Posted by psgels on 21 September 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews



Here’s another Clamp-adaptation, the anime with one of the least descriptive titles in existence: X. It tells the story of a bunch of people who have been destined to fight over whether or not the earth is going to be destroyed. And I must say, it hits the mark surprisingly often. Recommended for anyone who likes a good character-study.

There are very few series that can claim that they only get better and better as they go on, but X sure as hell does come close to this. It starts out a bit mundane, but for nearly every successive episode as you get an idea of the plot, and the different characters show their backgrounds and stories, it just gets more intriguing with episode. Especially in the second half, where all hell breaks loose, this series just continues to keep the balls in the air.

What impressed me the most about this series was the maturity of the cast of villains. These guys are miles away from your stereotypical evil overlords, and despite the fact that they’re trying to destroy the world, they’re all surprisingly calm and down to earth which is very refreshing to be honest. The protagonists also receive plenty of attention, which allows each of them to grow beyond stereotypes, and actually develop a bit. A major theme in this series is loneliness, and I really liked how each of them chose to deal with their feelings in a different way.

With all that however, it’s a shame that the least interesting character in this series is the main one: Kamui. With such a colourful cast of side-characters, he fails to stand out and is yet another one of those angsty teenagers with huge powers with the task to save the world. He does develop throughout the series, but it’s all just too predictable and shallow. It’s because of him that the finale of this series turns out to be really cheesy. A pitiful exception to how everything in this series just gets better and better.

Overall, X is a bit too angsty for my tastes. Too often, we see characters stare pointlessly into nothingness instead of actually doing something, and the lackluster lead character and ending prevent it from really standing out, but aside from that there’s a lot to like in this series. It’s an interesting effect you get when half of the series’ plot twists have already been prophesized (especially if you watched the special episode 00, which is basically a very cryptic recap of the series). With a strong soundtrack and very solid animation by Madhouse, I definitely don’t regret watching this.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 8/10
Setting: 8/10

19 Responses

  1. Brett says:

    I watched the movie, and since it was so short the plot and characters seemed rushed. It didn’t help that I was lost through the entire movie. I guess it would have helped to have seen the series first.

    Regardless, good review. It was so expensive to buy this a few years back, if I ever see it down in price I will definitely pick it up.

  2. Pax says:

    definitely agree that it’s a bit too angsty at times,but overall it was definitely worth the time even f i did not like the ending but considering how the manga was not finished i kinda expected the ending to be quite bad.

    now that Tsubasa Chronicles is suppose to end,i do hope that we will get to see the end of this manga .

  3. Etrangere says:

    Hehe, I’m a pretty big fan of CLAMP in general, and the X & Tokyo Babylon continuity in particular. The TV series is a decent adaptation, with an especially brilliant soundtrack, although I still like the manga better, and it’s also much better to read Tokyo Babylon before. Of course it is pretty much all about the angst, eros/thanatos and gore but I dig those XDDD. I agree that Kamui is one of the weaker character.

  4. juu says:

    I read the manga first(and loved it) But afterwards I really couldn’t stand the anime^^°
    but that’s how it usually goes with me and manga adaptions^^°
    I totally agree on the “villains” in this one. They were really interesting characters.
    So I’m glad you liked the story.
    I only wish the manga had an ending now…

  5. Keith says:

    Oh man, I have been waiting for this review ever since I started reading your blog 2 years ago. This was the first anime that truly got me into anime, so I consider it my favorite just because of the impact it had on me. I remember I bought it on a whim and marathoned the first 12 episodes because that’s all that had been released so far (didn’t know about torrenting yet). So when it ended on that cliffhanger on 12, what was a mediocre show suddenly became shocking and intense, and not many shows have been able to live up to that “turning point”.

    I agree with the above comments that the manga is better. It definitely is. I takes the theme of the tv show and then pumps it up a notch. And as much as I enjoy (somewhat) Tsubasa and xxxholic, if CLAMP doesn’t finish the manga when they’re both done I am going to be a sad sad boy.

  6. Keith says:

    Oh, psgels, Why didn’t you like the ending? Because considering the way the show’s built it can only really end a couple other ways.

  7. psgels psgels says:

    Keith: I haven’t read the manga, so I don’t know how they handled it there (if it actually handled it at all), but like you said, it was the only way for the show to end properly, but it also came as a deus ex machina, it was badly explained and way too hasty. I could hardly take it seriously. It would have been a nice ending if the creators would have gotten an extra episode to give it a bit more time.

