A Time Witch and an Orphan with a Destiny

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The second season of Clamp’s otherworldly series, “xxxHolic” started airing in Japan last month. I’ve seen four episodes of it so far.

“xxxHolic: Kei” picks up where the first season left off. Our hapless hero, Kimihiro Watanuki, is still the housekeeper/cook/sake buyer for the time witch Yuko Ichihara who grants wishes for a price.

Also back is Shizuka Doumeki, a classmate who can fire spiritual arrows that saves Watanuki from the spirits, ghosts and goblins intent on devouring him. Watanuki nags and yells at Doumeki who turns a deaf ear to the insults and just demands lunch from the excitable orphan.

Viewers get to know in the first few episodes why Doumeki never sees Yuuko’s shop but only an overgrown field and a rotting fence. The shop is only visible to those who need it.

The first three episodes cover the story arc where Watanuki learns a hard lesson about life and friendship. He loses his right eye but gains half an eye from Doumeki and a better understanding of how others perceive him.

The manga is drawn in this stylized manner where figures are lean and elongated. It did not translate well in the anime version during the first season. It still looks ugly in the second season.

But I forgive the show it’s poor animation because it captures the essence of the manga which can be deep at times and sometimes just silly. Watch the first three episodes and see for yourself.

The first season is already available in the North American market. I don’t know if “xxxHolic Kei” has been licensed.

“Honey, the faucet is spitting out fireballs. Can you call a mage?”

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One can blame “Harry Potter” for the sudden influx of shows featuring magic schools or businesses that cater to the magical crowd. Some do rip off bits from the Potter universe like having a character wear glasses and graduate from an English school of magic. But most that I have seen seem to be based on original works.

“Rental Magica” began life as light novels by Makoto Sando. Never read them so don’t ask me. I’ve only seen the anime incarnation which started airing in Japan in October. So far, I’ve watched up to episode 18 and find it entertaining. This is not a show that I would buy for my collection. But it’s passable light fare that will do when I need an anime fix.

In the world of “Rental Magica,” there exists magical companies that rent out mages to clients in need of supernatural help. A so-called association keeps tabs on these companies and lays down the law if need be. The hero of our show is Itsuki Iba, a second year high school student who had to take over as president of the company called Astral when his old man went missing. Since high schools in Japan last only three years, Itsuki is considered a junior. He’s a nice boy who wears an eyepatch and doesn’t seem to have a magical bone in his body. He’s also cowardly and a pushover. But Itsuki has a good heart, views his ragtag group as his family and possesses a weird looking red eye that can see the weakness of a magic spell, a mage or a monster. Called the Glamsight, it is a very powerful trait that can be a burden on the owner.

When he reveals his right eye, Itsuki is more authoritative, directs his staff on how and where to attack and actually speaks in a more mature commanding voice. But he often bleeds and passes out after using the eye.

Astral’s current staff include Honami Takase Ambler, a childhood pal of Itsuki who is a Celtic witch; Mikan Katsuragi, a young girl from a family who specializes in Shinto magic; Ren Nekoyashiki, an Onmyoudo who uses four cats; and Manami Kuroha, a ghost Itsuki met at a hospital and invited to join his group. Kuroha can do certain things like appear and disappear plus move objects around like a poltergeist. She is also the company apprentice/intern/tea maker/acting maid.

Astral’s competitors include Goetia, a larger company led by Adilisia Lenn Mathers who is descended from Solomon and commands demons to do her bidding. She and Honami went to school together in England and were rivals so to speak. Both also like Itsuki and their rivalry over his affections is used to comedic effect.

The series is only 24 episodes and hasn’t been licensed for the North American market yet. Each episode explains a magical term at the end of the show. “Rental Magica” will never be called a groundbreaking show or cutting edge but it’s entertaining fare. And believe me after you’ve seen as many crappy anime shows as I have, it is a delight and a relief to see something decent.

Seeing the good, the bad and the ugly in this world

Saw the first four episodes of a show called “Kino’s Journey” which has been out on DVD for awhile.

Kino is a girl who dresses like a boy and travels on a talking motorcycle from country to country, never staying more than three days. She and the motorrad called Hermes encounter the good, the bad and the ugly.

Most of the people are bad so far in the first DVD especially the episode where Kino helps some stranded men in the snow. It was a nasty episode and I don’t recommend it to anyone. Cannibalism. Eeew.

In fact, I’m not even tempted to finish this series since it seems to be about stupid and nasty people Kino runs across. Plus the show’s pacing is slow and the opening and ending songs are just so-so.