For as long as he can remember, Kimihiro Watanuki has been plagued by being able to see spirits–and worse, by attracting them! It is on a seemingly ordinary day, much like any other, that while he is attempting to evade a particularly nasty and persistent spirit, Watanuki finds himself drawn–physically, by powers unseen–into an eccentric-looking shop. Within this shop, he encounters the even more eccentric shop-keeper, Yūko Ichihara, who claims his coming is hitsuzen, fate. Before long, Watanuki finds himself employed part-time, serving the unusual, selfish, and frequently-drunk Yūko–and the steady stream of customers, human and otherwise, who frequent the shop that fulfills wishes.
XxxHOLiC has got to be one of the best manga out there, period. The characters are first-rate–well developed, unique, and showing immense and fascinating growth over the course of the story–and the relationships between them are subtle and beautiful. In particular, I love Watanuki’s overreaction to Domeki (his best friend, although he won’t admit it) and to Yūko. And the subtle developments in Yūko, going from a completely overbearing and selfish individual to a self-sacrificing and almost motherly one, is absolutely incredible and completely fitting with the story. Because that’s a major factor in the story, the idea that the people we encounter change us and that everything has a purpose. I also really enjoy the inclusion of lots of Japanese legends, especially as CLAMP weaves them into the modern world in a classic urban-fantasy fashion. The main story-line itself is intricate yet wonderfully consistent–and absolutely heart-rending. Finally, the art is beautiful–primarily a classic CLAMP style, but with a more traditional Japanese art flavor that fits the storyline perfectly. I would highly recommend xxxHOLiC to anyone, regardless of usual taste; it supersedes barriers like gender, style, and age in a wonderful manner.