Genre: Story Traveller
Length: 24
Score: Good

Watanuki has always been bothered by ghosts and spirits – they just won’t leave him alone. One day he wanders into a strange shop run by Yuuko, who claims to “grant wishes” – for a price. For reasons he can’t get his head round he ends up working there, running after Yuuko’s selfish requests and witnessing the supernatural tales of people passing through the shop.

The drawing style is the first thing you’ll notice: people are elongated and oddly shaped. You do get used to it, and it kind of fits the dream-like style. Some of the stories are trivial, others are deep, and you don’t really know what’s going to turn up. It gradually emerges that Yuuko is actually an immensely powerful witch, and that by exposing Watanuki to aspects of both the supernatural and the nature of people, she aims to groom him into something like her successor.

Yuuko plays a significant role in Tsubasa Chronicle as well – pretty much the only character who appears unaltered rather than in an alternative form – but the stories aren’t too strongly connected.

xxxHolic Kei
Length: 13 episodes
Score: Very Good

The second series of xxxHolic is definite improvement. The first series was mostly made of disconnected stories with little bringing them together, swinging unpredictably between light and dark. While not fundamentally different, the second series focuses on a few, more plotful stories.

One of these is the story of Kohane, a quiet young girl who can see spirits and is pounced on by the media – she does TV exorcisms and interviews in magazines. But the public is a fickle beast, and popularity can quickly turn into notoriety and hatred. This is the sort of story that takes more than one episode to solve. The last few episodes focus on the relationship between Watanuki and Himawari (and inevitably Doumeki), and are similarly harsh.

Of course there are also more of the strange and wonderful things: like an aarvark-like creature that buys and sells dreams; or a very creepy ‘bookworm’ that hides in books, eats words and appears to be made out of them, looking a bit like a stretchy black goa’uld; or a god of lightning, who looks like he came out of a kinder egg and lives in the white goods department.

The drawing style is still weird, but the production values certainly haven’t dropped.