I’ve been waiting anxiously for the official release of xxxHolic volume 12, and though it’s been quite an ordeal getting to finally read it (late shipments, car crashes, etc.) it was such a treat to finally really sit down with it. I read it once last night while I was still pretty screwed up in the head (that would be the car crash factor), and then again tonight, slightly less screwed up. Both reads were pretty intense. Volume 12 is very special to me, and I’ll talk a bit about why.
Those who know me well know that I had an unusual and rich dream-world growing up, and though that world faded during my teenage years, I still have an intense fascination with dreams and with stories that play with dream-realities, which xxxHolic begins to do in a very big way in this volume. As the volume proceeds, it becomes clear that we have no idea what parts of what we’ve been reading have been “real” and what parts have been a dream. We are experiencing everything exactly as Watanuki is. This is done so beautifully and so well. The way Watanuki connects from “dream” to “dream” to “reality(?)” reminds me of my favorite recent Doctor Who episodes, “Forest of the Dead” and “Silence in the LIbrary,” in which we see Donna moving through a dreamlike world, place to place, with no transition but thought. In xxxHolic, the transitions between dreams tend to happen movement-to-movement or image-to-image in ways that don’t make sense, but do, just as in dreams.
One of my favorite scenes in this volume is the one in which Watanuki and Doumeki are visiting Kohane at her house. Just as Kohane’s mother is throwing hot tea in Watanuki’s face, he drifts off, just for a moment, into his dream world, pushed back again into “reality” by Haruka’s reprimand. The fact that Watanuki would fall into a dream just at such a moment is so telling and so significant that it, perhaps more than anything, has stuck with me ever since my first read.
There are so many things I love about this volume–so many significant moments. Watanuki’s realization that he no longer remembers his parents’ names is one, along with all the things that go along with that. All those little things–that he can’t remember ever tasting any of the food he’s cooked, the constant pleas for him not to vanish, his conversation with the ghost he befriended as a child–everything is suddenly intertwined. It is impossible to know for sure what any of it means though it is certainly all meaningful. My favorite episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was always “Restless” and volume 12 of xxxHolic is like an entire volume made up of the same things that made me love that episode so. It is that but more, because the universe of xxxHolic stresses even more the significance of every choice we make, every word we say, every passing thought on the universe as a whole.
Volume 12 is also the point in xxxHolic where I feel it is really helpful to have been reading Tsubasa as well. Watanuki has a great deal of interaction with Sakura through his dream world and much is made of his connection to Syaoran, though perhaps what makes the real difference is that Sakura speaks so often (and so affectionately) of Fai, who is a character we’ve heard really nothing about in xxxHolic since he first appeared at the beginning of the series. Also, there is something about Watanuki’s memory that is revealed in Tsubasa at this point but not yet in xxxHolic, and I was very glad that I knew about it as I read volume 12.
I’m running out of steam a bit here as my mind still is not truly itself (again, car crash), but it’s hard not to ramble on about this volume. I do love it so. I’d love to discuss it with anyone who is able, so please do jump in if you have thoughts!