This anime is best thought of as a series of clever, spooky short stories with some continuing characters. Viewed that way it is quite entertaining.
There’s another way to look at it that’s a bit less satisfactory. We have here the story of a young man who is irritatingly immature, yet it is strongly hinted that he will someday become a person of consequence. So this could be the story of how he overcomes his youthful immaturity and becomes a true hero–except in the end a year has passed and he still has a long way to go.
Fantasy, Comedy, Drama, Horror
24 Episodes on 6 DVDs
English, Japanese with subtitles
Nanase Ohkawa (CLAMP)
Ageha Ohkawa, Michiko Yokote
Region 1 Publisher
CLAMP has always had a tendency toward strangely elongated character designs, and in recent years these have become more and more exaggerated. I don’t find these designs particularly attractive but I can get used to them. I think with CLAMP the main attraction has always been the storytelling (usually weird but good), rather than the artwork (generally just weird.)
Many of these stories are too scary for young children. Age 10 might be a reasonable minimum.
Premise and Characters
Inside a walled garden, oddly nestled beneath the towering skyscrapers of Tokyo, there sits a strange house decorated with crescent moons and butterflies. The place is difficult to find but you might stumble upon it if you have need of it.
This house is the shop of Yuuko Ichihara
, an intimidating woman given to dark, oracular pronouncements. She dresses provocatively, smokes an ornate pipe, enjoys sake and rich food, and likes to quote Clow Reed
The shop includes a storeroom filled with mysterious items, but its real business is granting wishes. Yuuko is prepared to grant any wish that you might make, but you must give her something of equal value in exchange. You should probably keep your wishes simple; otherwise the price may be more than you can bear. As always with deals of this sort, you should be careful what you wish for. If Yuuko offers enigmatic advice you should listen carefully.
Yuuko’s servants Maru
(l) and Moro
(r) are small, giggly girls dressed in strange outfits. They have little wings which may or may not be part of their costumes.
Yuuko’s companion Mokona
is a fat, black, rabbity sort of thing. This Mokona is different from the one in Magic Knight Rayearth
in that this one is black and speaks Japanese.
is an unlucky high school student 
suffering from an unpleasant curse. He was born with the ability to see the spirit world. In some stories this might be a benefit, but in his case it is bad news because what he sees are mostly evil spirits who want to eat him. This has helped make him nervous, hypersensitive and prone to hysteria.
I don’t want to be too hard on Watanuki. He’s not the most unlikable hero in anime. The problem is that he is just sympathetic enough that his sometimes childish behavior drives me crazy. In his defense, he’s had a hard life even aside from the evil spirits. His parents died when he was young and he’s been fending for himself ever since. His intentions are good and he does try hard.
Watanuki finds himself in front of Yuuko’s shop and is drawn inside. Yuuko tells him that she can free him from his curse, but that he doesn’t have anything valuable enough to give in exchange. Instead she tells him that he must work for her part-time, cooking and cleaning and running errands, until he has earned enough to pay for the wish. (She doesn’t say how long this will take.)
Fortunately Watanuki is a hard worker and a fairly good cook.
Watanuki has a crush on his classmate Himawari Kunogi
, though of course he can’t bring himself to confess his feelings. She’s a nice girl and she seems to like him–at least she goes out of her way to put the best possible spin on his childish behavior. On the other hand, there’s no evidence that she thinks of him as more than a friend.
Yuuko urges Watanuki to cultivate the friendship of Shizuka Doumeki
, his classmate and soccer rival. Watanuki cannot stand Doumeki, partly because Himawari likes him and he is afraid that Doumeki will steal her away. He has reason to be concerned. Doumeki is tall, handsome, laconic and exudes an air of calm competence. He could probably have any girl he wanted. Fortunately for Watanuki he doesn’t seem romantically interested in Himawari, or for that matter in any of the other girls that he meets.
Yuuko’s advice is sound. Doumeki cannot see spirits, but he is the son of a priest and has an exorcist’s power to repel or destroy them. He and Watanuki would potentially make a good team. Fortunately he ignores Watanuki’s insulting behavior and seems to want to be his friend.
Not all the spirits that Watanuki sees are evil, and some seem rather nice. However they are all potentially dangerous and it can be difficult to distinguish the bad ones from the other sort.
A “movie” called xxxHolic: A Midsummer Night’s Dream was shown in theaters in 2005. This was actually just a 40-minute episode that was shown as a double-feature with a similar episode of the related (though inferior) series Tsubasa Chronicles. Both are available on a combined DVD from FUNimation.
A second season of xxxHolic has started broadcasting in Japan. It remains to be seen whether it will advance the overall story.
Wikipedia article (spoilers.)
ANN Encyclopedia entry.
 Pronounced “holic” as in “alcoholic.” Most of the stories deal in some way with addictions, compulsions or obsessions.
 The opening title song says “I hate myself at age 19,” but Watanuki has to be younger than that, given that he’s in high school and not even a senior. The song also doesn’t accurately describe his mental state (and a good thing too!) I have a feeling that they picked it mainly because of the reference to black butterflies.
I’m excited about season 2 also! I think it is just continuing on following the manga like season 1. I know there were a couple times when things were out of order in season 1, just after reading the first few manga volumes, but other than that I’m not caught up so I won’t know the difference!