Mania Grade: NA
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- Audio Rating: N/A
- Video Rating: N/A
- Packaging Rating: N/A
- Menus Rating: N/A
- Extras Rating: N/A
- 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
By Roman Martel
February 13, 2002
Release Date: September 25, 2001
Overall Rating: 3.9
(on a scale of 1-5)
I hadn't intended on getting this movie. The preview didn't really grab me and I saw some very mixed reviews on it. Almost all of them agreed that the visual aspects of the film were top notch, but beyond that there was some debate on how the story worked. One of the main words used was "confusing". Well I didn't find X to be all that confusing, but there are some definite problems with it.
So let's see how the techincal ratings come out for Manga this time. The picture looked great on my set up. With the animation being this well done, and very dark in places it looks like it was a very good transfer. The sound is also well done. You've got a 5.1 mix in English (but there are complication I'll talk about later) and from what I could tell it sounded good. The menu was very well done. It reacted quickly and kept in the theme of the show. The keepcase has some strange artwork on it. I'm not sure why they picked those particular images. It does have all the information that you need to know, except for region codes. It does list the extras, which include, character bios, a gallery (all stills from the movie), a text interview with the director, and the trailer Manga did for the theatrical release of the movie in the United States. When it's all said and done this was a pretty good release for an epic movie.
I remember part of the hype with the release of this movie was the fact that it was a story about the end of the world and that Manga was going to release it in 1999, to correspond with all the Y2K/End of the World hype going on. Such a mythic story has everything you need to create a riveting plot. In fact X has many of the key ingredients ready to pull viewers in. But what ends up happening is something that feels very rushed and not well thought out. Most of this problem stems from the fact that a manga series has been condensed into a 100 minutes. That's not enough time to give audiences a solid idea of all the characters in the movie, and the plot, and the conflict, and the style... something has got to give.
Kamui Shirou returns to Tokyo (not exactly sure where he was before) after he has a disturbing dream about his mother. Freud would have had a field day with that dream, but I digress. Kamui returns to meet his childhood pals, Fuuma and Kotari. Kotari has a crush on Kamui and Fumma has been looking out for his little sister Kotari all this time. Well, the powers of good and evil spring into action. The Dragons of Heaven (the good guys) recruit Kamui. The Dragons of Earth (the bad guys) recruit Fumma. And poor Kotari is going to end up as a human sacrifice of some kind. The fate of all Tokyo (and the earth) hangs in the balance as each group does battle, destroying the city as they fight. If the Dragons of Heaven win, earth and mankind will continue to exist together. But if the Dragons of Earth win, mankind will be destroyed and earth will begin anew (I'm not sure if the "Dragons of Earth" who are human will be destroyed too?). so that means it comes down to Fumma and Kamui in a final battle. Will the old friends be able to put aside their past for the ideas of the groups that have claimed them?
The animation is very good in this. I'm not too crazy about Clamp character designs myself, but I really liked most of the work here. Kamui looked a bit goofy with his cape on during the first twenty minutes or so, but eventually he lost that and looked a bit more normal. Beyond the character designs there is massive destruction all over the place. Huge portions of Tokyo are blown apart and destroyed. And most of it looks great. The battle scenes themselves are also well done, if not a bit heavy on the super powerful magic that occurs in anime so often. What really impressed me were some of the vivid dreams that Kamui and Fumma have during the film. These are dark, twisted and chilling, and work very well both visually and with sound. In fact the sound design is top notch. The magic spells are visually stunning and the sounds the accompany them are great. You've also got some very nasty oozing sounds (especially during the dreams). Both elements worked well together.
The story is not a complicated one, it's good versus evil for the fate of the earth. What happens is that we've got so many characters, who are introduced so quickly, (and a group that isn't really introduced at all) and they seem to have a backstory to them that things get a bit muddled. There is a personal conflict between our Fuuma and Kamui and that is key. But some of the other bits seem a bit less developed and just don't add up too well. As a whole the story isn't bad, but the execution of the movie is not smooth and as you stumble along with it, you find yourself wondering why they can't just get to the ending a bit quicker. It feels that in whittling down the manga into a workable script things were lost. And lost with those elements were lots of the things that could have made this film work better.
The English voice cast sounded very, very rough. I was very close to switching languages about halfway through the movie. Lots of it seemed to be some miscasting. A few of the characters sounded good, but most of them seemed a bit unsure how to take this movie. The visuals are over the top, but should the acting be? I mean this is serious stuff. You've got some annoying voices, some confused voices and some good voice acting. Nothing was really great, and on the whole it was weak. Stick to Japanese with this one.
I found the score to be really borderline. There were some moments where the music pulled me right out of the action and seemed very out of place. Other moments the music worked perfectly, it added some tension or an uncanny element to the visuals. Because it was so hit and miss, I gave it an average rating. When it worked, it worked well, and when it missed... well you just sat there wondering what the composer was thinking. The ending theme is pretty good, but nothing too memorable.
For entertainment value I found X to be a bit of a disappointment. The apocalyptic storyline has lots of potential and I'm pretty sure that the manga is pretty good. But the movie itself lacks anything that really pulled me in. I think that watching it in Japanese would help a bit as some of the English acting was distracting, but I think that the basic script didn't give much for the actors to use. X feels rushed, it feels patched together and the ending doesn't deliver the emotional punch I think it was going for. I saw a similar anime movie (or maybe an OAV I'm not sure) a couple years ago called Tokyo Babylon. It had a story close to this one. It wasn't great, and the animation in X was much better, but the plot worked much better, and the fewer characters helped. As a rental X might be O.K. But it's pretty forgettable overall, but I have to check out the manga series one day.
Roman J. Martel
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Phillips Flatscreen (27 Inch), Sony DVP-NS300