An older series is given a new lease of life with a release of the classic CLAMP story X from MVM.
What They Say
Two groups of supernaturally powered warriors begin a prophetic battle to shape the future - a clash that will rock the foundations of the planet!
The Dragons of Earth swear to purge humanity from the world, while the Dragons of Heaven are the last hope of all mankind.
One young man holds the key to Earth's destiny.
Having seen the series a couple of times in its original Japanese language, for this review I listeend to the 5.1 English language mix. Dialogue is nice and clear, but still mostly comes from the centre channel. Where the 5.1 mix is at its best is when the music kicks in. For the opening and ending, and throughout the show, the music comes across very nicely and just alludes an epic feel, which makes it more impactful than the Japanese 2.0 stereo track that is also presented here. One thing I would question is the lack of a Japanese 5.1 mix, which has been present on the remastered "Remix" releases in the US for several years now. The English dub for the show is quite strong as well, with the actors doing a great job of capturing the epic nature of the show.
Given that X originally began airing in late 2001, it's not surprising that in some areas the video is showing its age. Presented in its original full frame aspect ratio, there is a soft look to the transfer that sometimes goes a bit beyond what was intended. Upscaled on my player, there were also a few instances of aliasing during pans, some dot crawl and also colour bleeding, especially within the reds. It's never a massive problem, but next to some newer shows these days there are some noticeable problems. Given its age though, and the releases the show has received elsewhere, it's not surprising and is a good transfer of the source material.
Subtitles are in a nice yellow font, and I noticed no spelling or grammatical errors.
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.
The menus are all static, with the main menu showcasing Kamui in front of the Earth on the left, Arashi on the right and a big logo from the show in the centre. The opening theme plays over the main menu, while sub-menus are all static as well with no music, and feature screenshots from the show. All menus load quickly and are functional if not particularly exciting.
Extras on this release look to be slim, with only the trailer for Episode 0, "An Omen", making an appearance here alongside some trailers for other shows.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I first watched the TV adaptation of X many years ago when it was released in the US by the company known then as Pioneer, and I fell in love with it from the first episode. It's the show that first inspired me to want to read the original manga story an anime was based on, because I became so invested in the characters and was just desparate to see more of them. Several years on, and watching this opening volume again, the series really seems to have stood the test of time and is as enjoyable as it ever was.
The story of X is quite a straightforward tale of the good guys vs the bad guys over the end of the world. A young man called Kamui arrives in Tokyo to take the Divine Sword. His mother has recently passed and he was told that it's his destiny to retrieve the sword, which is kept in the Togakushi Shrine - the home of two of his childhood friends, Fuma and Kotori. Kamui transfers to Kotori's school and this resparks her childhood feelings for him. No matter how much she tries to talk to him though, he pushes her away. Fuma keeps reassuring Kotori that eventually he'll come round, and she only hopes that is true.
All the while, Kamui is watched by several people, all of whom claim to be Dragons of Heaven, or the Seven Seals. Princess Hinoto, who can look into people's dreams, has sent one of her aides and one of the Seals, Arashi, to keep an eye on Kamui, but he soon tires of being followed and calls her out. Sorata, a charming young man from a monastery, slowly manages to befriend Kamui and gain an ounce of his trust, announcing that it is his, and the other Seals', destiny to one day give their life for Kamui. Slowly over the course of the first four episodes, we're introduced to more and more of the characters who will eventually make up the Dragons of Heaven.
Their opponents in the final battle are the Dragons of Earth, also called the Seven Angels. These are somewhat gathered by Hinoto's sister Kanoe, who has the ability to peek into her sister's dreams. She sees the arrival of Kamui and tries to get to him first, as both sides need Kamui to be their leader. Depending on which one he chooses, that side will have the advantage. She has Yuto and Satsuki on her side already, but is waiting to gather the rest of the Angels.
As more and more characters are introduced, it can be somewhat confusing. But part of the fun is in learning who these characters are and which side they will eventually end up on. For some, it is clear; Nataku, for example, you can't imagine becoming a Dragon of Heaven given his murderous tendencies as he steals the Divine Sword. Others are more ambiguous, but it's clear that eventually they will take sides and even from these opening episodes the end game is well known - there will be a gigantic battle between the two sides with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.
Despite not really getting to know some of them, the allure of X really does lie at its core in the characters. Those that do get sufficient screentime at this early stage all have their quirks, and are all sufficiently different to keep them and their relationships interesting. Kamui emerges as the central character, and although he initially comes across as cold you can see a softer side behind the hard exterior; he clearly is trying to protect people that he cares about from danger. Sorata stands out as one of the most likeable characters. He's brash, outspoken, funny and sincere all at the same time. The way he builds his relationship with Kamui is one of the highlights of this disc. Fuma and Kotori both seem like good foil for Kamui, as they look like they will get caught up in his destiny despite his wishes. The other characters all get intriguing introductions, and although it's easy to find an early favourite, you'll probably be hard-pressed to find anyone that doesn't at least seem interesting, because the show is so well-written.
Though the characters are what make the show so good, the plot is not to be sniffed at. If you can get invested in the way this world works, then the story is very intriguing and lays some brilliant groundwork at this stage. Much of it is based on foreshadowing all the events of the future, from the gathering of the Dragons on either side to the final battle and Kamui's involvement. Much is also driven home about destiny, and whether or not a person has the ability to veer from it, so it's easy to see that this will also become a focal point of the story.
A word of caution when watching this disc though. Episode 0, a special preview episode that was released in Japan as a preview of the series, appears on this disc first in chronological order. Though that is correct, it is designed to stand-alone away from the series proper. It focuses on one of the main characters who can see the future in his dreams, and you get to see several of those, which do ruin some of the more dramatic moments later in the series. Though I did initially watch it before I saw the series itself, and had forgotten some of the moments I'd seen from Episode 0 by the time they came around in the series, I would definitely recommend caution when watching it and, for most, I'd say it's a good idea to skip it for now and watch it at the end.
X is a series that really manages to hit the ground running. Right from the first episode the story is intriguing enough to provide a good hook, and it continues to draw you in as the episodes go by. The characters are a fantastic bunch to watch; fascinating with a great dynamic and some very strange relationships already. The series also has some great production values - the animation is very good and the music is absolutely outstanding. I strongly recommend giving this first volume a try, it's a true gem of a series.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Samsung LE40M86 1080p HDTV, Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray player (upscaling DVDs to 1080p via HDMI), Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.