published in Empire No.83, Sydney
Thie double-feature DVD release of theatrical versions of Tsubasa Chronicles and XXXholic would be worth it for the XXXholic movie alone. Quite atypical for most anime made from manga produced by the immensely popular female manga quartet known as CLAMP, XXXholic bears a strong visual style which makes the story thoroughly captivating. The unnervingly calm Yuko (from Tsubasa Chronicles) seems to passively control young Watanuki. He is your average gloomy youth, afflicted with the ability to see spirits (gorgeously detailed in the opening scene). The story follows him, his droll friend, and Yuko to a strange mansion possessed by the spirit of a cruel collector of souls. But apart from the spooky premise of the story, the rendering and detailing of the mansion’s phantasmagorical labyrinth emboldens the anime with undeniable chills. Formed like a series of dream tableaux, many scenes feature Watanuki wandering into corridors and rooms that truly are products of fertile imaginations. Anime often maintains a high degree of visual disorientation in its dream-woven scenes, but XXXholic excels in this department. It also makes one realise that from the Japanese perspective, one of anime’s key pleasures is simply enjoying beautifully painted scenes, making XXXholic a mesmerising visual feast compared with the more prosaic Tsubasa Chronicles.