Director: Hayao Miyazaki; Release Date: April 15, 2003
Watanuki arrives at Yuko's shop for work (cooking, cleaning, running errands) and finds an envelope on the floor. He looks it over and then proceeds to find out what Yuko wants him to do around the shop first. It's not long before a client comes asking for Yuko's help. The young girl explains that she's been away for some time, and after arriving home recently finds that her house won't let her in even though she has a key. Yuko agrees to help her, and after she leaves Watanuki remembers the envelope he'd found and gives it to Yuko. It turns out to be an invitation to a collector's auction at the very same house that refuses to let it's owner in. Later, Yuko, Watanuki, Domeki, and Mokona arrive at the house, and after a time Watanuki starts to see and smell black smoke (in Inuyasha they call it miasma. Except in xxxHOLiC it isn't necessarily demon energy.) that always materializes around people with "issues." In this case the collector's are very greedy and conceited, and are arguing about who has the best collection. Unfortunately, Watanuki becomes physically ill whenever black smoke starts swirling around someone, so he goes in search of a washroom.
That's when things get weird. One by one the collectors start to disappear without a trace, and each time a cryptic note appears with instructions on what the remaining guests are to do next, and with each disappearance the guests become more and more agitated as their host hasn't been seen since their arrival. Watanuki and Domeki ultimately decide to go looking for the missing guests, in part because Yuko has gone missing with them.
One of the very first things I noticed was that the entry hall of the house/mansion looked incredibly similar to Ultimecia's castle in FF VIII. I'm not sure if that's coincidence or not as I have read that CLAMP likes to make references to other anime at times. Another interesting thing I noticed was the design of the house, at least for the first half of the movie, was a direct reference to the Winchester Mansion in San Jose, California.
The animation, and overall feel of this movie are on par with the series; dark, mysterious, ominous, and very, very, Gothic. The main characters are the same as far as their personalities and interactions, however, I didn't really relate at all to the supporting cast at all. The ending seemed rushed, and frankly I expected much more of an explanation than what was given. In the series it was easy to identify and sympathize with Yuko's clients even in the short span of 24 minutes. I actually found myself feeling like "That's it? Are you serious?" at the end of this movie. Their seemed to be very little thought put into making the antagonist a three dimensional personality.
The (dub) voice cast is the same as the series, which is a major plus because they are absolutely fantastic at what they do. After watching commentary from the Japanese cast I was absolutely amazed at how well matched the voices are.
As far as special features go, there are character design sketches, and a couple of short minor additions, but the best thing by far was watching the Japanese cast watch the movie and comment on it. And I mean really comment on the movie; animation, the creepy feel of the house, the character personalities, as well as some totally off topic things. Most original cast commentaries I've seen focus on the technical aspects of recording, but don't focus much on the film/series itself.
Overall I really enjoyed this movie. Considering the length (56 minutes), I think it could have easily been part of the series. Apparently though this was meant to be a precursor to the series itself. It should also be noted that xxxHOLiC: The Movie crosses over with Tsubasa RC at the very end, and if my understanding is correct, that is because this movie was originally released as a double feature. Knowledge of Tsubasa is not required though, so there's no need to worry about that.
What did you think of this review?