xxxHolic: Omnibus 1

“A lasting relationship with a woman is only possible if you’re a business failure.” – John Paul Getty

Kodansha has now begun releasing omnibus editions of xxxHolic, one of the longest running series by the CLAMP group of female manga artists. The issue here is, because of all of CLAMP’s cross-referencing, is it a good idea to get it? Will it be too confusing for new readers?

The series begins with a schoolboy Kimihiro Watanuki, an orphan who has the ability to see all kinds of spirits – an ability he hates. One day he comes across an odd, old-looking building in the middle of the city. He seems to enter it by forces unknown where he meets the owner, a witch called Yuko Ichihara. Yuko tells Watanuki that the building is a shop. She, along with her child-like assistants Maru and Moro, sells wishes to people. Yuko grants Watanuki his wish to be rid of troublesome spirits. The price is that he must become Yuko’s part-time housekeeper and cook.

xxxHolic follows the shop’s encounters with customers: Watanuki’s colleagues from school Himawari Kunogi (his love interest) and Shizuka Domeki (his greatest enemy), as well as people arriving from totally different dimensions. The customers who visit the shop often come asking for help, but in the end they find the price for Yuko’s services too great.

Like most of CLAMP’s work, the best bit is the art. In this case the characters, especially Yuko. She is always seen in the best outfits, traditional and modern, with appealing hairstyles and other physical aspects that are also pleasing. The stories are also entertaining, making the most of Watanuki’s abilities. For example, a woman comes into the shop and Watanuki sees a fine black smoke coming from her. He then tries to figure out what possible bad habit is causing it. In another story, Yuki gives a woman who loves antiques an object that she is told not to open. However, when the woman accidentally opens it, she finds it is a monkey’s paw, and she cannot stop herself from using it to make wishes.

The main issue with this work, and indeed most of CLAMP’s titles, is all the cross-referencing. xxxHolic began at the same time as another work, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, and features characters from Tsubasa appearing in xxxHolic, which is confusing if you have not read both titles. The series also makes references to X, Magic Knight Rayearth and Cardcaptor Sakura.

This is the one problem I have with CLAMP. They make great works. Lots of them in fact. But if, like me, you are one of those people who likes to watch everything in order, it gets really annoying. You feel that you have to get the first work they made, and read each title in chronological order. To make things more complicated, lots of different companies own different CLAMP titles. Kodansha owns xxxHolic and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle; Dark Horse owns Tokyo Babylon, Magic Knight Rayearth and Cardcaptor Sakura; Viz Media owns X; and CLAMP’s very first title, RG Veda, was licenced by TokyoPop, but they are now out of business, so no-one publishes it. RG Veda is certainly in my list of titles I would like to see return.

Getting back to xxxHolic, if you are worried about not being able to understand the references, the book does contain an “Artefacts and Miscellany”, detailing all the cross-referencing that is made in each volume. You also have a standard “Translation notes” section.

As a result, if you are new to CLAMP, reading it is not too confusing. It is still entertaining and beautiful to read and look at. Therefore, think of it as a long-term investment. It is a good buy, but you may want to consider looking at all the other CLAMP titles too, and also encourage publishers to re-release titles that are no longer available.

7 / 10

Ian Wolf

Ian works as an anime and manga critic for Anime UK News, and was also the manga critic for MyM Magazine. His debut book, CLAMPdown, about the manga collective CLAMP, is available now. Outside of anime, he is data specialist for the British Comedy Guide, is QI's most pedantic viewer, has written questions for both The Wall and Richard Osman's House of Games, and has been a contestant on Mastermind.

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