Today I have a short review of xxxHolic, Vol. 14 in a special Tuesday edition of Manga Minis. This series is so wonderfully rich and there is much I might have said about this volume, given more space. I’ll try to include some of it here.
First of all, one of the things I discussed in my mini is the level of warmth this series has taken on. The “sweet” moment I mention between Watanuki and Mokona, for instance, is so adorable one could die, and when Kohane asks Doumeki why he remains with Watanuki, the image Doumeki calls forth–Watanuki by the river on a particular rainy day–is enough to break one’s heart. That this is followed by Kohane asking Doumeki to “Take care of Kimihiro-kun… please?” is truly the final nail in the coffin.
It is here, too, that I must mention CLAMP’s effective use of paneling, because it is not so much the dialogue that does the work here, but the imagery. Doumeki doesn’t respond to Kohane with anything more than the squeeze of a hand, but the way that moment is built up–with a flashback to Yuuko’s ominous words about hesitation, individual profiles (cut narrowly within wide horizontal panels) of Doumeki and then Kohane, then a single page consisting only of a larger, fuller profile of Doumeki followed by a close-up of his hand squeezing Kohane’s–draws out the moment perfectly, giving it enormous emotional weight. Similarly effective means are used in the story’s next scene too, in which Watanuki confesses his new resolve to remain in this world. The panels are clean and heavy on contrast as is usual for CLAMP (especially in this series) and this deceptive visual simplicity, much like simplicity of language, allows for stronger statements than could ever be made with more verbose visual language.
This volume is filled with foreshadowing, which I suppose is no different than the rest of the series to this point, but at this point the foreshadowing contains a sense of urgency and immediacy that has not been present before, at least to this extent. That a customer arrives in the middle of it all–something we haven’t seen for quite some time–might appear to break the momentum, but it actually seems to be a part of it somehow, with Watanuki taking on Yuuko’s usual role. A later scene with the voices (but not the bodies) of Maru and Moro only strengthens this feeling, and the book’s final scene sets an uneasy, anticipatory tone for the next volume, despite the unearthly calm of its participants. Will it be Watanuki who is able to grant Yuuko’s wish after all, just as he has hoped to do? It seems likely that we will find out soon.
What read as cold philosophy at the beginning of this series has become intimate personal drama fourteen volumes in, and even Yuuko can’t pretend to be detached from the story’s outcome, particularly as concerns Watanuki, whom she obviously loves. Though I think it goes without saying at this point that reading Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle has become an essential part of understanding this series, there is something deep at the core of xxxHolic that stands entirely on its own, and nowhere is that clearer than in this volume.
Click here to read my miniaturized thoughts on the subject (I’m not lying about the food thing; I made rice balls immediately after reading this volume). And please, read xxxHolic. It is truly a thing of beauty.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
danielle leigh saysOctober 20, 2009 at 1:24 pm
*sniffles* Well. Yes. “What she said” seems painfully inadequate but you always do right by this wonderful series. I look forward to getting this volume (maybe next week?) so I can see for myself the panel construction / flow you discuss here.
Melinda Beasi saysOctober 20, 2009 at 10:45 pm
I look forward to seeing what you have to say about it as well! *heart*
Laura saysOctober 20, 2009 at 10:19 pm
Great review! I have really enjoyed the evolution of this series as well, and you express that so fluently. Though the two series are interwoven, this one still stands on its own charm and characters – as you so vividly describe. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out in the end.
Melinda Beasi saysOctober 20, 2009 at 10:46 pm
Thanks, Laura! It’s sort of a weird hybrid review, spread out between here and Manga Recon. I always feel kind of weird when I do that, but sometimes there is so much to say! :)
I too am really looking forward to seeing how this all plays out.