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by Bamboo Dong,



X/1999 DVD
After his mother's death, Kamui decides to return to Tokyo to fulfill a childhood promise of protecting his friends Fuma and Kotori. When he gets there, he is confronted by the fate that has already been decided for him. Bearing a name that means “God's power,” he is destined to either save mankind, or destroy it. He is sought by both the Dragons of the Heaven and the Dragons of the Earth to join their ranks. No matter what side he chooses though, he will have to fight his best friend Fuma in a battle to the death to determine the future of mankind.
One of the most well-known group of manga producers in Japan, the all female team of CLAMP is the mastermind behind such manga series such as Tokyo Babylon, Magic Knight Rayearth, and of course, X/1999. Telling the tale of the end of humanity, X/1999 was made into an animated full-length feature film in 1996 directed by the famous Rintaro. Beautifully animated and armed with stunning visuals, the X movie is a work of art that must not be missed by any fans of CLAMP or anime in general. Released by Manga Entertainment, this movie is now available in North America, to the delight of many anime fans. Although the film is loaded with good qualities, the main downside to the movie is the short length. After cramming an entire manga series into a 100-minute movie, there is no room left over for character development and explanations. Unless the viewer is already familiar with the story of X, they will be unbearably lost within a few minutes. Also, with such a large cast of characters and with no time for any character introductions or background information, it is incredibly hard to keep the characters and their respective battle sides straight. Luckily, this problem can be solved easily by either reading the manga, or just sitting through repeat viewings.

To help viewers understand the characters better, Manga has loaded the DVD with a multitude of cool extras. Among them is a section entitled “tarot cards.” This feature allows viewers to access a gallery of tarot cards featuring the characters. Accompanying each “card” is a brief biographic summary of the characters' lives, their attacks, and their motivations. This is extremely helpful for viewers who haven't read the manga yet, as many of the oddities in the movie will be cleared up. Provided on the disc also is an interview with the director. The interview gives viewers some insights into the film and explains some discrepancies between the manga and the film. It is a great extra for those who like to know what goes through a director's head and what visions he was following in creating the film. Also included on the disc is a picture gallery of shots from the movie. This is a terrific bonus for fans of the art, as the shots chosen to be present in the gallery are absolutely gorgeous and showcase the artistic values of the movie well.

As far as the art goes, the movie is a visual masterpiece. The art provides the film with the moody, dreamlike, and morbid mood that resonates throughout the story line. With clean, crisp, and detailed shots, the art is spellbinding. The computer effects are utilized well and give the right amount of light to the dark series. Bordering the fine line between gothic darkness and just disturbing creepiness, the dream sequences force the viewers to catch their breath at the overwhelming emotional responses they trigger. Also notable are the action sequences, as the characters' attacks are animated cleanly and the special effects are eye widening. Especially done magnificently was the usage of blood and cherry-blossoms. Although they could be considered standard fare in many action anime movies, they are used especially well in the series, adding the right amount of gripping horror to the dream scenes. The cherry blossoms and their symbolic representations of death and innocence provide the finishing touches to the trance-like sequences and the dark apocalyptic tale.

Adding to the spooky and morbid mood of the film, the music tops off the gloomy atmosphere perfectly. Throughout the movie, even during the battle scenes, the music is quiet and sorrowful, interrupted occasionally by a piercing instrumental solo. Comprised of relaxed instrumentals and eerie ensembles of chimes and bells, the soundtrack matches the movie perfectly. The same haunting quality that makes the music match the film so well is also the same quality that makes the soundtrack so creepy when listened to at night. The only vocal track on the soundtrack is “Forever Love,” performed by X Japan. The song provides an emotional and prefect ending to the movie, playing when the credits are rolling and the fate of the earth is decided.

The Japanese cast did a magnificent job of acting, providing just the right inflections and emotions to draw out every detailed nuance of the script. Kamui is voiced by the famously versatile Tomokazu Seki, who does an excellent job drawing out the angst-filled turmoil ripping through Kamui's life. The subtitles that accompany are also well done, presented in a clear and easily readable font. There are some minor grammatical errors though, that might cause some viewers to have to read the sentence and decipher the meaning for themselves. Also, there were times when Fuma's name was replaced for 'brother.' Other than that, the subtitles were translated well and provided abundantly. The English voice cast also performed well, though some of the characters were poorly cast. The main problem with the dub track was the script. Oftentimes, the words uttered by the English actors had no bearing whatsoever to what was going on in the movie. Also, when in the Japanese script there were children speaking in the background from memory flashes in Kamui or Fuma's mind, the English track was unclear and the only thing that could clearly be heard were infantile babblings. For the most part, though, the English track was decent.

X is a great movie for those fans of CLAMP, action films, gothic horror, or just a good anime flick. Although the story line is a little hard to understand the first time around with previous knowledge of the manga, it is still worth it just for the art alone. The character cast is complex and also hard to get used to, but like the plot, it clears up with repeat viewings. Fortunately, for fans of the X movie and manga, there is an X TV series in Japan that has just recently been licensed for distribution in America. If the movie is any indication of what kind of potential the series holds, then fans everywhere are in for a treat. X is a must-see for every person who dares to be known as an anime fan. Although there are plenty of anime movies out there about the end of the world, X is one of a kind and definitely one of the best in its class.


+ Beautiful art, stunning visuals
Not enough time for plot and character development

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Production Info:
Director: Rintaro
Nanase Ohkawa
Mami Watanabe
Music: Yasuaki Shimizu
Original creator: CLAMP
Character Design: Nobuteru Yuki
Art Director: Shūichi Hirata
Chief Animation Director: Nobuteru Yuki
Sound Director: Yasunori Honda
Director of Photography: Hitoshi Yamaguchi
Executive producer: Tsuguhiko Kadokawa
Kazuhiko Ikeguchi
Masao Maruyama
Kazuo Yokoyama
Licensed by: Manga Entertainment

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