Japanese Title: xxxHOLiC Kei & Shunmuki & Rou
Related: xxxHOLiC (Season 1) & Movie: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (prequel)
Similar: Natsume’s Book of Friends
Watched in: Japanese (no English dub like season 1)
Genre: Supernatural Mystery Comedy
Length: 13 episodes (Kei), 2 OVAs (Shunmuki), 2 OVAs (Rou)
- An overarching plot that season 1 lacked.
- Expanded core cast with more backstory.
- Reference to Akagi in xxxHOLiC Kei episode 6!
- The art in Kei has lost the sharpness and style that made season 1 look unique.
- Theme of addiction and deeper philosophies largely lost.
- Most humour is gone.
(Note: this review assumes you have either watched xxxHOLiC season 1 or read the review. Still spoiler-free, however.)
What happened? Where did the heart of xxxHOLiC go? In its transition to xxxHOLiC Kei and the OVAs that followed (xxxHOLiC Shunmuki & xxxHOLiC Rou), the franchise lost its greatest quality: the exploration of addiction and its consequences. While I appreciate the inclusion of an on-going plot to connect the episodes, the creators overbalanced the structure and narrative, eschewing the heart of the original.
xxxHOLiC Kei picks up after season one with Watanuki still working for Yuuko to clear his curse. Cases span a few episodes per customer, allowing for more backstory, but without the depth of the life lessons, these extended cases aren’t as engaging. Much of the humour is gone in Kei, and even more so in the OVAs, replaced with rather drab gloom at times where it isn’t needed. Only Mokona, the adorable ball of fluff, brings any laughter to the scene. The constant gloomy atmosphere didn’t hold my attention like the first season. The art in Kei also lost what made xxxHOLiC visually striking. Yes, the characters have the same hyper-stretched style, but the backgrounds are blurry as though the artists used softer brush strokes and didn’t bother with the detailing stage. That unique quality is no more. Shunmuki and Rou do bring back sharpness with the jump to HD; however, there is something more…generic about the art, though the OVAs do look nice.
Not all is worse. Kei feels like a more important story to Watanuki as a character. Where in the original, Watanuki was more of a Good Samaritan helping people with their addictions; in Kei, he has a greater personal stake in the narrative. Several of the lessons learned are for his benefit rather than the customer. Similarly, in the final OVA Rou, Doumeki is a focus character. We get a chance to see past xxxHOLiC events through his eyes and his backstory. I never say no to good backstory. There are also guest appearances from CLAMP’s other franchise, Tsubasa Chronicles, in xxxHOLiC Shunmuki.
Overall, xxxHOLiC Kei & Shunmuki & Rou are certainly not bad. Fans of the original series will likely enjoy this, unless the humour and theme of addiction were the draw, as they were for me.
Art – Medium
xxxHOLiC Kei looks like someone overused the blur tool; however, the OVAs bring back the sharp quality.
Sound – Medium
Without the English track and the constant gloom, the voice work has less to offer than the original. The ending theme to xxxHOLiC Kei is catchy and adorable, though.
Story – Medium
Without the focus on addiction (the series’ namesake), consequences, and lessons learned, the heart of xxxHOLiC is diminished.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: Only for those who want to see more of the characters. Be aware that the tone is more serious than the first.
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