When fifteen year old Kamui Shiro returns to Tokyo after a six year absence, he has just one goal in mind- fulfilling a promise to protect his childhood friends Fuma and Kotori. Much as he would like to avoid it, however, a far graver destiny rests on his shoulders- it is up to him to decide the fate of the world! The only question is, will he join the Dragons of Heaven, dedicated to guarding the protective seals of Tokyo, or the Dragons of Earth, who are determined to purify the world in preparation for a fresh start?
As the first attempt to create an animated version of CLAMP’s X/1999 manga, X suffers from one major problem- the need to compress a relatively long running series into a 100 minute film. As you might imagine, therefore, the story has been stripped down to the barest essentials; offering little in the way of exposition, it hits the ground running and continues at a fast clip throughout. Fortunately, the idea of two sides battling over the end of the world isn’t too difficult to grasp, but newcomers to the X universe shouldn’t expect to take in any of the finer details from this movie alone.
The time constraints also mean that character development is virtually nonexistent- the cast appear onscreen with little introduction, and by the time they depart, you might find yourself hard put to even remember their names. Fortunately, the DVD does come with character summaries to add a little context to the numerous onscreen faces; but once again, the film itself provides little in the way of depth.
What X does have to offer is action- and plenty of it. The Dragons of Heaven clash with their Earth counterparts in various head to head battles, and with the combatants on both sides able to command a range of special abilities, the fights are never boring, nor do they skimp on the body count. There’s plenty of blood to be had, along with the odd severed head, but fortunately it stops short of being so over the top as to feel ridiculous or unnecessary.
It is the quality of the animation that really brings the film to life, for despite its age, X is still a treat for the eyes. The storyline, which sounds rather thin on paper, becomes that much more riveting when backed up by gorgeous visuals. The atmosphere is only deepened further by the background music, which is used sparingly but to great effect, making for an excellent presentation overall.
Without the luxury of time to spend on plot and character development, X has to settle for a more realistic goal- that of being a suitably dark and action-filled “end of the world’ film. Whether you choose to enjoy it for what it is, or regard it as a taster of what the X universe has to offer, this movie is well worth investigating.