to help Watanuki. I mean… yeah.

So! No hints of any sort of plot winding down here. Just another volume of xXxHolic, though it’s one where we find out the characters are more-or-less stuck in their current patterns, and Watanuki is getting better at what he does. Let’s see how it all ends in volume 19!

xXxHolic 17

CLAMP – Del Rey – 2011 – 19 volumes

The main story in this volume is about the Jorogumo returning to the shop and asking something of Watanuki. It requires him to leave the shop, but we learn how exactly he handles such a task when it arises. The object of the Jorogumo’s desire also parallels Watanuki’s situation in several ways. It’s an interesting story, and the premise uses one of my favorite pieces of Japanese folklore. It reminds me a lot of the beginning of the series, save for the fact that everyone speaks in riddles and it was way less fun and more sad.

There are also lots of asides about Watanuki’s life in the shop. He’s getting better about his powers, he seems relatively aware of all the various goings-on and protocols in the spirit world, he doesn’t need glasses anymore, Domeki still comes over every day to take care of him, et cetera. Basically, the gist is that his magical power is growing within the shop while time passes outside the shop.

One thing that is bothering me about this later part of the series is that everyone seems to avoid talking about any subject directly. It can be an easy dodge, such as the Jorogumo constantly declaring “You aren’t as cute as you used to be!” when Watanuki side-steps her attacks, or it may be the general feelings and themes being conveyed through song. There should be a subtle air to such things… but I’m not really feeling it in Holic. It’s a little maddening to have to sit and decipher conversations, only to realize that, no, there’s not really a deep meaning to any of it. Watanuki loves Yuuko, and will wait as long as he has to at the shop, because it’s where he can be closest to her. Other little side-steps elude me, such as the reason why it’s bad news for Himawari to come to the shop, but I’m sure a re-read of the earlier part of the series would tell me why this is.

Sigh. I’m waiting for some major plot to start up, something exciting with Domeki and Watanuki to end the series. I’m not sure where it’s going from here, but hopefully something major will get underway next volume. While I haven’t been that impressed with the recent era of shopkeeping, I still enjoy this series immensely, and am looking forward to its ending.

XxXholic 16

CLAMP – 2010 – Del Rey – 18+ volumes

Wow. So the fallout from the last volume continues. Can’t say I’m surprised by Watanuki’s decision, but I didn’t realize he cared about the old witch so much. It’s quite touching that he’s decided to wait and… fulfill a role, as it were.

It’s even more touching to see Domeki stand by him while he decides to do this. All the others do too… Kohane, the Fortuneteller, and Himawari all know what’s up, but Domeki seems to more-or-less live in the shop. I’m not sure what his role is, other than guardian and company, but man is it adorable to see him there. The two of them fight a lot less, and there’s definitely more melancholy between them. It’s sad to see. It will kill me to find out when & where Domeki will use his egg. I feel like I was cheated out of a climax, so sitting through some of this from now on is going to be difficult. Despite the fact I love every page of it.

There’s an interesting customer that brings a shamisen by, saying that it has ceased to make music. Watanuki and the customer discuss the instrument as if it were a child, and the solution to the shamisen’s problem is both simple and very romantic. As one of the first customers we’ve seen Watanuki deal with personally, it was a very mysterious and beautiful problem he solved himself. I didn’t mind sitting through it at all, though again, if there are too many customers, I’ll begin to wonder what their bearing on the plot is and get impatient about my cheated climax again. But this one was very beautiful.

On the other hand, we do have a large flash forward between what we saw last volume and this customer, and in that time, apparently Watanuki had a lot of problems with… bodily injury. I would have liked to have seen a little of that. It will probably come up later anyway, but the desire to see more of this does conflict with my want of a speedy resolution.

I’m just so happy xxxHolic is still so great, especially after being royally disappointed by Tsubasa and Kobato. It is very nearly my favorite of their series, even with the Tsubasa crossover nonsense. I hope it doesn’t crash and burn before the end, like Tsubasa did.

xXxHolic 15

CLAMP – Del Rey – 2010 – 17+ volumes

It’s good to get a CLAMP palate refresher every now and again. XxXholic is very near to being my favorite CLAMP series, though I do want to see how it ends before calling it for sure (X and Cardcaptor Sakura are still my high water marks).

