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External Movie Reviews: ×××HOLiC: The Complete Series

You can take away a man's gods, but only to give him others in return.
—Carl-Gustav Jung

Case in point: Kimihiro Watanuki of ×××HOLiC.His god, as it were, is his unwanted ability to sense spirits and drawthem to himself. Diabolical auras. Impish tengu. Haughty weatherspirits. Yes, he’s even heard the mermaids singing, each to each, andhe’d rather they not sing to him. He’d rather trade in his gods. Hereceives a goddess as a replacement instead.

Or, rather, awitch: Yūko, she who runs a strange little shop where wishes arefulfilled but never without a price being paid. She can take away hisaffinity for the spirit world, but it will cost him. That cost is paidin the form of being her part-time employee: slaving in her kitchenover a hot rice cooker, throwing spur-of-the-moment parties for her andher two childlike spirit-servants and that “black dumpling thing” namedMokona. And every now and then he has to run errands of a supernaturalbent, which throw him back into contact with the very things he hates,hates, hates.


No, Watanuki would rather be serenading his school sweetheart Himawari,and doing his best to avoid his dour and reticent classmate Dōmeki. Thelatter comes between him and the former all too often, but it’sapparently unavoidable—or as Yūko puts it in one of her oft-repeatedphrases, inevitable. It was inevitable that Watanuki would cometo that little shop, inevitable that he would trade his watch and workpart-time in her shop to ward off the spirits once and for all,inevitable that he would find himself spiritually bound to Dōmeki(since he wards off spirits the way Watanuki draws them in), and so on.

Or maybe none of that is true. Perhaps she is goading him, howeverunderhandedly, towards being more comfortable just as he is. Perhapsshe knows, from personal experience (which she doesn’t speak directlyof) that for him to dump these abilities and live “normally” is a BadIdea. These powers of his may seem like annoyances, but she knows howvaluable they can be—not to others, not even to the world at large, butto himself. It’s a mistake to just rid one’s self of them the waysomeone would throw out a ruined suit of clothes.

I’ve seen ×××HOLiCin two lights for a long time now. One is as the adaptation of CLAMP’smanga, which I’ve enjoyed and stumped for and defended in the face ofpeople whose most substantive objection is that the characters lookweird. (I guess they forgot they were, you know, reading manga. Everythingin manga looks weird. It’s the territory.) Light #2 is what I’ve beenoutlining above—the real story under the story, the things Yūko does totrick Watanuki into becoming more comfortable with being exactly whathe is. She’d rather not have to put him into karmic hock to besomething he’s not, because the parade of people who come through theshop for just such a thing are poster children for unpayable karmicmortgages. The lady who can’t break her internet addiction. The girlwho can’t stop lying about even impossibly trivial things. The womanwho comes into possession of a wish-fulfilling monkey’s paw withbrutally stern terms of use.

Small wonder Watanuki cherishes most the slower moments in hislife—the days when he and Himawari can sit and enjoy a meal, or when hecan cook something for her and not have Yūko or Dōmeki or Mokona gobbleit up. But as times goes on, it becomes clearer to him that he’s partof something larger that he cannot wall himself off from. He is part ofall this strangeness, just as it is a part of him—and in fact there’s agreat deal about it that is not strange at all once you train yourselfto look at it as Yūko does. “If you think everything’s decided, then itis; if you think nothing’s decided, then it is, too,” as she points outearly on. Your world is what you choose to make of it, even if you seemat first to be at its mercy. That said, it’s one thing to simply talk about such things and another thing entirely to live them out.

Onre-reading what I have written here, I realize now I’ve probably madethis show seem like a grim slog through Fate and Destiny andResponsibility. It’s not. It’s often quite funny, with a good deal ofthe humor milked out of Watanuki’s spastic (and slapstick) reactions tothings—mainly, the way other people do not react to the thingshe does. A good deal of humor in the series also comes from the wayCLAMP loves to wink at their fans: at one point Watanuki wears, to hisimmense disgust, a two-way radio that looks exactly like Chii’s ears from Chobits. (There’s an additional side-reference to Chobitsin the same episode, involving a storybook…you can probably guess whatI mean.) But the show’s funny only because it knows that humor is agood way to soften up an audience—and a cast of characters—inpreparation for difficult truths.

×××HOLiC wraps up its heady collection of ingredients inone of the oddest and at the same time most appealingly strangepackages I’ve encountered. The ingredients should not fit together, butthey do. There’s gentle romantic comedy, David Lynch-ian weirdness, anda certain amount of blunt life lessons, all in about equal proportions.There is also the presentation—the lush, vaguely decadent visual stylethat everyone either admires or winces at, but which always getspeople’s attention. It’s fun to look at, but it also gets under yourskin. All the better a way for it to communicate its message, which isboth cautionary and visionary.

Tags: CLAMP Japan Production I.G anime review

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the categories External Movie Reviews, Movies, published on 2009/07/31 15:48.

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