xxxHolic: Manga Quartet Clamp at Their Most Refined

xxxHolic illustration

The release of xxxHolic marked a turning point in Clamp’s career. Coming out alongside the more shonen oriented Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, the group tried something grand in simultaneously publishing two manga that not only often crossed over but attempted to unify elements and canons from some of their older legacy titles like Cardcaptor Sakura and X.

While Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle was always the star of this particular show, with Clamp’s equivalent to Naruto, xxxHolic was arguably the better comic. Some real old school goth presentation coupled with an appropriately morose atmosphere and odd curiosities to be found around every corner, it made for a more subdued yet fulfilling read and watch over the years.

While these two comics were the last big project Clamp worked on before finally just restarting Cardcaptor Sakura, xxxHolic, in particular, contains some of the most focused work they’ve ever penned to paper.

How xxxHolic Differed From Other Clamp Manga

xxxHolic Manga cover Vol 1Clamp always played around with dark imagery in a large chunk of their works, like the apocalyptic urban fantasy X and its prequel series Tokyo Babylon. However, xxxHolic went for a more classical gothic feeling opposed to the edgy and fatalistic darkness that imbued Clamp’s more mature tales.

Crossing over with Tsubasa when needed and making subtle nods at other pieces in the greater Clamp universe, xxxHolic served as a more subtle grounding for Clamp’s grand ideas at a multi-series canon.

However, on its own, xxxHolic was a much more subtle tale for the ladies behind Chobits and Cardcaptor Sakura. Going for a more mature readership, it remains a unique work without equal in the Clamp bibliography.

Maybe You Missed xxxHolic Rei.

The nearly decade long run of xxxHolic wrapped up in 2011, with the final volume hitting English shelves just a year later. By that time, Clamp’s popularity had waned considerably from their late 90s, early 2000s days as arguably the most famous manga creators in the United States. 

While people will always remember Cardcaptor Sakura, other tales like Magic Knight Rayearth, Chobits, and even Tsubasa failed to enjoy the same enduring popularity.

It’s possible that you missed Clamp launching sequels to both xxxHolic and Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle in 2013, with xxxHolic Rei adding some additional twists onto the climactic ending of the original. Unfortunately, like Clamp’s X and Legal Drug, xxxHolic Rei seems to be on a never-ending hiatus currently. 

The xxxHolic Anime Had Some Charm Too

The two seasons of xxxHolic are a bit of a weird entity, especially considering that the second series xxxHolic Kai was never released in the United States. It came out in that weird time after hand-drawn animation became scarce, yet before digital animation really hit its stride; admittedly, the show fails to capture the manga’s beautiful visual style. That doesn’t mean it’s not without its own flare.

While the anime doesn’t look nearly as pretty as the manga, it still successfully retains some of that gothic atmosphere. With a lot of moody acoustic guitar and whispery synths in the soundtrack, the anime strikes a certain melancholia that, while the manga has, feels a little more realistic in the show. There is something captivating about seeing Yuko’s weird world brought to life.

xxxHolic illustration

The Mysterious Characters That Inhabited xxxHolic

xxxHolic is the rare kind of tale where the art, atmosphere, and presentation take center stage over the individual plots and character development. That doesn’t mean the series isn’t filled with a handful of interesting denizens that help endear you to its mysterious world.

Among others, you have the bright and bubbly Himawari and the stoic yet obedient Domeki to help round out the cast, but there’s a duo who the work truly revolves around.

Yuko Ichihara, Resident Shop Owner, and Extremely Powerful Witch

The centerpiece of xxxHolic and a character we still can’t get enough of, Yuko operates the mysterious shop that seemingly only appears before people when they have no other means of getting help.

She’s a witch and calling her a mystery would be an understatement; While not a bad person, she has little compassion for those who break the terms of her service. Strikingly beautiful and always wearing some elegant get up, she’s someone to behold in every scene and panel we see her in.

Kimihiro Watanuki, An Unlucky Boy Who Can See Spirits

All Kimihiro Watanuki wanted was to get rid of his ability to see ghosts and ghoulies that have haunted him, in more than one sense of the word, since he could remember. A bit stiff for his age, the self-serious Watanuki agrees to work at Yuko’s shop in exchange for her removing his aptitude for the paranormal in a partnership that would eventually change his life in myriad ways.

He crushes on Himawari and often butt-heads with Domeki along the way, but ultimately he’s a good boy.

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