Saturday, August 7, 2010

xxxHolic vol. 1 by CLAMP

When he bumps into a garden wall, Watanuki Kimihiro's legs get a life of their own and lead him inside.  There, he finds an enigmatic witch known as Yûko, and she tells him their meeting was fated.  She grants wishes for a cost, and she knows his-- she will take away his burden of seeing spirits after he works off her price.  He grudgingly accepts, but he is not prepared for he methods...

This was a great first volume for another series by the legendary mangaka collective CLAMP.  The set-up is a little cliché and rushed, but it's worth it to start exploring Watanuki's character and Yûko's work.  Contrary to all expectations, Yûko turns out not to be the kind of witch that grants every shallow wish, requiring steep or ironic prices.  Rather, she seeks out people who have wishes they're afraid to voice, and attempts to help them find the solutions they already know.  This allows the creators to explore very down-to-earth problems and probe realistic psychological complexities, which I found very satisfying.  And in seeing her work, I began to suspect she was offering Watanuki something else-- perhaps showing him what his powers can actually do.

A few peeves: CLAMP work in allusions to their other works that, while you don't need to know them to appreciate the story, do make the narrative hiccup.  Also, there are a few Japanese puns that, rather than being explained in a footnote by the translator, are pushed to an appendix, leading to a delayed appreciation.  But these are minor quibbles, and overall I would love to read the rest!

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