Reviewby Mike Crandol, Oct 10th 2002
TV DVD 1
The apocalypse is coming, and no one can stop it. Bound by fate, two mystical factions begin a war for the future of the world. On one side, the Dragons of Heaven, who seek to save mankind from impending doom; on the other, the Dragons of Earth, who plan to preserve the planet by ridding it of humanity. The seer Hinoto has found the one who has the power to shape the future, a troubled young man named Kamui, and she dispatches the Dragons of Heaven to help him in his coming battle. For it has been prophesized that when Kamui appears, another will rise to challenge him, and the Dragons of Earth are looking for that person.
X, the movie should have been so cool. One of the biggest disappointments of the theatrical feature was how apparent it was that a really good story was lurking underneath the rushed and incomprehensible finished product....as if one were reading thirty-page treatment of Lord of the Rings. The thought crosses everyone's mind upon seeing the film for the first time, “this should have been done as a series.” Well, evidently the filmmakers felt the same way, and here's the result: X, the way it was meant to be told. With renowned studio Madhouse and its resident Spielberg, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, at the helm, X had the potential to be the biggest thing to hit the anime television scene since Cowboy Bebop.
It comes close, but falls just short of greatness.
X features some of the best animation ever produced for television alongside an imaginatively conceived (if a little cliché) storyline and a really clever excuse to depict mass carnage for its own sake in every episode. As in the movie, characters are capable of generating “barrier fields”, which enclose the surrounding area in an alternate dimension and allow the superpowered combatants to lay waste to large sections of Tokyo without damaging anything in the “real” world. No expense was spared in bringing these no-holds-barred psychic battles to life in detailed full-animation that's so good in places it gives Disney a run for its money. Even X's calmer scenes show an attention to detail unusual for a TV series. Its color palette is rich and vibrant, there is some sparing but dazzling use of CGI, and the orchestral score is anime's best classical effort since Escaflowne. In short, X is a technical masterpiece, with each episode looking like its own mini-movie.
The show's Achilles' Heel is its trio of unlikable (so far at least) main characters. Carrying the fate of the world on his shoulders, our hero Kamui is understandably full of bitterness and angst, but his unrelenting “leave me alone or I'll kill you” attitude gets old real quick. Kotori, his childhood playmate and potential love interest, is a typical nondescript anime schoolgirl. Then there's her brother Fuma. This guy's creepy. His “close” relationship with his sister just feels wrong, and he's way too interested in “protecting” Kamui even though Kamui makes it perfectly clear he doesn't want or need to be helped. Maybe Fuma's not supposed to sit well with the audience; after all he eventually becomes the villain of the piece, but even villains need a certain amount of charm.
This would be a much better series if it dealt more with the supporting characters, who are a much more interesting bunch in spite of little time to explore their personalities. Coming from a wide variety of backgrounds and each possessing their own unique power, the seven Dragons of Heaven assigned to protect Kamui and the seven Dragons of Earth who oppose them are some of the coolest anime warriors ever. In lesser hands the huge ensemble cast would have weighed the project down to the breaking point, but Kawajiri uses an ingenious method to circumvent the problem. The first installment on this release, "Episode 0" is actually an OVA that was created to drum up interest in the then-forthcoming television series, and like the movie it will not make much sense to someone unfamiliar with CLAMP's original manga. At first glance it may appear to be nothing more than a spoiler-filled glimpse of later events from the series, but it proves to be an effective way of getting the audience interested in a multitude of characters quickly, without a lengthy exposition. Showing some of the dramatic moments later on down the road makes the viewer want to know what happened to get the cast to that point.
People have come to expect good things from Pioneer, the early leader in quality dubbing, and with X they have outdone themselves. Rivaled only by ADV's recent Excel Saga, the English cast members of X are not only damn fine actors, they sound so much like the original seiyuu it's unreal. Both sets of actors give strong performances, and even the harshest dub critic will have to admire the care that went into finding the perfect American counterpart to each character's voice.
Like Escaflowne, X appears to have been designed to appeal to both male and female viewers, but its strange mixture of violent, psychokinetic fight sequences and effeminate heroes is potentially off-putting to both demographics. In true CLAMP fashion there is no shortage of bishonen and shonen ai subtext, which may hurt its chances at finding an audience among the predominantly male fans of apocalyptic action anime. Conversely, the emphasis on Dragonball Z-style fights may alienate female bishonen fans as well.
Nonetheless X has already managed to gather a cult following in America, thanks to the movie and manga versions that came over ahead of this series. It's certainly got a lot going for it, and a more opulent television anime you'll likely never see. Unappealing protagonists and an odd blend of genres will probably keep it from being as wildly popular as some other series, but it will no doubt find its niche. And unlike the movie, it actually makes sense.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : A+
Art : A
Music : A
+ great animation, perfect dub
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