Soul and Body: Unbreakable Bonds in xxxholic and TRC

by Foxy Lady Ayame.
ichihara yuuko li syaoran tsubasa reservoir chronicle clamp in wonderland holic cardland
Yuuko from xxxholic and Syaoran from TRC by CLAMP

The discussion about the existence and nature of soul and its relationship with the body has been a long and old one. Anyone interested in philosophical matters has at least a faint idea about Plato’s tripartite theory of soul (according to which the soul is separated in three parts: the appetitive, the rational and the spirited) and his claim that the soul, the essence of our being, is something eternal. Plato gives a more ethical aspect to the soul, since it relates to justice, in contrast to Aristotle’s point of view, which is more earth-bound and ‘scientific’. Soul isn’t some kind of body, but isn’t something spiritual either. For Aristotle the soul doesn’t exist without the body and is defined as a system of abilities possessed and manifested by animate bodies of suitable structure.[1][2] We could go on talking about this topic, but I am no expert on philosophy and this isn’t the purpose of this post either.

xxxholic and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle are two manga by CLAMP that were written almost simultaneously and complement each other, just like soul and body. xxxholic is a more philosophical and psychological set of stories with a supernatural cover, while TRC is an action-packed story. The first engages the soul/spirit; the latter has to do with the body. The above image features Yuuko and Syaoran, the protagonists of each manga, reinforcing or rather establishing this duality and the connection between the works with the use of yin & yang imagery (white and black lilies, female and male). It’s interesting how both works discuss the strong bond between soul and body.

tsubasa ch.64 p.11

In TRC, while our main characters end in Shura country, Syaoran’s eye hurts and Sakura, without thinking about it much, kisses his eye to lessen the pain and show affection. That comes as a surprise to both, because the princess has lost most of her ‘feathers’, hence memories or soul. Mokona explains that the incident was the result of ‘body memory’. The term is usually associated with traumatic events and thus I’m not sure if we can use it in this case, too (can Syaoran feeling pain be considered a traumatic event?).

Body memory: This popularly-used term is actually a misnomer. The body does not have neurons capable of remembering; only the brain does. The term refers to body sensations that symbolically or literally capture some aspect of the trauma. Sensory impulses are recorded in the parietal lobes of the brain, and these remembrances of bodily sensations can be felt when similar occurrences or cues restimulate the stored memories.[3] For example, a person who was raped may later experience pelvic pain similar to that experienced at the time of the event. This type of bodily sensation may occur in any sensory mode: tactile, taste, smell, kinesthetic, or sight. Body memories may be diagnosed as somatoform disorder.[4]

Of course, here we have to do with a work of fiction and it’s understandable that writers can write things the way they want. And it’s only natural that figurative speech is used; when our chest aches due to sadness or anxiety that has to do with love issues, we simply say that our ‘heart aches’ or that we have a ‘heart break’, even though we know this thing really can’t be happening. In the same manner, Mokona talks about memories of the heart and memories of the body. What Sakura did is more like a learned habit, which due to its association with body movement, isn’t ‘deleted’, but has been deeply engraved into the brain. It’s kind of like heading towards school, taking the same road, even though you graduated one month ago. Or like opening a certain cupboard in your new house, because there used to be the glasses, but now this has changed.

xxxHolic ch.172, p.3

In xxxholic the same idea is repeated with almost identical words in ch.161, p.8 and 9 by the black Mokona this time and the one listening to them is Watanuki. His circumstances were created as consequence of certain wishes and the result is that he doesn’t remember his past, just like Sakura-hime, although for different reasons. But where the difference enters is in which frame and about what topic these words are said in xxxholic; the connection between the soul and the body is manifested in the activities of cooking, eating and tasting. Electrifying, isn’t it?

“To eat is a very important and lucky thing. And it’s very frightening as well.”
– Yuuko Ichihara

The situation looks like this: a lady, who is going to marry soon, comes to the shop with the wish to learn cooking. Yuuko assigns the case to Watanuki who realizes that the lady isn’t bad at all at carrying out the recipes. Naturally, he becomes curious as to why she asked cooking lessons and the answer comes as a shock to him: she finds eating a food she made herself disgusting, like everything else around her. What she cooked was edible and according to the instructions given, but Doumeki, who usually eats a lot when Watanuki cooks for Yuuko-tachi, made a grimace upon tasting the lady’s food and didn’t eat more. Doumeki explains and then realization dawned upon Watanuki:

