The fate of the world is at hand and the choices made by conflicted young people will decide it.
What They Say Kamui stands alone at the crossroads between salvation and armageddon. Destiny demands that this tormented young man decide the fate of a world he no longer belongs in. Torn between rival orders of superhuman warriors, the time has come for Kamui to choose his side. Either he fights with the Dragons of Heaven to save civilization and the two friends he swore to always protect, or he must draw swords alongside the Dragons of Earth and deliver a death blow to the human race.
Whatever his choice, there will be consequences. Friends will change. Friends will die. Life will never be the same. There's a last time for everything. That time is now.
Contains episodes 1-24 plus the episode 0 OVA.
This release contains the audio as last heard from the remastered version put out by Pioneer/Geneon which means it's a rare English 5.1 dub in addition to the original Japanese stereo mix. The Japanese mix is a pretty basic two channel mix encoded at 192kbps that covers things well with a bit of placement and some good full sounding moments of music. It's not terribly exceptional but it fits the time and the material. The English 5.1 mix adds a bit more clarity to it with a slightly stronger feel, but it's not one that stands out hugely after all these years. It's definitely better than the stereo mix, but it's still a large center channel mix. Dialogue for both tracks is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in late 2001 and into 2002, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This release uses the same video masters as the remastered release from Geneon with a new encoding by FUNimation. The multi-disc set from before is condensed to a standard four disc release from FUNimation with a layout of seven episodes on the first disc and six on the rest, with the final disc containing the episode zero. The encoding for the release is pretty straightforward with a bitrate hovering in the fives and low sixes for the most part and the show is starting to show its age. That sounds odd for a show not even ten years old, but it came during the transitional phase of anime from traditional to digital animation and it doesn't look as solid and clean as it should. There's a fair bit of background noise throughout and a number of noticeable gradients that have blocking going on along them. The release looks to be free of cross coloration and holds up well when it comes to line noise, but the closer you sit to this show depending on the screen size, the more noticeable is, especially if you upscale it. It's not disastrously bad, but it left me fairly underwhelmed to say the least.
The new X collection won't match up to the original, it's a different time to be sure, but I like that they took a very different approach to it overall here rather than trying to rework what came before. The show is done in the standard FUNimation format of a thin slipcover that holds the two thinpak cases which each hold two DVDs inside. The slipcover goes the opposite of the past with a front cover that has a white background with a powerful full length shot of Fuma wrapping his arm around Kamui as Kamui holds the Divine Sword. With their deep black outfits and the flowing red scarf, it exudes a sense of power to it. The logo, done slightly lower center right, is a gold embossed piece that stands out really nicely and adds a touch of elegance to it. The back of the slipcover is nicely laid out as it goes for a three column approach in the middle where each side has seven images of the main characters for that side while the center has the summary and basic taglines to talk about it. There's more of the gold stamping here with the logo done that way but also the framing around each of the images which helps to highlight it all the more. The technical information is kept to the bottom of the slipcover and it's very easy to read with black text on white.
Inside the slipcover we get a decent pair of clear thinpak cases with some acceptable artwork but they're pieces that aren't terribly strong. The first volume has an image of Kotori and Kamui together that looks almost fan-drawn when it comes to Kotori and they tie it all together with the feathers falling around both of them. Kamui looks good, done in a simple way with a touch of elegance and somberness. The second cover is more screencap worthy as it features Kotori crucified against the setting sun in the background while a large close-up of Fuma is coming out of it along the right. The back covers are laid out the same with some minor variations where there's a mostly solid background image across the whole thing with a small inset piece of artwork in the middle. The bottom has the episode number and title breakdown for each disc along with any relevant extras to be found on the appropriate volume. The covers are fully reversible where the back sides are similar with some artwork changes while the front covers utilize other characters with artwork that doesn't look as mediocre at best as the front facing covers do. No show related inserts are included with this release.
The menu layout for this release is rather nice though it's a bit slim in its overall design. There's a widescreen approach to it, like the 2.40:1 style, where the center strip is small that features a piece of artwork of a character and different backgrounds while having the logo and navigation laid over it. The bottom is kept to a dark solid color while the top uses an element from the back covers of the thinpak artwork to give it some texture and a strong color to tie it all together. I like the look overall and I like the different styles each volume uses to separate them and give you something new with each volume. Navigation is simple but effective with quick loading menus as well as problem free menus. The languages naturally default to English with sign/song subtitles as all FUNimation releases do instead of checking the players' presets and going with those.
The fourth disc has the extras which overall are pretty good when taken in context. The big extra is the inclusion of episode zero, which I halfway wish was at the start of the show rather than the end similar to how Geneon released it, but at the same time I like it at the end as well. Also included is a decent interview with the director that runs about fifteen minutes which helps to lightly flesh things out a bit while mostly being a fluff piece. Sadly, there are no clean versions of the opening and closing sequences here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name from CLAMP, X is a twenty-four episode series plus a preview OVA that tells that tells the tale that's never been completed in manga form. The manga series unceremoniously went on hiatus back in 2003 after eighteen volumes finished coming out but we never got an ending to it. The anime finished back in early 2002 so it was, like the movie, a given that it wouldn't be the ending that we'd see in the manga. But with CLAMP having decided to not return to X anytime soon, if ever, the theatrical anime from the 90's and the TV series are the only endings we have to go on.
