This is half of the Tsubasa/xxxHOLiC double feature, rented from Netflix; like the Tsubasa portion, it is essentially an extended episode with better animation. A young woman visits Yuuko because she can’t enter her house, and gives Yuuko the key; an invitation to an auction arrives, so Yuuko, Watanuki, and Doumeki go there. The auction is at the same house the woman couldn’t enter. There are several people already there; they are all collectors of various things and were sent a message saying that their collections were incomplete. The host is not present, but guides the guests via notes and opening doors. The house itself is large and rambling; Watanuki’s trip to the bathroom is long and odd: up stairs and down stairs and through trapdoors and crawling and down halls and outside and on and on. Between dinner and bedtime, people disappear, and Watanuki is not happy about that or about sharing a room with Doumeki. He wakes up in the middle of the night, and finds the room has turned into a single, and goes in search of Doumeki and Yuuko. His path is extremely surreal, and he meets up with Doumeki and a couple of other guests in a room of random collections (barbed wire, traffic lights, traps, etc). Eventually they find their host and a fight scene in the surreal landscape ensues.
I watched this dubbed with subtitles because there was some discussion in the animeondvd forums about rewrites, and I was curious. Generally speaking, I don’t like dubs with children or young teenagers; there’s something about the generic dub kid voices that grates on my nerves (oddly, I generally don’t have a problem with kids in US-produced cartoons). I was pleasantly surprised by Colleen Clinkenbeard’s Yuuko; I was watching Trinity Blood when it was announced, and disliked Esther (both character and dub voice). She was also Kirara in Samurai 7 and Rose in FMA, so I was associating her with bad teenage-girl voices and didn’t see how she could be a decent Yuuko; of course, I managed to miss that she was also Hawkeye in FMA. She is, in fact, the only one of the main dub voices I like; Doumeki isn’t bad, and the black Mokona is less annoying than the white Mokona, but Watanuki’s voice is even more whiny than the Japanese version (and he is a bit of a whiner).
Most of the changes I’ve noticed so far (about halfway through; I eventually gave up and switched to Japanese) were just random and did not add anything to the show; a couple were a little clearer than the subtitles, but most were irrelevant. For example, one of the men went to look for the missing people, and a woman at the same time said she was going to look for a restroom because she had had too much to drink; the dub had her wanting to go with him to look for a restroom to powder her nose. There were a fair amount of changes like that; some for better English (which is understandable), and some with slight but overall meaningless changes (which is not).
After Watanuki wakes up to find Doumeki gone (the bedroom changed from a double (two beds) to a single), he wanders off, hears a strange noise, and looks for the source. In the dub, he’s just wandering aimlessly looking for Doumeki, and the noise is either muted or removed. Changes to the dub for flow or clarification or more colloquial English are one thing; removal of sound effects is another. This wasn’t the only place I noticed the sound effects were gone (though the only one where it mattered, so far)
The Japanese track is there and the subtitles are presumably faithful to it (it’s not dubtitled, at least), but the changes, especially the removal of sound effects, seemed very random and gratuitous. The sounds add to the atmosphere and I don’t know why they would remove them.
xxxHOLiC is one of my favorite manga series, and I enjoyed watching the TV series and was planning on buying the it (including whatever limited editions they produced). I am now reluctant due to the random changes in this, but I have no willpower, and will probably buy it anyway.