X Vol. #6 (Mania.com)

By:Dabid Kuhrt
Review Date: Sunday, September 14, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, July 22, 2003



The Review!
After a surprise cliffhanger at the end of the last volume and an agonizing two-month wait, the sixth volume of X has arrived. A mixed bag of a volume, it contains one of the best episodes of the series, another strong episode, and the obligatory recap episode.

Audio: This volume was listened to in the Japanese language with English subtitles. Subaru and Seishirou's voice actors give extremely strong performances, particularly Subaru. Fuma, as the Dragon of Earth's Kamui, consistently has one of the most sinister and domineering voices in anime. Like all volumes of X, this volume has some moving and emotional instrumentals that perfectly complement the scenes they're paired with.



Video: Lush. Gorgeous. Breathtaking. X is unquestionably a very pretty anime, and the transfer to DVD seems to be absolutely perfect. One of the darkest animes out there, there's a lot of violence and blood, but it's animated so awe-inspiring that it's easy to be captivated by things that would normally make you wince. The special effects such as the feathers, sakura blossoms, and orbs of light that flow across the screen both in the foreground and the background add a lot of complexity and beauty to the appearance of the show. When dozens of sakura blossoms are blown across the screen by the wind at varying angles all at once, it's easy to see that there are few animes that can compete in the animation department.



Packaging: Pioneer delivers once again with a beautiful packaging job. X: Six comes packaged in the usual pseudo-leather slipcase, this time with a silvery-green metallic "X" on the front. The cover is a gorgeous shot of Subaru and Seishirou back-to-back under the sakura trees as sakura blossoms fall onto them. The cover is of course reversible, and the reversed cover is again of Subaru and Seishirou, this time of their profiles. X has beyond a doubt the most exceptional packaging I've ever seen for any anime or other series, and this release is nothing short of outstanding.



Menus: The menus and backgrounds are all full-screen shots of Subaru or Seishirou that look quite slick. Pioneer clearly knew what fans were going to be most excited about in this volume. There's absolutely no mistaking this for any volume other than the one about Subaru and Seishirou. The menus are all very clear and easy to read, as well as simple to navigate. The main menu has some intense background music that's not from the series, but nevertheless fits the tone of urgency perfectly. Of the six volumes of X released thus far, this one definitely has the coolest menus.



Extras: The weakest part of this release. The only real "extra" to speak of is a small gallery of X promotional art. I hadn't seen a couple of the pictures before, and they're very beautiful, like all the X artwork. There's also some trailers for other animes, but we've seen them all before on prior volumes of X. I'd really like to see another director's commentary like the one on volume 2, or even just some conceptual sketches, but I don't foresee that happening in the remaining volumes.



Content: The first episode on the volume, "Slaughter", finally brings fan-favorite Seishirou Sakurazuka to the forefront! 7 years after Seishirou betrayed Subaru by murdering his sister, a grown-up Subaru finally catches up with Seishirou and the two bring their relationship to a surprising--and definitive--conclusion. This is the strongest episode of the series thus far, and if I were grading this volume based solely on this episode it would be an "A+".

Although he's only been on-screen for a few minutes up until now, Seishirou has been a pervading character in the series, and he's able to really shine with the precious screentime he's given in this episode. He's been the scenestealer in his supporting role in a few other episodes thus far, but his charm and charisma are portrayed perfectly in this episode, seducing you into liking him even though he's a heartless murderer. It's easy to see how he could have easily won over the hearts of Subaru and his sister.

One of the things I like best about this episode is that Clamp does not go back and recap everything that happened between Subaru and Seishirou in the Tokyo Babylon manga and anime, instead only alluding to what has come before. This works extremely well, as those already "in the know" don't have to sit through unnecessary exposition, while those who are not are left with an aura of mystique regarding Subaru and Seishirou's relationship.

"Slaughter" also delivers on the sidestory front, as an it spawns what looks like the beginning of an interesting subplot about Hinoto, as well as informing us casually that Seiichirou Aoki has left the 7 Seals to hunt the Dragons of Earth on his own. While neither of these subplots pay off yet, it's certain that the seeds have been planted for later episodes of the series.

Next up we have "Wish", the aforementioned obligatory recap episode and a much-needed rest episode following "Slaughter". As far as recap episodes go, this one is a mixed bag. There's some new material, so it's better than many recap episodes that only show old scenes, but it also fails as a recap. X is an anime with a cast of over 20 characters, all of which have their own sidestories. This particular recap only covers what has happened to Kamui, Fuma, Kotori, and Kakyou. While these four are the most important characters for the first 12 episodes, significant lead characters like Sorata, Subaru, and Yuzuriha have been brushed aside completely. This episode does allow Kakyou the opportunity to question Kamui about whether or not he'll continue to wish to change the future, when wishing to change the future will make Kamui's future as painful as his past. Kamui's decision here is obviously vital for the rest of the series. This is by no means a great episode, but it does giv!
e a necessary break and a bit of tr
Finally, we have "Newborn", an episode that's sure to be a love-it/hate-it episode for most viewers. 14-year-old Yuzuriha gets the spotlight once more, as she and Kusanagi go on a date to an ice cream shop. The date is interrupted when Satsuki attacks Tokyo with Beast, and Yuzuriha is forced to run off and try to stop her. This leads to the fated confrontation between the two that was predicted by Kakyou, and the major question of "Why isn't it alright to kill humans?"

There's nothing inherently wrong with this episode, but it's sure to irritate a lot of fans as Yuzuriha is the only Dragon of Heaven in the episode. Yuzuriha has already had a huge portion of screentime, and it seems unfair that she get another episode devoted to her relationship with Kusanagi before there's a single episode about fellow Dragon of Heaven and professional whore Karen Kasumi. Furthermore, Kusanagi remains the most unlikable and uninteresting character in the series, as aside from his apparent lack of any special abilities, he shows no signs of a personality beyond having a soft spot for girls about 20 years younger than himself.

The saving grace of "Newborn" comes in the form of Fuma, Satsuki, and Yuto. The 3 get a good amount of screentime, and all are characterized wonderfully using poor Yuzuriha as a foil. Watching this episode, I almost saw myself agreeing with the Dragons of Earth that humanity is a pathogenic organism that should be wiped out. That's quite a feat, and it saves an episode that could have been horrendous and actually makes it quite good.

X: Six is not the best volume of the series thus far due to the recap and overemphasis on Yuzuriha, but "Slaughter" and "Newborn" are absolutely must-see episodes. "Slaughter" is a masterpiece, and when all is said and done, I have a feeling it will be one of the most memorable and talked-about episodes of X in the future. It's already one of the best episodes of an anime I've ever seen. Extremely highly recommended.

Comments? Send E-Mail to: DabidAndDon@aol.com





Review Equipment
24" Zenith Television, Memorex DVD Player



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A+
Packaging Rating: A+
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: C-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: X