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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Manga Review: XXXHOLiC GN 17

XXXHOLiC volume 17
Author: CLAMP
Del Rey Books
192 pages

Major spoiler warning: Do not read the following review – even the book summary! – if you are not up-to-date with the series so far. Read at your own peril!

Watanuki no longer leaves the wish-granting shop he inherited from the witch Yûko. What’s more, he must help everyone who walks through its doors—even the monster that ate his eye! How can the still-inexperienced Watanuki handle what can only be called one dangerous customer?

Its partner series, Tsubasa, ended quite a while ago, so for XXXHOLiC, it seems the end is inevitably nigh. So you would expect a lot of action leading up to the finale, right? Err, not exactly. This volume – especially compared to those in the past – seems to enjoy taking it slow and easy. With Watanuki taking up the mantle of Yûko completely and Domeki assuming the role of the reluctant assistant, it doesn’t look like it will be concluding anytime soon unless something incredibly drastic happens in the last two volumes. It’s a solid book but there aren’t many major momental events in this volume and at this point in this series, it’s more of a drawback that a plus.

Read the rest of the review after the jump!

In this volume of XXXHOLiC, we see the return of the Jorōgumo, the one who devoured Watanuki’s right eye in the eighth book, and she has a request of Watanuki – to retrieve for her a red pearl. I almost wish she was in this volume more; her presence is a much-needed break from the Watanuki & Domeki show this series has become, especially since sweet Himawari’s presence has been reduced to a voice over a phone. Let’s be honest: as much as I love Watanuki, the absence of a more diverse cast beyond Domeki is taking a serious strain on my enjoyment of the series. It makes me wish Watanuki opened up the shop to people like him without homes, who can interact with the supernatural, and can live safely within Yûko’s shop – but I guess that’s a story for another series, or an AU fanfic (ya hear me, fandom?).

Even with the drama of retrieving the red pearl, this volume is rather quiet. What little momentous occasions there are happen with little fanfare, except for maybe the gift of the thimble at the end of the book. There are still things by the end that don’t have any clear explanation, like Domeki’s egg and how Watanuki will live in Yûko’s shop for the rest of his life – and, of course, Domeki’s bow. There is also the question of if any more connections to Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle will spring up before series end, especially since those who have read the series know that Syaoran is out and about on yet another quest. Because right now? The lack of serious plot movement has me worried about what the ending will look like.

Which isn’t to say this is a bad volume; it’s more a collection of quieter moments in the wish shop with Domeki and Watanuki and the twins, which means a lot of heartfelt banter and drinking. It’s also a volume dedicated to highlighting the change within Watanuki, who is now the shop owner for life, and is literally growing into Yûko’s role, even going so far as to wear the robes and smoke her pipes. It’s actually two-fold; integrating himself into Yûko’s space and belongings is the best way he can remember her, as the fear of eventually forgetting her is so real for him and his new founded extended lifespan. These are some interesting issues that I can only hope the last couple of volumes get to explore in full. And, of course, the art is absolutely gorgeous, full of that dark gothic style that sets XXXHOLiC apart from the other CLAMP series currently publishing. But overall, this volume isn’t anything special, unless you value the Domeki and Watanuki friendship above the other components of the series. I can only wonder – will the end of the series be satisfying or leave me empty? If it is anything like this volume, it may end up being the latter.