xxxHOLiC Manga Volume 19 Review (Finale and Final Thoughts)

xxxホリック Volume 19 (finale)
xxxHOLiC volume 19 manga review

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xxxHOLiC volume 19For this final volume, highlights include Ame Warashi visiting Watanuki with a special order of chrysanthemums that Washiki Warashi picked for him so that he can make a special sake from them.  A ghost from many years ago visits, so Watanuki grants her wish. Watanuki gets a call from Himawari-chan, who’s revealed to be married now. Kohane-chan, now a young woman, is given a kimono by Watanuki. Doumeki brings an artifact from his professor for Watanuki to check out. It takes the human form of a young teen girl, but Watanuki is able to determine it to be a Hie-gushi.

Watanuki starts dreaming of a butterfly, leading to a dream where it starts turning into Yuuko-san. Using his power, Watanuki manages to catch the butterfly, which does turn into a silent Yuuko-san with a silent message letting him know that after more than 100-years in the shop, he is now free as his power is great enough and the price has been paid. However, as he tells Doumeki’s grandson, Watanuki will continue to run the shop, and Doumeki’s grandson decides that it is still not time to use the egg Doumeki had been given so many years ago.

There’s a sense of sadness as I write this, partially because what had been a good manga is over, and partially because this is the last Del Rey publication.

Mostly though, there is bitterness. I delayed writing a “final thoughts” post after the last chapter came out in Japan, but I’m going to do so now.

This volume is CLAMP basically telling people, “You know what? We thought we wanted to keep xxxHOLiC going as a series, but then we decided we were bored with it, so up yours.”

For me, it also confirmed that CLAMP really had no plan for the series from the start and simply made it up as they went.  Some manga-ka can get away with this, such as Mashima-sensei of Fairy Tail fame, or even Fujishima-sensei of Ah! My Goddess fame.  With those two, they don’t make a pretense of trying to write anything grand. They simply write adventure or comedy stories as their whim strikes them, and they pretty much don’t worry about continuity errors or the like. While fans may point out plot holes or continuity errors, fans pretty much accept them and move on.

With xxxHOLiC, CLAMP attempted to be adventurous linking this seinen manga with their shounen manga that they wrote at the same time, Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-.  At the same time, because xxxHOLiC was a seinen title geared toward an older male audience, CLAMP tried to make the manga more than just an adventure series with a bit of comedy and hint of romance on the side.  They made xxxHOLiC darker in tone, exploring humanity with different cases brought to Yuuko-san for her to resolve (by granting a wish, providing the client could pay in kind).  They brought an air of mystery, both in terms of Watanuki’s life, and in terms of Himawari-chan, whom Yuuko-san often had remarks about.

Despite being saddled with Tsubasa, xxxHOLiC did fine for quite some time.  The stories were interesting, and we got to meet many interesting characters, both human and youkai.  There was even an interesting love-triangle with Watanuki having strong feelings for Himawari-chan and the female youkai Zashiki Warashi having strong feelings for Watanuki. Watanuki grew as a character, we learned some very interesting things about Himawari-chan, and the manga was very enjoyable.

However, it was in volume 14 where CLAMP’s wild orgy of plot twists in Tsubasa had its spillover effects in xxxHOLiC. Suddenly, things had to be retconned. The “Obaasan” whom Watanuki had met early in the manga, and for whom it was said that she was the real deal when it came to fortune telling, had to be retconned into something stupid so that Watanuki could now be something else.  Further, the accident that Watanuki had which was caused by Himawari-chan’s cursed luck suddenly gets retconned into Watanuki actually wanting to commit suicide.

Sadly, as CLAMP made their insane twists to connect the character of Watanuki with the Tsubasa character of Syaoran, xxxHOLiC became hobbled because of it.

When Tsubasa finally ended the madness, resulting in the departure of Yuuko-san from xxxHOLiC, CLAMP actually made an effort to revive xxxHOLiC.  Watanuki was no longer the servant, but was now master of the shop.  He made mistakes, but he grew in power.  He could no longer leave the shop, but he could send Doumeki and Kohane-chan out on missions.  He provided Doumeki with a powerful ring that doubled as a spiritual bow.  With all of this, the series became good an interesting again, despite Yuuko-san’s departure and CLAMP’s unwillingness to show Himawari-chan’s face again.

However, by this last volume, CLAMP decided that enough was enough and that they’d just rather do something else. As a result, we fans are left holding the bag of a story that is “resolved” after a fashion, but in a completely unsatisfying way.  CLAMP never actually allows Watanuki to see Yuuko-san for real.  CLAMP never allow fans to see Watanuki and Himawari-chan together (and indeed, they marry her off at some point).  CLAMP never resolves Zashiki Warashi and her feelings for Watanuki.  They didn’t even know what the heck to do with the second egg they brought over from Tsubasa.  Instead, they have Watanuki 100+ years in the future, dealing with Doumeki’s grandson, and basically being what?

