Reviewed by: Azure
Released by: Tanoshimi
Publishing Country: UK
Age Rating: 13
Page Count: 208
Watanuki Kimiharo sees strange spirits all around him, in fact they seem drawn to him. By chances after being chased by one of these strange spirits he encounters the strange space/time witch Yuko. Yuko offers to help him, but in exchange he is tricked into working for her.
xxxHolic wastes no time getting into the action, within a few pages the main protagonist Watanuki is stepping into Yuku's shop. Yuko is a strange woman who claims to grant wishes, but she always demands a price. She insists Watanuki's arrival is fate, and that he has a wish to be granted. Watanuki doesn't want to be bothered by spirits again, Yuko tells him that his wish can be granted only after he works for her enough to meet her price. Unfortunately for Watanuki he doesn't exactly know how much work his required.
Watanuki's job with Yuko provides a perfect excuse for yet more supernatural encounters. Whilst a lot of his time is spent running chores, he is soon dragged into helping with Yuko's cases. In this volume there are two main stories, the first involves a young woman who has lost the use of her little finger. Much to Wantanuki's discomfort Yuko won't help directly she insists that the woman is brought her trouble upon her self. It's a theme that runs through this manga strongly, on one hand Yuko talks strongly about fate on the other she is also insistent that free will is important.
xxxHolic crosses over strongly with previous Clamp work, there are numerous references throughout many of which are explained along with the translator's notes at the back. The most important work with which it crosses is Tsubasa Chronicles which Tanoshimi is also releasing. Though it's not necessary to read both series to understand what is going on the books work well together and will no doubt both reward and impoverish devoted fans.
The artwork is extremely stylised and drawn with bold clear lines with very little toning at all. The panels are clearly defined which make xxxHolic extremely easy to read. Whilst Watanuki largely seems to be the typical downtrodden Japanese school boy, he has an unusual look to his character especially around the eyes which hints that there is more to him than he seems. Yuko is also an interesting character, she is no doubt very powerful but her motives are often unclear. She seems devoted to helping people, but on the other hand takes advantage of Watanuki and seems set by her own rules about what is fair. xxxHolic also fills out the cast of the shop with several mascot characters. There are the strange twin like girls Maru and Moro who's main function it seems is to mock Watanuki and provide Yuko with company. The strange rabbit like Makona also makes an appearance this volume, as it provides the link with Tsubasa chronicles as well as providing a link with Clamp's magic nights Rayearth.
Though the link with Tsubasa might strike some as a step towards a .hack style money draining marketing campaign xxxHolic functions well on it's own as an engrossing supernatural mystery series. The art and story telling are stylish and absorbing.