© 1996 CLAMP / X Committee
The general buzz surrounding X is pretty negative, despite having a limited theatrical release, much like Perfect Blue. A lot of fans seem to note a distinct lack of plot, but I figured it was a result of being a manga-to-anime translation more than anything. Assuming that, I made sure to at least read the first volume of the X manga (by CLAMP, no less) to get some handle on the back story before watching this movie. Unfortunately, that only seemed to firm my resolve that turning a lengthy manga series into an hour-and-a-half movie rarely turns out for the best.
While the manga has a fairly deep back story, the X movie really doesn't have much of a plot to speak of. A young man named Kamui has returned to Tokyo following a bizarre dream in which his mother tells him he will have to fight to save humanity. So, Kamui shows up in Tokyo and reunites with his childhood friends, Fuma and Kotori. He also comes to fulfill a promise he made to them long ago; that he would protect them no matter what. Fate, however, has other plans. Two powerful forces exist; one, the Dragons of Heaven, and another, the Dragons of Earth. Each side is made up of seven people with incredible psychic powers. The Dragons of Earth wishes to eradicate humanity and cleanse the planet in the process. The Dragons of Heaven oppose them, and have enacted seven power shields in Tokyo which must be destroyed before the Dragons of Earth can succeed. Kamui is swept into the conflict by a dreamwalker named Hinoto, who imparts to him his role in preventing an apocalypse to be caused by the Dragons of Earth. Kamui has no choice but to reluctantly join the Dragons of Heaven. Fuma, however, is confronted by Hinoto's sister, Kanoe, who shows him a terrible vision of the future and reveals that he is destined to become Kamui's opposite. As a result, Fuma sides with the Dragons of Earth.
The plot is really a thinly-veiled setup for psychic warfare of epic proportions. We're talking the leveling of buildings, pyrotechnics on a grand scale, and the combatants battling each other to grisly ends. Unfortunately, it's a mostly meaningless affair since there is virtually no character development to speak of. I honestly didn't give a damn about any of the characters, and by the end of the movie, I seemed better for it. I guess the whole idea of Kamui forced into a battle against his childhood friend is supposed to exude some sort of angsty drama, but it accomplished nothing of the sort. Yes, the mood of X is certainly not a happy one, but it just seems so utterly pointless. In the end, it's really just about displaying a series of incredibly violent one-on-one battles in all their animated glory.
And what fine animation it is. CLAMP's style lends itself well to the visual splendor of X. Animation is fluid for the most part and backed up with lush artwork. More a feast for the eyes, the audio generally consisted of boomy explosions that grew tiresome after a short while. Since X did see a limited theatrical run, the dubbing was a minor disappoint; Princess Mononoke this isn't. It was still a solid effort from Manga, though, and not painful on the ears.
I really don't know who would find this sort of fare entertaining. Fans of the manga will probably be disappointed by the thin story line and nonexistent characterization. Action junkies might as well be equally put off by the dark and gloomy mood X seems to emanate. Ultimately, I think everyone would be better off just ignoring X altogether.
The Verdict: * * (poor)
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