Something resembling PLOT has arrived! It starts off with Watanuki’s birthday, and a sign of the hardship of being Yuuko (anything beyond feelings has a price). The next scene is Watanuki in a dream of Doumeki’s grandfather (Haruka) and discussion of the butterfly who dreamed he was a man or vice versa (was the butterfly the dream or the man). He then notices Sakura, and Haruka vanishes. There’s also a story about Kohane (the psychic girl from previous volumes) and her powers and their consequences and her relationship with her mother; she was on a show with several other psychics and saw more than the others and was accused of showing off and being a fraud. Watanuki spends the rest of the volume living his life and falling in and out of dreams at random times: some with Sakura, some with Haruka, one with a boy from a previous volume (the boy in the tree who was a lingering spirit, I think). As the volume continues, it gets more and more disjointed; unfortunately, it reminded me of bad manga translations until I realized that it was intentional. Watanuki actually accepts comfort from Doumeki at one point and manages to surprise Yuuko at the end.
One thing that really impressed me was that a couple of things I had vaguely noticed as I read or watched were things that Watanuki noticed and mentioned in this volume; Himawari and Doumeki are the only students ever shown, the only people he sees are those who come to the shop and those related to them, and background people (in the anime at least) were just blobs. They were the sort of things that could be put down to story-telling choices and not showing irrelevant things, and in the anime to lazy animators (though I think that might be the most likely reason for the background people being blobs; that’s not that uncommon), but they turned out to be relevant.
This seems to be a transitional volume; nothing much really happened, but it’s laying the ground for future revelations. There are a lot of discussions about dreams versus reality, tons of butterflies in conversation and art, and some hints about Watanuki, though I don’t know if I would have recognized those hints for what they were if I didn’t have a vague idea of what is to come (failed to completely avoid spoilers).
Sakura is unfortunately from volumes 18 and 19 of Tsubasa, which have not yet been released in the US (17 came out in May; 18 is scheduled for August and 19 for November), so I kind of skimmed her parts. According to amazon.co.jp, volume 13 came out last week (6/23); it doesn’t have a US release date yet. The novel will be out in October, though. I don’t know whether I should be patient and be better about avoiding spoilers (run if I see the words “Tsubasa” or “xxxHOLiC” anywhere) or give in and read ahead.