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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Manga Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 96
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: X

X

By Chris Beveridge     September 25, 2001
Release Date: September 25, 2001


X
© Manga Entertainment


What They Say
The future of the universe rests on one young man, Kamui Shiro, who must destroy either the Dragons of Earth or the Dragons of Heaven - two opposing armies. He alone must decide whether humanity should be destroyed to create a purified universe, or whether it should be protected to preserve civilization.
Two oracles, the sisters Hinoto and Kanoe foresee the coming of the Dragons and predict opposite outcomes. Each sister gathers strength and ammunition to insure her own vision for the future. However, neither sister realizes that there is one man who has an even greater power than the Dragons, and that ultimately he will determine the fate of the earth.

Which sister will prevail and how does Kamui fit into their struggle? The answer to this question will forever affect humanity.

The Review!
For many reasons, X continues to be the scorn of many an anime fan. And with me being who I am, I went into it with all these notions of how horrible it must be after years of hearing that. Imagine my surprise when I found myself really enjoying it.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Unfortunately Manga wasn't able to acquire the Japanese 5.1 mix that was released earlier this year on the region 2 disc, the stereo track here sounds pretty good. Dialogue is nice and clear and there's a fairly good amount of directionality in the sound effects. The music plays out nicely across the forward soundstage here as well. I only spot-checked the English tracks here and there and didn't notice any issues with either track.

Video:
The transfer is is a decent looking if a bit soft one, presented in its original aspect ration of 1.85:1 and in a non-anamorphic format. So we're already down about 30% in the resolution that could be gotten with this. There's little in the way of background macroblocking (though it creeps into a few dark black night time sky sequences) and cross coloration is extremely minimal. Overall, this is a decent transfer that should please most people who don't have higher-end systems. Those with 16:9 capability will likely import the Japanese disc.

Packaging:
The front cover is made up of shots from the show, which isn't always a good sign. The shots are fairly grainy and soft. Another thing to beware of is the number of quotes. The front cover here sports three of them and the back cover another two. The back also has more soft and indistinct animation shots with the summaries in red against a black background. Technical features are listed in a similar fashion with production credits at the bottom. The insert provides another shot of the cover without the quotes while it also folds out to list all the chapters. The back of it shows a few more animation shots.

Menus:
The menu layout is pretty straightforward, with animation playing throughout the backgrounds and the selections on the right. Moving the menus is easy and painless, though language selection continues to be an obstacle in being done clearly for Manga. Selecting a language or subtitle doesn't in any way indicate anything on the screen, so you can only hope that you properly selected what you want when you actually queue up the program. Otherwise, the menu system is pretty decent if unexceptional.

Extras:
There's a few decent extras included here. The character biographies are nicely done in the form of the various tarot cards, showing each character and giving a fair bit of information about them. The photo gallery is a selection of widescreen still shots from the show, which is somewhat disappointing considering how much great original X artwork there is out there. The directors interview is an interesting read, especially if you hadn't seen it previously in Animerica. The director talks about more than just X, but he does get to it enough. The theatrical trailer is also the one used for its US run, so it's all in English.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the main complaints about X is its just plain confusing. After the first ten minutes, my wife was asking the same thing essentially, just what's going on here. Though it's not terribly aligned to the manga, just reading a few pages of that will put things into some perspective. But that's unfair to ask people to read the manga to understand the movie. But with only one graphic novel under my belt for it, I still felt this was a pretty straightforward and easy to understand movie.

You just gotta take those leaps of logic.

X is about the end of the world being fought over by two opposing groups. The Dragons of the Heavens is led by a blind deaf mute who speaks telepathically to those who work for her. They're fighting for the survival of the Earth, which is in its most dire place now as forces seek to bring it to ruin. These forces are made up of the Dragons of the Earth, who see humanity as the plague on the planet and only their complete destruction will free it. It's led by a somewhat masochistic woman, who is also the younger sister of the leader of the Dragon of the Heavens group.

What both groups need to bring their conflict to the finish though is something called Kamui. It's what they're waiting for that will allow them to have a large amount of power available to them to try and achieve their goals.

So what is Kamui? As it turns out, it's the boy we're introduced to in the beginning of the film. The film opens with his mother tearing and clawing a sword out of her guts, which she then sends into Kamui's chest, allowing him to absorb it. She tells him he has a destiny in Tokyo to face, and he must do it. She has faced her destiny, which is now her death. And Kamui has much to do.

So Kamui travels to Tokyo, where he comes across a girl he swore to protect years earlier, and her brother, who swore to protect Kamui since he had sworn to protect the girl. They're close friends, but there's a fair amount of distrust over the time spent away from each other during the past couple of years. But this reunion goes sour as the Dragons of the Earth attack Kamui.

Kamui is central to their plans, but so is his friend Fuuma who swore to protect him. Their lives begin to enter into an interesting orbit, as we learn that no matter which Dragon Kamui chooses to side with, or is forced to side with, Fuuma will become his polar opposite for the other side, and the two will be pitted against each other.

The movie is simply not huge on plot. But this is also somewhat typical of a lot of anime movies. Either they're overloaded or they're empty. X falls into the empty category, but that's not its intent. In the directors interview, Rintaro clearly indicates that he's making a battle movie. And that means it's just action oriented, and this movie is definitely that. It's visually stunning in many sequences, and the fights are gorgeously choreographed, especially if you love the CLAMP style of things.

From what I can tell, a good percentage of the negative feedback about this movie stems from two things; people who've seen the dub who are sub fans and just railed against it (it's not great I'll admit from what I did hear) and from people who couldn't make the intuitive leaps the movie asked if you wanted more than the pretty battle scenes. I'm going to guess that the dub makes it worse with the second part, based on some of the strange translations I saw in comparing the sub script to the dub.

In the end, I found the X movie to be a visually engaging dark film that's like most anime films, style over substance. The plot was minimal and served to move the film from one fight sequence to the next with the minimum of fuss. I think it succeeded in what it set out to do, enough so that I'm going to invest in the Japanese release to get the full treatment that Rintaro looks to have wanted to give it.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Tarot Card Character Bios,Photo Gallery,Director Interview (text),Theatrical Trailer (US)

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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