The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials


Title: X/1999
Genre: Action
Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: Movie; 100 minutes.
Dates: 3 Aug 1996

Synopsis: The “promised day”, the day when humanity faces extinction, is about to come to pass. The final defenders of humanity, the Dragons of Heaven, must defeat the Dragons of Earth in order to break away from this fate. The key to this final battle lies in the hands of Shiro Kamui. If he chooses to become a Dragon of Heaven, he can fight for the continued existence of mandkind, but if he chooses to be a Dragon of Earth, all of humanity will be destroyed.

The Highlights
Art and Animation: Exceptional.
Character development: Nonexistent.
Story: A gratuitous display of violence set in CLAMP‘s classy style.

People die.

No, seriously, this is what X/1999 is about. The first few minutes shows a flash of fire, an exploding body and the ensuing angst and melodrama. A little while later, people fight and more people die. Cue dialogue about the end of the world followed by even more people dying. Some characters get tragic monologues, some get to preach about the vulgarities of humanity, but if they appear on screen, they’re probably going to die.

Sorry if I’ve ruined the entire movie for you. No, on second thought I’ve saved you the difference of what time it takes to read this review to the 100 minutes you could have wasted. Madhouse usually does a good job translating manga into anime, but after watching the movie, I wonder what the hell these people were thinking. Even the franchise’s original creators, CLAMP, must have been appalled by this. Drama is not about mutilated bodies or forcing two best friends to fight each other to the death. Make the audience care about the characters by developing them; don’t just slaughter a large number of nobodies in hopes to get an emotional response. I admit, the movie has a lot of source material to cover in a very short amount of time, but instead of fleshing out the story and characters, the show decides to focus on the grandiose finale minus a proper introduction.

As for the aesthetics, the music works, and the seiyuu do their jobs admirably, but with over a dozen significant characters, most only get about five lines. If there’s anything the movie does exceptionally well, it’s something almost everyone knows: Madhouse Studio has talented animators. The action choreography is unimpressive, but the animation is fluid and the backgrounds are lush and full of detail. Drawn by the loving hands of the animators, CLAMP‘s elegant style shines through in all its glory.

To be honest, I have nothing against watching characters die. Some of the most powerful shows I’ve seen involve death. It’s just that this movie handles death so poorly. There’s something seriously wrong when characters chop people’s heads off, and all I can think is, “is it over yet?” The manga version of X may be far from spectacular, but it doesn’t deserve this bastardization.

The Rating: 3

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

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