xxxHolic Series Review: Everything Has a Price


Watanuki can see spirits and they bother him fairly continuously. One day, as he is being harassed on the street by spirits he touches a fence and suddenly they back away. Entering the house he meets the mysterious Yuuko who offers to fix his problem in exchange for Watanuki working in her store where she grants wishes for a price. Though reluctantly, Watanuki accepts her offer and enters a world full of strange and supernatural occurences.


The idea of a mysterious person being able to grant wishes for a price is hardly a new one in fiction. Its pretty much as old as they come when you consider Rumpelstiltskin and other fairy tales that play on exactly that notion. What makes xxxHolic interesting is that you never really know if Yuuko is out for personal gain or not. While the price she demands at times seems steep, she always follows through on her end of the deal and considering what is being asked of her it only makes sense that it come at heavy cost.


So the premise of this story works fundamentally very well. As does the slightly spooky and yet glamorous setting of Yuuko’s store/house. It is unsettling and yet visually compelling as is Yuuko’s basic appearance. She is beautiful but beautiful in a way that makes you sense something slightly inhuman about her. The opening music, the butterfly motif, all of the aesthetics work at creating a truly enjoyable atmosphere for a mysterious story about spirits, contracts and other supernatural occurrences.


What I like less about the show is Watanuki himself. He is an incredibly irritating character. His hissy fits, his moments of self-delusion as he imagines himself with the pretty girl from school that he clearly has a crush on even though she’s clearly up to something, his sudden bursts of anger, his constantly underestimating or misinterpreting Yuuko’s actions… He is an incredibly childish character and most of the time you just want Yuuko to put him straight and yet for the most part his actions go without rebuke. Occasionally she’ll deliver a cutting remark to make him reflect and then we get the even more painful Watanuki being humble scene usually before he flies into yet another unwarranted rage.


This means I kind of have a love/hate relationship with the show. I watched xxxHolic because I loved Tsubasa Chronicles and Yuuko’s brief appearances in that anime fascinated me. On learning there was a story focused on her I just couldn’t resist. And she is fantastic while Watanuki is just kind of tiresome.

It isn’t as though he doesn’t grow some through the course of the series and certainly the follow up season did have him grow significantly. However, despite liking the overall premise of the show and loving Yuuko and the aesthetics, Watanuki is a bit of a sticking point. He just isn’t a lot of fun to watch as a character.


The rest of the cast are all kind of interesting or forgettable by various measures but they help to fill out the world and give direction for Yuuko and Watanuki so that isn’t really a problem. Watanuki’s friends (?) from school each have secrets of their own though in the first season of xxxHolic little is revealed about that.


Each episode is more or less a stand alone story, however artefacts from previous stories come up later and Watanuki becomes more knowledgeable and asks less questions later on in the series. Still, the basic set up is someone comes to the store or Watanuki stumbles upon something, there’s a brief consultation with Yuuko and Watanuki will usually be unimpressed with her initial response so do something stupid, there’s another consultation with Yuuko where someone will make a deal and she’ll either take action or direct someone to take action to resolve the problem. It is fairly formulaic but it doesn’t feel overly repetitive given the sheer number of different issues the characters face.


If you are in the mood for a slow paced story with a little bit of mystery and a focus on the supernatural, xxxHolic is certainly something worth checking out. Not to mention, some of the quotes that you will come across in this show will stick with you long after you finish watching it.

If you’ve watched it, please let me know your thoughts.

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Karandi James

Kobato Series Review



This one is kind of hard to explain without spoilers but I will avoid the major revelations as much as possible. Essentially we are following Kobato who has limited memories but has arrived in the town with Ioryogi (who looks like a stuffed toy) and she has a mission. Essentially she has to fill a jar with shiny things and she does this by healing the hearts of those around her. Later we learn there is a time limit as to how long she can take to fill it the jar. Meanwhile, Kobato gets a job at a childcare/kindergarten and slowly grows closer to the children and the others working there. This anime also got a spot on my Top 5 Christmas Focussed Episodes list.


This anime is all about sweetness and light and breaking your heart so if that isn’t appealing you should probably move on. While there is a supernatural element at play this anime all boils down to human emotions and experiencing them and learning from them. While most episodes fall into the Kobato finds someone who has a problem and by the end she’s solved said problem and left them smiling, the ongoing story of Kobato’s quest to have an unnamed wish fulfilled is never forgotten as Ioryogi steadily works to keep both Kobato and the audience on track with what the real story is supposed to be.

And that’s probably how Kobato gets away with being so ridiculously sweet early on. There isn’t much happening in the story in the first half. She gets a job, she meets people, she says naive things, she sings a lot, and she occasionally manages to help out in situations. If that was all there was to this story, some people would still enjoy it as a nice slice of life. But between Ioryogi and Fujimoto we realise not everything in this anime is sweetness and light.

Ioryogi knows a lot more about what is going on with Kobato and the wish than he is intent on letting on. At times the audience are given some insight into what those secrets are as Ioryogi occasionally leaves Kobato’s side to visit his ‘friends’ and we learn about his past. As you would expect from CLAMP, this backstory is full of magic and lore and while we never learn all of the details, the picture it paints is pretty vivid (and part of me wonders why we didn’t get to see that story instead, though perhaps the imagining of what happened is greater than the viewing would be).  This darker side to the story lets us know early on we’re dealing with a tragic tale and it gives us just enough to really cut through that sickly sweet tone that Kobato herself keeps throwing off.

The other reason this show doesn’t become overly adorable is Fujimoto. He is a very angry young man and of course bullies Kobato fairly mercilessly for being useless (which given she has no memories and other than singing can’t really do anything is probably a fair call). Of course Fujimoto is actually a great guy under it all and Kobato is going to become infatuated, hence the Christmas episode with the potential love triangle, but Fujimoto injects some very much needed rancour into what the early episodes.

For fans of Tsubasa Chronicles there’s also a small cameo from some of our favourite inter-dimensional travellers during one of the episodes.

Other points of interest include Kobato’s outfits. She has one outfit for each season so it is very easy to keep track of time and how long she’s been there and how long she has left. The time limit is literally the only thing driving any sense of haste in this story as Kobato herself is completely unable to really care about time passing. As Ioryogi becomes desperate, Kobato all but throws off her duty to fill the jar to go on a personal mission to save Fujimoto and at that point most of the pieces of the puzzle as to what is going on click but the final revelations in the last couple of episodes will still break your heart and then slowly help you piece it back together.


There’s an array of interesting side and supporting characters and some of these add much needed humour and human interactions. The whole kindergarten getting shut down storyline is necessary though seems really dragged out at times and yet still manages to turn itself around into something sweet.

That’s really the recurring theme. Things don’t really end they just get new and different beginnings. It fits with the overall tone of the anime and makes the ending a little easier to take. And it’s a theme that is interwoven through almost every plot and subplot in this story so there is a cohesion to this show that is fairly rare in anime.

Anyway, this isn’t fast moving, it isn’t overly exciting, and the emotions it hits you with are clearly telegraphed from a mile away but it is very effective and it is some good entertainment for when you just want the world to be a little bit nicer (first half) or when you’d like a good cry (second half). I would recommend this anime but I know that it won’t be for everyone and Kobato as a blank slate protagonist (particularly in the early episodes) is certainly not going to win everyone’s hearts no matter how sweet she is.

If you’ve watch Kobato let me know what you thought of it.

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Karandi James.