Good luck trying to figure what the hell is going on during the first
twenty or so minutes of X. I sighed and wondered whether anime
(Japanese animation) movies always have such confused story-telling or
whether it was my Western sensibilities. Whatever.
Things get clearer (sort of!) as the movie progresses, but the movie
simply tries to cram in too much information and too many characters into
its too short running time of 98 minutes. In short: it is 1999 and a young
man endowed with superpowers seems destined to save Earth from the
impending apocalypse. In his fight seven other people aid him also with
Like I said: good luck trying to find out initially who the good guys
and who the bad guys are, why they are fighting (incessantly) and why you
should care. The movie seems to rush along from one super-powered fight
scene to another - with people jumping over rooftops like in Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon and fighting it out like in X-Men with damage to
property right out of the original Highlander movie.
Having recently sat through anime with convoluted plots such as Jin-Roh
- The Wolf Brigade and Spriggan I am beginning to suspect that narrative
cohesion isn't exactly a strong point of anime. Once X takes a breather
between fight scenes and focuses on its characters a bit, things improve.
Apparently an all-female studio called Clamp made the film. Don't expect
any feminist insights though: the women still have revealing outfits and
the villainess in this movie has huge jugs and resembles Vampira. Maybe it
is because it is however still directed by a man - Rintaro, who went on to
direct the excellent - but also confusing - Metropolis.
Don't get me wrong: X features good animation with an effective
soundtrack (bits of it reminded me of Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek's
melancholy soprano). The use of religious iconography (both Christian and
Eastern) also makes for some visually interesting moments. Some scenes are
also quite effective. But the characterization remains practically
non-existent and the viewer remains uninvolved through a lot of the movie.
(In its defense it must be said that things do improve later on.)
Viewers curious about anime should rather check out Akira and
the Shell. Fans of the genre will be happy though. (Incidentally, X was made in 1996 but didn't get
a limited theatrical release in the States until 1999.)