X Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: A+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A+
  • Video Rating: A+
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: D-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98/34.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: X

X Vol. #1

By Justin A. Swartz     February 01, 2003
Release Date: September 24, 2002



The Review!
I would like to say, for the record, that I was very impressed with this entry into the Anime world, distributed by Pioneer in the U.S., mostly because of it's quality in relation to the "X" movie. Rintaro's big mistake, this isn't. With that said, on with the alternate angle.

Audio:
The best stereo mix I've heard for something that wasn't a theatrical feature. Amazing crispness and flawless transition from one speaker to the next. The English version was watched, and this is the only version that you should be watching; the dub is practically an all-star list, featuring the likes of David Lucas (Cowboy Bebop's Spike and Big O's Roger Smith), Crispin Freeman (Slayers' Zelgadis and Utena's Touga), Wendee Lee (Big O's Angel and Cowboy Bebop's Faye), and even Lia Sargent (Big O's Dorothy and Cosmo Warrior Zero's Marina). This is probably a series that would turn a dub-hater around, mostly because of the emotions that are matched in the character's faces, and the talent on the English side that makes the dub surpass the Japanese version. The Japanese is very uninspired and surprisingly bland, making for a depressing viewing experience.

Video:
As if perfect audio was not enough, now we have perfect video as well. This is an awesome-looking disc, with rich and vibrant colors and a smooth image that reminds me why I buy dvd's in the first place. This is also what I've come to expect from Pioneer, and I wasn't disappointed.

Packaging:
Although I did not receive one of the black slipcases with my copy (don't ask me why, it's still a mystery), the cover art is pretty decent, with an overall dark shot of Kamui with his cloak and the 'gears of destiny' turning behind him with feathers falling over the shot. I like how the volumes don't have goofy made-up names that rarely have anything to do with the volume...instead, they are simply titled by number, this one obviously being named "One." The cover has a reverse side, which sports an odd-looking picture of Kamui and Kotori, who's holding one of the floating feathers in her hand. This cover sports some black and gold, but doesn't stand out as well as its original side. It also comes in a clear case, which is a big plus for me since I love those, but for some reason this one felt a lot heavier than the other clear ones I own.

Menus:
Appearing in the same manner as the Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz menus, these are easy on the eyes and quite entertaining. When an option is selected, you get a piece of animation from the show or the opening, and then that freezes and the text options appear. Nice and simple, to the point, and it looks good.

Extras:
I don't consider the trailer for episode zero to be an extra, since it's in Japanese and I've already stated how bland I consider the Japanese version to be. You're better off not watching it at all. The Pioneer animation previews reminds me of how Manga Entertainment does their previews; instead of separating them, they play in one long string that you can't chapter-skip through. Most of these are kind-of freaky, but considering how X is, I'm not surprised at the trailer selection. The only extra that's really worth its weight in gold is the character guide, which appears in the form of a booklet that comes inside the DVD case. One word: awesome! Instead of annoying character bios, we have a booklet that is professionally done and is rich with information. A big thumbs-up to Pioneer for this nifty idea!

Content:
(This review may contain spoilers. Heck, it does.)

This story, appropriately titled "X," is the self-proclaimed magnum opus of the manga group CLAMP, famous for their series Card Captor Sakura. The transition of X from manga to animation is a strange one, beginning with the X: 1999 film that was directed by Rintaro. I used to consider Rintaro as a flawless Anime great, especially after seeing Metropolis, but my opinion of him dropped considerably after seeing the gore-infested, plotless, and unimaginative muck that the X movie was. Sorry, I'm just not one for mothers catching on fire and exploding (maybe that's just me, but there is a line of decency to be drawn somewhere).

It was with great fear, then, that I ordered this disc of the X TV series. I knew that I enjoyed the manga version immensely, and that the TV series would obviously be better in terms of character development and would perhaps be less on the gore, but the viewing of the movie version (which oddly came before the manga was ever complete and even before the TV series) had left me a tad jaded.

Consider me "un"-jaded.

X is primarily a story about the end of the world, but it's played out so differently than any other show or book that has tackled the subject that I was instantly drawn into it and couldn't tear my eyes away. I sat down with some leftovers and watched X, and I think the leftovers got reheated some six times from getting cold; I didn't dare take my eyes away from the screen.

The disc contains four episodes, starting with episode zero, titled "An Omen." Zero takes us into the world of X in sparse detail, and it almost appears as though the narration, spoken by the character Kakyo, is in riddles, until you see the rest of the disc. According to Kakyo, he has the ability to predict the future with his dreams (hereby denoted as 'dreamseeing'), and that he feels this ability is a curse, because he is now comatose and can do nothing for the people he sees in these visions. His vision is of the end of the world, where Tokyo, which I guess is the world (can we say "Aren't we full of ourselves today?"), is in indescribable ruin.

