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?
StoryThe 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.AnimationAt 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.SoundOn 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.CharactersIn 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.OverallIt 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.
Although rather old and damn famous as a retro series, this title never made that much of an impact on me. I disliked its dualisms and slow pacing right away. Even after all these years my initial opinion about it hasn’t changed much, despite being bombarded all the time by people saying how great it is. In the contrary, I lost even the few specs of respect I had for its good ideas, since in all honesty they have all been reused a hundred times in later stories, mostly in light novels. THE STUFF - Animation is done by the king of anime series, studio Madhouse, so it looks great for its time.- Direction is done by Kawajiri Yoshiaki, a man who likes moody, grim, and violent stories (Cyber City Oedo 808, Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D – Bloodlust, Highlander, Birdy the Mighty). I used to like his style a lot but after all these years I lost interest in moody shows with poor presentation. And trust me when I say he gives too much attension to short bursts of great animation and interesting concepts but otherwise fails to keep them captivating for longer than an hour.- Based on the manga by CLAMP, one of the most famous team of mangaka in the 90’s. Most of their numerous works have been adapted to anime and most of them were a hit in airing shares and sales. They have a style that combines the cute with the dark and know how to create spicy premises and hot romantic pairings. Sadly their stories are good only as far as premises go; their plots always fall apart under the lack of proper handling of their themes. You end up reading or watching just for the kinky situations and give up on the story. A note must be said here that they are primirely make shoujo shows with lots of action and romance that ends up appealing to both genders. But since the shoujo is their base template, it is expected to focus almost entirely on character chemistry and visual aesthetics than… well, anything else. ART SECTION: 8/10 [Do you like my invisible wolf?] Analysis: General Artwork 2/2, Character Figures 2/2, Backgrounds 1/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 2/2 - Concerning the time the series aired, the animation was great, with high detail to both colors and shapes that don’t drop in quality in any given episode.- The mix of a modern day Tokyo, along with mysticism and Judeo-Christian allusions was a nice spice. The idea using barriers during battles was still fresh back then and gave the feeling that it is not another Dragonball Z variant. - None of the characters looks silly or stupid. They have a serious aura around them that usually fits with their powers and backdrop story. Plus, they have that bishonen look you may expect to see in girly series; so you may not like them if you prefer macho men and watermelon bimbos.- The use of cinematics is high, from interesting camera angles to the use of lightning in order to express the mood of the moment. There are though several repeating frames and action clips that damage the overall feeling. SOUND SECTION: 9/10 [Let’s leave the fate of the world for later and talk about the story of our lives first.] Analysis: Voice Acting 3/3, Music Themes 4/4, Sound Effects 2/3 -The intro song is superb and really builds atmosphere around what the series is all about. The rest of the songs are equally tension building, although they lack variety and their repetitiveness may tire you.-Voice acting is superb. It may sound too dramatic if you are not accustomed to the whiny Japanese style, but as a whiny Japanese style it is marvelous.-Sound effects were ok, although I can’t say I loved them in any way. They played little importance in battles and even less before the atmosphere the music themes were offering. STORY SECTION: 5/10 [My mommy doesn’t love me… Yes, the world is about to end too but who cares…] Analysis: Premise 2/2, Pacing 0/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 0/2, Conclusion 2/2 You basically get a bunch of guys fighting over the future of the world. There is the older movie version which rushed through everything in terms of characterization and has a weird ending. Then they turned it to a movie where they stretched the plot so they can flesh out everybody before they start killing them. And now this is over, I don’t see anything in the story that can be labeled masterpiece or epic or whatever tens of thousands of people thought they saw in it. Here are the reasons.1. The main idea behind the series alienated me from the start. - The fate of humanity is to be decided by one man alone, making all the rest of humanity to seem unimportant. - If it is his fate, as they keep saying, then why do they offer him a choice? You are not given the luxury to choose if you have an unbreakable destiny to fulfill. - If the lead was the one