So what is the result of all this?

Well for me, it is very difficult to even try to reread the manga. Before CLAMP went south on everything, I used to reread the series prior to the release of a new volume from Del Rey (on top of keeping current with the chapters freshly released in Japan).  Now, looking at the manga, I just feel sick inside, knowing that pretty much all was for naught, other than CLAMP sticking it in the eyes of fans.  What happened to the CLAMP that wrote things like Cardcaptor Sakura or Chobits?

How did Del Rey do on this final outing from them? Well, they have a few color pages to start the manga (I never did understand why they reprinted those pages as black-and-white as well) as well as the translator notes from William Flanagan, who is quite adept at handling CLAMP’s writing style.  Oddly enough, there are still ads at the back for former Del Rey titles, including messages telling people to sign up and learn of new releases from Del Rey.  If only that were true.

In the end, I don’t regret supporting Del Rey on xxxHOLiC.  There may come a day when I actually will want to reread this series and I’ll be glad to have it on my bookshelf.  However, the combination of xxxHOLiC and Tsubasa let me know that CLAMP aren’t a guaranteed win when it comes to manga, and thus anything else I read of theirs, I expect the worst.

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12 Responses to “xxxHOLiC Manga Volume 19 Review (Finale and Final Thoughts)”

  1. Anonymous says:

    This WAS one of my fav manga…
    after I read the end sometime ago it break my heart… CLAMP’s manga I really enjoyed until the very end is CCS nothing else…
    THis and the Chronicle has a sad end for me, though Chronicle get better and also hinted in Holic..
    I hope there’s someone out there makin a very good fanfict for this story…

  2. Ultimaniac says:

    I was actually prepared to get over the retconned stuff here since I liked the direction the series was going towards the end. So sad to see a series just halt like this…

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Ditto. Once xxxHOLiC shed itself of Tsubasa, things became interesting and good again. Heck, even when the Tsubasa crew showed up in the new xxxHOLiC, I didn’t mind. What might have been…*sigh*

  3. It’s more than just Tsubasa and xxxholic. If you follow another of CLAMP manga called Drug & Drop (renamed from Gohou Drug), it also had connection to xxxholic when Watanuki appeared and requested labor from the Green Drugstore… With this, I think ClLAMP tried to leave an open ending for xxxholic for future continuation or sth.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Man, I’d forgotten that Gohou Drug was getting a proper sequel. I actually haven’t read it yet, though I do have it somewhere (I think there were three volumes). I may have to try and find that, read it, then get to reading Drug & Drop.

      Anyway, I do remember the cameo in xxxHOLiC, but considering how enamored CLAMP had become with characters from their former series, I figured the cameo was just a bone to Gohou Drug fans.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t know much about these series, but I don’t think Draco was talking about that old cameo on the xxxholic side, but rather the more recent one in Drug & Drop last year.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Ah! Thanks for the info. ^_^

  4. lehst says:

    Finally, someone else that agrees that xxxHolic would have been better off it it hadn’t been crossed-over with Tsubasa so much. The early bits were interesting, but it was terrible when they decided to make it a huge part of Watanuki’s character.
    My thoughts exactly, that xxxHolic “got good again” when Tsubasa ended.
    It’s sad that xxxHolic didn’t really end, but I suppose I’m happy that Watanuki can easily appear in other manga. He’s probably my favorite character in all of existence.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I think CLAMP always intended from early on to have XXXholic be the vehicle through which they can thoroughly explore the multiverse concept, along with soulmates, destiny and eye-balls. Watanuki was meant to inherit the shop and Doumeki would be his right hand and Himawari would be around. After a few years of appearing in other CLAMP works, the conclusion of Wata’s personal journey would commence I reckon.

    but CLAMP being CLAMP, they poured in the angst by having Wata stuck for a 100 years, while still having a Doumeki clone around and cutting off Himawari. The scene is still the same, the context isn’t.

    REI feels CLAMP getting down to the business of completing that third and final part of Watanuki’s story. Although it feels sudden, the lukewarm reception to Kobato, and maybe gate 7 could have had something to do with it. Not to mention the seeming final chapters of legal drug/drug drop.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      >I think CLAMP always intended from early on to have XXXholic be the vehicle through which they can thoroughly explore the multiverse concept

      I think they left that more to Tsubasa than xxxHOLiC, but I know what you mean. ^_^

      >REI feels CLAMP getting down to the business of completing that third and final part of Watanuki’s story. Although it feels sudden, the lukewarm reception to Kobato, and maybe gate 7 could have had something to do with it. Not to mention the seeming final chapters of legal drug/drug drop.

      Kobato just never jelled properly with me. Gate 7 has some deep waters, thanks to the massive links to historical Japanese figures. Never read Legal Drug nor Drug & Drop, though I’ve been curious ever since their cameo in xxxHOLiC back in the day.

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