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xxxHOLiC, volume 2
Del Rey, 190 pages

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

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Kit O'Connell

Volume 2 of xxxHOLiC dives into cross-over territory with its sister saga, Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE, right from the opening pages. As depicted in volume 1 of the latter comic, Kurogane, Sakura, Syaoran, and Fai D. Flowright arrive at the shop of the powerful witch Yuko Ichihara. In addition to the events already familiar to readers of Tsubasa, we learn more about the black and white Mokonas, their abilities, and the cost each of the travellers pays to Yuko in return for transit to other worlds. Even so, there is plenty in xxxHOLiC, volume 2 to interest you if you are determined to only read one series.

In fact, the authors seem to be taking the reigns and setting down the foundation for the comic's larger story arc after a somewhat aimless (albeit entertaining) opening volume. Kimihiro Watanuki, Yuko's indentured servant, learns more about the strange world of occult Japan as he follows the witch first to a series of fortune tellers, and then to an ancient temple for a night of ghost stories. Kimihiro continues to try to win the heart of fellow student Himawari. However, he is now paired off in a classic rivalry for her heart with the far more dashing and athletic Domeki, a temple priest. Kimihiro's curse means he constantly attracts harmful spirits that, coincidentally, Domeki can exorcise; even if they can't stand each other, fate seems determined to force them together.

Clouds of smoke, many-armed evil spirits, wonderfully expressive characters, and gorgeous calligraphy crafted by a hand very skilled at panel layout make each new page a joy to the eye. Each character brims with personality -- Yuko's every gesture is full of languid but potent magical energy, Kimihiro is the very picture of the anxious student with his mussed hair and frantic behaviour, and Himawari seems the very image of innocent beauty. The ghost story sequence is especially striking, particularly the sequence in which each character's simple act of lighting a warding candle serves to illustrate the tensions between the group.

Volume 2 also introduces more unusual concepts in Japanese spirituality, such as the tradition of telling ghost stories in the heat of summer or their love-affair with divination in all it's myriad forms. However, I did find the translation a bit lacking in places especially where it dealt with some of these complicated concepts. In particular, when Yuko and Kimihiro visit a fraudulent astrologer Yuko's subsequent explanation of the basic technique known in the West as 'cold reading' was almost incoherent to me except for my pre-existing familiarity with the concept. Overall, the language is not as polished as the previous volume and translator Bill Flanagan should have spent a little more time on his dialogue.

Though the plot seems to be heading towards a fairly standard manga love triangle, and some of the deeper meaning may get lost in translation, I still recommend xxxHOLiC: volume 2. The art and deft characterization will keep readers satisfied throughout and leave them curiously about the direction the story will take in volumes to come.

Copyright © 2005 Kit O'Connell

Kit O'Connell is a writer and bookseller from Austin, Texas. Not just a book critic, his poetry has seen print on Storyhouse Coffee Cans, among other places, and he has survived Burning Man twice. He is sporadically at work on short fiction which he won't tell you anything about, but you can read his regularly updated journal at

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