Armageddon from the makers of Card Captor Sakura!
By Jake Forbes
In the anime community, there are a lot of love/hate feelings about CLAMP.
X, the movie adaptation of their 16+ volume manga series, illustrates
perfectly why there's such division. Visually, the film is a knockout,
featuring some of the most beatutiful imagery this side of Studio Ghibli.
Plotwise, it's rather shallow and confusing, despite the well-defined
characters and good vs evil plot. For fans of Clamp's art or of abstract
animation in general, there's a lot to love in X, but for those seeking a
good story or interesting characters, it's probably best to stay away.
X in a nutshell... Well, the manga series isn't even finished, but the movie
jumps right to the series conclusion. It is the year 1999, the year of
destiny (also the year of the Eugenics war... sorry, I'm a trekkie as well
as an otaku). Kamui returns to Tokyo after a 6 year absence and finds
himself an integral part of the battle between the Seven Dragons of Heaven
and the Seven Dragons of Earth (The Seven Seals and Seven Minions in the
manga). The Dragons of Heaven want to save humanity, while the Dragons of
Earth want to wipe humanity out and start the world over. The Heaven
faction first tries to enlist Kamui, but he's not interested in their war-
just in saving his childhood friends Kotori and Fuuma. When Kotori is
kidnapped by the Earth faction, he finally does team up with the Dragons of
Heaven. But because this is a world ruled by fate and balancing power,
Fuuma gets drawn to the other side and becomes Kamui's nemesis. In a series
of bloody battles, nearly every character from the manga is killed, leading
up to the final (very quick) battle.
The animation is stunning - Madhouse studio's best work up until Vampire
Hunter D: Bloodlust. With lots of dream sequences and supernatural battles,
X takes advantage of the animation medium like few films do. Blood: The
Last Vampire might have more "advanced" animation technology, but there is
nothing in that film that required the animation medium. Because of the
scope and imagination of X, there's really no other way it could have been
X's score is hauntingly beautiful, one of the best I've ever heard in
anime. It suits the mood perfectly. Sound in general is very well done,
very important with so much destruction on screen. While normally I like to
give a dub track a chance when watching anime, this is one film where I
switched back to subtitles right away. Manga's done some wonderful dubs
with Macross Plus, Cagliostro, and Honneamise, but the X dub is atrocious.
The voices are way overacted for the somber, fatalistic tone. For
technophiles, giving up the dub track also means losing the rich 5.1
surround sound- sad, but necessary.
With so many characters appearing and dying in so quick a time, it's very
hard to keep up with who's who. Fortunately, Manga does us a huge favor on
the DVD by providing wonderful character bios in the form of Tarot Cards.
This extra is well thought out and well executed, and is recommended reading
before watching the film for anyone unfamiliar with the manga.
To provide insights into the making of the film, Manga also includes a 24
page interview with director Rintaro, detailing his involvement with this
and other projects. While a video interview would have been better, the
text interview is still quite interesting.
While Manga's presentation of the content on the disc is excellent, they
completely dropped the ball on packaging. X is one of the most beautiful
anime movies ever, so why are we stuck with a grainy, drab screenshot as the
cover art? I guess they felt they had to get a guy with a sword on the
cover to attract teenage guys. What a wasted opportunity for a graphic
designer. Still, you can't judge a DVD by it's cover.
Despite some major flaws in storytelling and dubbing, I highly recommend X
to fans of anime and animation in general. It's the kind of film that you
can watch without the soundtrack and just enjoy the visuals alone, like
Angel's Egg or Robot Carnival. Now if only we could get the rest of the