This volume… I was a little upset initially, because there’s a lot of cryptic foreshadowing amid a story about Watanuki’s first customer that was slow and uninteresting. This series has always been terrible about foreshadowing, but this volume was particularly bad, not only about those maddening dreams, but also because everyone in the shop aside from Watanuki just disappears for an extended period of time, with no explanation. The client story is still the girl who doesn’t like to cook, and after an explanation about what cooking tells about a person, the only exposition is Watanuki going to her house over and over again to convince her to eat his cooking. I was bored to tears.

To add insult to injury, there’s a Tsubasa crossover, too.

As if sensing my desire to give up on CLAMP forever, the book then throws one of the biggest WTF curveballs ever at the very end in order to keep my interest. There were hints, but I promise I did not see that coming. The explanation for what happens is wanky and, again, tied into Tsubasa, but I’m still completely stunned that things went in that direction. I mean… there’s at least two volumes after this, right? I don’t even know where the story could go from here. It will be drastically different. And with the granting of Watanuki’s wish, I wonder if he’ll be able to do as he promises at the very end, anyway.

Once again, incredibly good stuff (the mediocre most-of-the-volume was worth it for the ending), and I am very, very intrigued as to what the next step will be. I’m sad the releases are so slow (I think we’re as close as possible to the Japanese volumes at this point), because I am super curious.

xXxHolic 14

CLAMP – Del Rey – 2009 – 15+ volumes

Boy do I like this series.  It comes out slowly, and I know that I love it, but it doesn’t really hit me until I’m reading a new volume just how great it really is.  This volume is a good example of why.

One of the characteristics of the series is that Watanuki cooks for everyone, especially Domeki, Himawari, and Yuko.  Lately, we’ve come to realize that as intrinsic as his cooking skills are to him, he doesn’t ever eat his own cooking.  Lately he’s been teaching Kohane to cook, but this volume takes the theme a step further and discusses how a person’s cooking characterises them.  Another theme of memories of the body, rather than the mind, is also brought to bear on the discussion.  Another character shows up for Watanuki to teach, and it’s interesting how the discussion of food and its meaning is twined throughout the entire book.

Unusually, Mokona and Domeki are the teachers of much of this lesson.  It’s unusual for Yuko to step out for these things.  There’s lots of foreshadowing concerning this, and I worry quite a bit about what this could mean.

We are also seeing a lot of discussions on Watanuki’s existence.  I’m still not entirely clear on this, but I’ll get to that in a minute.  Watanuki’s willingness to self-sacrifice has been present since the early volumes, but it was constantly shown to be a negative quality, as a way for Watanuki to destroy himself.  This volume also takes a look at Watanuki’s current feelings on the matter, as well as the feelings of those closest to him.

Now, Watanuki’s existence.  I’m…  so, I’ve been reading Tsubasa off and on.  I’m behind in the English version, but I’ll be honest and say I have a hard time with the direction the plot took concerning… you know, twins and existence and whatnot.  I know what was going on, but it just didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, and from what I’ve read, I’m not the only one who’s been left in the dark.  It’s unfortunate that Watanuki has to be drawn into the same sort of mess.

Let me mark this out for spoilers.  I’ll just cut it here, and you don’t have to read further if you aren’t this far into the series.

Read the rest of this entry »

xXxHolic 13

Like I’ve said before, as much as I love this series, I’m not a big Kohane fan, and I would really like for things to return to the whole “Watanuki might not be a real person” angle that was picked up a volume or so ago.  I’m dying to know more about that… but instead, we get a heroic Kohane rescue in this volume.

I don’t hate Kohane, I think my problem with her is mostly what I explained above, that every time she appears I would rather something else be happening instead.  But she’s a good character to have around, and the end of her story in this volume is pretty good.  Kohane only has her mother, and as her psychic powers seem to be failing her, she reminds her mother that the most important promise she’s ever made is that she would never lie to her mom.  Alas, a spectacle is made on live TV.  It’s actually a pretty good spectacle, and everything about it is pretty exciting.  It’s got murder, ghosts, assault, and a last-minute save.

Later, Kohane turns up at the shop because she’s got a wish.   There’s lots of foreshadowing, and I always have a feeling that the curtain is about to rise and the climax will play out in the next volume.  I’m pretty sure things are winding down in Japan right now though, so it’s possible there really is only a volume or two left.  I am absolutely dying to know about Watanuki and Yuuko’s situations after all these years.  It will be so satisfying, and maybe it’ll be only a year off now.  I will be very pleased.  I complain and grumble sometimes, but Holic is still stylish, still mysterious, and still one of my favorite series.

