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X: THE MOVIE

Review by Alex Haberstroh

Stars:  Tomokazu Seki, Junko Iwao, Ken Narita 
Director:  Taro Rin
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby 2.0 (English and Japanese)
Video:  2.35:1 Widescreen
Subtitles:  English
Studio:  Manga
Features:  See Review
Length:  100 minutes
Release Date:  September 25, 2001

Film **

Many religions (including the major ones here in the United States) have an explanation of what will happen at the end of the world.  Whether it's Christ returning, another yet unknown Messiah, the Earth's mystic forces of good and evil waging war on each other, or just God himself calling an end to the world one day, religions present for the coming apocalypse in many different ways.

As does X, a movie that, in my opinion, creates a fantasy scenario of the end of the world that falls short of the best anime productions. 

The premise?  Confusing at first, as the writers start the viewer halfway through the storyline, but thereby failing to provide sufficient character exposition/motivation (instead, quickly breezing through about ten different characters involved in the “plot,” telling the viewer their names and positions, and quickly flashing to a new character), as well as plot development/cohesion.

 The movie begins by treading over the already much covered ground of the millennial apocalypse.  It is 1999 in Tokyo, and the time has now come for the final battle between the Dragons of the Heavens (the good guys) and the Dragons of the Earth (the bad guys).  The Dragons of the Earth, seven of them in all, fight in favor of the apocalypse so that man's sins (pollution, war, etc.) will be washed away, and nature will once again, recover.  The Dragons of the Heavens, which are the seven stars of the Big Dipper, must fight them to keep up the seven “power shields” that defend Tokyo (I guess the rest of the world has to fend for itself). 

This somehow involves the film's protagonist Kamui, who is asked by his naked mother (perhaps meant to represent the Earth) to return to Tokyo (from where? why did he leave?) to defend the Earth.  This is when the film really starts going off the rails, as she rips open her stomach and pulls a huge sword out of it and sends it into him.  He now must decide to fight for the legions of light or darkness, determining the fate of the world. 

While attempting to mimic films like Akira, X fails miserably by missing the point of that film entirely, only offering up explosion after explosion, instead of providing a compelling (or at least consistent) story and likeable characters.  While many action and horror films don't try to masquerade as anything more than a vehicle for violence, X attempts to pretend that its story takes a front seat to the constant swordplay, gratuitous violence, destruction, and objectifying of females into mere sex items. 

Is the action cool?  Yes.  Is the art generally well done? Yes (and why the film gets two stars).  So why does the film receive such criticism?  Because it's more geared for violence-obsessed fourteen year olds who get excited about seeing such content than for any broader market of people who might want to think during a 90 or so minute period. 

For the majority of you, this is one anime that I advise avoiding, unless you're very into the format, or just missed an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and want to try out your own catcalls. 

Video ***

No matter the product, Manga always tries to do the best job possible with their DVD's; X is no exception.  Even though the print remains a somewhat soft look throughout, this more likely reflects on the intent of the filmmakers with their finished source material and less to do with the transfer.  Colors are generally crisp and clear, especially reds, which are bright and shining whenever bloods spills.              

 

Audio: ***1/2

 

Including on the disc are three audio tracks: a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, as well as a 2.0 track in both English and Japanese (I recommend the Japanese one, as the dubbing sound the actors learned their craft from a Skinamax movie). 

 

The audio, while not as certainly aggressive as Manga's recent offering Blood: The Last Vampire, is still very well done.  There are some great moments where sounds pan seamlessly from speaker to speaker, such as when people are running, or rich explosions of bass engulf the room.  In sum, this is a very respectable transfer.     

 

Supplements **1/2

 

First on the disc are Tarot Cards, which break down into character bios for all the characters in the film.  This is actually a somewhat useful feature, as more is told here explaining the characters in the film than in the actual film itself. 
In addition there is a decent photo gallery with about twenty five to thirty or so photos from the film. 

As well, the disc includes a lengthy written interview (23 pages) with Director Taro Rin, who discusses the typical challenges in making an anime, as well as his other films like Astro Boy.  Included as well are the film's trailer, and the typical Manga trailers and catalogue info.  

Summary:

Despite the generally well-done transfer and audio mix, this DVD was a disappointment.  When people criticize the anime format, this is probably one of the examples they may cite.