Watanuki: An Example of Great Character Development
Last month I finally finished reading the xxxHolic manga (i.e. volumes 17 to 19). Been a long time since I wrote a xxxHolic post, huh? Well, I’m glad I got a hold of some copies of these final volumes, and it was very enjoyable to read some more stories in this series. Perhaps this is good timing that I finished just now, since Clamp has recently announced they will have new xxxHolic manga coming out starting next month.
The last three volumes had some great stories, continuing to show the ways Watanuki would grant wishes in Yuuko’s shop. There’s a strong slice-of-life sort of feel to these stories, as the characters develop in small ways from one set of episodic events to the next. And it’s nice to see there’s still interaction between Watanuki and Domeki at least, even if the general plot has moved some of the other major characters away. There’s also a bit of a somber “and life goes on” sort of feel to all these stories that I find unique to the series in general. Watanuki helps people, spirits, and yokai out with their wishes–and they move on. Stuck inside the shop, he finds he can’t help but miss Yuuko, but he still works hard to find satisfaction in the work he does and contentment in the lifestyle he lives.
Suffice to say, Watanuki has changed dramatically since the xxxHolic series first began. Perhaps it’s nearly a 180 degrees reversal in some respects. But a lot of the developments also feel like appropriate extensions of the traits he has exhibited all along. Much of Watanuki’s character development can actually just be traced to his becoming more mature (i.e. to growing up).
Since volume one, Watanuki has been shown to be a dutiful boy, capable of taking care of himself and helping others–albeit not without complaint in many circumstances. “Domeki, Domeki, DOMEKI!” he would scream on a regular basis, and there likewise was no end to his exasperation toward Yuuko’s many demands (both the ridiculous kind as well as the seemingly ridiculous kind). Mokona, Maru, and Moru would get on his nerves quite a bit as well, though at least in their cases it’s fairly understandable. =P
Contrast all this with the composed Watanuki of these final volumes of the series. It has taken some time, but he’s become more confident in his skills as a wish-granter. He recognizes the significance of the supernatural elements he once would always deem ridiculous and troublesome. He is calm and reposed, capable of holding conversations with Domeki on a regular basis. Watanuki still voices his opinion of Domeki from time to time (deep down Watanuki’s still a bit of a tsundere, am I right?), but there’s understanding and mutual respect between the two of them now. Impressively, Watanuki has also reached the point where he can actually maintain some degree of control over Yuuko’s mischievous servants, even reaching the point that he can give Mokona chores in the establishment.
Watanuki’s cool demeanor in these final chapters isn’t what I’d call lifeless or boring, though. I feel that he’s picked up some of Yuuko’s wit over the course of the series–and though he’s still nowhere near as laid-back as she is, it’s clear he’s at least much more approachable than he once was. Watanuki’s personality was understandable given the circumstances of years prior to the start of the series, but it’s been really nice to see him gradually overcome the more volatile side of his nature. Though he’s always been a caring boy deep down, the situations the series has put him in from volume to volume has really given him reason for extensive self-reflection. Like Watanuki, I have at times felt the need to ponder deeply the things of the world and my role within it, and I imagine this is something most people go through–perhaps more often than we all expect.
The ending of the xxxHolic manga did not disappoint me, as I heard it did for many other readers. Perhaps this is partly because I read the series in chunks as volumes, but I still got the sense that the creators of the series knew what they were doing with Watanuki, even if things were a bit rushed in the end. xxxHolic isn’t the sort of series where, for example, Watanuki would marry Himawari in the end. In xxxHolic at least, Clamp doesn’t seem to pidgeonhole their characters into static roles like that. Characters change, and like most teenagers, they don’t end up living their lives the exact sort of way they were expecting. In fact, I imagine that for most people they become adults quite different from what they plan to be. That’s how it’s been for me at least, and I won’t be surprised if I’m unable to predict what kind of person I’ll be ten years from now. When we look back at the events that compose our lives, the course we’ve taken becomes clear only in hindsight.
That said, we still have our dreams, and no matter how old we get, it’s still possible to hold on to them. I’ll be curious to see where Clamp will go with Watanuki from here. I’ll assume that the series will continue where the ending left off, over a hundred years after Watanuki took over the shop. Will he one day achieve his dream to be reunited with Yuuko?