D: … they tasted like… I couldn’t tell who made them.
W: Well… yeah it was someone whom you’ve never met, after all…
D: No… I couldn’t feel any sense of the person who’d made it, any of their nature or quirks in it. Or any feeling.
W: But, well… that was because all the seasonings and stuff were straight from the recipe…
D: Even so… Even unconsciously, if you happen to like things sweeter, you find yourself adding that bit more sugar or that bit more soy sauce… or if you like things softer, you find yourself boiling it a bit longer. Having lived somewhere cold or lived somewhere hot… even little things like that can make a dish different, even if it was made just the same way. There are things you don’t think about with your head… your body just picks them up, according to all the things you’ve been through in your life, right? Things like taste are the epitome of that.
W: Even if I don’t remember… you think it’s still all there… inside of me? The feelings of the people who made food for me…

Therefore, eating your own food is a way of knowing yourself—and that’s why it can be scary. It is also revealed that Watanuki didn’t have the sense of taste and didn’t know what he actually liked, in spite of his suburb abilities of cooking delicious food. This is explained through his ‘erased’ past and his previous indifference for the people and things around him. Yet the ‘body remembers’ and thus he took the skills and tastes of his father. As for the lady, she ran away from Watanuki at first, but he kept bringing her food he made. And one day she tried it and after that she tried her own food, being left devastated by the truth- that she must be empty inside. She postponed the wedding, until Watanuki would teach her how to add ‘flavor’ to her own food.

xxxholic ch 158 CLAMP
Watanuki teaching Kohane cooking

I’ll make a small parenthesis here: this story ‘talked’ to me like few have. It’s because I have always somatized my feelings. When I was younger, it was worse. Stress for my achievement records caused me nausea, and even now when there are quarrels between me and my father, I can feel my stomach shrink and I lose weight. Lately, since I learned how to control my nausea, the body found another way to let suppressed feelings out: shivering and diarrhea. Freud theorized that unacceptable emotions led to psychological conflict that was then converted into physical symptoms. And he was right.

You can’t really fool the body. The reason doesn’t have to be clear always. There were periods, especially during the summer, that my health digressed and I couldn’t stop vomiting. Now that I look back at it, it makes sense. I was the good child my parents wanted me to be. I was refused all the simple joys of pupil life, like parties and going out with friends on weekdays, even on Fridays. It was expected of me that I wouldn’t have a romantic relationship. And for years I kept denying that my parents denied me trust, freedom and real love. So, in the summer, when I was totally alone with them, without school to distract me, my organism protested. My body understood that I didn’t want any more of what they ‘fed’ me. Not that protectiveness and possessiveness of theirs.

Cooking, until recently, was out of question, too. The smells made me feel sick. The kitchen is the room that we have every day, every morning, noon and evening our meals and also the place where indoctrination takes place 90%. Two or three years ago, my fear for cooking got more or less resolved because 1. I started admitting being oppressed with the help of a professor, 2. I got into my secret distant relationship with my boyfriend, who made me feel honestly loved, 3. I won a quarrel and thus achieved the feat of having my own room and space and 4. I tried cooking in a shop, where some acquaintances worked, and I had no problem – it was my kitchen I hated.

-End of parenthesis-



Thus far we’ve talked about how body and soul influence one another in TRC and xxxholic. But what about the nature of soul itself? From the above scans taken from TRC, the first from the first volumes of the manga and the second from the final chapter, we can assume that CLAMP have adopted the Platonic ideas about the immortality of the soul and reincarnation. Soul in the CLAMP cosmos, with the multiple and parallel universes, is like water in communicating vessels. Touya and Yukito in Hanshin Republic, for example, share the same ‘connection’, meaning they are soulmates, as Touya and Yukito in Clow country as well as in the universe of Cardcaptor Sakura where we first encountered them. They share the same bodies, too—for convenience’s shake most probably.


At the same time though the time doesn’t flow in a circle – it doesn’t repeat as Watanuki mentions in xxxholic. Although talk about reincarnation is done in TRC, death is something final and it’s taboo to try to undo it. The results are very messy as someone, who’ve read TRC, knows.

And here I’m done talking…

Thanks for reading and see you next time! I hope you found this post interesting. 🙂


  1. Lorenz, Hendrik, “Ancient Theories of Soul”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
  2. Wikipedia contributors. “Soul.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 15 Mar. 2012. Web. 17 Mar. 2012.
  3. Lenore Terr, M.D., personal correspondence, 31 August 1994
  4. “Dissociative Disorders Glossary.” Sidran Institute. Sidran Institute, 2012. Mar. 2012.