The X series is one that certainly reflects its time, as we've gotten less of these stories in this particular form over the year. The manga began its serialization run in 1992 and carried through the turn of the century, and millennium and it also seem to coincide eerily at times with events in Japan of national importance, such as the 1995 earthquake. The tale works the classic story of the end of times and a rebooting of the world of sorts. The planet is crying out in pain, according to one of the characters, and only those on the side of rebirth can truly hear those agonizing screams. Everything is pre-ordained however, to a point, and that point is where the planet is at now. And the fate of literally everything in the world rests on the shoulders of one young man.
Returning to Tokyo after being away for some time, Kamui has come to claim his birthright in the form of the Divine Sword. This sword is the key to the prophecy he's been told about since he could understand in that he would be the one to decide whether the Earth shall continue on under the auspices of humanity or whether everything would fall to ruin and nature would reclaim everything. Kamui's past is mired in tragedy as he lost his mother to fire, only to learn later on that she sacrificed her life to take on all the suffering and anguish that he might face some day so that he could face his challenge without issue. Lonely and wanting to stay that way, his trouble comes when he ends up meeting his childhood friends in the brother and sister pair of Fuma and Kotori.
Kotori has long wanted to see him again as he promised to protect her when he was young. And similarly, Fuma promised to protect Kamui should anything happen to him. But Kamui's return sets into motion events that cannot be changed. There are two groups that are being drawn to Tokyo at this time with the Dragons of Heaven, a group that wants the world to stay as it is with humanity a part of it, and the Dragons of Earth, who intend to bring about the fall of mankind so that nature can reclaim all of it. Seven people belong on each side, but the final members are not yet revealed as Kamui himself is the lynchpin upon which everything is decided. He has to choose which he believes in, which he wants to have happen, and then everything else can go forward as the battle for the planet gets underway. The nice twist with this is that once Kamui makes his choice, the void must be filled for the other position. And that void comes in the form of Fuma, his “twin star” whose personality becomes lost at that point. Though Kamui's mother tried to take on the sorrow and pain for him through her Shadow Sacrifice, Kamui still has much to go through as his childhood friends and he are suffering greatly.
Over the course of the twenty-four episodes, we have the full set of members for each side brought on. Some are familiar with each other and there are rivalries to be had that go back beyond this. Others have been groomed for this position as either a Dragon of Heaven or a Dragon of Earth for years and years. There's a sense that this is something that various families have been planning for for generations, expecting to participate themselves for the longest time. As can be expected, most of them get individual character stories as it goes along and the main setting is brought out, but only a few of them really stand out, such as Yuzuhira with her dog Inuki or Karen and the way she takes to one of the gentlemen on her side and does her best to give him something to live for, The individual stories are pretty decent, but it's a bit forced at times and distracts from the overall drama involving Fuma and Kamui.
Not surprisingly for a show of this nature, there are a number of pretentious moments. You can also get a feel for where CLAMP would go later with properties like Tsubasa and xxxholic as there are elements from other properties of theirs brought in here, such as Tokyo Babylon and Clamp Campus Detectives. I like that aspect of their works and the multiverse they work in, even if it does get them calls of being unoriginal. The drama goes over pretty well while avoiding being overdrawn, ala Tsubasa with panning shots and music. We do get that here, but it's not to the same extent so it feels tighter and the flow is better. And since it has the larger overall narrative, it doesn't come across as quite so forced.
The show has aged fairly overall when it comes to the character designs and the layout of it all. I've loved the character designs since the manga and CLAMP has certainly adopted this particular style in a lot of other properties to varying degrees, but here it feels like they found the right balance for it all. You can still see the evolution of it, and I like the similarities you see in their designs in Code Geass for example, but overall the look of the show has held up pretty well and doesn't come across as overly dated outside of some poor cel phones used here and there. It's not exactly timeless, but it's the kind of show that ages fairly well, though it could use with either some much better masters or a much better encoding since you have the gradients showing up with a fair bit of noise and blocking throughout it.
The X TV series is one that I liked a lot when I first saw it and I think it still holds up well, though it can get bogged down in the side stories a little and the intertwined relationships. At its core, it's the kind of end of the world storyline that I like with a varied and fun cast of characters where some could use more development and others could use less. My simple disappointment comes in that the ending feels anti-climactic and that the original work its from still isn't finished, so it's hard to consider this the definitive ending to it. What we do get in this set is a very good show, with some solid extras, a good package overall but not without its faults, and a release that keeps the title back in circulation where it belongs. Definitely worth checking out in this form if you've missed all the others over the years or just want it with a smaller footprint.
Features Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Director's Interview (Yoshiaki Kawajiri), Original Japanese trailer for Episode 0, Textless Songs
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
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