Watanuki has settled into his life of working at Yuuko’s shop and has even learned to become less bothered by the spirits he sees, but there is still much for this young man to learn. From losing his right eye after falling foul of a spider’s grudge to befriending a young spirit medium who is seen as only a moneymaking tool by her mother, Watanuki must grow as a person and learn that seeing the world from the perspectives of others can be just as importing as viewing it through your own eyes.
Despite my love of the original manga, the first season of the xxxHOLiC anime so thoroughly sucked the life out of the series that I couldn’t see myself ever wanting to watch more of the same. Nonetheless, when Hige reported back that the first episode of the new season wasn’t all that bad, I decided to take the plunge and give it a try. Remaining steadfastly pessimistic, I forged ahead- and to my surprise, it seemed that this time around Production IG had put a bit more effort in.
With some proper ongoing plots from the manga to get their teeth into, xxxHOLiC Kei is easily able to outstrip its predecessor, offering a series that, whilst far from perfect, at least is entertaining to watch. Despite erasing all references to Tsubasa and generally switching around or slightly altering the events of the manga to better fit its thirteen episode span, the general flow and coherence of the spider grudge, Kohane-chan and ‘typhoid Himawari’ arcs are preserved; purists such as myself may pick holes, but it’s certainly a solid enough series.
As far as characters go, the line up in xxxHOLiC Kei is much the same as the last series, consisting of milquetoast lead Watanuki, stoic Doumeki, cheerful Himawari and of course space-time witch Yuuko and her entourage. Naturally, various other recurring characters show up to spice up proceedings a little, but despite various character revelations and the introduction of spirit medium Kohane as a new friend for Watanuki, in retrospect everyone is pretty much the same at the end of the series as they were at the beginning. Yes, Watanuki is said to have developed a greater degree of thoughtfulness and empathy for others, but when it comes to character dynamics, everyone acts much the same as always- Watanuki gets annoyed by Doumeki’s attitude, Yuuko and Mokona demand alcohol, and so on.
Given how shoddily the first season of xxxHOLiC was animated, it would have been hard for Production IG to do any worse, but fortunately, they were able to spare a touch more budget this time around. Whilst the animation could hardly be said to be anything special, it is at least serviceable, with the long-limbed, high contrast figures actually looking reasonable instead of appearing to be deformed paper cut outs. Background music is largely the same as before, with solid themes that serve their purpose without particularly standing out, and the latest in a long line of dire retro EDs.
An immense improvement on the dull first season, xxxHOLiC Kei may not particularly shine, but it is at least a worthy enough adaptation of a much loved manga. No, it will never live up to the original, but at least it is entertaining and watchable in its own right.