About the Guest Author:
With the shiftness of the world’s naughtiest tail, the innocence of youthful eyes and the smartness of a fox’s brain, she travels the world of ideas and articles along with her companion. Through their long journey, they have carried a great variety of spices (anime, manga, music, books…) to make their days and nights as tasteful as possible. You can find their diairies at She writes under the pen name Foxy Lady there and usually bears the nickname ayame in the wordpress-sphere.

This entry was posted in Anime/ Manga, Editorial, Guest Posts, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, xxxholic and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Soul and Body: Unbreakable Bonds in xxxholic and TRC

  1. Nopy says:

    I can’t say that I’ve ever experienced psychological conflict being converted to physical symptoms, but that sounds horrible. The concept of body memory is interesting, even though it is actually the brain or spinal cord that remembers. When I took martial arts, one of the questions that sometimes came up was why we did the same thing over and over. The response is that it trains your body to do that motion, so if you’re ever in a fight, you will act without having to think. After some bio classes, I know that’s not true, but it’s still cool.

    • Establishing a routine everywhere in your life is not as bad as it usually people think of it. It helps people regulate their lives and feel safe. In the case of martial arts it’s (beside what I mentioned already) about developing reflexes. From my experience I can associate it with learning to drive – a driver must learn to do things ‘quickly’ and smoothly without having to look e.g. where (s)he steps, on which pedal, or where the hands go when speed has to change. These are physical reflexes. The concept of body memory is linked firstly to emotional reflexes, if that makes sense. Of course, as you said and as I mentioned in the post, it’s in the brain where all the ‘work’ takes place.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Mushyrulez says:

    Heh, Ayame, are you going to be filling in the gap 2DT left behind? Very… uh, academic post you’ve written here. (Not much I can say on the actual post, though…)

    • Really? Is it that good? Comparing me with 2DT is a bit too much, isn’t it? I’m flattered in any case. And I’m more than happy that even though you didn’t have much to comment, you ‘signed attendance’. I’m grateful *waves tail*

  3. Marina says:

    What a fascinating post, and on a couple of works that I hold very dear to my heart, though I only know them in their anime form 🙂
    I didn’t realize that this post wasn’t written by Yi until I reached the bottom, but I must say that I applaud your research–even more impressive is how clear and stable your voice is throughout the whole piece, even in the parenthetical section. I’ve done a bit of reading on psychoanalysis and Freud for my grad studies and also read some Plato and Aristotle in an undergrad Ethics course. You, however, made both topics much more interesting and relatable.
    I particularly enjoyed the discussion on food and its preparation. I’m reminded of the book Like Water for Chocolate, where the protagonist’s state of heart affects the food that she cooks, and thus also the people who eat it. I have a ton of fun cooking, and although I’m not a practiced cook by any means, I’m always surprised when someone enjoys a meal that I made. I like to think they feel the effort and love that went into the process.

    • If you know them only in the anime form, you might have gained the visual experience, but I think you might have lost on content, especially in relationship content. Now, I haven’t watched many episodes from both exactly because I found out some things had been altered/added for the worse like Fai’s- Kurogane’s relationship or Arashi’s-Sorata’s (sad) love adventure or the hair of the Amewarashi (a rain spirit having red hair…) or Kohane-chan’s story being resolved way easier and so on. But I did watch and enjoyed the episodes with the Clover bar (I wanted to hear Oruha sing *sigh*) and the two Gods. I must watch the movies though, since they are extra non-manga material. You should probably read the manga to remember and rediscover love in the original.
      If you want you can check my bf’s TRC manga review here: and my commentary about it here:

      “I applaud your research–even more impressive is how clear and stable your voice is throughout the whole piece, even in the parenthetical section. […] You, however, made both topics much more interesting and relatable.”
      Thanks for the good words! My red fur just became very proud of herself 🙂

      I haven’t read the book but I should probably read it along with Chocolat. Or watch the movies. I got reminded by what you said of a very good post of Akirascuro on Moe Fundamentalist about food in Mawaru Penguindrum as well as of that episode in Hanasaku Iroha where the protagonist is angered by her mother and she prepared for the latter omelet with vegetables that she hated – that scene was all the money. As for you personally and your cooking I’d say that everything can begin even before you cook: like choosing the ingredients. I’m sure you try to find the best and that translates in love and taste 🙂 People will understand you cared and that makes the food lovely!
      Will you treat this fox (along with a glass of good wine), if the chance is given? 😉

  4. Cratex says:

    I hope you found this post interesting.

    Yes, I did.

    I’ll make a small parenthesis here

    My brother and I also have a pile of issues stemming from similar sources, an abusive father and broken mother. Not much to say other than it is good you’re doing something about it.

