Greetings, All. Michaele Jordan here-please remember that name when Mirror Maze comes out in October! But more about me some other time. Today I am here to announce: I’ve fallen in love!
The object of my passionate affection is a TV show. But not one you’ll find sandwiched in between commercials during prime time, or cable, not even Cartoon Network. It’s xxxHolic (the x’s are silent) and it appeared on Tokyo Broadcasting Network in 2006, with a second season in 2008. Like so much of Japanese anime, it’s based on a very popular manga that ran from 2003 until early this year.
Watanuki (yes, the names are Japanese-suck it up) is the hero, or rather the protagonist, since he is a whiny, self centered little jerk, prone to tears and tantrums, self pity and jealous rages. But we have to cut him some slack-he’s had a hard life. He’s still just a kid (19-still in high school) and was orphaned very young; he lives alone, having been raised by persons who viewed him more as a servant than a family member. And worst of all, he sees spirits.
When dealing with any kind of Japanese literature, you have to understand about spirits. Fifteen hundred years of Buddhism have not even dented the Shinto concept of spirits. There are spirits everywhere. Not just the spirits of the dead who have failed to pass on, but spirits of foxes, badgers, fish, trees and even rocks. Spirits that are… well, just spirits, natives of a non-material realm bordering ours. Spirits can be good or evil or neither, and they come in all sizes from tiny to terrifying. Their appearance ranges from beautiful to hideous, although mostly clustering in the category of weird-looking. So seeing spirits is not necessarily a good thing.
But Watanuki sees spirits, and it is this unhappy ability that draws him to Yuko (sometimes Yuuko) who is the real focus of the show. Yuko is gorgeous. She has the most impressive rack I have ever seen in an anime that was not porn. Her legs are so long and shapely they distract you from the breasts. She makes a Barbie doll look like a Cabbage Patch kid.
Yuko is a witch, in the business of granting wishes. Note: I say she is in the business rather than that she makes her living at it. She has a shop, but only receives a client every couple of weeks, and she never charges for her service in money, anyway (although her prices are, in their fashion, steep). But she seems untroubled by a lack of money-she dresses fabulously, drinks and eats to delicious excess, and does not hesitate to take her entire retinue to the beach for a holiday.
Her retinue consists of two obsequious servants named Maru and Moro (they are probably spirits but they look like overdressed children) and her friend-not her pet-Mokona, a black bunny rabbit that leaps around like a drug-addled super-ball, and occasionally talks. To these, she has added Watanuki as cook and housekeeper-possibly because Maru and Moro never actually do any work, only run around squeaking enthusiastic echoes of her wishes-and Watanuki’s friends, or the persons that pass for his friends.
Himawara is the beautiful (and perky!) girl who Watanuki adores, and Domeki is his school mate and his rival for the attentions of Himawari. Yuko is of the opinion that Watanuki needs Domeki and insists he be included in everything. Watanuki does not agree but, as is his habit, he throws a tantrum, snivels dramatically and then does what he is told. If this were not his habit, he wouldn’t be working for Yuko. It seems the lonely orphan is secretly hungry for adult guidance.
And Yuko enjoys providing guidance; it gives her so many opportunities to be mysterious; nor is she lacking in wisdom and humor. Sometimes she almost reminds me of Uncle Iroh on Avatar: The Last Airbender (the animated series, NOT the live action film). Except, of course, Uncle Iroh was not a hot babe.
There is some action and occasional danger, but the show is primarily a sweetly spooky coming-of-age tale, with lots and lots of interesting magic. It is beautifully drawn, in a sort of Aubrey-Beardsley-with-psychedelic-colors meets Alice-in-Wonderland-turning-into-a-snake style. I am told that the manga was even better drawn, although from what I’ve read of it (not much yet, alas) they look a lot alike.
As I said above, you won’t see this on TV, unless you are fortunate enough to receive the Funimation Channel, but the DVD’s are available, as are the manga, if you just look around a little on-line. So please hunt them up, any time you feel like giving yourself a treat.
Michaele Jordan was born in Los Angeles, bred in the Midwest, educated in Liberal Arts at Bard College and in computers at Southern Ohio College. She has worked at a kennel and a Hebrew School and AT&T. She’s a bit odd. Now she writes. Her previous novel, Blade Light, a charming traditional fantasy, was serialized in Jim Baen’s Universe and is now available as an ebook at Amazon or at iBooks. Her next novel, Mirror Maze, is available for pre-order from Amazon.