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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » xxxHOLiC: Fourth Collection
xxxHOLiC: Fourth Collection
FUNimation // Unrated // July 29, 2008
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted July 28, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Show:

The all-female manga team CLAMP has certainly been doing well for themselves in the anime world. With a devout legion of followers on both sides of the pond CLAMP has carved out a name for themselves. From series such as Chobits to Card Capture Sakura and even Tsubasa there's no denying that each of their concepts are equally as entertaining as they are unique. For some time now we have been enjoying their latest effort, xxxHolic, as it embodies all of the team's strengths and weaknesses.

xxxHolic follows the exploits of Watanuki who is a teenage boy with a problem. It would seem that his family has strong spiritual connections and poor Watanuki finds himself in a bit of a pickle. Spirits and other worldly things have a tendency to gravitate towards the boy. He's a magnet of sorts that simply attracts them because for whatever reason he seems tastier than most humans. The poor kid spends his days dogged by these beings that only he can see so it's only natural that he wants nothing more than to get rid of them. As the old saying goes, "Be careful what you wish for."

Watanuki soon finds himself in the employ of Yuko, who is a mystic of some variety that hasn't' been explained quite yet. Under the guise of "jobs" Yuko exposes Watanuki to all manner of spiritual situations where his unique ability comes in handy. Along the way came another character and partner of sorts for Watanuki named Doumeki. This kid is the polar opposite of our protagonist and thanks to fate and a little help from Yuko the two become inseparable rivals and friends. Wedged in between them is Himawari who is an object of desire for Watanuki and an interesting dynamic for the show.

Right away xxxHolic makes an impression thanks to the tone of the art style and presentation. CLAMP is known for elongated character designs and very uniquely crafted worlds. Both of those are characteristics that xxxHolic embodies but it's more the concept that makes this show as enticing of a nugget as it is. The characters are well-conceived and there's a lot of development scattered along their journey. Unfortunately the show becomes very episodic early on and up to the third volume that appears to be its Achilles heel. The fourth volume offers four more episodes which break the mold somewhat and there're actually some connections to previous episodes that help tie everything together. In other words this installment offers up a nice change of pace even if it doesn't completely alter preconceptions about the episodic content.

The funny part about this installment is that it doesn't really bring much in terms of new content to the table. The same supernatural motif is present in full force and the characters are every bit as endearing and interesting as you'd expect them to be. Heck, the first episode even offers up a stand alone story featuring Watanuke helping a girl with a very peculiar problem. That's not what makes this volume interesting though.

The second and third episodes here follow Watanuki and Doumeki as they go on a double date with a pair of twins. With two episodes to tell its story with this plot felt much more fleshed out than some of the previous ones we have seen. It was also fun to see the two rivals/friends in that kind of situation and it really pushed their relationship to new levels. The final episode here is another one-shot affair as we've come to expect from this series but it also brings some older characters out of the woodwork. From the Pipe Fox to the entertaining Zashiki-warashi this send-off for the fourth volume has some nice touches in it.

The thing about this volume that makes it feel more successful than the others are the concepts that it explores. Watanuke is put through the gauntlet here and the writing allows from some deeper more emotional elements to be drawn from the source than you typically get from anime. There are many messages and morals hidden throughout the storytelling and that is undoubtedly one of CLAMPS' strengths. Some of the episodes can feel as though they drone on with this series but every once in a while the material gets nice and deep. While it doesn't necessarily push the show down entirely new paths it does open some new avenues that it hasn't fully explored. Hopefully this will continue with forthcoming installments and even if the show slips back into an episodic pattern let's just pray that it comes through with complex developments and deep emotional subplots.

The DVD:

Video:

xxxHolic's fourth volume is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The show was produced in 2006 and it maintains a very nice look with some great designs and a high level of detail. Colors have always been a big part of CLAMP's productions and this particular series is no different thanks to the vibrant palette. The image does suffer a bit with quite a large amount of grain in just about every scene. It gives off a very fuzzy look that doesn't allow the series to pop like it should.

Audio:

Thankfully the audio presentation for this DVD is significantly better. The English and Japanese 2.0 tracks present crisp dialogue and clean sound but the English 5.1 takes the cake with the added channels. The sense of immersion for this show isn't the greatest as it's mostly a dialogue-driven program but the material that makes it to the rear channels definitely spruces up the experience. The dubbing quality for both is also exemplary and I found myself unable to choose between the two (though the 5.1 won me over).

Extras:

Some trailers, clean animations, and an image gallery are all you're going to find on the fourth volume of xxxHolic.

Final Thoughts:

Whether you're a fan of CLAMP stuff or not xxxHolic is an entertaining show with a very interesting concept. Each character is well-developed and the stories are written masterfully but in the past couple of volumes the series feels like it has droned on. Forgettable one-shot stories and episodic content haven't helped the series and though they are part of this installment the episodes felt better somehow. There were some nice concepts explored in terms of character development and the two-part story in between was definitely a good change of pace. Hopefully we'll see equal quality in the coming volumes. Highly Recommended.


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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