When it comes to plot, X: The Movie is hanging on by its fingernails, by which I mean there is a recognisable plot but that's about it. The movie simply takes itself too seriously for what it actually delivers, namely suffocating melodrama and unoriginal gimmicks.
Basically, the main character Kamui returns to Tokyo one fine day ("Where has he been?" you ask, but save your breath, they never tell you) and it is his destiny to choose between the Dragons of Earth who want to destroy the world and the Dragons of Heaven who want to protect it. Unbeknownst to him, his best friend Fuma is destined to be his ultimate adversary no matter which side Kamui chooses. I suppose the core idea is workable, objectively speaking, but the actual execution feels clumsy and amateurish; the story leaps from one explosive duel to another with virtually no character development or plot twists to fill the gaps. And because the set pieces arrive with such minimal build-up, they quickly lose their impact. This might not be a problem in itself if the movie woke up to its own absurdity and did away with the self-righteous attempts to appeal to our emotions. After all, many a good fighting anime like Tenjho Tenge is successful simply because it embraces its crass and corny characters.
Also, despite being one of the most bustling cities of the world, Tokyo is portrayed as conveniently deserted ninety percent of the time, which is a shame because the film misses an important opportunity to subliminally strengthen its message. The conflict between the Dragons is over whether or not humanity deserves to live when we befoul and ravage the Earth, yet we rarely get to see the subjects of the debate; rather than show you what the Dragons are fighting over, these base, but full of potential human beings are treated in the abstract.
Anyway, by the time you get to the Matrix 3 style ending - massively bloated action, impractical ornate swords, silly flying around while skyscraper debris floats down - you are watching simply because you spent a non-refundable £19.99 on the DVD.
The animation is very good for its day; the characters move fluidly enough whether running, flying or performing manic incantations, and stylistically, it is a good-looking anime. One of the prettiest moments is Kotori's dream sequence at the beginning when she's running across water chasing after a bubble; the virginal white of her dress, gold-blonde of her hair and pastel blue of the background is lovely.
On the downside, the character designs are a little bland and predictable, with the juxtaposition of Hinoto and Kanoe's respective light and dark outfits coming across as especially contrived because they're sisters. The environments are also not that complex in design, being mainly generic grey blocks of buildings with the occasional tall skyscraper, so X is visually eye-catching only where the dreams and fights are concerned.
As soundtracks go, this one is non-eventful. The score always fits the mood but it is not particularly varied or interesting. The Japanese voice acting is passable, although with the script as it is, it is hard to see any hard work behind it. The characters say what they need to say in the tone they need to say it in which, in the end, means generic, uninteresting dialogue.
The characters are cardboard slaves to the plot; everything they say is contrived and everything they do is designed merely to pave the way for the next predictable event. This is particularly true of Fuma because he so quickly gets over his deep friendship with Kamui and his love for his sister to unquestioningly embrace his evil role. "It's destiny, Kamui," he smirks without even the common decency to show some inner conflict.
To be fair, Kamui is just as flummoxing. His only motivation is to protect his friends, meaning he refuses to acknowledge that saving the Earth is his problem for much of the movie. In the back of your mind, however, you're thinking if he doesn't save the world, Fuma and Kotori are just going to end up either dead in the resulting Apocalypse or left alive in a world with only the evil Dragons of the Earth as neighbours. Wanting to protect your friends surely extends to protecting the planet they inhabit; of course, if he had done anything productive early on, most of the colourful battles and gruesome deaths would have been avoided, sadly undermining the film's entire reason for being.
Beyond the main characters, the Dragons on both sides are merely road-kill-to-be. None of the Dragons of the Earth are given even a single concept to define them apart from their peculiar gimmick. The Dragons of Heaven on the other hand have a gimmick and a sentence of dialogue each telling you why you should care about their fate (which is a subtle clue that they're going to be dead in the next five minutes).
Only one interesting twist comes up at the end with one of the antagonists, but it is so little and so late that it comes across as nothing more than an afterthought tossed in because the creators worried the character might be - gasp! - a little too cliché.
Unless all you enjoy about anime is solid but not memorable animation, I doubt there is much in this anime for anybody. I certainly wouldn't recommend spending money acquiring it - borrowing or renting from somewhere is preferable.
In the year 1999, Tokyo has become a battleground as the Seven Dragons of Earth and the Seven Dragons of Heaven fight to determine the fate of the world. The one with the power to decide which way the battle will go is a youth named Kamui Shirou. Will he join the Dragons of Earth and preserve the planet by ending human life, or become a Dragon of Heaven and protect humanity from ruin? The fate of all mankind lies on Kamui's unwilling shoulders as both sides clash to gain dominance. The Dragons on both sides are individuals gifted with superpowers and fated to participate in this final battle, but what end will Kamui choose?
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