The future is not yet determined, but it sure sucks when you can see how it will pan out. The future is not yet determined, but it sure sucks when you can see how it will pan out. The future is not yet determined, but it sure sucks when you can see how it will pan out.
Shall I say it a fourth time? Will that make the statement less painfully obvious? Because X TV certainly thinks so! It continually predicts key events of the plot by rehashing the same dream sequences and lines of dialogue over and over, and then makes them happen exactly as predicted. While I grasp that the characters are supposed to be victims of stark inevitability, this ‘hammer it home’ approach also ensures almost nothing comes as a surprise.
This is a shame, really, because X TV begins strongly, combining a moody atmosphere and a couple of spectacular fights to set a lavish scene. Cloak-swirling Kamui arrives in Tokyo to find a weapon called the Divine Sword, kick some enemy arse, and nip his supernatural problems in the bud before they can flower out of control. He admirably tries to get the job done as quickly as possible, muttering the occasional hostile line to throw his concerned friends Fuma and Kotori off the scent; inevitably, though, he ends up dragging them into an epic battle for the fate of the world. Expect also a lot of evasive dialogue and vague references to future events, which make the beginning somewhat longwinded but still highly intriguing.
But that’s where the good part ends and the problems begin. Since X TV lacks any sense of subtlety, which would help contain its bombastic creative energy, it often degrades into bland cliché rather than attaining genuine profoundness. Following a bout of terrible misfortune, for example, Kamui despairingly falls into a coma, and then, of course, someone has to dive into his tumultuous consciousness (imaginatively presented as buffeting winds) to retrieve him. Well, I’ve never seen that one before!
On top of that, for a war so fundamental to the fate of the world, X TV appears curiously uninterested in fully explaining its cause. At the height of events, someone belatedly mentions that the Dragons of Earth want to destroy the world because humans are polluting the planet (presumably, the Dragons of Heaven defend the world because… well, because someone has to). Other than this hurried exposition, the eco-war is never elaborated upon or evidenced in any meaningful detail.
Generally, though, there’s a bewildering sense that, for all the flashy effects and flowery monologues, very little actually happens. X TV wastes a lot of effort repeating explanations rather than moving the plot forward, the result being a narrative that’s ambitious but also feels well-worn and slightly silly by the time the important stuff kicks in.
At least, when the story takes a mighty dip and the characters fail, X TV continues to demand attention at some basic level due to its immersive visuals. Simply speaking, it contains some of the most opulent fighting sequences around, with every battle involving manifold religious symbols, tricks, and ostentatious finishing moves. For instance, during one skirmish with a Dragon of Earth, Kamui repeatedly blasts out circular force fields to repel a hail of jet black cards which swiftly transform into crows mid-flight. Heck, not to forget the numerous crosses, pentagrams, and elemental powers, which are juvenile but also delightfully eye-catching.
Situated between the sumptuous dark tones of Vampire Knight and the glamorous bishounen designs of other Clamp works, X TV’s is a chic, sensual style that’s continually beautiful and of high quality.
On the other hand, one of X TV's most baffling elements has to be the soundtrack. Although the series maintains a cohesive, linear plot that develops across time, the music director chooses to recycle the same handful of themes every episode as if this were Pokemon or some mahou shoujo super-franchise. The same melodies heard in episode one will repeat ad nauseam in episode two, and episode three, and episode four, over and over until the audience – who will be half mad by this point – might question whether the disc is stuck. True, for the first few episodes, the appropriately dark instrumentals will touch upon just the right emotion, but the sheer frequency of use eventually makes them sound clumsy and trite.
In contrast to its consistently average plot, X TV presents a mixed bag of characters, which is both a good thing and a bad thing – but mostly a bad thing. During the first half, where the show primarily establishes its large cast by dedicating an episode to detailing each of their backgrounds, the level of enjoyment hinges upon whether or not the character in question is any good.
In the case of angsty, abrasive Kamui and the tragedy involving his mother, the revelations turn out rather satisfying. Furthermore, his happy-go-lucky follower, Sorata, whose comedic attitude eases the oppressive melancholy of the series, also performs well. Additionally, a nod goes to the prostitute with the bizarre Catholic background and the cyberpunk girl whose best friend happens to be a computer – they rank among the more inventive of the supporting cast.
On the other hand, when it comes to that kid and her invisible dog, as well as the rest of the cast whose names I don’t remember, the background stories turn out to be dull as dishwater. Stale and hackneyed, the zombie cast of X TV trudge through their scenes, droning their lines with about as much vivacity as my wet sock. Even worse, not only are many of them boring, but they’re superfluous to boot. During the much-hyped decisive battle, for instance, three of Kamui’s sidekicks simply stand by playing no part whatsoever.
It strikes me as somewhat ironic that obviousness should be the biggest flaw in a series obsessed with predetermination. X TV wants to be the show where terrible but necessary misfortune befalls real, sympathetic characters. Regrettably, it merely achieves the next best thing – some shallow ‘can humans defy destiny’ semantics handled better elsewhere (see Escaflowne), a handful of climactic battles, and one or two characters which are entertaining but most which are not.
Nonetheless, for those not too concerned about ingenuity, X TV will entertain in its own plodding sort of way. The destiny device could have been used to much greater effect and the background battle explained in more detail, but in light of few series tackling its themes or being of equal beauty, X TV remains appealing enough.
Kamui has returned to Tokyo with a traumatizing past, but he is not the only one. Many people are returning to Tokyo for the same reason: they play a part in the End of the World. The Dragons of Earth and the Dragons of Heaven now must fight for the destruction or safety of the world. But is this troubled Kamui really the key to saving the world?
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