  8. Anca says:

    This, along with Escaflowne, are the two series that seriously got me into anime; unlike Escaflowne (which does still rank as number one for me), I’m still a big fan of X. It’s one of the shows that the more you think about it, the deeper it gets.

    For example, did you notice the parallels in the cast? Kamui and Fuuma and Subaru and Seishiro are very obvious, but you also have the other characters that are ‘ranked’ the same – take Karen and Yuuto, fire and water; but are the most sexual characters of the cast. Or Satsuki and Yuzuriha, the character who is least concerned about humans and the character who is most.

    Of course, the manga is better (like in pretty much everything else); it diverges near the end and Subaru receives a bigger role, taking Seishiro’s place, in the sense that they used him to characterise Dark Kamui instead of Seishirou (and in the manga they’ve been hinting that Fuuma hasn’t lost all of his personality).

    Kamui is what Subaru was at the end of Tokyo Babylon, but CLAMP left it unfinished exactly when I believe he was going to snap out of it.

    CLAMP said the major theme was individuality over group think in a setting where the later would have been a more natural message. The villains are all people who don’t care whether they live or die.

    – I’m rambling, but X has this effect on me >_>;;

    Thanks for the review.

  9. Etrangere says:

    The villains are all people who don’t care whether they live or die.
    I think this, to me, is the principal theme of X. The struggle between the parts of ourselves that want to die, and the parts of ourselves that want to live on. At the core it’s a story about how we want to live because we have ties to other people (stop me before i start quoting BtVS), so that’s why the Kekkai only exist as long as the Shi no Ryu have a special person they care about. That’s also why it’s wrong to kill people, because that makes the people who care for them sad. Kamui has both asect of this in himself from the beginning. A big part of him doesn’t care if he lives or dies, if the worlds end or not… and a part of him does want to fight on and keeps the world alive for the people he cares for. When he makes his choice, it’s Fuuma who ends up embodying his death wish (and his masochistic wishes, which is why he tortures him as much ^^)
    But in X, way too many people think it’s worth dying in order to save, help or protect the people they love. Which, well, ends up being pretty silly and self destructive as well. The manga having no end, we’ll never know how far it goes with that :(
    but the anime ending is pretty good with what they have, even if I wish there were other subtleties they’d had kept.

  10. Anca says:

    Etrangere:

    Yes, it’s very possible that Kamui’s true wish is ‘to live’ – it /would/ be something only D. Kamui could fulfill (who else would kill him?). It’d make for a nice, entirely non-homoerotic ending scene too.

    The only problem with what I said earlier is Subaru – he had the mother of all death wishes of the cast. It only starts making sense if you look at his TB personality, but even then: back then he hadn’t ‘awakened’ as a Seal. The only reason he didn’t commit suicide at Seishiro’s hand (because we know that was his intention ever since Hokuto died) was because Seishiro had one up on him with his own death wish: he knew what Hokuto did.

    But even if he knew about the spell, I honestly doubt he’d have had it in him to stab Seishiro – it’s *Subaru* we’re talking about, probably the kindest member of the cast, along with Yuzuriha. (Even Seishiro, who knew him best, fully expected to be hated, fully expected him to wish to kill him).

    After Rainbow Bridge, he’s a walking corpse; in the manga he gets some measure of closure with a nice heart to heart with Dark Kamui, after which he will probably proceed to become Sakurazuka Subaru, as per the succession ritual and his loved one’s wish (I can’t remember that clearly what happened at this point, after their conversation) – and at this point he stopped being a Seal. In the anime he disappears, and I honestly thought back when I first watched it that he jumped off a bridge.

    Still, he didn’t fit the Seal mold even before he changed sides; unless ‘wanting to live to be killed by THAT person’ qualifies as ‘wanting to live’, in which case Seishiro would not qualify as an Angel.

  11. Keith says:

    Yeah, the subtleties in the manga were what brings it a step above the anime. The anime was good and all, but it really only kept the most obvious message, which was that our ties to others is what makes up want to live on.

    They had to leave the deeper parts of the manga out because it would have actually made the ending of the anime betray those themes. The biggest message of the manga is that self-sacrifice is a terrible thing to do, because it only hurts the ones who care about you. There’s no way to make everyone happy, but sacrificing yourself really doesn’t help it.

    psgels, the manga has been on hiatus for over 6 years now, and it ended at the biggest cliffhanger in the story yet, so it has been the most torturous hiatus in anime history, especially considering how popular the manga is in Japan. Apparently, in 2003 there was a devastating earthquake in japan and since the end of the world is depicted by earthquakes, CLAMP was given the choice of toning the manga down or putting it on a hold. They chose the latter (thankfully).

