Thursday, October 13, 2011

Manga versus Animé: xxxHOLiC by Clamp

xxxholic color spread

Kimihiro Watanuki hates the fact that he can see the supernatural in our mundane world. One day a ghost chases him to a strange shop run by Yūko Ichihara, a femme fatale witch who grants wishes. After reading his fortune, Ichihara offers to stop his visions--but first he has to work for her. Ichihara has clearly taken Watanuki on as an apprentice, but Watanuki isn't clued into this fact as he follows her and learns the basics of fortune-telling and wish-granting.

This is a very fun, cute story. Watanuki overreacts to everything, which weirdly enough makes him endearing and a nice foil to the other characters. Ichihara and her little Mokona (rabbit thing) love to eat and drink, and they seem to ground the entire series in a state of earthly delight. The magical element is also really well-done: Ichihara's practices are clearly based in Buddhist philosophy, and the magic is unusual by Western standards.

That being said, I had trouble getting into this manga. I think it had to do partly with the art, which I occasionally found very confusing to follow, and partly with the fact that the storyline is integrated with Clamp's other mangas, which I haven't read. Sometimes trying to figure out where these stories were going was very tiring. There are explanations of Japanese culture and references from Clamp's other series at the end of the books, which was awesome, but that didn't help me much while I was reading; it only made sense at the end.

After about two volumes of the manga, I thought I'd give the animé series (available on hulu) a go. Although the animé compressed the story in parts and rearranged some plot elements, it was much easier to follow, particularly as far as the action was concerned. I wish I'd watched it before starting the manga, even though the animé came after the manga.

Despite my problems with it, I do think xxxHOLiC is definitely worth checking out, in either format.


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