xxxHOLIC Vol. 8 (Del Rey)

holic-headerManga super studio CLAMP exceeds even their own high standards in this bizarre series.

 

 

192 pgs. B&W; $10.95

(W / A: CLAMP)

 

xxxHOLIC is a bizarre manga, even for CLAMP. Best known in America for creating Chobits and Cardcaptor Sakura, CLAMP is renowned for unusual series concepts, boundary-breaking plots, and memorable, three-dimensional characters. The celebrated all-female hive of comic creators has really outdone itself this time, with a series that combines Japanese high school life with a free-wheeling, often-frightening supernatural world.

 

The cover to xxxHOLIC Vol. 8 by CLAMP.The protagonist, Kimihiro Watanuki, is a high school student who discovers, unwillingly, that he is a magnet for supernatural activity — specifically monsters and spirits. He is the only one who can see these invisible creatures, a fact that leads to plenty of comic situations and personal alienation. His only ally in the fight against these forces — who, in Volume 8, seem hell-bent on stealing his eyeball — is Yuko Ichihara, a beautiful, batty, and somewhat intimidating sorceress who has promised to remove Watanuki's connection to the supernatural realm, as long as he works as her indentured servant for an unspecified period of time.

 

As ever, CLAMP's artwork is some of the best you'll see in manga today, and a welcome departure from the big-eyed, super-deformed work common in fantasy titles. Magic spells, charms, and supernatural energies are rendered with swirling, twirling lines that genuinely suggest the illusion of movement. And Watanuki's reluctant battle with a female spider-demon is a wonder to behold.

 

But, like many other CLAMP series, xxxHOLIC is not for the casual reader. Characters, visual references, and events from other CLAMP titles — most notably Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, which is being published concurrently — frequently crossover into the storyline, making xxxHOLIC a bridge that connects and interrelates the entire CLAMP universe. Needless to say, this is awesome if you've already read Tokyo Babylon, X/1999, and Tsubasa. If you haven't, there's a good chance you'll miss out on quite a few subtle plot and character developments. What's more, xxxHOLIC itself is an extremely involved series, with a deep internal mythology. Fans of the title will be pleased to see Watanuki gain a new power in Volume 8, but newcomers should do themselves a favor and begin with Volume 1. | J. Bowers

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