xxxHOLiC

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    Review:

    xxxHOLiC is a supernatural/mystery comedy series first released in the spring of 2006. xxxHOLiC is the first in the Anime franchise with the show later spawning a further three seasons. The second season; xxxHOLiC Kei was released in the spring 2008 while the final two seasons came out as original video animations (OVA). The third season xxxHOLiC Shunmuki first aired in February 2009 and was a two-episode OVA release while the final season xxxHOLiC Rou was released in April 2010 and also consisted of two episodes.

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    The initial premise of xxxHOLiC centres on Kimihiro Watanuki; a young man who has the special ability to attracts spirits. Chased by a spirit he stumbles on a mysterious shop that Yuuko Ichihara manages. It is here where Yuujo offers Kimihiro the chance to make a wish to help manage his curse. With no money or anything to offer Kimihiro works for Yuuko to compensate her for his wish.

    Much of the jobs Kimihiro takes on (besides pampering Yuuko) involves investigating various supernatural phenomenon from ghosts, spirits to various superstitions and occult practices. These jobs whilst entertaining are not long with nearly every task being resolved in one episode with only the odd one extending to a second episode. As a result, do not expect a lot Drama as the number of cliff-hangers are almost non-existent.

    More significant than that however is the fact that there is no underlying story to xxxHOLiC. It is just a series of mini-adventures making this purely an episodic series. If you come here expecting a story then you will be disappointed. The most that could be said in regards to an overall story is there is a degree of foreshadowing as it is insinuated several times that Kimihoro has an important role to play in the future. Moreover, his friendship with Shizuka Doumeki is hinted at carrying some significant weight in fulfilling Kimihoro’s future goals. These details are never expanded on though so don’t expect any revelations there. To enjoy xxxHOLiC you need to treat this as episodic season and not be looking for some big reveal that turns things around. You just got to enjoy the short stories as the episodes come.

    In regards to the short stories, xxxHOLiC does a good job. The variation in stories is large and while there are considerable number of adventures seeing as this a 24-episode series I never felt there was any repetition and was always engaged with the developments occurring. All the stories were entertaining in their own way and there was none that really bored me. There were, at least to me, some obvious standouts like the Monkey’s Paws and the snowman fight but I am sure you could pick others that take your fancy.

    In terms of characters, Yuuko is the most memorable character in the entire cast. Her refined, sophisticated aura she likes to project is often in stark contrast to the hedonistic lifestyle she actually leads. It is a source of comedy throughout xxxHOLiC with Kimihiro often lambasting Kuuyo for her excesses. What I also liked was Yuuko’s sense of style and fashion. She sports a range of clothing throughout the show making us second guess what she is going to wear. This range of clothing is really just a reflection of her personality and identity; she is a person that is hard to predict. A true free spirit.

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    This free-spirited behaviour lies in stark contrast to Kimihiro who carries a more mature and reserved approach to life. Indeed, it is often Kimihoro who almost acts like the parental figure who tries to act as the voice of reason. This contrast in behaviour works for the most part and the chemistry between the two works well which is just as well considering they are two main characters in xxxHOLiC.

    Shizuka Doumeki and Himawari Kunogi also get significant screen time and their personality are distinct and memorable enough. However, the biggest source of frustration is the fact that outside of Yuuko and Kimihoro we never get any character development. What you see is what you get. This lack of development was not only a source of exasperation but it also had a negative impact on the comedy as all the gags relied on various personality quirks that got repetitive as the characters never changed. As such while the characters are serviceable in terms of servicing the plot, they are not very memorable save Yuuko.

    Animation for xxxHOLiC follows the classic Clamp distinctive character designs with long torsos and limbs. It is a design that will throw some for a loop particularly in this series where the animation was largely mediocre even for the standards of 2006. On top of this choice of character design the extras in xxxHOLiC are simply humanoid silhouettes which can be off putting. This poor animation will be a pain point for recent fans who are used to higher standards. Thankfully the opening "19sai" by Shikao Suga and the two endings #1: "Reason" by Fonogenico (episodes 1-13,24) and "Kagerou" by BUCK-TICK (episodes 14-23) are of a higher standard.

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    Overall, xxxHOLiC is going to appeal to people who are fans of the supernatural and occult series. The stories covered these themes extensively so if that is your cup of tea then you will get more mileage out of this than I did. Watching xxxHOLiC will also work better if you watch this in a more casual manner due to its episodic nature. It is better to watch episodes in bite sized chunks as opposed to marathon style so if you have a bunch of Anime series on the go then this can easily slot in between other series. Above all don’t expect a deep complex plot; just relax and enjoy the ride. For now, there are no hidden meanings as this is simply a quirky supernatural series sparkled with doses of comedy.

    Story 6 – The range or mini-stories is impressive. What is more none of them are boring with all being engaging and entertaining in their own right. The biggest disappointment is there are no underlying plot tying everything together although there is a degree of foreshadowing that gives us hope this can be expanded on in subsequent seasons.

    Characters 6 – For the most part the characters in xxxHOLiC are likeable. Yuuko is the standout character but the chemistry she has with Kimihiro is also strong and this relationship dynamic is one of the highlights of the show. Secondary characters like Shizuka and Himawari also have their distinctive personalities. Biggest hinderance in this area is the lack of character development. This lack of development also made some of the various gags become somewhat repetitive towards the shows end.

    Animation 3 – Main weakness of the show. The distinctive Clamp character designs will always raise some eyebrows but it is particularly troublesome in xxxHOLiC due to animation being lower. This can lead to odd scenes that hard on the eyes which is a shame as this style can work as seen in animes such as Code Geass or Blood-C. Thankfully the opening and ending songs are of a higher standard.

    Overall 6 – A show that will appeal to fans of the supernatural and occult practices. If you like this genre then this is worth a look. People who are not fans of this genre may also enjoy the series to a lesser extent. In either case it is recommended you watch xxxHOLiC bit by bit. There is no underlying story meaning there is little to no benefit in watching this quickly.

    Has always there is gallery for xxxHOLiC so check it out!
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