Review by: Eduardo Zacarias
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Genre: Graphic Novel (Kodansha Comics)
MSRP: $10.99 US
Rating: T (Ages 13+)
Release Date: September 13, 2011
The store is under new management and it’s business as usual.
Those who have been following xxxHolic (as well as key volumes in the Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle) knows that the series has never been short on surprises and none was more surprising than the loss of a main character who made the series such an interesting one. Now, in Volume 17 of xxxHolic, the new shopkeeper starts to really fit into the role that will change his life forever.
A few years has passed since Yuko – the Temporal Witch and owner of a mystical shop – met her fate and vanished from this world leaving young Kimihiro Watanuki in her place. It was not easy taking over the shop he had once served as a mere apprentice and even harder now that Yuko was not there to guide him. However, Watanuki has gained much from his sacrifice that goes beyond immortality and knowledge. Despite becoming more powerful since he took over as shopkeeper, he is never to leave the confines of said store.
Of course, he’s not alone because Shizuka Domeki has become Watanuki’s assistant and link to the outside world. As we saw in Volume 16, Watanuki has taken awhile to become accustomed to the duties of being shopkeeper but, in this volume, we find that his personality has changed enough that he has the same mysterious and all-knowing allure that Yuko possessed. He even wears her robes, although there’s another reason he does this that is revealed later.
He even smokes her same pipe, which brings us to the opening of Volume 17 as he is visited by the Pipe Dealer rabbit who not only fixes Watanuki’s pipe but also has the new shopkeeper say the words that invite the beautiful Joro Gumo that had devoured Watanuki’s right eye. She’s as seductive as ever as she comes to him for an item that she needs him to obtain. She wants a red pearl, which isn’t easy to come by but she gives him spider thread that will help him find the way.
It is Domeki who looks into the matter as he discovers the location of the red pearl or the way to obtaining one coming from an apartment building that reminds Watanuki of one he went to with Yuko in a case where a woman was hooked on the internet. Since he’s not able to leave the store, Watanuki visits the apartment via his power that allows him to travel via dream. There he meets a beautiful woman who is wrapped in bandages.
As it turns out, this mysterious young woman tells him that she is being beaten by the one she lives with and as Watanuki continues to speak with her it becomes clear what this woman is and how she’s connected to the red pearl that the Joro Gumo wants from her.
As Watanuki fulfills his side of the transaction, we come to learn a little more of what having taken the store means to Watanuki and those around him. In an interesting and heartbreaking few pages, Watanuki is on the phone with Himawari as they make a long overdue confession. Unfortunately, Himawari isn’t even able to be in the store either but, despite this great sacrifice, he is still content with the decision he made in taking this responsibility.
In the final chapter, Watanuki gives Domeki his birthday present that actually turns out to be a powerful tool that he gets to test out when Watanuki lets the wards against evil entities down. It’s clear that Watanuki and Domeki’s relationship has come a long way since they were just students and his role as assistant is an interesting turn of events.
Volume 17 of xxxHolic speaks volumes of Watanuki’s commitment to seeing to the store that Yuko had left under his care as the young man is accepted as the shopkeeper. The Watanuki we once knew is replaced by a wiser young man who has taken it upon himself to carry out the unusual duties that were once Yuko’s obligations and, yes, a new owner brings with it something new as the series is quickly coming to an end. CLAMP never ceases to amaze and this volume is proof of that.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Still settling into the role of new shopkeeper, Watanuki finds himself doing a service for the beautiful Joro Gumo who wants Watanuki to get a red pearl for her. Using spider thread, the young shopkeeper and Domeki discover its location. However, Watanuki finds himself meeting a very unusual girl on the other end of the thread who might need his help.
The artwork throughout the series has been extraordinary and that’s no real surprise considering the fact that CLAMP has never disappointed with it comes to their visual style. Watanuki in Yuko’s slowing robes is an unusual sight, to say the least, but somehow it suits him.
If anything, Volume 17 of xxxHolic really drives home the feeling that Watanuki is now officially the true inheritor of Yuko’s shop. Things begin to change for the young man and those around him as he performs a task that shows us that his powers are growing in a very interesting manner that will make the next final volumes something we will definitely look forward to as this series comes to an end soon.
Review copy provided by Del Rey Manga (Ballantine Books)