    • I’m happy you found my lil piece of mental labor interesting 🙂

      I want to believe that the post didn’t inflict to you further pain (although physical abuse must be way worse than psychological).I hope you hang in there. I wish you the best and to find loving people in your lives. I think it’s the only way to heal. For everyone come days of joy sooner or later. I don’t know your whereabouts and maybe it’s irresponsible to talk when I don’t know much, but the best is yet to come – I wasn’t expecting finding someone to understand me and be tender with me for a long time. So, I guess, if you haven’t already found ways to deal with your situation, be courageous and take chances in life. It’ll be rewarding someday.

  5. Cratex says:

    “I want to believe that the post didn’t inflict to you further pain”

    Naw – nothing of the sort.

    although physical abuse must be way worse than psychological

    I’m no expert, but psychological scars can be deeper and be harder to heal – mix the two together…
    I’m nearing 50, but it’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve been able to start coming to terms with some things. After all that time what changed? It’s complex, but the short answer is “I let go”. My past (and, at this point my future) didn’t matter, but my son’s future does, and I’d be damned if I would be an anchor around his neck. It gives me a reason to get out of bed and go to work each day.

    • If the reason of your pain isn’t involved in your life any longer, wounds are easier to heal. I know coz I’ve been bullied in high school and hated the abuser, but now that this is gone I don’t feel strong resentment.
      I’m glad to hear that your son is the source of your strength, but I think that it’s never too long to do things for yourself. Blogging is a great example 🙂 Do the things you wanted to do, if you can and socialize. It’s safer when you take strength from multiple sources.

  6. foomafoo says:

    “There are two memories, memories of the heart and memories of the body. The memories of the heart are important, but the memories of the body are very important as well. Sometimes, even if the heart forgets the body remembers.” – Chapter 161 [I have this quote one of my faves from Holic] but sorry, I’m haven’t read Tsubasa xP.

    I’ve done a little research about this in the past and in fact, according to psychology, procedural knowledge (ie procedural memory like learning how to ride a bike and never forgetting how to once you learn) often pertains to knowledge which cannot be easily articulated by the individual, or knowledge that is non-conscious. The non-conscious part here ticks me off and amazed at the same time since there’s a big portion of how our bodies remember these activities unexplained. The body and soul memory might just explain that!

    The body and soul influence theme of xxxHolic doesn’t stop there. I remember Yuuko reiterating the importance of words, on how it ties people down. This is very much actually more common than activities like cooking and eating. This somehow makes me relate it to the concept of kotodama.

    • There’s no reason to apologize because you haven’t read TRC. But it’s recommended 🙂 Btw I hope the examples were explained enough, so even if you haven’t read/watched TRC, you could understand. Right?

      Non-conscious doesn’t mean that the brain isn’t on work -the “sensory impulses are recorded in the parietal lobes of the brain”. I took the info from Sidran institute, as you can see, an institute that helps people with traumatic experiences recover.

      I remember that one arc. It was also very interesting and yes it relates to kotodama. I didn’t include this one here, because this issue relates more to (auto)suggestion and low self-esteem than body memory. The words, hence the ‘action’, come from another person, they aren’t about a body movement or experience that ‘creates’ a long lasting memory and is translated in some tangible results. It wasn’t always the case that the one twin expressed her beliefs of inferiority through self-harm. For example, there were situations like not being able to find her lenses and this hadn’t to do with the body.

      Thanks for commenting! *waves tail*

  7. SnippetTee says:

    There are things you don’t think about with your head… your body just picks them up, according to all the things you’ve been through in your life, right
    I haven’t really checked out this manga and I’m not really good at cooking but I’m watching food network so I have some idea about foods. I agree with Doumeki… I think, the reason why signature dishes exist is because different cooks have different tastes and these resonate to the food–simple things like how they cut, boil, and add water make a huge difference. So regardless of having a universal recipe, a dish is always being customized in accordance to the cook’s instincts and preference–and this pretty much correlates with the mind/body dichotomy.

    Also, lots of cooks believe that there’s a connection between food and mood. Come to think of it, it’s fascinating how we can describe our moods just like how we taste our foods–hot, cool, sour, bitter, sweet, etc.

    • I can’t claim I’m a real gourmet, but I can notice when an ingredient changes pretty easily. That said I’ve eaten some really great meat dishes and although I’m not a meat person I totally fell in love with them and their taste is such a fond memory. My wallet might have winced but it deserved every penny. The sauce and the side dish as well as the design of the restaurant and its atmosphere added to the flavor. Eating with people who love you and whom you love enhances the experience. What I want to say is that it really has to do with the cook but also with some other extra details.