This has been caused, apparently, by a war going on between fourteen people, Kakyo being one of them. The war is for the fate of the world, and is being waged between two sides: the Dragons of Heaven, also referred to as the Seven Seals, and the Dragons of Earth, referred to as the Seven Angels. I thought this was an interesting parallel to the Bible, where seals obviously refers to the seals in the book of Revelations, and angels refers to, duh, angels. While the flip in perception (seals bringing destruction, angels carrying God's message of hope and love) might have been a style choice, it might also show that the creators didn't do their homework.

The two sides are gathering in Tokyo, and so is "the one" who holds the fate of mankind in his hands: Kamui. Kamui must choose a side in the war, and this is what attracted me to X in the first place...each side poses quite an interesting argument, and no one is really black or white, but kind of a fuzzy gray. After watching the first disc, you really can't tell which side is the one to start rooting for, and that's a sign of good storytelling.

"An Omen" shows us Kakyo's past, and we also get flashes of his dream of the future, which are basically just clips of the show's future events. This is a great watch, and really got me excited about seeing the rest of the series...I want to know what makes Kamui tick!

Episode one, "A Reunion," deals with Kamui's return to Tokyo and the alerting of the Dragons of Heaven to his arrival. There's some kind of symbol showing up in their lines of work that they recognize, and it's written on this one woman's forehead (literally). She's Hinoto, a dreamseer like Kakyo, and is the organizer of the Heaven crew. We also get a good shot of setting up the neutral characters, who happen to be two childhood friends of our hero Kamui: Fuma and Kotori, who are brother and sister. Kamui stops by their father's shrine to pick up "his" holy sword, but their dad doesn't hand it over, and although it's not shown how this happens, Kamui doesn't get it from him. The rest of the episode is turned over to Fuma and Kotori at school, realizing that Kamui is not the same as he was before, and also that he's quite rude to them. We also get a good taste of Kamui's psionic powers here, as some black magic tries to ambush him on the way to school under a passenger train.

Episode two, "A Nightmare," centers around the persistence of Kotori to become Kamui's friend again. She has this really cute memory of climbing up a tree with Kamui when they were little and how she almost fell out, if not for Kamui grabbing her hand and promising to never let her go; the little guy never does, even when he falls asleep on the tree branch (that kid had to have one numb arm when they finally woke him up). Kamui goes to get a soda during the night, and a younger high school character appears, telling him that he's watching his every move. "Being put under a microscope makes me real uncomfortable," Kamui says, and the two have at it in a construction site. Kamui's seriously hurt by this guy's wind powers, and also encounters Arashi, one of the Heaven characters who can make a powerful sword grow from her hand. As he wanders through Tokyo, wounded, he stumbles upon Fuma, practicing basketball. Fuma follows him back to his apartment, but enters into a battle between Sorata.

Episode Three, "A Pledge," deals with Kamui's recovery from his injuries. Fuma has a great line here: "Kamui...Kotori is worried about you...and I am too." Crispin Freeman gets a big hats-off from me for his powerful performance here, and so does whoever's voicing Kamui, because of his reaction to Sorata saying that Kamui might have come back to Tokyo only because his last blood relative died (this relative is Kamui's mom, who we see consumed in flames in K-man's flashback). Kamui, like Leiji Matsumoto characters, has mommy issues. Serious ones. So serious that his pupils dilate at the mention of his mother's name and he goes off the handle on poor Sorata. After an amusing time with Kamui and Kotori at the high school library (after which Kamui pulls a Heero Yuy on Arashi and tells her that he'll kill whoever keeps spying on him), we are pulled into the story again, as a Dragon of Earth, named Nataku (pronounced like NA-tagu) shows up at Fuma and Kotori's shrine to steal Kamui's holy sword.

One thing I would have liked to see was a next episode preview, but oddly, X does not have them at all. The only other complaint I have is with the ending song...it sounds a bit like smooth jazz, and does not fit the series' tone at all. I get the feeling that maybe the creators were aiming for something akin to Evangelion here (Eva having the worst ending of all time, consisting of a badly performed slowed-down version of Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me To The Moon"). The opening is very artistic and clever in its imagery, and the song's lyrics are very reflective of Kamui's overall attitude. The musical score itself is full of symphonic goodness, and I was already recognizing some of the numbers by the third episode. Adding these into the awesome mix of characters, you have yourself a superb first volume to a series that is shaping into one of those 'must-see' releases.

Oh, one more thing: Karen, one of the Dragons of Heaven, is a fire wielder/stripper, but is also a Christian. I would like to point out, for the record, that I have never in my life heard of a Christian stripper, and most likely will never hear of one beyond X's realm. This is a big finger pointing towards my suspicion that the creators of the TV series did not do their research, or this could be CLAMP's doing as well.



Review Equipment
Admiral 19" Color TV, Panasonic DVDRV32K, White-Westinghouse 3-CD Shelf System

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