xxxHOLiC – Episode 5

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For those who hate going to the doctor (like me), this episode provides some more reasons to fear them. Watanuki learns the ropes of being Yuuko’s apprentice and his first mission leads him to reassess his perspective on his connection to ghosts and spirits. What will the consequences of his awakening bring?

Song of the Post: LAMP IN TERREN — 雨中のきらめき (Sparkle in the Rain)

Episode 5: 紫陽花 (Hydrangea)

Himawari has enlisted Watanuki’s help to prepare the cake she promised the boys, and here they are, in Doumeki’s house. They notice Yuuko’s presence, here under the rain with the spirit we saw last episode. This is Ame Warashi (Rain Child), always with an umbrella because she’s the maker of rain, and she doesn’t hesitate to hit Watanuki when he has the impudence of calling her “ghost”. She ranks way higher in the Spirit World and actually, Watanuki should be glad she chose him to help her.

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Of course, Watanuki tries to dodge the bullet but with Doumeki agreeing to assist him and Himawari promising to do her best by herself, our Part-Timer doesn’t have a choice. Strangely, Ame Warashi can’t help coughing when Himawari speaks, and she asks Yuuko what’s wrong with this girl. Even as she leads the boys to their mission, she wonders how they can use their powers with such a girl around. Well, well, aren’t we ominous, here?

They’ve arrived at a warehouse, where Ame Warashi earnestly requests Watanuki’s help, adding that the one she wants to save has been suffering for a long time. She can’t go any further and vanishes, letting our supernatural duo enter the place to discover a bush of red hydrangea. This is neither the season nor a normal color, so they look closer, closer, closer….

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Now self-conscious, Watanuki moves aside and can’t believe Doumeki agreed to come after what happened last time. Doumeki brushes it off, saying that he had nothing better to do, but grows serious as he adds that it’d be a waste not to use his power to help others. He knows Watanuki is the same, or else he’d have refused the task.

Watanuki touches a leave and from afar, Yuuko senses a spiritual disturbance. Doumeki had looked away for a second only to realize that Watanuki disappeared. And yay, it’s the return of Watanuki’s long, long pretty eyelashes, as he opens his eyes in a eerie place. He’s in a waiting room, facing a little girl. The nurse continuously calls out her name, Saori, but she doesn’t move. Watanuki wonders if she’s with someone, and little Saori says that her mom went back home, because she’s a bad child. Augh, no!

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She tenses up when her name is called out again, and goes next to Watanuki. In a small voice, she confesses she’s afraid to go alone and grabs Watanuki’s sleeve. Big bro won’t abandon her, so together they go inside the consultation room. There, a doctor asks where it hurts, and she points to her throat.

For one moment, Watanuki sees a long red bruise on her neck, but as the doctor reassures Saori, it’s gone. He promises it’ll be healed soon and the nurse takes her to another room. The doctor follows suit, casting a menacing glare at Watanuki who stops him to know what is this place. With a smirk, the doctor replies that he sure is funny.

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Left behind, Watanuki can hear Saori struggling in the next room, so he enters to see her being chained to a bed. Oy, in which X-files episode are we here? The doctor turns to him with dark red eyes, and Watanuki realizes he’s a ghost. He snatches a scalpel, distracting the ghosts enough to let Saori escape and join him. They flee through another door and find themselves in a creepy red hallway, with what looks like balloons and ivy. Or is it the Shining, now?

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In Doumeki’s house, Himawari isn’t too pleased with her cake and throws it in the bin. Yuuko comes out, telling her that the important thing is the feeling, not the appearance. Himawari tries to keep a cheerful voice, commenting that she’s useless, but Yuuko counters that for a long time she thought that the inside of a person couldn’t be changed as easily as the outside. And yet, after meeting a certain someone, she came to see that she can change a person’s inside, if she has strong feelings. This someone is in danger, and Himawari understands right away that she means Watanuki.

Yuuko cryptically says that Himawari can help but Himawari panics, rejecting the thought after having entertained it for a second. She won’t say why, so Yuuko insists: she just needs to give something of her. Himawari freezes as Yuuko takes off her ribbon. Yuuko points out that the choice is still Himawari’s.

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In the Shining Hallway of Doom, Saori falls and begs Watanuki not to leave. “I don’t want to be alone anymore!” They stand up to find the doctor and the nurse facing them. The doctor enjoins Watanuki to give him the child, not hiding the fact that he’ll eat her. “It’s delicious, you know. Children’s souls.”

He makes it clear that he hates violence and that Saori is already dead, even though she refuses to accept it. Viciously, he recounts how Saori went to look at the hydrangea with her mom, how she felt her mom’s fingers strangling her throat, how she pleaded her mom to stop.

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This triggers painful memories of Watanuki’s mother collapsing at the hospital and he strikes the doctor, who seizes the blade taunting Watanuki: “Who the hell are you?”. Suddenly, they’re all back in the consultation room, where the nurse answers a call, the phone covered in blood drops (?).

