Manga Review – XXXHolic Vol. 1

I have another manga review for you this week, the first installment of one of CLAMP’s two mega-crossover manga, xxxHolic, which was started with their other mega-crossover series, Resevoir Chronicles Tsubasa. So. does xxxHolic stand on it’s own, or does it lean too much on Clamp’s back catalog?

General Information

Title: xxxHolic – Vol. 1
Written and Illustrated by CLAMP
Translated by Anthony Gerard
English lettering by Dana Hayward
Originally serialized in Kodansha’s Weekly Young Magazine
Cover Price: $10.95

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The Premise

Kimihiro Watanuki has a bit of a problem. He can he ghosts, supernatural auras, and other things, and he can see them all the time, and he can’t turn it off. This is unnerving at the best of times, terrifying at the worst. When a particularly frightening manifestation pursues him into the shop of the witch Yuko Ichihara, who offers to cure him of his visions… provided he does her grunt work (cooking, cleaning, that sort of thing) and helps her with the occasional job.

High Point

Kimihiro is an excellent straight man, for both Yuko’s antics, as well as the antics of her two familiars, Manu and Mono, which helps drive most of the book’s comic relief thus far.

Low Point

For someone who claims to grant wishes, she grants precisely zero wishes in this story. We still get definite evidence of the supernatural, and demonstrations of Yuko’s powers (albeit limited demonstrations), ut she doesn’t precisely grant anybody’s wish.

Content Notes

Now, Del Ray has content descriptors on their manga, but I’m going to cover this anyway. There is one bit of blood in this volume, and aside from a character who smokes (though I’m not sure it’s tobacco – I don’t know what kind of pipe she’s got, but the bowl doesn’t look right), and the same character suffering from a hangover later, I’m not seeing anything that would be particularly offensive.

The Scores

Originality: This concept has been done before, with horror manga like Pet Shop of Horrors. That said, there’s a lot you can do with the concept. While this volume does tie in with Resevoir Chronicles Tsubasa, the actual tie-in doesn’t occur until the very last page. So, if you don’t know your CLAMP, you’re fine with this volume (and Del-Ray, who published the US edition, was kind enough to put notes on the cross-overs in the translator notes, so you know where to look to learn more). 4 out of 6.

Artwork: The artwork is pretty good, though the panels are often cluttered (particularly during Yuko’s first client’s story) with billowing and writhing smoke. It all looks good, but it can obscure the scenery, making figuring out some of the geography difficult. 3 out of 6.

Story: Despite my complaint under the low point about no wishes actually being granted, what we get in our two little stories, one about a woman with a problem with her little finger (that’s caused by something slightly more sinister), and another woman with an internet addiction problem, and in both of these cases the reason by both peoples wishes aren’t granted is made fairly clear (it’s a personality problem that they need to correct on their own). However, other then these two stand alone stories, there isn’t much to progress the overall narrative. 3 out of 6.

Characterization: As mentioned under the high point, Kimihiro makes a good straight man, and the comedic elements of Yoko, Manu and Mono’s personalities are generally amusing. However, the two customers personalities are nearly interchangeable with a few slight alterations, and because this is the first volume, we haven’t had much of an opportunity to get to know our leads and their circle(s) of friends yet. 3 out of 6.

Emotional Response: The comedy is amusing when it’s supposed to be amusing, and the stories of both clients are appropriately tragic, without going headlong into melodrama, but there isn’t much of anything that tugs at the heartstrings, or really tickles the funny bone. 3 out of 6.

Flow: Everything moves along pretty smoothly, but as I mentioned under the art, the panels where they really start breaking out the smoke also interrupts the flow. Hopefully they’ll get this better (if not right) in later volumes. 3 out of 6.

Overall: Well, I enjoyed it, and I’m going to read volume 2, but it doesn’t have me totally hooked yet (as much as, say, Gunsmith Cats). 4 out of 6.

In total, Volume One of XXXHolic gets 23/42.