X Vol. #8 - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • 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: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: X

X Vol. #8

By Chris Beveridge     November 21, 2003
Release Date: November 25, 2003

X Vol. #8
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

What They Say
Unable to dispel suspicions about Hinoto’s strange behavior, Kamui and Sorata investigate and discover her shocking secret! Arashi vanishes, then returns - as a member of the Dragons of Earth! Now enemies, Sorata and Arashi confront each other in battle. Will Sorata determine her true intentions before their duel turns deadly? Everything will be decided at Tokyo Tower, site of the only remaining barrier field. As Kamui unseals the divine sword and prepares for the final clash, he wonders -- can he return Fuma to normal and protect Earth at the same time?

The Review!
The series concludes, much as one would expect from a show that’s been filled with visions of the future.

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 keepcase cover has a very dark and murky look to it with the two Kamui’s in an embrace while red cloth swirls around the Divine Sword. The gear works are in the background of them, adding to the darkened muted colors. 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 similar in that it uses two of the Dragons of Earth, Satsuki and Yuto. The back side of the reverse cover is identical, though it feels a little brighter. 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 gold lettering.

The menu layout goes with part of the final battle, using an interestingly angled look at the city at night while animation from the fight plays out in one of the glass sections of a building. Access times are nice and fast and there are no transitional animations to complicate things.

The only extra included on this volume is the image gallery, which contains the second half of the Japanese cover art through volume twelve. Just about all of them gorgeous.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While the manga series continues to run and have no firm conclusion as of yet, the anime series presents the viewers with one possible ending to the storyline, something fans have been interested in seeing for some time. Having been reading the manga for what seems like forever, the ending to the anime series is an exercise in seeing an alternate history ending of sorts, one of a myriad number of possibilities. This is the reason why the journey has been much more enjoyable than the conclusion, since in the back of my mind I have that feeling that the “true” conclusion hasn’t come yet.

With this being a look at the final three episodes, just consider it rife with spoilers. There’s simply no way to talk about anything here without spoiling something.

Probably the most intriguing revelation, and one that’s been nicely hinted at since practically the first episode as we see through flashbacks, is that there’s something at work inside the mind and body of Princess Hinoto. Though it’s not explained cleanly here, an alternate personality of sorts has been at work inside Hinoto and working against all that Hinoto wanted from life and for the world. We see how she’s been using Hinoto’s powers to manipulate her visions as well as sending the various nameless suited thugs after Kamui and the others over time. The part that brings such resolution to Kamui about it though, as he explains it to Sorata, was the vision that the two of them had when they ended up splitting forces previously that caused Sorata to be so dangerously wounded.

With the knowledge that there’s essentially been something of a traitor in their mist, though unknowing to Hinoto, the two men decide to go and deal with it but end up getting split up once again. While Kamui goes to find the Princess and confront her with what he’s learned, Sorata runs off to where Yuzuriha has ended up in combat with Nataku, a losing battle that’s running her ragged across the rooftops. This is a powerful fight sequence, watching as Nataku ravages her and beats her down while Kusunagi stands to the side, almost like a lapdog, obediently watching what’s going on.

In a way, I was disappointed that the character was fated to be the traitor inside of the Dragons of Earth and to decide to protect Yuzuriha at the last moment from Nataku’s final blows. With the series being as dark natured as it is, I had hoped he would keep to the side he had chosen and accept her death but be angsty over it and propel him to fight harder against the Dragons of Heaven that remain. But instead, he steps in Nataku’s way and starts to push him back some when Sorata arrives to take in the grisly scene. Sorata’s arrival couldn’t be timed worse, as Nataku had another backup, as Fuma-Kamui knew that Kusunagi was going to become a traitor. With his own sense of dark humor, Fuma-Kumui has sent along a surprising traitor from the Earth side as we finally realize what happened to Arashi after she disappeared. To protect Sorata from his fate, she’s changed sides so that he cannot defend her.

While the main final story of the series is the fight between Fuma and Kamui, the best aspect to these episodes is the relationship between Arashi and Sorata. It’s like all the real emotion and love ended up wrapped into these two characters and watching their fates play out, fates that were so easily talked about, given and accepted so far back in the series, the real tragic story is here between them. Though the fate of the world hangs in what Fuma and Kamui do, the deeper and more personal side to the series is with the relationship of these two and how they handle it. From Arashi’s initial rejection of Sorata to his continual persistence up through when she really realizes what he means and leaves to try and return the feelings in the same way, right up until the very end. The fact that his end was so casually given at almost his introduction does little to soften the impact of it here though, allowing it to become one of the key moments of the show.

But when it comes to the Fuma and Kamui angle, that has its own level of epic sadness and tragedy. The beauty of their fight, set against the Tokyo Tower and mixed with images from the “one” future that Kamui learns was the only one that could happen since he hasn’t awakened as a true Dragon yet, is eerie and haunting but oh so powerful in how it flows across the screen. Between the designs, the music and the general flow of the battle, their leaps and attacks against each other are almost mesmerizing. When things finally turn and become more personal as they get closer to each other and Fuma begins to make revelations about why the outcome is actually predetermined, the tragic nature of the larger story becomes all the more apparent, especially with the manipulated visions Hinoto had been having.

I love the way this all ended, with the final sacrifice and realization of what the duty given was. The small revelations afterwards of the fates of those who survived and have to carry on in this new world with the burden given to them. My only real sadness is that it’s unlikely we’ll see any real follow-ups in any medium of these characters in this new life, stories that would be very interesting to take part in.

In Summary:
The X franchise is something that I’ve followed in three forms now, with two of them providing an ending but the original incarnation still incomplete. Each of these incarnations builds their own small mythos set against the larger one and provide different looks at what “may be” – something that the series embraces rather nicely at the end. The series itself plays out almost as expected if you took a lot of the characters visions and beliefs at their basic level when they explained themselves, so in a way there isn’t much surprise. But X is very much about the journey, the relationship of the Dragons on both sides, and the layers of the characters pasts that influence them in the here and now.

Though I wish each volume had more episodes, there’s little else I can find flaw with this series release. It’s been an engaging and breathtaking piece at many times throughout it, from the start to the finish. It’s one of the few series that gets watched the minute it comes in. Very highly recommended.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Image Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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