Manga book club is bad for me. I can't just start the series for that month's club; I have to read every bit of it I can get my hands on. So, yeah, manga seems to have taken over my life. Really, though, I am trying to read novels, too....
xxxHolic by CLAMP
In honor of the month of April, APL's manga book club is reading both xxxHolic and Tsubasa, intertwining, world-shattering, self-referencial comic series by the manga-ka group that brought you Cardcaptor Sakura, Magic Knight Rayearth, and Angelic Layer.
In xxxHolic Watanuki is a very unusual high school boy--he's an orphan, somewhat of a loner, very high-strung, oh, and he can see ghosts and spirits. And they really like him. To the point where he is flailing in the street and screaming at what appears to be nothing. Then he finds a mysterious shop and meets the equally mysterious Yuuko. In this shop the merchandise is wish-fulfillment and the currency is your most valued possessions. Yuko can grant almost any wish, but are you sure you want her to?
The things that really makes xxxHolic work are characters and the mood. While mysterious, Yuuko is also very down to earth, loving to drink alcohol, lounge around, and play all day. She is the voice of wisdom but also of insanity. Watanuki appears to be all energy, comedy, and simplicity; and yet, as we learn more about his life and his wishes, we realize that he is much more than a clown. And often, what he says isn't really what he means. Doumeki, Himawari, and Mokona are more than they first appear, also. Their parts extend beyond just foils and side characters. As the story continues, they become vital to understanding what is truly going on at Yuuko's shop.
The shop itself creates much of the eldritch atmosphere. It only appears to those who need it; if you don't see it today, you might tomorrow. Together with Yuuko's cryptic proclamations and Watanuki's strange visions, all of these things conspire to create a strange and beautiful world--the butterfly's dream.
Tsubasa by CLAMP
In the second volume of xxxHolic, the characters of Tsubasa visit and request wishes from Yuuko. This is the first instance of intertwining but not nearly the last. Sakura is the princess of the Clow Kingdom, a simple desert land with sweet and secret magics. Syaoran is her childhood friend and love interest; he is an orphan who was raised as an archeologist working on the ancient ruins of the Clow. When Sakura visits the dig, something happens to her and her memories are scattered throughout multiple dimensions in the form of feathers; if Syaoran can collect them and return them to her, she will live; if not she will die.
His two companions have opposite but mutually grantable wishes. Kurogane is a ninja from a feudal version of Japan, whose princess has banished him to another dimension to teach him that having great strength does not necessitate killing. He wishes to return to his home. Fai (pronounced like eye) is a magician who has imprisioned his king and wishes to travel dimensions and never return to his own.
Yuuko grants all of there wishes by giving them a small, white creature called Mokona Modoki. Mokona is one of only two creatures, one of which stays with Yuuko. The black Mokona is for communication; the white, for dimension travel.
And so the travelers begin their journey....