The first of four OVAs concerning the Tsubasa/xxxHolic worlds was released this week and it’s certainly entertaining for those who are longtime fans of the series. I was surprised what chapters they decided to use, and it seems like there are a bunch of omissions and jumping around, so I’m going to include some manga references in this review.
I was a bit disappointed with the opening animation that Production I.G. decided to use. The whole “characters cast in shadows” just seemed lazy on its own, and would have done better coupled with something more active. Suga Shikao returns as the usual OP singer with “Sofa”. It has a slower tempo than “Nobody Knows” and “19sai”, and it’s taken a couple of listen-throughs to get used to it. One interesting item is the addition of Sakura and Syaoran to the opening, since I’m pretty sure they were left out of the TV series due to licensing issues.
Okay, so Shunmuki is easy to comprehend if you’re just watching it without regard to the manga. But now that I’m trying to match up the scenes with the chapters, the timeline is becoming a crazy roller coaster ride. To start off, Shunmuki begins with Watanuki walking outside to meet Yuuko under a sakura tree. Their conversation is short and sweet since this plays before the opening credits, and a lot is left out from the original Chapter 144 material. My guess is that Production I.G. will loop back around in the second xxxHolic OVA, so I’ll put the “spoilers” in white. Highlight to read: (This scene is supposed to be towards the end of Watanuki’s trippy dream sequence where he questions his existence. I really hope that they include the rest of the scene because the part where Watanuki asks to grant one of Yuuko’s wishes and her subsequent reaction is one of the best in the series.)
Now things skip forward to Kohane, Watanuki and Doumeki’s meal at the Psychic Grandma’s house, which originally happens in Chapter 158. This scene is pretty much left unchanged, and they actually did a good job of extending certain moments. I laughed really hard when Watanuki followed the sound of loud munching, only to find Doumeki sitting there eating chips. I haven’t read this chapter in a while, so I fully expected the culprit to be Mokona.
As all four of them sit down, Psychic Grandma talks to Kohane about becoming her protege. Then Doumeki and Kohane leave to fetch a box from the store room and Psychic Grandma notes how Watanuki has changed since their last meeting. She also points out some calligraphy hanging on the wall that Yuuko did in the past. I like to imagine that Yuuko wasn’t always the suave, omnipotent woman that she is now, so it’s nice to see that she also had a mentor.
In the storeroom, Kohane asks Doumeki what happened when he and Watanuki met for the first time. Apparently, Watanuki reacted immediately by trying to kick Doumeki, which makes me think of latent memories. I found it interesting that Doumeki speaks of the Hundred Stories incident as a major point in their relationship. I would have thought the Angel or Hydrangea incident would have shown more importance to him. Anyhow, Kohane then asks why Doumeki bothers to stick around Watanuki. He then recalls a rainy day in which he saw Watanuki standing by the river holding a dead cat in his arms, and he hears Watanuki say “I’ll die alone like this, too”. Kohane comments that he may have been alone on that day, but now he has people who care about him. The scene ends with Doumeki promising Kohane that he’ll take care of Watanuki.
The two boys then leave the house to take some food to Yuuko and the others. Then for some reason, things switch back to Chapter 123. Watanuki takes a moment to shyly thank Doumeki for giving blood after the school window incident. Of course, hijinks ensue since Doumeki has no sense of telling when someone’s embarassed. Actually, he’s probably just sadistic and loves to see Watanuki get flustered. Either way, I approve. Oh, and BIG lol at Watanuki running into Yuuko’s fence as he tried to keep Doumeki from seeing his face.
They arrive at Yuuko’s and Watanuki is greeted by a face full of fresh-outta-the-bath Mokona. A little quirk is that it originally was the Pipe Fox that pounced on him, and part of the following scenes were supposed to include Watanuki giving Pipe Fox the name of “Mugetsu”. But they made up for it by having Yuuko tease Watanuki by repeating the thank you that he said to Doumeki outside. Gotta watch out what you say within a 50 mile radius of her.
Yuuko and Doumeki have a rare conversation by themselves. I swear Doumeki’s getting more lines in this OVA than he has in the past two seasons. Anyhow, I’m not sure what went on in this scene because originally Doumeki’s supposed to receive the second unhatched egg from Yuuko. I don’t understand why they include certain things from Tsubasa but omit others.
Next, we get a flashback to Chapter 107 in which R! Syaoran shows up before moving on to meet the Tsubasa crew. He and Watanuki meet face to face and Watanuki can sense something. Before vanishing, Syaoran tells Watanuki “Don’t disappear”, and all this is screwing with my head because this happened before the school window incident. Though I have to say this is easier to deal with than the nonlinear mess that was in Kara no Kyoukai 5.
A quick glimpse of the Tsubasa crew in Nihon Country is shown, but that’s all until Tsubasa Shunraiki’s first OVA comes out.
Short little chit chat between Watanuki and Haruka-san~ in which he asks Watanuki do a favor for him. Doumeki lets Watanuki into Haruka’s old storeroom and they find a book that mysteriously becomes distorted after Watanuki touches it. I’m preeetty sure this is something added for this OVA.
In the blink of an eye, Watanuki finds himself out fishing with Doumeki sitting beside him as is portrayed in Chapter 141. Rain begins to fall as night time sets in, and Doumeki notices an inn that they can take shelter in.
A girl comes to the door, but appears startled when she sees Doumeki for some reason. Behind her, several older women beckon the boys to come in. After they get settled in, the girl comes to their room and tells them that they must leave immediately. Watanuki tries to get an explanation out of her, but she runs off.
Shrugging off the message, the boys venture out to find oil to relit a candle in their room. Watanuki notices a lit room ahead and upon approaching hears the voices of the older women from earlier. However the shadows cast on the screen door are that of human sized crows holding knives, and they talk of how tasty the guys will be. Reminds me of the creepy old married couple in Okami.
Also, the way that the women’s eyes are shown in their human forms makes me think of how the youkai in Sailor Moon always looked.
Doumeki saves the day by throwing some of the leftover fishing bait on the ground, which the crow women can’t resist to stop and eat. Next thing the boys know, they’ve been transported back into Haruka’s storeroom. The manga originally just ends after they escape, but the OVA explains the whole ordeal as them having fallen into the book that Watanuki had been holding. Again, not sure why this is being modified since they’re using bits and pieces from the Dreams arc along with Tsubasa’s Nihon Country.
The ending credits conclude things with a side-scrolling image of almost every character that has appeared in the xxxHolic, and the accompaning song is “Cherish” by Azu. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this artist before, but it reminds me of Fonegenico’s style and the song’s catchy.
I think the most surprising aspect about Shunmuki is the complete omission of Himawari, except for the opening and ending images, plus the restructuring of Watanuki’s interactions with Sakura. I assume that they’ll show up in the second xxxHolic OVA or somewhere in Tsubasa Shunraiki. It’s also interesting how much this shows that being a manga follower of a series can alter how you watch the related anime. Overall, I’m pleased with how much material this OVA covered and I can’t wait for the rest.