Kamui Shirou and Fuuma Monou have been best friends ever since they were kids. Fate, however, separates them when Fuuma's mother died under a mysterious circumstances. Fast forward, 6 years ... Read allKamui Shirou and Fuuma Monou have been best friends ever since they were kids. Fate, however, separates them when Fuuma's mother died under a mysterious circumstances. Fast forward, 6 years later, a 16 year old Kamui has now returned to Tokyo with the intention of facing his 'des... Read allKamui Shirou and Fuuma Monou have been best friends ever since they were kids. Fate, however, separates them when Fuuma's mother died under a mysterious circumstances. Fast forward, 6 years later, a 16 year old Kamui has now returned to Tokyo with the intention of facing his 'destiny'. Little does he know that his destiny will collide with that of his best friend's
In the X movie, pretty much EVERYONE dies. There's basically no character development or much characterization, character relationships are shuffled around, with one of them being a 100% rewrite, and the amount of plot cramming is insane. But the art and animation held a fascinating dark energy that permeated the whole production; very little was explained fully and it felt like the unfolding of a prophecy rather than the character-driven storytelling you'd usually expect from an anime or other television series. It's most notable for its action, though there are interesting interludes of foreboding atmosphere, and lots of info dumps because there's really no other way to pack so many details in such a short time. Almost everything Rintaro directed is compelling for its arresting imagery and cinematic technique, and that film was no exception.
Yoshiaki Kawajiri, best known for Ninja Scroll, was also part of the staff for this earlier production, and he returns to direct the series. And how does he and his staff do? Well, it's a 24 episode series, so there's much more depth, but it lacks a lot of the visceral punch that the film had. The animation fluctuates as TV productions always do, but it's competent, and they tend to use most of the animating budget on the fights and fantastical elements, of course.
I suppose the reason I actually prefer the old film is because the "depth" of this series is kind of a rehash of a lot of older stories about two opposing factions, one wanting to maintain the world as it is, known as the Dragons of Heaven, and another, the Dragons of Earth, wanting to destroy civilization and the earth as we known it. Sometimes it's assumed the DoE want to exterminate all humans, but that is not the case--they are anti-civilization and want a "return to nature."
The main theme is the long-standing conflict between free will and destiny--and like many of its predecessors, X is exploring these themes to create a tragedy of epic proportions. It succeeds to an extent, but it's familiar territory, and the two young leads are angsty, brooding teens with a dark past and unfathomable power, for whatever reason. Most of the teen drama is not terribly interesting here.
But the characters do have their moments, especially in the more philosophical discussions, usually helmed by Satsuki or Yuto. Subaru and Seishiro seem to have a very complex relationship and history, though one would have to read Tokyo Babylon to understand everything that's going on here. An early episode with Subaru heading to his destination and dealing with the psychic traps set by Seishiro is directed in an exciting manner, often quite lyrical and abstract.
It's unfortunate that the Dragons of Earth in particular aren't developed more early on, balanced better with the more ostensibly "good" Dragons of Heaven--instead, most of their episodes are concentrated towards the second half of the series. Probably the most dramatic difference is Kakyo, a dreamseer, who was more of a young punk in the movie. His dreams are an interesting framing device, and he adds a lot more to the show than he did in the movie, acting as a sort of oracle.
For most of its duration, even when it's more on the cliche or sappy side, the series is well-told and executed, and there are many areas where it's deserving of praise, but the ending in particular is a weak point. And that's one of the problems: the original creators of X haven't ended the series and likely have no idea how to end it. Both the movie and the series have much different endings, with the two being virtually opposites.
But it's the movie that culminates in a more powerful and emotionally satisfying way--its built up with its epic and briskly told prophecy--the animation often having more pathos than the words of most anime could ever hope for, and then the ballad kicks in (and I don't even like X Japan), and it all works so well. The series' ending, on the other hand, feels somewhat flat. Since more characters survive, we get a snapshot of what they're doing with their life after everything is over, but it's not as affecting in terms of emotion and it lacks the same scope--leaving it as an interesting experiment in tragedy, but not one that is truly tragic. The great tragedy here is that the strengths of the two couldn't have been combined in a high-budget OVA series.
- Jul 27, 2020