to choose, then why did destiny create another chooser in a heartbeat when the first had doubts about it? 2. All the above made no sense. Plus, choosing between total annihilation or complete indifference about the course of humanity was ridiculous. - Where are the middle choices? - How about a compromise of some sorts? - Why just “kill them all” or “let them be, without changing a thing”? Aren’t there exceptions? Aren’t there any brilliant or good-hearted people that deserve to survive?3. Everything in the series was separated into two. Two saviors, two kinds of dragons, two possible futures, two seers, two women dying in order to create swords... It was way too dualistic, and thus fake.4. For me, the whole “end of the world” theme was just an excuse for the characters to battle one another against their will. 5. Said battles, were not epic as they promised to be. It was not two teams of seven people setting Tokyo into flames in a Dragonball Z fashion. They were more like skirmishes, duals always performed one-on-one and ending quite fast, just for the heck of killing off the cast one by one.6. Their deaths or victories had nothing to do with the fate of the world, as the final fate of humanity was in the hands of the main leads. 7. Plot wise, there was practically story found only in the first two and the last three episodes. All the rest were just focused on getting to know the characters while leaving the dreaded apocalypse hanging out to dry. 8. Even when the ending came, it was nothing much to see other than the conclusion to the confrontation of the protagonists. By no means did I feel they were fighting for the fate of the world. What world? There was no world. It was just them, and their personal dramas.9. Did I mention how rushed it was? Very! It left me unsatisfied.10. The whole concept with the magic barriers and people fighting with superpowers in order to find a trinket has been redone a hundred times ever since in light novels. CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10 [I am a simple man that levels buildings.] Analysis: Presence 1/2, Personality 2/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 1/2, Catharsis 1/2 The cast numbered around 30, with each one having a different personality, backdrop and goals about his/her life. I hardly have encountered a cast so enriched and developed. Anime casts usually are a bunch of idiots that have no past or whose personality is just a quirk or the special power they use. Over here, everyone is as he/she is as a result of past events and personal choices. Everyone reacts to someone’s death or tragedy and doesn’t mysteriously forget them by the next episode. Very good so far.My issues go with how realistic or easy to bond with all these characters is. Yes, they have realistic personalities but they don’t act realistically at all. I personally don’t understand how tens of thousands of people felt a connection to characters that can fly in the air, create magic barriers and level buildings by throwing energy beams. - They are not people; they are angels or dragons or generally un-human beings. - Having dramatic pasts doesn’t make them tragic, if they can simply wave their pinky finger and sent anyone who tormented them in the stratosphere or magically undo anything that was destroyed.- They are driven by fate; all those dreams they have about the future are bull. If you have a destiny to follow, you don’t have dreams or hopes. You are a robot, bound to do the inevitable.- And how exactly could their dreams be accomplished in the first place? If the Earth side won, all of humanity would be destroyed. If the Heaven side won, then humanity would simply destroy itself. One way or another, there was no way to see their dreams accomplished. VALUE & ENJOYMENT SECTIONS: 4/10 [Destiny doesn’t value personal opinions or feelings.] Value Analysis: Historical Value 2/3, Rewatchability 0/3, Memorability 2/4 Enjoyment Analysis: Art 1/1, Sound 1/2, Story 1/3, Characters 1/4 It’s freaking famous and loved by a gazilion people. I personally loved the artwork, the main musical theme, its characters and the general idea of the story. Yet, I totally loath the plot or the reasonong behind everything. It was kinder-garden easy to see how fake everything unfolded. Yeah, sure, anime don’t have to be realistic, yet this series was based on human tragedy forced by fate and I didn’t buy it. Also, the special powers everyone had were more interesting to watch than enjoy them fight, as the battles were too short. So, it was a half-good treatment for me. VERDICT: 6/10 So, if the world wasn’t at stake, would you people feel helpless without some mysterious invisible force controlling your lives? SUGGESTION LIST Neon Genesis Evagelion if you adore Judeo-Christian allusions. Angel Sanctuary if you fancy yaoi angels. Choujin Locke if you dig bloody telekinetic battles. Basilisk, Gantz and Battle Royale if you love stories about people forced to turn against one another in a brutal manner. Fate/Zero, Shakugan no Shana, Campione, Dakara Boku wa, H ga Dekinai if you dig the gimmick with the tournaments and the superpowers and the magic barriers.