      “Come to think of it, it’s fascinating how we can describe our moods just like how we taste our foods–hot, cool, sour, bitter, sweet, etc.”

      That’s such a sharp remark! I hadn’t noticed it before. Now that you’ve mentioned this, I remembered reading that what you eat influences your sexual appetite and the taste of sexual fluids. Not totally relevant, I know, it just came to my mind. Sth more relevant would be what Yuzuriha from X/1999 says some times, that when you are hungry, you get sad easier, so eating makes you happy 🙂

      Thanks for making time to comment 🙂 *waves tail*

  8. jreding says:

    Ayama, what an interesting and very personal post! I had to reflect for a while before I could think of a proper comment so I may be a bit (too) late by now.

    From the material you are referring to I sadly only know the xxxholic anime shows yet (is TRC as good as xxxholic? If so I should give it a try!). But I noticed that lots of different and delicious kinds of food prepared by Watanuki featured prominently (almost excessively) in xxxholic. Being not much of a cook myself it still enticed me to taste some new stuff in the Japanese restaurants in my town!

    But let’s get to the point:

    The strong connection you describe between cooking and your personal circumstances was quite touching for me even though I did not experience anything similar. I think that it is good and important that the body sends such signals indicating unacceptable circumstances. Sometimes I think it might be actually worse if the body just works fine and does not prevent one from enduring such situations. I’ve always felt sorry for Watanuki as he indeed was an excellent cook but was stressed out all the time and did not seem to have much enjoyment in his life. I wished him to taste himself a bit more of the delicious food he prepared.

    Body memory, of course, is one step further than just physical reaction to stress or circumstances. I would also differentiate between actual body memory (which seems to be trauma-induced, as I understand you scientific quote) and the Doumeki/ Watanuki dialogue you quote, as the latter seems not to refer to physical sensations themselves but to memories manifesting themselves in the physical world (in the way one prepares food, that is). Watanuki physically remembering not his own but his father’s cooking and taste seems even to be some sort of phylogenesis. All of the cases, though, are unconscious (and maybe even unwelcome at times) links between the soul and food, the epitome of the physical world.

    The woman in your xxxholic example may have felt under stress to marry before time with cooking standing for the responsibilities of various nature attached to this new role. I wouldn’t infer from the story, though, that one needs to have a lot of life experience to be a decent cook/ marry. The woman does not seem to be “empty” to me; either she has too much of the wrong kind of memories or something prevents her from translating her memories into her cooking. The story tells imo therefore that one should take care to assemble the right kind of memories which are suitable to add some flavour to ones cooking. And of course to pay attention if those very memories do not translate physically, be it in cooking, drawing manga or other kinds of activities. And yes, enjoying a well-crafted manga or anime may also count to these precious memories which add flavour to your life!

    As a sidenote, the picture “Watanuki teaching Kohane cooking” in your post is very sweet!

    • First of all, thanks for the long comment! It’s never too late and a comment always makes me happy, dear jreding 🙂 *waves tail*

      Let’s take one by one your points:
      *TRC is adventure story. A very addictive one. You can try it, if the genre is your cup of tea. It also copliments your view of xxxholic, since they were written to be read together. Just be warned that there’s epic mindfuck towards the end of the series.
      * Watanuki is indeed a guy that makes you worry. I wonder if there are people who don’t react at all, if overpressured… I guess they can be some clinic cases of disassociation :/ but I’m not sure.
      * You might be right with your differentation, but this isn’t phylogenesis either. For lack of better word I used this. Plus the black mokona mentioned it as such, so I went along. I think Watanuki’s lack of taste can be considered the most close to reality type of body memory.
      * I don’t think that this woman’s problem was really associated to her upcoming marriage rather than resurfaced and became more evident because of it. Her conditions remain unknown and that also troubled me, but I think I can understand her ’emptiness’. It is possible that emptiness might stem from what you suggested : “too much of the wrong kind of memories or something prevents her from translating her memories into her cooking”. I’d say that emptiness can be a result of a very manipulative or a negligent child-rearing that doesn’t let any initiative on the child or doesn’t give the child enough ‘reference material’ and the wish to craft its own identity. I’ve talked with such boys that couldn’t really say at a certain stage of their life what clothes they really liked to buy for themselves. I also know another girl that was very spoiled and her family had some issues who always answered “I don’t know” when asked what she prefered to drink or eat.
      * I must admit that I kind of wrote the personal part just to have an excuse to add this lovely picture! It has really warm colors and the composition is well-balanced 🙂

  9. Pingback: Down the hole in Clampworld! | the beautiful world

  10. Pingback: My Taste Journey – Tea Time

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s