Yuuko shows up at the warehouse, finding a distressed Doumeki. She gives Himawari’s ribbons, instructing him to hold one and bury the other in the roots of the hydrangea. Doumeki is still processing her informations when he sees Himawari walking in, her face peculiarly grim and serious.

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The nurse whispers the content of the mysterious call to the doctor, who looks differently at Watanuki: “I’ve heard your name.” Ha, news travel by phone, in the spirit world? More politely, he repeats that he hates violence and urges him to go back home. Only by ignoring what he sees and hears will he live peacefully.

Watanuki refuses to give Saori so the doctor’s tone grow more grave as he argues that she’s a stranger to him. Is he ready to risk his life for a stranger? To that, Watanuki simply answers that he made a promise to Saori. The doctor sighs. How could a mere human get this carried away?

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Lights start to flicker while the doctor and his nurse walk to Watanuki, scalpel at the ready, mumbling some esoteric mumbo jumbo. A black hole of smoke materializes on the ceiling and Himawari’s ribbon drops at Watanuki’s feet, much to the doctor and the nurse’s horror.

Watanuki takes it, offering Saori to go back with him. He takes her hand and wakes up at the warehouse to see Doumeki’s concerned face. Let’s note that Himawari looks more calm. Watanuki tries to get up but is held back by the hand he’s holding: that of Saori’s skeleton. He strokes it softly, assuring her that she’s not alone anymore.

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Back in Yuuko’s room, he explains that Saori went missing six months ago, and that her mother is now questioned by the police. He comments that Himawari sure saved them, not noticing how Yuuko stays conspicuously silent. Ame Warashi comes in and congratulates him on a job well done.

Watanuki minimizes the difficulty, now that Saori is at peace but Ame Warashi cuts him short. She laughs at his misunderstanding: the one she wanted to save was the hydrangea, part of her rain family. Because of the human blood, it became red, which spoiled it. Really, she couldn’t care less about any human. “Humans don’t ever help supernatural creatures like us. Why should we help humans?” Wow, that’s some harsh truth.

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At Yuuko’s question, Ame Warashi promises to bring the “payment” later. Her face turns sour at the sight of Himawari’s ribbon, and she takes her leave. Later, Watanuki comes to Yuuko to ask if she agrees with Ame Warashi concerning humans. Is it really useless to save them? The recent events helped him realize that his ability can save people, and that made him happy. It’s also thanks to Yuuko, he adds.

Warily, he wonders if it would still be “hitsuzen” (inevitable) or his own choice if he decided to use his power to help others. Yuuko warns him that this choice means that he has to cancel his wish. If he wants to save people, he has to keep seeing ghosts. Which means that he’d have no reason to come to her shop. This rule comes into form as the room slowly evaporates into pieces right in front of him. Yuuko herself fades into red butterflies, leaving Watanuki to scream her name in anguish.

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Impressions:

Wow. Now that’s what I call a cliffhanger, which isn’t xxxHolic’s strong point.

I know I’m repeating myself, but I really like the show’s direction. It has its own atmosphere, otherwordly and dark while keeping cheeky and funny beats. It’s not easy adaptating a manga like xxxHolic, given the complex universe it developed. But each episode of the drama version proves to respect a certain aesthetic, or general tone. This time, the horror style was rather vintage, from the location to the clothing. The 70’s, anyone?

That said, it does lack the addictive factor, the extra oomph that makes you expects the next episode feverishly as you bite your nails. What did I say about cliffhangers again?

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The way this episode ends proves me wrong, though. I highly doubt the show will go through the disappearance of Yuuko, so it’s most likely a fake-out, but its use and timing succeeded at infusing a sense of urgency that the drama needs more of. This storyline is used in the manga, in a totally different way and much later in the story, yet I can understand the show wanted to play this card, for the surprise effect. Which was effective.

I liked how the episode also continued to explore the concept of choice. After Doumeki, it’s Himawari’s turn as well as Watanuki’s, with (possible) tragic consequences. In each episode, the show has brushed Himawari’s “condition”, teasing us with subtle hints. We have yet to unveil it completely, but we’ve reached a significant point and I loved that the drama allowed her to have a say in the boys’ mission, since she was more passive in the manga.

We know that “hitsuzen” is a driving force of the xxxHolic world, but Yuuko has let our three protagonists choose out of their free will. In the manga, she’s quite cryptic at times, like this exchange they had quite early in the story:

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Watanuki: Then…That means you can see what will happen to people. And you know what will happen to me, everything has already been decided.

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Yuuko: If you think so, that may be the case. If you believe it has been decided, then it’s decided. If you believe it hasn’t been decided, then it’s not.

This is the kind of philosophical debate that xxxHolic loves to throw our way. The drama isn’t quite there yet, but digs its own place. In another chapter of the manga, Yuuko said that words can be scary. “You can’t take them back once they’ve left your mouth.” I bet this is a lesson Drama Watanuki has yet to learn.

On a shallow note: dang, we won’t see Zashiki Warashi! Too bad…Then, Bonus Time! A picture with Yuuko, Ame Warashi and Zashiki Warashi.

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