Sunday, March 22, 2009

'xxxHolic, vol. 1'

xxxHolic volume one mangaWritten and illustrated by CLAMP
Translated and Adapted by Anthony Gerard
Fiction/manga, 2003 (Japan), 2004 (US, English translation)
Del Ray, pb, 185 p.
Kimihiro Watanuki is haunted by visions of ghosts and spirits. Seemingly by chance, he encounters a mysterious witch named Yuko, who claims she can help. In desperation he accepts, but realizes that he’s just been tricked into working for Yuko in order to pay off the cost of her services. Soon he’s employed in her little shop – a job that turns out to be nothing like his previous work experience!
Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this one nearly as much as the other 2 manga (Emma and Monster) that I tried this month. Even though the other 2 were both set in Europe, they still had a Japanese flavour to the drawings and the way the stories were told, but this one felt distinctly Japanese. I guess it kind of fit into my preconceived idea of what manga would be like: supernatural elements, exaggerated actions and cho kawaii (super cute) characters, in this case Maru and Moru, that really didn’t seem to serve much purpose except to up the cuteness factor. Plus the fact that I’ve never read any of CLAMP’s other works, made me feel like I was missing out on the story a bit, since apparently characters and such regularly show up from their other series. There were some notes at the back to explain some of them, but still, I can't know the full significance not having read the other stories.

I also didn’t really enjoy the art. Some panels are very nicely drawn, but I often found the art a bit chaotic. And like I mentioned above I really disliked the over-exaggerated expressions of the main character, Kimihiro, to show his anger. And I found the English adaptations of the Japanese sound effect words to be distracting throughout, because in some cases the sounds were transliterated exactly, sometimes they were translated into English, like ‘clap’ or ‘sigh’, but in others they didn’t make any sense in English either. (I can’t read very many kanji but I can read the katakana that these sound words are usually written in). For example, one of the sound effects was ドロッ (do-ro pronounced 'dough-row') but was translated as “bloog”. Huh? Neither explains to an English speaker what that sound is meant to represent. I know this is a translation issue, not a problem with the original but I still found it rather annoying.
Even with all my complaints, there was one incident in the story that I found very amusing. A woman calls on the witch to help her quit her addiction… to the internet. It made me smile because I find I can relate, a little too much perhaps!
I have to quit… the Net. When I’m doing housework or even watching television, it’s always on my mind. I know I shouldn’t but suddenly I find myself in front of the PC.
Overall though I guess I prefer the realism of the other two manga, so maybe this one is simply too fantastical for me. Whatever the reason, I don’t plan to continue with this series. There are certainly plenty of other ones out there to try instead. But for some more favourable reviews, please visit the links below.

Read xxxHolic online

First sentence: There are a great many strange things in the world... but no matter how odd... how incredible something may be... if a human does not touch it... if a human does not see it... if a human is not involved with it... it is simply something that happened.

My Rating: 2/5
(#14 for 2009, Manga Challenge, Try Something New Mini-challenge)

Also reviewed at:
Read About Comics - vol. 1
Books & other thoughts - vol. 9, vol. 10, vol. 11, vol. 12
If anyone else has read this series, let me know and I'll link to it here.


  1. I've read a lot of CLAMP's manga and found them a bit of hit and miss. But I just love their drawings so much that I usually forgive some of their flaws (like super weird characters or meaningless storyline).

  2. I'm sorry you didn't like this one! It's one of my favourites, but I do have some of the same problems that you do -- particularly Kimihiro's over-reacting. It gets toned down a bit in the later volumes, but it still makes me roll my eyes. Later volumes have some lovely quiet moments, too, where Kimihiro really grew on me.

    That said, I think what appeals to me in particular is the fantasy/supernatural aspect of the manga, so I can definitely see how it wouldn't appeal to someone for whom that's not a draw.

  3. It's too bad this was disappointing, but on the plus side at least you won't be left wanting to keep up with a neverending series :P

  4. I enjoyed Emma more than other mangas I have tried too! I think it is more my type of read.

  5. mee - See.. super weird characters and a meaningless storyline doesn't sound very appealing! ;) I liked the art some of the time, but not enough to want to continue.

    kiirstin - I know this series is very popular but I think I'm just not the right target audience. I'm looking forward to trying some other manga series though.

    Nymeth - That is so very true! Course it frees me up to try another neverending series. lol. :P

    Kailana - I think we were spoiled by reading Emma. It's hard for others to compare! But I agree, that it seems more my type of story too.

  6. I'm sorry this one didn't quite live up to the other two you read this month, Nat.

  7. Wendy - It's ok, it was worth trying the first one to see what it was like. And there are so many different manga series out there, I'm looking forward to trying some other ones.

  8. Sorry you didn't enjoy this one. I am really looking forward to getting into this series, the artwork just looks fantastic.

  9. Rhinoa - I did enjoy the artwork some of the time, but didn't really care for the story. Oh well, there are plenty of other manga series to try.


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