Director: Rintaro | 97 minutes | action, animation, fantasy, thriller | Actors: Alan Marriott, Toni Barry, Steven Blum, Rupert Degas, Denica Fairman, Mike Fitzpatrick, Teresa Gallagher, Jeff Harding, Adam Henderson, Stacey Jefferson, Annemarie Lawless
The interesting thing about the ever-expanding DVD and video market is that more and more foreign films are being fired at you. With a little luck, you can find the most obscure films that are completely unknown here, but in their country of origin, are blockbusters. That certainly applies to the anime “X”. The cartoon is based on the popular manga “X”. The comic was conceived by the very popular writers’ society “CLAMP” in Japan. The authors are known for their ingenious stories that are full of (Eastern) symbolism and deeper layers. This anime, released in 1996, is no exception.
If you have read the plot summary you will have understood that it is not an overly accessible work. But once you have seen the first 30 minutes of the print, you will think that the story is little more than the ancient saga of the battle between good and evil. But as it often appears with Asian films, the seemingly simple plot turns out to be much more than you thought. In fact, in order to fully follow the story behind “X”, you will have to watch the movie multiple times. The makers have stuffed the anime with deeper layers, symbolism and philosophical considerations. In addition, the film has a number of religious references and a strong Asian atmosphere. Not everyday expenses.
But the persistent will be rewarded. You will discover new things every time you watch the movie. Like the inspiration the makers got after seeing Tarot cards. Many characters are based on (Japanese) symbols on these cards. The symbolism of the cards can be found in the names of the characters from “X”. For example, the name of the character Subaru stands for “the hanged man” and Kotori means “lovers”. The funny thing is that you can tell from the name of all characters what their fate is. So if you are a bit familiar with the Japanese language you can predict the story in advance. In addition to the link to Tarot, you will also find references to Eastern religions. The group of persons fighting under the banner of “The Dragons of Heaven” all have titles derived from real temples and religious characters. People familiar with Japanese culture will be able to recognize the titles from Shintoism, Buddhism and Ying-Yang magic. Somewhat closer to European culture is the reference to the end of time. The year 1999, which is also in the title of this anime, refers to the year that in ancient Christian writings would mean the end of the world. And those are just a few references. “X” is full of such details. When you see the cartoon for the first time, you will miss a lot of things. The director spares you no moment and fires one double bottom and symbolic scene at you. The pace of the film is therefore very high.
During the anime the most surreal passages are interspersed with beautifully filmed fight scenes. The print looks dazzling. Unlike many other Japanese cartoons, the makers of this film did not try to portray their story as realistically as possible. All characters look fairytale. For example, all characters have large eyes and an elf-like appearance. The strange anatomy does not stop at the faces, the legs and chest of the characters are not true to life either. The film clearly does not intend to sketch such a true-to-life version of people, but to immerse yourself in an imaginative environment full of wondrous characters. And that works. Visually, this anime is a true spectacle in which sober tones are alternated with extravagent colors. The moody and bombastic soundtrack, full of Eastern instruments, amplifies the events on your screen. The American “voice cast” also deserves special mention. The voices of all characters are convincingly recorded.
Another area where “X” also scores is in the atmosphere. From the start of the print there is an atmosphere of impending doom. Because you are only sparsely informed about the motives of the characters, the atmosphere remains ominous and alienating. Something bad is going to happen, but you don’t know what it will be. The makers of the film respond very well to established values such as use of color and our ideas about good and bad. For example, black is not the color of evil in this print, but also of good. In addition, you are also misled by visions in which two versions of main character Kamui appear. In one vision he has angel wings and in another vision he is blessed with feathers mouse wings. So the symbols of good and evil. Still, both versions are killing their beloved Kotori. The unpredictability and mystery make “X” a special film.
Don’t be put off by the inaccessible story, however. Because the film looks very nice, it is not a punishment to get carried away with the story more often. The more you see the film, the more you will appreciate the initially very tough plot. After you have seen the movie for the first time, think about a “normal” good versus evil story. After a second look you will discover a bit more. Like the reference to dualism in humanity. For example, you see Kamui’s mother “giving birth” to a gigantic sword. This weapon represents the destructive side of humanity. The birth of Kamui in turn represents the constructive side of man. But even without this information, you will enjoy an exciting story in which destroyed friendships, lost loves, self-preservation and the meaning of human life are central. “X” is a bit strange, but very tasty!