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xxxHOLiC, volume 3
Del Rey, 208 pages

xxxHOLiC, volume 3
CLAMP is a group of four women who have become some of the most popular manga artists in America -- Satsuki Igarashi, Mick Nekoi, Mokona Apapa, Nanasa Ohkawa. They started out as doujinshi (fan comics) creators, but their skill and craft brought them to the attention of publishers. Their first work from a major publisher was RG Veda but they are perhaps best known in North America as the creators of Cardcaptor Sakura and Chobits. In Japan, CLAMP is currently publishing xxxHOLiC and Tsubasa with Kodansha, and Gohou Drug with Kadokawa.

SF Site Review: xxxHOLiC, volume 2
SF Site Review: xxxHOLiC, volume 2
SF Site Review: xxxHOLiC, volume 1 and Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE, volume 1
SF Site Review: Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE, volume 2
Del Rey Manga

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Kit O'Connell

Writers and manga artists take note -- as a lifelong fan of all things vulpine, putting kitsune (Japanese fox spirits) in your novels is a good way to make this reviewer favour your work. However, even accounting for this notable bias, Volume Three of xxxHOLiC may be my favourite of the series so far. It is certainly the most strongly plot-oriented volume yet. There is also fair amount of character development especially by the ever enigmatic Yuko and of course more weirdness from the manga's peculiar vision of occult Japan.

The opening story arc concerns Angel-san, Japan's answer to the Ouija board. Himawari tells Yuko about a school haunted by evil after students took up the innocent-seeming occult practise, and Yuko sends our hero Kimihiro and his spiritually-inclined rival Domeki to investigate. Although American occultists frequently speak of the dangers of the Ouija, I found xxxHOLiC to have a refreshingly unique view of where the true dangers lurk. There's also time for a little cross-over with Tsubasa and some Chobits inspired silliness for CLAMP's legions of loyal fans.

The second story, presenting CLAMP's take on William Wymark's curse of the monkey's paw, is probably my favourite of the volume; this is saying a lot since the aforementioned kitsune have nothing to do with it. A folk lore teacher at Kimihiro's school happens upon the courtyard of Yuko's shop while they are cleaning out her massive (and massively disorganized) treasure room. Self-righteously convinced she is meant to have everything she desires, the teacher insists on taking an ornate box containing the infamous simian appendage.

CLAMP deftly handles the way that slowly but surely her wishes prove to be her undoing until the final grisly conclusion. It's obvious to anyone with familiarity with the monkey's paw story where things are going once we know what's inside the box; the real chills come from Yuko herself. The witch makes a fascinating central figure for the series -- she is neither good nor evil, but merely does her own whims and follows the callings of hitsuzen, essentially that which is fated to occur. Though she often intervenes on behalf of those who deserve it, there is always a price. Here, the witch clearly knows she is dooming the folklorist to a terrible end when she hands over the monkey's paw, and yet she merely makes the teacher give a promise she knows very well will be broken. Few series deal with such appealing shades of grey, especially in a character central to the action.

The action is backed up also with CLAMP's usual masterful art, Del Rey's excellent translation and accompanying notes (translator William Flanagan seems much more comfortable with the subject matter than he did in Volume 2), and a very sweet supporting story about a restaurant and its fox spirits. Though I have been enjoying this series all along it is only with this volume that I can say I truly love it. If you love manga but have been avoiding xxxHOLiC until now, I think it's time to give it another look. I hope you'll fall in love too; it is hitsuzen.

Copyright © 2005 Kit O'Connell

Kit-sune O'Connell is a writer, bookseller, critic, hedonist, and a good enough cook to please even Yuko. He lives in Austin, TX with his cat and too many books. You can follow his escapades on his irregularly updated journal,

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