xxxHOLiC – Episode 3

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Summer in Japan means kakigori (shaved ice dessert), yukata aaaaand spooky stories! Not sure that our dear Watanuki loves that last thing though. Our protagonists engage in a dangerous game with the occult and risk the sanity of one member but earn a new power in the process. And what power…

Song of the Post: Spangle Call Lili Line – Nano (feat. Yumi Uchimura of La La Larks)

Episode 3: 百物語 (100 Ghost Stories)

Taking a little nap during lunchtime, Watanuki is assailed by scary memories (like SCARY scary), spooky enough to jerk him awake. Himawari is smiling behind him, which is even more spine-chilling, but whatever. Watanuki smiles at the sight of her bento, proud that she tried, only to realize that she simply wrapped up a ready meal. LOL, what did you expect?

He takes pity on her and offers to make a bento. He’s riding on the “considerate friend” mood until she asks he stretches the offer to Domeki. Way to kill his vibe, princess. She pours on the cute to convince him, assuring him that Doumeki praised his skills and that she can’t wait to eat with them. *batting eyelashes*

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Poor Watanuki can’t catch a breath as he soon discovers how Yuuko and the girls enjoy calling him Baito-kun (Part-time Boy) to make him run around the house, depending on Yuuko’s whims. For once, he’s busy cooking for Himawari which means that Yuuko complains about his poor customer service. But once she sees him with the bento boxes, she figures it out and makes fun of his lack of guts. Shouldn’t he ask Asagao or whatsherface for a date if he likes her?

Proprieties are important for Watanuki, and they require that he makes his move slooooowly. Bored, Yuuko is up for some teasing and comes seductively to offer her help (wowowow) and grabs him before he scuttles away, declaring that he can do a group date if he’s too shy. Wouldn’t it be even more fun if the theme was Ghost Stories Night?

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Watanuki isn’t sold but as soon as he tells Himawari, she’s totally onboard. Thing is, Watanuki already refused and Doumeki wonders if he’s scared, adding that if the only thing holding him back is the location, he’d gladly suggest his house. Which happens to be a temple. Cool. No pressure.

So the next weekend, Watanuki and Yuuko heads to Doumeki’s temple, where they’re welcomed by Himawari. She makes them wait, which gives Yuuko the opportunity to mention that though this girl is cute, she seems to be quite difficult. Her words are vague, so Watanuki thinks she means that it’ll be difficult to win her. Yuuko sighs at his naiveté but doesn’t elaborate.

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Doumeki opens the doors, kimono-clad, and now I have to check if he’s jail-bait or not. He’s not! Phew. He bows to Yuuko and she reciprocates (ha, Watanuki doesn’t even bother), before saying that Watanuki better get along with him. He scoffs, assuring that it’ll never happen, but she cryptically remarks that he’ll understand later.

With only candlelights lighting the room, Yuuko prepares for the show. Almost giggling, Himawari hopes that they’re really gonna see ghosts to what Yuuko answers that since everyone she needs is here today, anything can happen. That could go wrong on so many levels…And it begins.

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Doumeki starts the round with a story his grand-father told him, about a bell ringer. This young man saw a gloomy lady walking out after visiting a grave. She looked like a ghost, he thought, only to find her right behind him whispering “How did you know?” AAAAAH Sweet Little Buddha! I knew it would be like that! BEGONE!

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Watanuki reacts the same way, scared out of his wits, now the laughing stock of the whole circle. Yuuko asks about Doumeki’s grand-father, guessing that he worked at the temple and could see spirits. His interest piqued, Watanuki wonders if Doumeki can see them as well, but no. Yuuko chimes in, assuring that there are still things Doumeki can do. Cue foxy smile.

The chain of scary stories continues, until 3 tales remain to be told. It’s Himawari’s turn and she points out that it happened to a friend of her friend. Riiiiiight. She calls the girl “Tsubaki” and explains that the poor child had to witness someone jumping in front of the bus while she was seated at the first row. Twice. Shudders. Both times, she met the person’s eyes. Traumatized, she swore to never sit at the front again.

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Suddenly, the door begins to rattle, as if someone was pounding on it. Watanuki worries about who may be there to what Doumeki muses that’s there’s a dead body kept in the next room. Excuse me? Okay, it’s because the temple will take care of the funeral, but still. Yuuko is the only one smiling: indeed, everyone she needs is here.

It’s too much to handle for Watanuki, who’s ready to leave, but Yuuko stops him. The room is currently protected by a spiritual barrier made by the 4 candles, so she can’t maintain their safety beyond.

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Himawari continues her story, with Tsubaki being now a high schooler. She thought that she’d never witness horrible accidents again, only to see her dear dog get run over by the bus she’s in. Oy, that’s some epic jinx. Himawari looks like she’s about to cry but forces a smile as she says that Tsubaki decided never to ride a bus or own a pet again. Doumeki seems to catch on and swiftly passes the baton to Watanuki. Aw, that’s sweet.

