X (the movie)

January 3, 2005 on 7:17 pm | In X | Comments Off on X (the movie)

This review kind of has spoilers in it, although it’s hard to spoil an apocalypse anime.

This entire film can be summarised by its final line of dialogue: “Why?” For the uninitiated, X is a collection of scenes that don’t appear to mean anything. There’s very little dialogue and what little there is comes across as shoddily translated. Based on CLAMP’s mega-popular manga, X is not without promise. It’s just there’s too much story and not enough anything actually conveyed.

Shiro Kamui’s mother dies, so he returns to the home of his childhood friends Kotori and Fuma. However, the Dragons of Earth want Kamui to join them in their quest to destroy humanity – and the Dragons of Heaven want Kamui to join them in their quest to save humanity (which apparently implies the destruction of the natural environment).
Kotori is abducted by the Dragon of Earth leader Kanoe. Kamui is told by the Dragon of Heaven leader Hinoto that he must become a Dragon of Heaven leader to save Kotori from general destruction (this is illustrated by a record three different depictions of Kotori’s decapitation), while Fuma is told by Kanoe that he must become the opposite of whatever Kamui will become in order to save Kotori from being killed by Kamui.
Fuma takes this on board, and then promptly forgets his character and goes around killing everyone.
The convolutions! They cause the brain to explode!

X has an extremely large amount of characters. The majority of these are introduced in seconds, are involved in fights and then die.
The Dragons of Heaven totally suck at fighting. They have to protect the gates of destruction from the Dragons of Earth, but they all end up dead – or, if they win individual battles, destroy the gate that they protect in the very process. Therefore all of the battles seem largely pointless, with foregone conclusions. Any deaths mean nothing as the characters are essentially strangers. There are several death monologues that might mean something, but without any back story really don’t.
Any connection to Tokyo Babylon is extremely tenuous, as Kimeragi Subaru dies within the first five minutes. That’s not even a spoiler, because Rintaro seems bent on killing everyone of these characters off in the constraints of the film’s 100 minute time-frame.

X is a movie that’s allegedly supposed to make up for its lack of sense with its unparalleled beauty courtesy of master-director Rintaro. However, Manga Entertainment has never been capable of making good DVDs of theatrical anime (a pity, as much of their catalogue are excellent movies along the lines of Wings of Honneamise and Perfect Blue).
On DVD, X looks positively dull and underwhelming. Frequently this film is visually confusing, with fatal battles played out but their outcome cloudy until a character states that one of the combatants is dead several minutes later. Other times, Rintaro is not creative at all. There are far too many instances of split screen shots that are simply dividers. The characters are based on CLAMP’s originals, but they don’t have that normal attractive quality to them. X is way too dark in appearance to be massively visually appealing, and the animated dragons are laughably low-tech.
The costume design is on the more ridiculous side, coming dangerously close to CLAMP’s S & M catalogue. Kanoe looks like she could fall out of her top any time, which would be quite disastrous come the the end of the world.

The voice cast is impressive, but the characters don’t get enough screen time or die too soon to actually say anything. Mitsuishi Kotono’s character gets out all of three lines before she dies for reasons that are not actually specified. The whole cast reads as a who’s who of seiyuu ’96, which leads to much congestion.
The score is practically non-existent, and when it’s there it sounds infuriatingly similar to a classical piece I simply can’t put my finger on.

Still, at the end it’s unclear whether X is a semi-beautiful film that is excellent to those who know the story inside-and-out and want to see choice parts animated, or whether it’s just a bad movie. Either way, the TV series that followed four years after this is supposed to be uniformly awesome, perhaps by way of apology. A chance to see an example of Rintaro’s undeniably excellent work lies in the marvellous Metropolis. When it comes to film making, coherence goes a long way.

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