xxxHOLiC – Episode 2

You know what they say. Be careful what you wish for. No, I won’t bring back to life the hilariously bad Wishmaster, but seriously folks, think twice before you (watch this movie) make a wish. Though instead, someone in this episode should never, never have listened to Mark Twain’s advice: When angry count four; when very angry, swear.

Song of the Post: 東京事変 (Tokyo Jihen) — 秘密 for DJ (A Secret for DJ)

[audio https://dl.dropbox.com/u/31675795/01-himitsu.mp3]

Episode 2: 対価 (Compensation)

Airing out Yuuko’s esoteric bric-a-brac, Watanuki also has to endure the twins’ mischief. Yuuko ironically notes that for a GrumpyPants, he’s working quite diligently but he complains (HA) that she shouldn’t neglect such old items. She corrects him: they’re resting there until their owner finds them. Hmm, too bad I can’t come up with such excuses for my mess.

Going back to his cleaning, Watanuki remembers Yuuko’s condition. He has to work in her shop, until he’s done enough to compensate for the granting of his wish. Welcome aboard, Mr Part-timer!

[ドラマ] xxxHOLiC 第02話 (1280x720 x264).mp4_snapshot_03.41_[2013.03.09_01.54.14]

Picking up a scroll tube he dropped, he hears a man commenting on how old it looks. Coming closer, the new visitor marvels at the object, knowing that it is valuable. Yuuko intervenes and he apologizes for entering without permission but she casually comments that his presence is also “Hitsuzen” (remember? The inevitability thing).

Pleased at this turn of events, the man gives his name, Tsuda, and says that he majored in Folklore. A lover of antique stuff, he wants to buy the tube but Yuuko advises him not to. When she tells him that there is an affinity between things and humans, he cuts her off, using her words to prove that he was destined to own the tube.

Watanuki sneers, calling him an idiot, which makes Tsuda go to him. With a smile, he explains that he’s lucky and generally obtains everything he wants, so a mere part-timer wouldn’t be able to understand that some are born under different stars. Ouch, burn.

Maybe influenced by his speech, Yuuko agrees to give him the tube but there’s a catch. OF COURSE THERE IS. No matter what, he’s forbidden to open it. Tsuda doesn’t think twice and accepts, though he fakes trying to twist open it right away. Watanuki doesn’t find it amusing one bit, and the ominous wind blowing seems to agree.

On his way to school, Watanuko sees Himawari and stops, recalling how repulsed she was the day of the accident. Troubled and hurt, he walks away, pretending not seeing her, but she cheerfully greets him as if nothing had happened. No, Watanuki, keep walking!! But no, though surprised, he greets her back. Still, her good mood feels off so he tries to ask about her reaction back then when she (plainly) sidesteps this slippery slope by exclaiming that they’re late. Ugh. So obvious. She takes his hand and that’s enough to bring a smile to our smitten hero. Sigh. Boys.

As they stop to catch their breath, Tsuda calls out Watanuki with the nickname “Part-timer”, and tells them that he’s now their substitue history teacher. Is it wrong that I wish he was mine? Damn, he’s hot. Here for a month, he seems more interested in young girls though, given how he makes sure to make them laugh during class, much to the guy’s annoyance.

He proves that point later on, by hitting on Himawari, and ruining Watanuki’s sweet moment with her while he’s at it. There’s also an other reason, though, since he brought the tube to see if they can help opening it. Watanuki reminds him of his promise, but Tsuda plays dumb and shoves him now that he’s useless. Himawari bashfully asks to see the tube and opens it in two seconds flat, without meaning to. Well, well, how lucky.

Watanuki eyes Tsuda warily, who’s intrigued by what he suspects is the infamous Monkey’s Paw. This legendary item supposedly grants its owner any wishes, and Tsuda feels that with his luck, that must be the real thing. Amused by Watanuki’s nervousness, he muses that there’s a marathon today that he’d rather skip. Watanuki understands right away what he intends to do and warns him not to, but it’s too late. Half-jokingly, half-seriously, Tsuda prays for the marathon to be canceled.

They’re all shutting their eyes but nothing happens, and Tsuda scoffs that the paw is a counterfeit when one of the finger suddenly snaps. As if on cue, a heavy rain falls, lasting until the night when Watanuki goes to visit Yuuko. She’s not surprised in the least, having expected this much from such a cocky and overly confident man. Annoyed, Watanuki confronts her as to why she let him take the tube and she answers matter-of-factly that he was a client coming in a shop where wishes are granted. Heh, true.

Yuuko would rather focus on convincing Watanuki to prepare some sake but he has something else in mind: when will she grant his wish? “I can’t keep being a maid like this forever!” Aww, I know I shouldn’t but it’s in such moments that I kinda miss Watanuki’s loud outbursts. Though I got a cute Sometani in an apron instead, so it’s fair. With a flick on his head, Yuuko simply retorts that this kind of menial work can’t compare to the value of his wish.