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Watanuki takes a deep breath before starting his story, which supposedly happened to a friend of his friend. Pshh, puh-lease, we know you don’t have friends! So let’s be real, it’s all about Watanuki. His mother was hospitalized but always managed to smile when he visited her. Aw, Tiny Watanuki was so cute!

At that time, he didn’t know that being able to see spirits was unusual, so one day, he followed a laughing girl to the building’s roof, where he discovered that her face was like a white mask. Uh oh, not feeling it.

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Not seeing him by her side when she woke up, his frail mother painfully got up to look for him and found him climbing the fence, as if in a trance. Spotting his mother unconscious broke the spell and he ran to her side. Deep in his memories, Watanuki is reliving the scene and cries his eyes out.

Yuuko takes the next spot and prepares for the last story, smiling as she feels a weird presence. “As I thought, it came. The client.” Creaking noises are heard. Suddenly, the doors facing the group rattle, shaking until one panel slides. The protective candles flicker and a green light is seen beyond. Watanuki senses that the ghost switched places and they all hear a plaintive voice: “Kimihiro.” Oh my god.

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The door panels leading to the other room slide, revealing the dead body we heard about earlier which slowly sits up to look at Watanuki. Holy. Crap. Himawari screams and knocks one candle, which in turn blows out the three others. There’s no barrier now, and the body drags itself to sit in front of Watanuki.

In an accusatory tone, the cadaver says that it died in Watanuki’s stead, and Watanuki crumbles, devastated by his guilt. Crying, he apologizes and gets up to get closer but Yuuko sternly tells him that it’s not his mother. Watanuki is way too immersed in his grief to hear her, but the sight of the white mask on the ghost’s face wakes him up.

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It’s too late, and the corpse grips his ankles to make him fall before choking him. Amazingly calm, Yuuko commands Doumeki to take his bow and shoot at that, reassuring him when he worries about having no arrow: “If it’s you, it’ll be okay.” Doumeki complies and draws his bow, shortly surprised when an arrow made of glowy smoke materializes but still focused. He aims at the ghost and shoots, making it disappear. About time!

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Watanuki gasps for air, even rejecting Himawari’s hand to curl up and sob. What a horrible day you had. It’s heartbreaking to hear him whimper. Doumeki looks puzzled by his feat and looks at Yuuko for answer but she only smiles. It’s later that she reveals that they indeed faced a ghost called by their stories.

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Doumeki wonders about the arrow and she explains that it was made out of his own energy. He has inherited from his grandfather the ability to keep evil spirits away and can also exorcise them, as he did with the masked ghost. Turning to Watanuki, Yuuko advises him to stick close to Doumeki, as he’ll surely save him again.

Not in the mood for that, Watanuki walks away but Himawari runs to him. He tells her that he didn’t want her to see that side of him and she switches topic, asking for a favor.

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Impressions:

Yep, that’s how it ended. Pretty bold of her to ask him that right after such a traumatic experience. Not sure if it’s the actress or the character, but she sure is exasperating.

Aaaaanyway. Yay, more of Doumeki onscreen! The actor seems to be a bit too green for such a character, but I love his presence. And I feel like he’s bringing another side to Doumeki’s personality. While he’s still as calm and composed as in the manga version, he’s genuinely confused by his power and the whole situation, which differs from the original story. Manga Yuuko ordered him to act, and so he did, impassively. No question asked. In that aspect, the drama version has him acting more like a teenager, who happens to look insanely good in a kimono!

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So far, his interactions with Watanuki are also more realistic: sure, Watanuki is still petty (though not as much as in the manga), but isn’t outrightly rejecting Doumeki without reason. I feel like they’re going to be buddies way faster. That said, and I know I’m repeating myself here, the TV version is shorter, so that explains it.

This drama definitely takes the plot in a more serious territory. I think that, from a narrative point of view, it was pretty clever to tie this episode to Watanuki’s past and the weight of memories, compared to having a classic Villain/Client of the week. This drama being limited to 8 episodes, it’s more a matter of tightening the story and focus on the main character. And with such a talented and expressive actor as Sometani, it would really be a waste not to explore Watanuki’s emotions.

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In a way, this episode departs the series from the original, while still retaining its core elements and the flavor that made me love the manga. A straight carbon-copy wouldn’t be interesting, and distort this universe too much would create a whole different story. Here, I know we won’t have an epic saga spanning generations and different worlds, but the result is both nuanced and more to the point. So far, I trust this show to respect its source material and to give it its own particular essence. Actually, I’m quite curious to see where it would lead us. Yes, Himawari included 🙂

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