xxxHolic: Volumes #7 and #8

When Watanuki opens Volume #7 with the line “It’s looking like good things will happen today!”, well, you just know he’s going to get into a spot of bother.

Our protagonist Watanuki still works at the shop owned by the “Dimension Witch”, Yūko.  She granted his wish way back in Volume #1, and working at the shop is his payment.  This leaves High School student Watanuki with very little free time, but whenever possible he tries to get close to the impossibly cute Himawari.  She’s blissfully ignorant of his feelings, though, and they are often joined by their classmate, the austere Dōmeki.

So do good things happen to Watanuki in these volumes?  Well, no, because losing the sight in one’s right eye is generally not considered a good thing.  It all begins harmlessly enough, when Watanuki gets his arms caught in a spider’s web, and Dōmeki helps him to get free.  But little do they realise, they angered the spider and put themselves at the mercy of the spider’s curse, and the result is Watanuki’s lost eye.

The curse and its repercussions are introduced in Volume #7, while the next Volume resolves the arc, interluded with the usual fleeting visitors to the shop.  It was often speculated that Watanuki would permanently lose his right eye, and yet, I never really believed this would happen.  So any mention of this notion lacked the intended gravity, in my opinion.  But the end of the arc was at times dramatic, creative, and did take me by surprise.

And although the story is good, in these volumes it takes second place to character development.  Specifically, the characters of Watanuki and Dōmeki and their relationship.  They profess to dislike each other, and yet, they go out of their way to help each other.  They begrudgingly respect each other, and deep down, they like each other, too.  Watanuki’s character is the one that develops the most, he is becoming stronger, more confident, and more accepting of Yūko and her world.  He learns an important character-defining lesson in Volume #8, and it provides a moral for us all.

The artwork from CLAMP is the usual high quality gothic fare, with Yūko’s eye-catching outfits generally stealing the show.  Neither volume contains even a minor crossover with Tsubasa, which helps keep the story focussed.  Released by Tanoshimi, each volume contains abundant Translation Notes.

A good mix of fantasy, humour, and an entertaining story arc with a moral behind it, means that xxxHolic continues to impress.

8 / 10