A girl’s gotta train her puppy well, and snapping her fingers, she signals the twins that it’s time for action. The girls grab Watanuki and display superhuman strength as they easily pull him out of the room. Smiling at that sight, Yuuko says to herself that Watanuki will realize soon that nothing can be created out of nothing.

And indeed, the next day everyone can see that the big pond that was near the school mysteriously dried up during the night. Eating her lunch with Watanuki, Himawari wonders if that event is related to the Monkey’s Paw when Doumeki stealthily pinches some lotus roots from Watanuki’s bento box. Haha, why do I find it hilarious that he didn’t even bother with Himawari’s? Offering some pearls of wisdom in return, he points out that the water disappeared right when the rain fell, so the relation between the two is evident.

Hearing Himawari say that she tells everything to Doumeki makes Watanuki feel slightly let down, but he quickly recovers to warn him not to dig in his lunch though he can’t bring himself to repeat these words when Himawari helps herself too. Hee! This scene would be cuter, if not for Himawari, who Iooks so shamelessly blissful that I’d gladly feed her some pigtails.

Interrupting their good time, Tsuda imposes himself to brag about the Rolex watch given by the Monkey’s Paw. He’s getting the hang of it, and deduced that each finger equals a wish. So he has now three left and is assured he’ll get everything: money, status and….Leering at Himawari, he pesters her to go out with him, until Doumeki decides that he got his share of touching for the day and punches him in the face. Tsuda’s temper flares up, but a quick look at the totally unfazed Doumeki makes it clear that he’s not one to mess with. Haha, even Watanuki looks impressed.

Lost in thought on the abandoned roof, Watanuki angrily throws stones at a cheeky child spirit to drive it off but knows that such things won’t stop. So he goes to meet Tsuda on his way back, and pleads with him to lend the tube. He should have known that Tsuda is a sadist. Laughing at Watanuki, he tells him that the teacher he’s replacing died at the hospital because his oxygen mask came off by accident. Suuure, by accident.

Watanuki’s no fool, and guesses that he made a wish to what Tsuda indirectly replies that he does enjoy working here. He makes fun of Watanuki, leading him on with the tube only to hit him with it. “Tell that to this Doumeki. I’ll repay 1000 times the original amount to him!” How petty. It doesn’t look good on you at all, Teach.

Adding insult to injury, he wants Watanuki to convince Himawari to date him. That’s it, you’ve lost all you sex-appeal now. Catching Watanuki’s glaring eyes, he provokes him to a fight when a patrol officer arrives, sensing danger. Nananana…NOT. He goes right to Watanuki’s side (yay, one more fan) but catches Tsuda when he tries to escape. Tsuda shakes him off, yelling “Go die, cop!” and accompanied by a snapping sound, the policeman collapses on the spot, his head falling right on a stone. Uh huh. Will poor Watanuki have to witness a death every episode?

Dressed as the Witch of Dimensions (nooooooo), Yuuko takes out the magical disk to read what is happening to Tsuda. She repeats her words, now that Watanuki has seen enough to understand their weight: “Nothing can be created out of nothing.” To grant a wish, a compensation must be given. They see an exhausted Tsuda going back, only to run away when two officers call out to him.

Tumbling on his way, he hears voices of students accusing him of different crimes. His Rolex watch was stolen from the Parent-Teacher Association chairman. Worse, he was the last person to visit the teacher he’s replacing, before his death. Add to that the rumor about him killing the cop and there he flees, scrambling to go home to be free of the voices. He manages to enter his room, and shuts himself in while the detectives pounds on the door, urging him to come out.

Queasy, Tsuda yells at them to leave him, crying out that he said all he knows. The officers don’t budge, so he has to turn to his only hope. Bracing up, he opens the tube, and clutches the paw, begging it to delete everything. Seeing the last finger break, he smiles until he realizes that the paw merged with HIS OWN HAND. The paw goes on to grant his wish, and strangles him, which is strangely suited to our Sadist Boy. What is it again? Oh right, Karma is a B.I.T.C.H.

All the while, Watanuki watched the whole scene but looks away with disgust at the last minute, uneable to stand it anymore. Seeing that he’s in pain, Yuuko breaks the connection and turns to see that the tube came back as good as new. Revolted, Watanuki asks her if all of her clients end up like that once their wish granted, because of the compensation. She simply answers that people often forget that there’s no such things as special items.

Going to school the next day, Watanuki notices Tsuda’s cigarette butt and gazes at it as the wind sweeps it away. What a nice touch to conclude Tsuda’s story. Keh. Joining him, Doumeki comments that many tragedies are happening these days. He doesn’t buy the suicide explanation for Tsuda’s death and when Watanuki sighs that it was an accident, Doumeki muses: “Does coincidence really exist in this world?” Himawari calls their names and Watanuki’s lips slowly bloom into a smile as he promises himself that he’ll definitely grant his wish, no matter how much he’ll have to give as compensation.

