X Vol. #4 (of 8) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, March 23, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, March 25, 2003

What They Say
Based on the original story and manga by CLAMP (Cardcaptor Sakura, Chobits, Rayearth). Animation by Madhouse (Vampire Hunter D, Trigun, Ninja Scroll), directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri (X Movie, Vampire Hunter D, Ninja Scroll, Wicked City, Demon City Shinjuku), art direction by Yuji Ikeda (Dragon Ball Z Movies: Dead Zone, Tree of Might).

Her special power kept Yuzuhriha apart and lonely – until she met the Dragons of Heaven. Now, she begins to fall for Kusanagi – one of the Dragons of Earth! As Kotori faces her tragic destiny, and the second divine Shinken sword appears from an unexpected quarter, Kamui is forced closer to deciding his path. And his decision will whet the gears of destiny for the entire world!

The Review!
Hitting the halfway mark here, things begin to coalesce nicely as more and more elements come to light and paths are finally chosen.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Presented in a pro-logic mix, the audio makes excellent use of the forward soundstage in terms of directionality and depth, but doesn’t take advantage of the rear speakers for more than minor music ambience. This doesn’t detract from the excellent presentation though, as the track plays well with the dialogue and helps the music sound nice and warm.

The look and feel of this transfer is just simply gorgeous. There’s a huge amount of varying shades of black and deep blue throughout this show, and they all come across beautifully here. Other colors are very vibrant without any noticeable bleeding or over saturation. Cross coloration is practically non-existent as well as aliasing. I’ve got absolutely no complaint about how things look here at all. I can’t get over how this show looks.

Presented in a clear keepcase, Pioneer has this release done up as a reversible cover. The main cover, bathed in orange, has a great shot of Kotori wrapped up on the cross with the sun rising behind her while Fuma’s face fills the darker side. The back cover provides a listing of the episode numbers and titles as well as a good breakdown of the discs features. There’s a brief summary of the shows premise and a few more animation shots and the usual list of production credits. The reverse side of the cover is a fair bit darker with the mixed images of Seishiro and Kami set against falling sakura blossoms. The back side of the reverse cover is identical. The insert provides a listing of chapters on one side while it gives another look at the cover on the back. The slipcase makes another appearance, this time with orange lettering.

The main menu here is an interesting motion piece that has the camera panning up from one sequence in the show where the divine sword is looked at as energy floats around it. Tied to an eerie piece of sound that is reminiscent of leaves blowing in the fall with rain in the background, it’s not a bad looking menu. Selections are up and down the center of the screen and movement is nice and easy with good access times.

The only extra included is a textless ending, which is surprising in that it took this long to get one.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Another three episodes deeper into the series and still just as exciting and intriguing as it was from the start, X continues to captivate me on many layers. It’s almost as with each new piece of CLAMP material I see, I become more and more of a junkie. CLAMP crack is good.

With these three episodes, we get a really good single story and then move on to the larger plot at handle. The single episode focuses on Yuzuriha and her life. At first, I was panicked about the episode as it starts out with her writing a letter home to talk about the people she’s met. It looked to set up the entire recap style that I dislike so much. Thankfully, it works more to tell a brief bit of recap about her arrival in Tokyo and then goes off on her meeting with Seiichiro Aoki. While that is the main intent at first, things go in another direction as Yuzuriha ends up meeting the man who could see Inuki upon her arrival in the city.

She’s interesting when she’s around this person, since he’s the first person that could see her best friend. She apologizes for her behavior, but the two end up feeling comfortable around each other. As the two talk, she asks to tell him her life story and he agrees easily. The majority of the episode then shifts to telling her life story in the early years when nobody believed her about Inuki or the things he did. It’s a well presented if somewhat clichéd story, but it fits her personality well and helps illustrate some of her quirks and why she is the way she is.

Once past this self contained tale, the story shifts back to Kamui and Fuma. The two talk of their past promises to each other and the intent of both of them to keep them. For Kamui, this means finding the second Divine Sword and leaving, but for Fuma it means protecting Kamui as well as keeping Kotori safe. For Fuma, these are the worst episodes yet for him. Kamui relates his tale to Fuma of what happened to him and his mother after they left six years ago when Fuma’s mother died. The tale of Kamui as a cute if dark youth certainly adds a new dimension to him and learning of how he had been growing up and dealing with the powers he had goes a long way in explaining his present style, both in visual and verbal.

There are a lot of great visual moments as we progress through these two episodes, particularly the scenes of discovery as the new Divine Sword is born into existence. Thankfully, it’s not overly explicit but given enough of a punch by everyone else’s reactions to give it the right oomph. But once that appears, things start moving much faster as the head of the CLAMP School arrives as part of the prophecies to help out. His introduction into the series brings yet another CLAMP property into play and helps expand the overall picture of the world the writers are weaving. His introduction also firmly puts Kamui on the path again and right at the crossroads where he must make a choice.

Each of these episodes looks to be of the same quality as the earlier ones, which means I’m still loving every visual moment of it. The storyline continues to move along, and though knowing aspects of it from the manga makes me a bit antsy, we’re moving closer and close to all new territory. There are a lot of revelations in here about the characters parents and the bigger game that’s being played with the world being at stake. With the paths chosen here in this volume, I’m fully expecting to see the pacing of the series change as we plunge through the second half.

If you’ve liked what you’ve seen so far, expect more to be built upon that foundation and get ready to enjoy this volume a lot.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Ending

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: X