July 17th, 2009
I’m going to try something new today and not write about video games. In it’s place I want to discuss an anime series that I recently watched to competition. I guess you can call me a fan of anime. I have far more anime than I have regular DVDs, although considering I rarely buy DVDs or Bluray movies, that’s not saying much. Years ago I snapped up a series of single-cased boxsets on the cheap including Cowboy Beebop, Hellsing, Trigun and other prominent animated franchises. Since all those years ago, I’ve still watched very little, so I’ve decided add them to my massive media binge. The first series up is the X animated series.
X is the animated series of manga and featured movie of the same name, produced by all female manga quartet CLAMP. It tells the story of Kamui Shiro, a boy returning to Tokyo to fulfill his role as a Dragon of Heaven in the forthcoming final battle between two Kamuis which shall decide the fate of the planet. On the other side of the fence are the Dragons of Earth who fight for a revolution; where all mankind is destroyed and life begins at zero. The Dragons of Heaven fight for the contrary; the survival of mankind. Each group contain six key members, a dream seer and a Kamui; the one who will fight in the final battle.
The series follows Kamui’s return to Tokyo, meeting up with childhood friends Fuma and Kotori, and battling the demons of his fate. The first half of the 6-DVD collection trace his transition from sourpuss to fairly likable hero, while meeting up with the other Dragons of Heaven and Hinoto, the dream seer and defacto group coordinator. As the members slowly happen upon each other, forming their growing union, minor confrontations with individual members of the Dragons of Earth take place. Many of these confrontations are related to the shingen, two swords, one for either Kamui, primed for the final battle, as well as Kamui’s integration into school life (which the series soon forgets). The first half of the series highlights Kamui’s troubled past and relations to his close friends, Fuma and Kotori, who he vows to protect.
Entering the latter half of the series, Fuma realizes his fate as the Kamui (is the protagonist’s name as well as their role, as such) for the Dragons of Earth. His voice deepens, eyes become red, transforming his persona. His transition is completely unfounded and random. Fuma attacks Kamui and murders a bounded Kotori in front of Kamui, declaring their twin destinies. Afterwards he goes off in search of Kanoe, the sister of Hinoto, a seductress who can peeping-tom her way into Hinoto’s dreams. With their alignment, the Dragons of Earth unite as one for the final battle.
Leading up to this illustrious final battle, the confrontations escalate as Fuma pursues the Dragons of Heaven. This leads into some mini-twists and then the final battle ensues.
The story isn’t particularly clear nor logical and only needs to be interpreted as the gatherings of two schools of thought, preparing for a battle which will decide their fate. The battles are cushioned by sequences dealing with abstract phenomena such as destiny, fate, dreams, wishes and the future. These scenes picturize the abstract dichotomy of good and evil, determined and undetermined futures, and humanity’s role on the earth as to whether we have sinned or not in our destruction of the planet. These scenes use feathers, cherry blossoms, ripples of water, angelic forms of Kamui and other reoccurring elements to paint these abstract enigmas in a mostly visually provocative manner. Many of the scenes don’t match the visual quality or level of cel animation of the animated movie but are interesting nonetheless.
The music, particularly the quiet piano and rich crescendo are well done, yet overall the music fails to encapsulate the dread of the feature film. Perhaps the weaker sound and visual design can be in some ways attributed to the PG rating which takes the chill off the haunting imagery from the movie. I guess this is also to be expected of the format too; being a series rather than a film. Either way, X hammers the PG rating pretty hard with plenty of blood, some bedroom scenes, abstract bondage and prostitute-client and minor-adult relationships too.
The characters are a range of anime tropes featuring a familiar cast of voices – just don’t ask me to name the actors, okay? Each episode focuses on a character’s history, linking the self-contained narrative elements of the episode to their past in a fashion not dissimilar to Lost. This is usually a trauma or bad memory of some type created by the Heaven/Earth member’s magical powers and the stigma it’s marked them with. Even though everyone has super natural powers, each distinct (that was a given, right?) the people themselves are normal citizens which harmonize their relations. Besides the air-headed babble about destiny, twin stars and the future, everyone bar Fuma is well grounded.
Overall, I haven’t much opinion on X. I probably wouldn’t greatly recommend it to anyone, the plot is nonsensical, Kamui is fairly emo before he evolves into an semi-likable hero and the animation and action sequences are pretty standard but never rip-snortingly so. Still, I personally have a thing for this series, despite its shortcomings which is worth something.