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xxxHolic Rei, Vols. 1 + 2

xxxHolic Rei, Vol. 1xxxHolic Rei, Vols. 1 + 2
Created by Clamp
Kodansha Comics
Rating: Older Teen (16 +)

Student Watanuki has an odd job. He works for the mysterious Yuko in her mystic shop which is visitable only to those who need her services. Over the course of these two volumes Watanuki and fellow student Domeki aid and observe Yuko as she tends to the various customers and the supernatural problems they bring with them, but even then there’s more going on than meets the eye. Clamp returns to one of their recent hit series with xxxHolic Rei, Vols. 1 + 2!

Initially I thought I’d have little to no problem with xxHolic Rei, Vols. 1 + 2, but after reading a little bit of the first volume this was clearly not the case. Yes, the series is a sequel to Clamp’s popular xxxHolic series, but I thought this follow up might provide new readers with a decent jumping on point. It doesn’t. It throws you right into the action without explaining the already established relationships between the various characters, or going into detail about the nature of Yuko or Watanuki’s abilities or the circumstances that brought him into her service. Still, I stuck it out and puzzled some of it out as I went along, and for the rest of it, well, that’s what Wiki and the internet is for.

These two volumes are primarily made up of short stories about the different clients who find their way to Yuko’s store. These can range from friends with similar phone charms and the mystery that links them, to supernatural yokai in need of assistance and more. Each tale, however, is only the tip of a much larger iceberg. By the end of the first volume it’s clear that there’s something going on with Watanuki and that whatever it is, thematically, relates to the various cases shown in both volumes. Wishes, the desires of man, the ability or inability to move on or return to a place that they miss, all of them are screaming “big picture,” and while the big picture is no more clear by the end of the first two volumes of xxxHolic Rei, it’s abundantly clear that there is one.

Page from xxxHolic Rei, Vol. 1

An example of the mist effect being worked into the overall page design.

While these two volumes throw you into the middle of already existing characters, relationships and a world with some clearly established rules, it’s worth noting that Clamp makes it very clear who each character is and the kind of person they are quite quickly. From the get go it’s apparent that Watanuki’s a bit high strung, while Yuko’s sensuous and mysterious with a playful side that enjoys poking fun at Watanuki. This isn’t just due to the writing, but also the art! The luxurious and sensuous clothing that often drapes Yuko thin form speak quite loudly to her personality, as does Watanuki’s properly worn school uniform. Clamp’s always been known for their sense of style and fashion and they use their interest and fondness for these things to help inform characters and express their personalities in everything from body language to the clothing. The constant use of wisps of smoke or mist to suggest a supernatural presence is a fantastic choice and adds to the mystery and allure of Yuko and her shop. Even better is the way the wisps are worked into some of the page designs designs, it’s small touch but a one that helps unify and reinforce Yuko’s mystery and allure. Likewise the heavy blacks and clean, slick line work does are deceivingly simple but incredibly effective at conveying character and emotions. Even the lack of backgrounds, something that usually drives me nuts, doesn’t feel lazy but instead like a choice to help reinforce the almost surreal and dreamlike atmosphere that permeates these two volumes.

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of mixed things about xxxHolic and the other Clamp series it links up to, Tsubasa, and while I’m not sure I’m ready to go out and buy up both series, I can safely say it proved to be a pleasant surprise. xxxHolic Rei, Vols. 1 + 2 are dripping with a languorous and sensuous atmosphere, with just the dash of mystery to keep me curious about what might happen next. The shorter stories that populate the two volumes are interesting and at times haunting, but perhaps what I’m most interested in is what’s going on with Watanuki?

xxxHolic Rei, Vols. 1 + 2 are available now from Kodansha Comics. Review copies provided by the publisher.

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