Impressions:

This story was one I particularly loved in the manga, so I was curious to see how it’d turn out. Though not insanely exciting, this episode was pretty good. Visually, it’s still a feast for the eyes. And I’m not only talking of the eye candies. I’m glad they made some narrative changes so that even those who read the manga (say, like me) can rediscover the tale with some new elements. Well, some would say that it was the same with the first episode, but here it was more marked.

I love how the shots are framed, and it contributed to establish a mood reminiscing of the style of those short stories from the Taishō and early Shōwa eras. It reminded me of how I felt after reading Akutagawa’s stories, and maybe Rampo’s ones too. Harsh inevitability, subtle irony and dramatic narrative? Throw a dash of supernatural and we’re good.

That would be perfect if it was an other drama but (and I’m very sorry to bring this topic again), this is xxxHOLiC. Even though the chapters were quite short in the manga, they covered several long arcs which the drama obviously won’t be able to follow. Two episodes in, and I begin to see how the drama is shaping. It is clear that they won’t stick to the original story, as proved in this episode with Yuuko dressed with the costume she only wears when she is the Witch of Dimensions. To get my point, you’ll have to know about this whole other can of worms that is Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. Long story short, xxxHOLiC shares a timeline and a crossover story with said Tsubasa whatchamacallit. For more, GIYF.

You see, heisui, that I wasn’t ONLY fixating on Anne’s bra size!

Err, I digress. If I believe the little hints thrown here and there, the drama will take a rather different road for Watanuki. He has (and will have, from the preview) lots of flashback of his sick mother, and her condition may be related to the child spirit he keeps meeting on roofs. In the manga, the identity of Watanuki’s parents is a FREAKING BIG DEAL (for us fans, at least) so it’ll be interesting to see how they’ll develop their own stuff though I fear the sick mom plot.

I’m positive Himawari will play the same role she did in the manga, given which stories they’re picking so far, third episode included. The fact that her drama version gets on my nerves much more than the manga one did may be due to the writing: they’re squeezing hundreds of chapters, unveiling the evolution of her character, in only 4 hours after all. But they did twist something quite important: her relation to Doumeki. And that precise point confirms the theory that this drama will really focus on Watanuki’s journey to discover and accept himself. Which was also one of the zillion themes addressed by the manga.

In this episode, Watanuki was so lost that he almost gave in to despair and sought the delusive solace of a dangerous magic item. Right now, I doubt he realized that Yuuko isn’t the type to clearly spell out to her customers how to solve their problems. Much like the two clients he met, Watanuki would rather want an object to take his trouble away, though that pretty much ended in a (bloody) disaster each time. More than once, Yuuko hinted that if you want to change your fate, you have to be aware of your issues and genuinely try to change yourself. Looks like Watanuki still has a big lesson ahead of him.

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4 thoughts on “xxxHOLiC – Episode 2

  1. I love your recap! Hehehe and yes, I see that Yuko’s boobs are not the main issue here. 😛

    Ok part of me feels like if there is THAT much to cover from the original xxxHolic, they should’ve had longer episode lengths. Obviously they can’t cover everything even with longer episodes, but it would at least give them more time to elaborate more on the complex plot!!

    • hehe, I’m glad you liked it ^^
      I kinda enjoy the short length (so much easier to recap too XD), but maybe they should have added more episodes. As you said, it IS a complex plot originally, so I’m pretty sure they marked out what they’ll film right away. It’s indeed an adaptation, with all the jazz accompanying it. They’ll breathing their own story into familiar characters, and we pretty much have to accept that fact or else we’ll have an embittered and stiff attitude which would pretty much ruin the viewing experience. So far, they’re doing pretty good, and I can’t help but think that I would have enjoyed it more if I didn’t know the story beforehand. Yes, I want to see the glass half full, because I’m optimistic that way 😀

      • Maybe if they have parts they didn’t get to in the drama, they could cover them in a movie sequel! 😉 That would be awesome!
        I suppose it would be too much to squeeze everything into one season of a live action, even with longer episodes or more episodes. But then again it is good that they can pick and choose what they want to adapt into the live action and they are not forced to cover every single detail.

  2. To me it feels quite episodic so far – like you can watch without having seen the previous episode. Which means there isn’t so much building of an over story (that complex narrative). There are hints of it (otherwise there wouldn’t be Watanuki’s mother flashbacks), but I doubt it’s going to build this grand overall story.

    Which, given the number of episodes planned, makes a lot of sense. And maybe they are just testing the waters and if these episodes go down well (the atmosphere is certainly awesome) they’ll extend and build that greater narrative that ties everything together after all? It would be nice, because the moment with only 30 minutes you can’t even get that much a sense of the characters and there are only 6 more eps to go!

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