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Review: XXXholic – Gekijôban XXXHolic Manatsu no yoru no yume (2005)

Directed by: Tsutomo Mizushima | 60 minutes | drama, animation, fantasy | Original Voice Cast: Sayaka Oohara, Jun Fukuyama, Kazuya Nakai, Mika Kikuchi

It’s a curious title, but no, “XXXholic” is not about a porn addict or, in the vein of the “Trekkies” documentary, about the fans of the “XXX” film series. No, it is a movie version of a popular Japanese comic of the same name.

It is an interesting-looking film and there is also a lot of original content, but the question arises to what extent you as a viewer must be familiar with the original comic in order to enjoy the film sufficiently. The sometimes odd characters with annoyingly jumping creatures such as sidekicks or strange behaviors deserve a little more attention to “get the viewer on”. Now a colorful collection of characters is introduced very briefly, after which the main story is soon started. This is unfortunate. For example, what kind of a mysterious figure is Yuko? Why is she so fond of sake and why should everyone serve her in exchange for help? And why is Watanuki haunted by ghosts, which Domeki can then chase away? What is the function of the spirits in this particular universe at all? What do they want? Can they harm? All unclear.

The story itself is quite intriguing. A group of people are invited to a large country house. People have in common that they are all collectors. Collections they can perfect in the house. It is wonderful to see the various meeting rooms pass by in all their glory. With the most bizarre collections: a collection of wool irons, butterfly feelers, traffic lights … you can’t imagine it that someone in the film will collect it. Fun is the scene in which Watanuki goes looking for a toilet in the house, but is completely lost due to a constantly changing room and corridors. Everything shifts, twists and narrows where you stand, similar to the instantly adapting houses and flats in Alex Proyas’ “Dark City”. Ultimately, Watanuki ends up in a narrow and long crawl hole where there is no toilet to be seen. In this scene, the idiosyncratic animation style of the different characters also comes into its own. The limbs of the different figures are narrow and long, just like those of Jack Skellington in “The Nightmare Before Christmas”.

The fanciful events and rooms in the mysterious house make the film quite worthwhile. The story itself is unfortunately disappointing. The ending is predictable, not very shocking and also a bit sentimental. After the light-hearted tone of the rest of the film, an attempt now seems to be made to insert a dramatic aspect that seems to imitate the nostalgia of an Ozu film. But of course this cannot be done. At least not in a movie like this. “XXXholic” is a nice pastime here and there, but the film is not really impressive.

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