Kimihiro Watanuki is the indentured servant of Yuko, the beautiful but completely unpredictable Space-Time Witch. He must work at her bizarre wish-granting shop until he can pay off his own wish: to be free of the spirits that haunt him. Yuko’s latest customer is a rain spirit who wants Kimihiro dispatched on a rescue mission. Little does Kimihiro know that this mission will take him to death’s door!
And that’s not his only problem: A cute spirit has given him a Valentine’s Day present, which means he’s obligated by Japanese custom to return the favour. What do you get a girls who may not even exist in this world?
Volume 5 of xxxHOLiC continues the mystical and spiritual misadventures of the extremely excitable but unlucky in all sense of the word Kimihiro Watanuki, a high school student who can see and has been plagued by the spirit world all his life. A chance meeting with the beautiful but unpredictable space-time witch Yuko Ichihara who’s business it is to grant wishes has given Watanuki the chance to finally be rid of the spirit world for good – but in exchange the hapless student now needs to work in her mystical shop where all manner of things spiritual and downright scary abound anyway!
This volume sees Watanuki and Domeki team up once again, this time on the behest of a rain sprite that employs their help in attempting a rescue of something that lies beneath the red hydrangea patch. And of course this being a spirit world request, the danger that lies in wait for them is best left unsaid.
Second up is the mystery surrounding one of the girls that happens to attend the same school as what Domeki and Watanuki do. This girl used to be pretty normal, quiet and reserved, but now there is something a little odd about this girl’s behaviour around other people, particularly when they cause her insult – all of which may just be linked to the strange angel-like feathers growing out of her back!
And then finally it is time for Watanuki to make good on his gift received on Valentine’s Day (Japanese custom dictates boys returning the favour received from girls on ‘White Day’), even if the person he needs to compensate happens to be a spirit that resides all the way out on Reisen mountain.
xxxHOLiC is produced by the super popular, all female mangaka group CLAMP, responsible for some of the most well known manga titles to ever reach us out here in the West. These four ladies started out producing doujinshi (fan fiction) a while ago but word of their work soon caught on and being of such a high standard, they quickly began to make a name for themselves in the professional world. Some of their previous credits including Chobits, X/1999, CardCaptor Sakura, xxxHOLIC and Magic Knight Rayearth, just to name a few!
As always xxxHOLiC’s writing is based in well researched Japanese folklore and then mixed up with some targeted social commentary which is then brought to us courtesy of the loveable Watanuki and his various adventures in the spirit world. For the first time since the series started, the story introduces a new, darker back-story for Yuko, laying the foundation for what surely will be an exciting storyline to follow in the future and a welcome break from Watanuki and company’s usually comedic antics.
The writing is once again well paced and the self-contained story arcs are all satisfying and all have something to say, at the same time continuing to build up the main characters and lay the foundations for the future volumes all at once. The stories keep you guessing and CLAMP do a good job of building intrigue and mystery into their arcs, particularly noteworthy if you consider the length of each self-contained arc in the volume.
There is a lot more of a darker feeling to this particular volume and slowly but surely the stakes for Watanuki’s spirit world interventions are on the rise. However, that said, the writing retains its comical nature and xxxHOLiC will have you laughing out a loud more than once.
Visually CLAMP continue their trademark elongated character proportions which gives xxxHOLiC such a distinct yet thoroughly pleasing look. Character and character costume designs are exquisite as always, though I still feel that they are a little light on backgrounds at the moment. The clean, heavyset lines makes for very attractive visuals and combined with the attention to both simplified facial lines and super-deformed character expressions (where necessary – which with Watanuki happens to be often) makes for a very good looking book, just as you’ve come to expect from the CLAMP masters.
Overall, xxxHOLiC volume 5 really doesn’t put a foot wrong and CLAMP produce a beautiful, easy to read work that is drenched in drama and spiritual mystery but at the same time carries all the humour that makes xxxHOLiC as unique and fun as it is.
Thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining, you would do well to pick up this volume – as well as all of those that precede it!
Related link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XxxHOLiC