Memories, Loneliness, Wisdom and Objects in xxxholic

While in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles the fanservice takes the form of reoccurring characters from previous CLAMP works, in xxxholic this is done with a way more subtle and mysterious way, that suits more obsessed/ well-informed fans: reappearance of objects. In general, the universe of xxxholic, where Yuuko -and later Watanuki- rules, is full of objects and not without a reason. 
To be accurate, some characters do cameo: Clow Reed, Rikuo and Kazahaya, as well as the four main characters from TRC. Then, there are two mentions through words – one about Sakura and Syaoran (and Clow) of Cardcaptors and one about Subaru from Tokyo Babylon. But yes, almost always it’s the objects that bear the image of their owners or their universe, namely they become their representatives.

This is a peek into Yuuko’s storehouse from vol. 14. From top to bottom and from right to left we have:

  • Fai’s tattoo that was bestowed upon him by Ashura-Ou; also the price for his journey
  • an Angelic Layer Doll kit
  • the photo of that cat spirit which is acquainted with Yuuko and gives her ‘holy’ sake
  • Ashura’s and Yasha’s swords which were the price paid by Ashura in Shura country to become gods
  • Kurogane’s Dragon Sword, his price for the journey
  • the bird that was meant to be a present for Oruha in Clover; since she died, Kazuhiko returned his gift. There’s an episode in the manga, where Watanuki delivers a similar cage to an old man, which has two mechanical birds inside that can be seen only by full moon light. These two might represent Suu.
  • Fai’s magic staff; also given later as a price for a method to enter the Koryou Palace
  • Tengu’s Fan, that has the power of transportation, was paid as a price to help Watanuki save the Zashikiwarashi
  • the Monkey’s Paw protective cylinder, that lead a curious and over-confident teacher to her demise
  • the pipe where the Kudakitsune lived
  • a pair of mechanical ears from Chobits which were used in an exorcism mission into Watanuki’s school – they acted as Yuuko’s voice transmitter/ headphones
  • and the Daffodil Jar that is retrieved from a Shinto shrine by Kazahaya and Rikuo in Gohou Drug. It is revealed it connects to a world of spirits and has purifying powers.
In a nutshell, the storehouse serves as a place of rememberance for the readers. It’s a room full of memories, older or more recent. All of CLAMP’s work surely meet there one way or another. In any case, at this point of the manga, where these panels are taken from, and things are going to change drastically, we are treated with a glass of nostalgia. Nostalgia is a Greek compound word that consists of nostos, meaning homecoming, and algos, meaning pain. The readers remember with a sweet yearning the adventures of CLAMP’s heroes from their other manga but also Watanuki’s bonding with Yuuko, that plays a vital role to the choice Watanuki will make shortly after. He wants in a sense to return to the past and he’s in pain because Yuuko is no more.

Yuuko’s pipe and beautiful clothes are her trademark, so Watanuki seeks to smoke and dress in those kimono in an attempt not to forget, to be as close as possible to the person who was very dear to him.

But objects don’t serve only as mementos or vessels of memories. As we are in a magic shop that grants wishes, objects also yield power. We’ve already seen some in the storeroom. Here are some more:

Roughly we encounter four types of magical objects:

  • amulets, like the arrow Doumeki’s grandfather gave Watanuki, and the heigushi (bottom right),
  • talismans, like the lantern that grants access to the youkai world apart from serving as a bottle, as well as the fan of Tengu,
  • sealing containers, like the cylinder of monkey’s paw, the ring and the photo frame that absorb/ concentrate the negative energy and/or isolate it,
  • and channeling device, like the sand pendulum the obaa-chan uses for her clairvoyance.

Amulets are believed to have the power to ward off negative energy or evil spirits or even illness. The word stems from the Latin word amuletum. A talisman is just the opposite of an amulet. They are believed to give more power to the person wearing one. Etymologically, talismans relate to the ancient Greek word telesma, that meant consecration ceremony (source).

Among other objects in xxxholic we can spot some everyday objects that become magical either intentionally through a spell or unconsciously through the power of feelings.

In the first panel Yuuko buys a totally plain and normal baseball bat and by writing on it a spell, she turns it into a sword. In the second one her magical circle is visible and with its help she turns a handkerchief into a butterfly GPS. There’s also the more traditional case of candles that without any spell, just with their presence and setting into a designed space in a specific way, they form a barrier.
 
