xxxHOLIC Rei, Vol. 1

By CLAMP. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

(This review is based on an advance copy provided by the publisher.)

There is a genre of fanfiction that is quite popular these days called ‘fix fic”. This is when you have a beloved series that then does something horrid to your favorite character or pairing, and moves in a direction you hate. You then write something to resolve this dilemma, either bringing the character back, breaking up the hated pairing, etc. You could also try simply ignoring that anything happened after a certain point. Tara fans who watched Buffy like doing this, saying their fanfic ignored everything from Seeing Red onwards. And now we have CLAMP, returning to their own work only a couple of years after wrapping it up with a contested ending. And we have what seems at first to be a bizarre case of the creators writing their own fix fic.


If you enjoyed the early volumes of xxxHOLIC, boy, is this the volume for you. We see the return of the entire cast. Yuko is getting drunk, harrassing Watanuki, and acting mysterious. Watanuki is angry at absolutely everything, and tends to have supernatural events drawn to him. Doumeki continues to be the stoic not-boyfriend (the BL tease is through the roof here, something noted by Yuko). Himawari is there to, well, bounce plot ideas off of – for some reason Watanuki’s crush on her isn’t focused on quite so much, possibly as CLAMP know their audience. And there are some nice moments of existential horror, such as when we see what’s been following Watanuki around and asking him questions. I also loved the customers of the volume, which continues a theme of xxxHOLIC of supposedly mild, pretty women hiding amazingly petty depths.

And yet anyone who read the original series is left to ask “what the hell is going on here?”. Doumeki still has his egg, so this isn’t a total reboot. And there are little hints that this is not really a reset but something of a continuation after all. Is Watanuki trapped in some sort of fantasy where he goes about the early manga shenanigans? Is this the world we’d be seeing if the dreaded name “Li Syaoran” had never crossed anyone’s lips? I suspect this is the case, even though I don’t want it to be, because I really did not like xxxHOLIC’s ending at all, and would really like to avoid ending up back in that place. And so you’re left with the ambiguity, which of course is what CLAMP revels in with this series.

Nevertheless, even if I worry about the endgame, this is a terrific volume to pick up for those who dropped the series around the 30,000th Tsubasa crossover. The art is terrific, still one of the main selling points (just look at that cover!). There’s some examination of human nature that’s cringeworthy – in a good way. And there is Watanuki, still the best creation CLAMP has come up with in the past ten years, back to trying to come to terms with his life and not simply accepting that he has to live in Yuko’s shop for the next 100 years. That alone is worth the price of the book. Let’s see how long it keeps up before the illusion is ripped away.

xxxHOLiC Volume 15

By CLAMP. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Magazine. Released in North America by Del Rey.

I have a very love/hate relationship with this title, which has a bunch of things I adore, but also a bunch of really irritating things. This volume in particular is a good example.

First of all, I’m not sure if you recall, but the early volumes of xxxHOLiC were actually quite funny. Yuko in particular was an endless vein of humor with her drunken antics, and Watanuki was in a constant state of apoplectic rage. It was a good thing, as the stories themselves could be quite melancholy, so the humor helped to balance things out. Unfortunately, events in recent volumes, this one in particular, slide everything to the melancholy side a bit too much. Watanuki in particular seems to have mastered the art of looking like he’s accepted the saddest fate in the world. It was actually refreshing seeing his complete breakdown in the final chapter.

Of course, there is one bit of hilarious humor right at the start of this volume. Let me quote it to you: “Although it isn’t necessary to read Tsubasa in order to understand the events in xxxHOLiC…” Isn’t that just a STITCH?

I may, of course, not be the best judge of this. I have read Tsubasa, after all. But it strikes me that anyone who’s trying to keep track of just xxxHOLiC is going to find themselves thinking this volume is rushed and doesn’t explain much. And yes, this is at heart CLAMP, Kodansha, and Del Rey trying to get you to buy both series. But I suspect Tsubasa fans who decided to skip xxxHOLiC ended up with the better deal in the end.

All that said, I did find much to enjoy in this volume. Though I felt the cooking plot dragged on a great deal, it reads better in volume format, and is blessedly resolved here. Watanuki’s dogged persistence is admirable, and he gets to the heart of the matter without any need for Yuko at all – which turns out to be for the best. And though I have issues with Watanuki and Yuko’s final scene, it is fairly gut-wrenchingly emotional, resolving the very first plot point of the series, and with Watanuki making a promise that I suspect was a bit too rash, but is entirely understandable.

And we see Himawari! I love Himawari. It must hurt to have a fandom so devoted to the two boys that they don’t even bash you, as they simply feel you aren’t enough of a threat to their couple. (To be fair, CLAMP seem to feel the same way – Domeki and Watanuki have enough Ho Yay to choke a goat.)

Most of all, xxxHOLiC is CLAMP’s mood manga, evoking through its beautiful art a gothic, melancholy world that would not be all that fun to live in, but is very nice to read about. Tsubasa was the epic crossover from hell with a plot so complicated that it makes your brain hurt, but even at its worst, xxxHOLiC gives a sense of peace. I suspect CLAMP feel the same; after all, Tsubasa is over but xxxHOLiC continues in Japan. They like to draw this series.