The lead character in CLAMP's xxxHoLic is named Kimihiro Watanuki, a seventeen-year-old boy who has the burden of the paranormal sight. He stumbled upon a wish shop owned by a dimensional witch who goes by the alias 'Yuuko Ichihara'. His greatest wish is to be rid of his ability to see ghosts. Yuuko agrees to grant this wish but every wish has an equal exchange so she suggests that he works for her in the shop to pay off this debt. As the story progresses, Watanuki encounters more supernatural events and he also becomes privy to how Yuuko conducts her wish-granting business, and her clients often pay with hefty prices for their desires. What was so beguiling about this formulaic premise of the manga series is that it also examines the mystery of human behavior in regards to unhealthy attachments, bad habits and stagnation/inaction, contrasting these things as consequential to a person's ability to claim his or her power of choice. xxxHoLic offers a supernatural explanation to these behaviors but these 'hauntings' also have symbolic meanings that strengthen the mentioned core message of this series in general.
I was drawn to it because it's an urban fantasy horror that does have its moments of sheer terror and creepy scenes but is more or less a poignant examination of social ties and relationships, which slowly and surely headed to a more intimate direction once CLAMP began to divulge more on the backstory of the lead character Watanuki--or rather the lack thereof. As it turns out, Watanuki is a boy who had sold the memories of his past with Yuuko long before he supposedly met her from the very first chapter of the series. xxxHoLic is also closely tied to another CLAMP work Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle where it often has crossovers with (especially by the later volumes). However, xxxHoLic can stlll be enjoyed as a standalone manga. In regards to Watanuki, his entire characterization hinges on the fact that in trading his memories, he was left with no self-worth and therefore tries to erase himself from existence time and time again because he doesn't feel tangible or real enough to exist. This was why he would attract negative energies and spirits as a sort of an unconscious death wish on his part. When he found himself inside the wish shop and Yuuko decides to grant his wish, she was secretly helping him realize and figure out his value to other people and especially to himself by encouraging him to make friends and form attachments that would tether him to reality. His paranormal sight was tied to his very low self-worth, and in discovering that he matters to a lot of people in his life, Watanuki chooses to live as he begins to take control over his magical gifts. It was also around the time during a climactic event when Yuuko--who became so much of a maternal influence in his life as well as a mentor--dies due to the crossover events in the other manga Tsubasa.
In a poetic twist that everybody has theorized for a while now, Watanuki then succeeds Yuuko Ichihara upon her demise, and takes over her former duties in the wish shop. He also develops the ability to travel in dreams as a gifted seer.
It sounds uplifting and nice so far, doesn't it? EXCEPT THAT IT WAS NOT. Many readers were disheartened with Watanuki's choice to replace Yuuko as the shopkeeper, mostly because he did it by sacrificing his own mortality and physical freedom. Not only will he never grow old but he will also never be able to leave the shop's territory. And he did all this because of his selfish desire to hold onto Yuuko who is never coming back. SHE IS DEAD, DEAD, DEAD! Still, Watanuki believed that she will be resurrected, and he will wait for her to return until such time comes to pass. AND IT NEVER WILL. With this singular shift in the direction of the story, CLAMP has undone all the progress and evolution that his character was written with, turning the ending of xxxHoLic into a bittersweet and cruel cautionary tale about the consequences of inaction and the inability to move forward. In a sense, xxxHoLic fulfilled its premise concerning how our choices will dictate the course of our lives. With 19 volumes in total, CLAMP closed the story with a century-old Watanuki who still continues to wait for Yuuko while his close friends have already died and were replaced instead by their descendants who continue to look after him, hoping that someday soon he would be ready to let Yuuko go. It was such a depressing ending, and something a character so inquisivitely and beautifully rendered like Kimihiro Watanuki doesn't deserve.
Since I was so angered and frustrated by how this manga series ended, I started writing my series Snapshots and the possible scenarios regarding Watanuki's relationships not only with Yuuko herself but also with Kohane Tsuyuri (a young girl who can also see spirits and whom Watanuki formed an organic bond with), Himawari Kunogi (his high school crush who has a dark secret--she's cursed to bring misfortune to others) and Shizuka Doumeki, a boy whom Watanuki constantly argues with but who has nonetheless remained devoted to him until the very end of his life, leading many fans to speculate that Doumeki's feelings for Watanuki are that of unrequited love (and CLAMP has never discredited this either).
At first, the series started as oneshot pieces composing only of single chapters for each relationship until I expounded on two heavy Doumeki/Watanuki stories which offered multiple chapters. Finally, I wrote the series' magnus opei entitled 'Frequency' which was probably my most ambitious fanfiction to date (rivaling only my Tyrion/Sansa fanfiction 'Don't be Afraid to Sing'). It was a very personal story, and one whose roots of inspiration can be traced back to my own personal struggles in real life. I relate strongly to Watanuki at this point in my life and writing Frequency has been very intimate and grueling. I will tackle this in length for my next post. For now, here are the other pieces that compose Snapshots:
Haruka Doumeki once explained to a young Shizuka that love is made up of a series of acts that express devotion and the willingness for sacrifice; that in order for any love to be real, there should be consistency. Most importantly, love is a choice; a choice you make not just once--whether in the heat of the moment or out of dubious consent--for love is a choice one must make every day, until the end of time.
Contrary to popular belief, Watanuki has noticed and continues to notice.
He knows how Shizuka Doumeki felt and continues to feel about him.
APRIL FOOL [Watanuki/Kohane]
"I love him for all the reasons I can never know and for the reasons that are mine alone."
A look at Kohane Tsuyuri's decisions in regards to her beloved April Fool.
TREAT ME LIKE A STOLEN GLANCE [Watanuki/Himawari]
If it's a choice between becoming a part of the human race even though she's an incurable plague that can slaughter them all; or being utterly alone and comforted at least with the fact that there was no blood in her hands then, hell, of course she'll pick the merciful latter. And then she meets two boys who challenged this twisted perspective about herself.
HIGH TIDES AND WHITE LIES [Watanuki/Yuuko]
Yuuko Ichihara can only give so much to Kimihiro Watanuki, and know that ultimately it will never be enough.
Sometimes it's wise to hold your peace because words are lies, lies, lies.
and not saying the things he's supposed to mean.
WHERE SOFT PLACES DWELL AND HARD EDGES BLISTER [Doumeki/Watanuki]
Kimihiro Watanuki had always been adamant about hating Shizuka Doumeki, so he doesn't understand why, on one terrible day, he propositioned the other boy for sex. And leave it to Doumeki to turn a supposedly one-night stand into a full-blown love affair. Now both begin to lose themselves in the complications of intimacies, only to understand the great gravity and importance of choices both made and unmade.