XXXholic is a dark fantasy series created by all female manga group CLAMP and its set after the events of Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle. The story focuses on Kimihiro Watanuki who is student in high school and is cursed by his ability to see spirits tha follow him around. One day after outrunning the spirits, he stumbles across a mysterious shop run by the witch Yuko Isahara. Yuko promises to free Kimihiro from the spirits if will work for her in the shop. Kimihiro willing accepts and he gives Yuko his watch as a down payment.
Each episode of the show is part of an overarching narrative told in separate episodes focusing on the strange events that Watanuki is dragged into and the customers that Yuko deals with. They all have a certain cautionary tale at the end. The anime and also all of the other original works written and drawn by CLAMP are set in the same singular universe.
A couple of the main characters from Legal Drug make a brief cameo as store clerks. Watanuki’s parents who are long dead are actually main characters from Tsubasa Chronicles. Mokana is a black rabbit like creature and there is also another rabbit that is white that also belongs to the same species in Tsubasa chronicles. Fans of CLAMP will appreciate the connections to the other works and it is accessible to newcomers of the Clampverse.
The story is mostly faithful to the original manga. Most of the characters were very interesting but not easily likable. The character development for Watanuki was one of the best aspects for the story. He starts off as bratty and always easily annoyed by trivial things to becoming a much more responsible and mature character as he is dragged along by Yuko and her customers. Watanuki can be very ungrateful to others. Domeki saves his life multiple times Watanuki hardly acknowledges these heroic acts.Yuko is very eccentric and it is really hard to tell what she thinks especially with her reclusive nature. The most notable aspect of her is her intelligence and her butterfly like appearance. Yuko simply watches from afar and lets Domeki and Watanuki do most of the legwork. She is always one step ahead in her plans and she always seems to know what is going to happen next. No matter how strange her explanations may seem, they always make sense considering the events that happens during the episode. Some of the explanations she makes at the end of the episodes were very confusing and didn’t seem loigical.
Yuko and Watanuki’s relationship in the show is not one sided and it goes through many layers. Yuko finds enjoyment from playfully mocking Watanauki and giving him various menial errands to perform just for her own amusement. She loves getting drunk and smoking traditional Japanese cigarettes much to Watanuki’s disapoinment and she gets hungover almost everytime from it and the quickest way to sober her up is by giving her medicine. But she serves as a wise mother figure to Watanuki and his friends and she really cares a lot about Watanuki and his group of friends.
Watanuki and Domeki despite being polar opposites, have a very close relationship and share a deep mutual respect for each other. Domeki is more professional, calm and reserved while Watanuki is flamboyant, overreactive and somewhat gullible at times. The pipefox that Yuko provides is also incredibly helpful and even if the pipefox does not speak, it still managed to communicate subtly and was very helpful in every episode it was in.
There were some shortcomings in the show. The background designs looked mostly good but a lot of times it felt empty and dull. The art style was a hit and miss. It worked wonderfully in some parts but was flat and boring in others. The colors of the art direction were very creative and works well with the show strange and trippy atmosphere.
The shows main focus is on vices, habits and their connection to the supernatural in Japanese mythos. Each of Yuko’s customer has their own bad habit. The purpose of the Yuko’s shop isn’t exactly to erase the client’s bad habits but to show them the consequences their habits have on them and others. She gives the customer solutions but it is up to them to solve the problem themselves. Each challenge that the customer has is not something that can be easily overcome and most feel some guilt about their issues. The consequences of the customers vary from tame, moderate to extreme.
One customer who had multiple boyfriends and had multiple personalities based on who she was dating was exposed when all of the boyfriends met up by accident. One housewife had her internet cut off due to her online addiction but all she needed was to find a new provider and Yuko admitted the solution was not fool proof. Another customer found a magical monkey paw that grant every wish but due to her misuse, she ended up choking to death on the monkey paw.
The supernatural aspect of the show also serves as a reflection of the real world habits people often have. The cases that the customers are in always have moral concepts that isn’t always black or white. There is also a focus to the concept of individualism and thinking for yourself instead of having others do the thinking for you. The dialogue of the show is very well written especially Yuko’s as her words always impacts her customers.
The anime is fairly long with about 24 episodes.There was a fair amount of comedy especially with Yuko and Mokana’s antics. However, the same gags were repeated and the humour was lost after a while. The animation and art style was both successful in certain aspects while flawed at other aspects. The opening and ending scenes of each episode were nicely animated. There were times that the animation felt stiff and inconsistent with each scene. Some of the plots of the episodes really weren’t as engaging and did not add much to the overall enjoyment of the show. The musical score and audio quality were perfect for the show and contributed to the overall supernatural feel. The characters designs were a bit off as they had really long limbs even by anime standards. Other body parts like their heads seem a bit outsized and out of proportions.
Since it uses an episodic format, much of the lore in the show was in the backseat most of the time. The plot of each episodes also was paper thin and had there was no supernatural aspects, then it could have passed off as another anime. In fact, most of the episodes felt like filler and not about the main focus which is about Yuko and her clients.
Some plot points were underdeveloped and were dropped midway. Hinawari wasn’t really an interesting character compared to the rest and she served more as of a simple love interest than a fully formed character and was more of a bad luck charm to both Domeki and Watanuki. The love triangle act is really pointless too as Domeki was more focused on his schoolwork and athletics than romance and Watankuki was oblivious that Hinawari did not reciprocate his feelings. She was also clueless to what was really going on. Domeki really didn’t had that much of a personality and he can easily solve anything with little or no effort. Yuko’s assistants were pretty flat as well and did not add much to the show.
I looked at both the FUNimation dub and the sub as well. Wattanuki’s voice in the dub wasn’t that convincing. Yuko’s voice for both sub and dub were solid. The sub had some odd mistranslations and didn’t generally follow the plot. The ending of the story was also sort of a downer as Yuko disappears and Wattanuki’s problem with spirits remains unresolved. This was a real letdown and left the storyline somewhat incomplete.
It gets 3 stars out of 5.
It’s a generally decent anime and if you enjoy CLAMPS works then you will enjoy XXXholic.