XxXholic 12

Holy crap, this volume was awesome!  It’s had the most plot of any Holic volume yet, and more about Watanuki than any other.  Finishing it has made me want the end of the series very badly, though.

What can I say that won’t spoil it?  We get to know a lot of stuff about Watanuki.  Nothing that answers any questions, mind you, but a bunch of cool stuff all the same.  Plus we get the beginnings of an explanation of Yuko.  I wasn’t actually looking for this, and it hadn’t occurred to me to think about her in terms of what it was that she actually does since it seems like Yuko just IS, but I’m curious now.

Since I can’t talk about the good things, let me criticize this volume a bit, which is easier than usual this time.  The story is extremely, EXTREMELY disjointed in this volume.  There’s a reason for this in the story (Watanuki is falling asleep a lot), but the falling asleep chapters will just be interrupted by one-shots about Domeki and Himawari or whatever.  I like the one-shots, but it just felt like not much was fitting together properly in this volume.  Also, I don’t like the increasing frequency of Tsubasa crossover stuff.  I don’t mind the mentions occasionally, but I do mind the characters showing up and talking about themselves.  I know these two series will eventually come back together and end the same way they began together, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Don’t worry though, the plot blew any complaints I had right out of the water.  It’s what I’ve been waiting for, but like I said, now I want more more more.

XxXholic 11

As much as I always, ALWAYS love new volumes of this series, I was pretty bummed by the numerous connections to Tsubasa in this volume. Usually it’ll only be one reference every volume or so, but there were many references in this volume, and an entire chapter dedicated to the crossover. I just… don’t like being taken out of the story like that.

Most of the story in this volume is just about picking up the pieces from last volume. A few people stop by to visit Watanuki and see how he’s doing after the accident, and the characters sort of acknowledge (or don’t acknowledge, in Watanuki’s case) what Himawari admitted to last time. One supernatural character that stops in mentions that Watanuki is the rarest item that Yuko owns, which is kind of funny and intriguing at the same time.

We do get one of the good old-fashioned shop stories that I like so much, this time about a girl who is given bells when she is afraid to be in her house by herself. Watanuki is always so empathetic, and it’s always hard to see him so sad when things like this don’t work out well. The girl apparently goes to the same school as he and Himawari et al, but… well, of course all is not what it seems.

Lots of stuff story-wise is revealed in this volume, too. So much so that I was a little hesitant to believe so much was given to me for free. We get a name for the pipe fox spirit, we get to learn what it is that Maro and Mauro do, we get a handful of even more cryptic hints about who/what Watanuki is, we get a few new magical items introduced, some more bad things happen to Watanuki, and… well, we get Yuko telling us on the last page that this is the beginning of the end. I’m ready to find out what it all means, and I’m really hoping the end is as good as the rest of the story has been.

I don’t think we’ve really seen them yet, so I was happy to see Watanuki’s new eyes in two different colors are shown on the first color page in this volume.  I’m always sort of surprised that there isn’t more of an indication that one eye is different in the black and white art… but that may be that part of me is disappointed that he didn’t get an eye with a ridiculously tiny pupil like he should have.

XxXholic 10

Yes! Yes!  FINALLY THINGS ARE EXPLAINED.  Did it seriously take ten volumes for CLAMP to tell us what was up with Himawari?  Was that really necessary?  And… I think Domeki’s explanation was still passed over (or maybe there was a detailed explanation some time ago and I’ve forgotten), but we can infer from the information given why it’s important that Domeki always be there with Himawari and Watanuki.  I don’t know if it was worth the wait, but it was certainly good.  Good in a way that only XxXholic can be.

The volume opens with Domeki and Watanuki having to carry water untouched by pipes from a well that requires tresspass and several trips in order to get as much water as Yuuko needs.  Watanuki sees something he’s never seen before, and… I was a little unclear as to how this led up to the big unveiling with Himawari, but that event followed right after.  Himawari and Watanuki share something in the same way that Domeki and Wantanuki share an eye, and apparently there’s a similar connection with Sayoran (the real Sayoran) and Watanuki.   Watanuki is also quite the ladies man, and says very nice things.

Thank you CLAMP, for being awesome yet again.


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