Shounen and shoujo animes have very different flavours as a general rule. Shounen tends to place more importance on fighting scenes and makes the protagonist suit this theme. Shoujo will look at the effect these things have on characters and concentrates on the cast a bit more. This anime is where the two meet as X TV has beautifully depicted fighting scenes while being very character driven. It probably will have more of a shoujo feel to some people as the story develops a little bit slower than most shounen and the cast is full of bishounens and bishoujos. I find that the prettiness of the characters suit this theme of apocalypse here very successfully as the contrast with the mood is explored intensely. X TV has some of the best looking animation I have ever seen in a TV series. The framerate is excellent in keeping with the intense battles. The backgrounds are not only well drawn but also have intricate detail. 3D graphics are not excessively used and as a result do not feel out of place. The character design has an elegance that really suit the series and the costumes range from fun to completely cool! The reason this particularly breathtaking series does not get a full score for animation is in the reused footage. Scenes are repeated way too often and they are always the same ones. Other scenes which deal with similar issues could have been used to vary the repetition a little but that never happened. Some scenes are interesting to watch again though as when the story progresses and a scene from the start is repeated, you can see how the show has built on that and how much more significant it has become. I love the music in X as it sets the mood of the series spectacularly. The intro has a very good energy and vibe that keeps with the intense themes very well. The intro also depict scenes that show you what the series is about at its core with pictures of Kamui and Fuuma being prisoners of each other. This also serves in creating an interest in the series and that works really well. The background tunes here were also great and kept with the mood quite well. Some background were very good pieces on their own too and they feel like signature pieces for the series. The voice acting was excellent for just about the entire cast as everyone depicted their character with grave tones and warped humanity without ever sounding melodramatic, which is to be applauded with these themes. The story of X is one of the most interesting for either Shounen or Shoujo anime. I really believe that it is one of the reasons it sits so well with fans of either genres. The story is about a battle between the dragons of Heaven (the 7 Seals) and the dragons of Earth (the 7 Angels). At the start we are introduced to Kamui and as he is at the core of the battle, he has to choose with side he will fight on. When he makes his decision, things are really set in motion and the series just becomes more and more interesting. Themes of dreams, wishes and destinies are explored not only well but atmospherically to create a higher sense of depth. There is a point in the middle where the pace of the series slows down a little so you understand certain characters a bit more. This slower moment of the series might annoy some viewers but it is necessary to grasp what some cast members are fighting for. At times, the characterisation is so good in these scenes that they give more depth to the story. The cast of characters is an immensely interesting one here. They all have very distinct features in their personality that makes them interesting individuals as well as heroes/antiheroes. Subaru and Seisshiru are great examples of that as their aim is not really to comply with what their purpose is but rather recover the balance in their relationship. Other cast members seem to have forgotten themselves in their foretold destinies but take a stand for it when they become affected with the turmoils and love of someone else. The story is so good that the characters really come forward as strong and well explored as they could be. The 7 Seals are given more of a chance to shine though which is a bit of a shame since the other group also had interesting characters. There is a silver lining as what you get to see of the 7 Angels is interesting enough to get you to care about them and be moved when they do what they need to as well. I have really enjoyed this piece and think it is a vast improvement on the X movie. It just goes to show that the X movie was actually just a preview for this great series. Its depictions of powerful themes like separation, loneliness, self-worth, determination, love and acceptance are never over played for emphasis and it never talks down to the viewer, making it one of the most heartfelt animes I have seen. A high recommendation.
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