The bone of a dead person, Watanuki’s friend, and Himawari’s ribbons, Watanuki’s love interest, serve and are used as amulets because these objects belong to people Watanuki had feelings for. The madeleines and pudding made by Watanuki become magical due to the love put into cooking them and the exchange of feelings between him and his friends (in Himawari’s case he purchases her dream, in Doumeki’s case the pudding bears Doumeki’s soul). The bento given by Doumeki to Watanuki and the umbrella given by Watanuki to Kohane establish understanding and bonds. Objects make love, that is an action, visible and more tangible.
Lastly, love and yearning nest inside objects and when these feelings, that are strong, are released, the objects lose the purpose of their existence and break. Such a case is one of the firsts customer Watanuki gets after he inherits the shop. A blind musician brings her shamisen in the shop and requests to ‘please’ the little kitten inside it (shamisen are made out of young cats) because it fell silent. After Watanuki talks to it in a dream, he searches the storeroom and finds a plectrum. Once the musician strikes the shamisen with it, beautiful sounds float around and the plectrum is broken. This one plectrum was a possession of the person the shamisen loved to be played, but appears it has passed away.
The objects indeed dominate the setting and you wouldn’t notice at once. Of course, stories with magicians, wizards and witches include a lot of magical objects in them, and I think that they are there to signify the wisdom and hence the abilities these special people possess. In xxxholic this isn’t the only reason. Sure Yuuko is cunning and wise. But she is also very lonely.

Take a look at the panels above. The first one depicts Yuuko’s storeroom. The rest come from Kohane’s arc. Both are pretty messy and full with stuff. Both spaces are like that for a justified reason – the storeroom is like a “rest station”, where objects wait for their time to be used or handed down to the right people, and Kohane’s house is in a mess because Kohane’s mother was preoccupied by her desire to become rich and famous, meaning she has little time tidying up. That’s only the surface though. Objects seem to fill in the place humans should have. Accumulated objects rarely bring in someone’s heart and mind peace and love. They might only drown the person who’s surrounded by them in memories. Therefore, I think that the strong presence of objects in xxxholic characterizes Yuuko and underlines her loneliness.

To sum up, objects are dominant in xxxholic, serving us with lots of good fanservice, creating a suitable mysterious and magical atmosphere, signifying emotions and relationships, and shedding light to Yuuko’s character and feelings.

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6 thoughts on “Memories, Loneliness, Wisdom and Objects in xxxholic

  1. @snippettee: If you talk about this comment, yes, it went through 🙂

    Glad you liked them 🙂 I got fascinated when I thought about the topic and while writing about it. You don't realize some things unless something triggers your attention.

    Yes, xxxholic has an anime version. I would recommend the manga in all its glory. I've tried some episodes from the anime, but they've changed some stories in a way that they lose dramatic impact and meaning. They also made silly color hair changes (why would a rain spirit have red hair???). The character design both in manga and in anime is a bit elongated yet in the anime this is more noticeable. I can go on, but you understand that I'm not very fond of the anime. The only plus the anime yields for me is the BGM that can enhance either sorrow or the horror element.

    Thanks for dropping by!

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  2. I'm not sure if my comment went through…

    I really like the detail of the objects and how it involves magical stuff–that I find really amusing.

    Somebody told me that xxxholic has an anime version. Do you think it's much better if I start with the anime or the manga?

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  3. Ah, xxxHolic. It's fitting that items from other CLAMP series show up in Yuuko's storehouse, but I never really noticed how much power objcts have in the series.

    BTW, CLAMP did publish a story about Yuuko & Clow told from the Mokonas' point of view, which is translated here: http://soelandlarg.wordpress.com (scroll down to the bottom and start from there). It's very sweet and happy.^-^

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  4. @bokusenou: I wanted to write about the fanservice in xxxholic and as I researched a bit more, things just came naturally to me. I love the series ❤

    And I can't express how much I love you for linking me to Mokonas stories!!! They are so freaking adorable and great!!! Thank you, thank you a lot!!!

    Btw, did you happen to know a link to Nishio Ishin's xxxholic novel? (greedy xxxholic fan here *waves tail*)

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  5. @Ryan: Yes, Ryan, it had to do in the beginning with soldiers feeling homesick. The term goes back to Odyssey.

    Yuuko as the dimensional witch, Yuuko as a woman, and I add Yuuko as a human being of course influence each other. Loneliness is sth imposed from her identity as dimensional witch, I guess, to her other identities. As a woman she is quite sexy and playful so it must have been hard on her- this isolation. Watanuki became a good company and a way to leave some steam off. Her wisdom is perhaps a result of her experience as a dimensional witch but she must have been an intelligent woman from the start. Her compassion as a human being clashes with her powers as witch and that's seen in TRC manga. That's what I can think of now. To know more about her, it'd be great, if CLAMP give us a story about her and Clow in their early days…

    Thanks for commenting! *waves tail*

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  6. Nostalgia is a Greek compound word that consists of nostos, meaning homecoming, and algos, meaning pain.

    I wonder if this is originally something regarding war and soldiers. In any case, I like this perspective on the objects in Yuuko's house. The place is fascinating for the complex array of ~things~ residing there from the Clamp universe. The way that relates to Yuuko's characterization is also interesting and leads me to wonder about the difference between Yuuko as the dimensional witch and as a woman.

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