    The biggest difference between the anime and the manga though is that, as said previously, Fuma is not actually a cold-blooded killer with a new personality. He is actually the same Fuma as always, but has to cope with his newly assigned role. He’s probably my favorite antagonist of all time because of this internal conflict he has.

  12. Anca says:

    Fuma is not actually a cold-blooded killer with a new personality.

    This was revealed after the anime was produced (I think); for the most part, we assumed that Fuuma’s personality had been rewritten by SADAME in the manga too. Dark Kamui mode Fuuma acted a lot more gay and sadistic than normal Fuuma before the Choice too. How Fuuma if he still has a conscience could be such a fucking ass if still one of the biggest unresolved mysteries yet (for me).

  13. Keith says:

    Anca, my theory in this is that when the choice was made, Fuuma was probably overwhelmed by his awakening. Also, “event” that happened once Kamui made his choice was fated to happen.

    Another thing to point out is the fact that Fuuma is compelled to grant people’s wishes. Even if he doesn’t like it, he has to fulfill someone’s true desire, and if they desire is death then he doesn’t have a choice. He can still have a conscious because he is still the same Fuuma, but just because he is still the same doesn’t mean he can control his own actions. It’s the same way for a lot of the characters, the dreamseers especially. Like Fuuma, they can only sit back while other forces decide what will and will not happen.

  14. Etrangere says:

    Anca,

    Yes, it’s very possible that Kamui’s true wish is ‘to live’
    I’ve no idea what Kamui’s true wish is. It might just as well be to die. I was just pointing out that his personnality is pretty much split by the two wishes, and that’s also why he becomes Kamui and D!Kamui. I see Dark Kamui as the embodiment of Kamui’s darkest wishes.

    It’d make for a nice, entirely non-homoerotic ending scene too.
    *snort*
    Yeah, but a bit redundant after Seishirou and Subaru.

    The only problem with what I said earlier is Subaru – he had the mother of all death wishes of the cast.
    Oh yes.
    From the beginning Subaru is the one who shows the most extreme tendancies of the Seals – he cares a whole lot for the world, but little to nothing for himself. Even before Seishirou messed him up the boy had zero sense of self preservation.. but he really, really cared about others.
    Subaru’s whole journey was about learning selfishness, as Seishirou’s whole journey was to learn to care for someone else – except they are very warped journeys. Remember how Hokuto wanted Subaru to care for someone, for his own sake? Something that he wouldn’t give up on, like he did his dream of zoo keeper. Well that was Seishirou. The one person Subaru really wanted, for himself, in the world. However due to how messed up their relationship was, it ended up being warped in Subaru’s deathwish (and Seishirou’s! lol) but at the beginning of X, Seishirou is the one person Subaru cares for, the reason he can produce a Kekkai. Even though he wants Seishirou to kill him… well he wants Seishirou to kill him, not anyone else would do. No suicide thus. When Seishirou dies, Subaru’s Kekkai disappears…. he no longuers has any stakes in keeping the world going on, and in the manga, Subaru becomes a Ten no Ryu as a result.

    it’s *Subaru* we’re talking about, probably the kindest member of the cast, along with Yuzuriha.
    Agreeing with you. Also Yuzuriha is clearly the only Seal who i able to face D!Kamui and survives because she really, really wants to live and to keep on protecting the world. No ‘but’, not ‘i want to die to protect this person’. No death wishes. She’s one of the strongest Seal.
    In the anime he disappears, and I honestly thought back when I first watched it that he jumped off a bridge.
    In the anime, Subaru actually reappear right at the end, to save Kamui’s life. I think he even produces a Kekkai to do so. Silly Kamui/Subaru shipper anime XD

    Still, he didn’t fit the Seal mold even before he changed sides; unless ‘wanting to live to be killed by THAT person’ qualifies as ‘wanting to live’, in which case Seishiro would not qualify as an Angel.
    lol, yeah; Seishirou is a shit Angel. Because he ends up caring for Subaru, in his own carped manner.

  15. Ebod says:

    Hmm, I’m really curious to how well the Subaru and Seishirou relationship is conveyed through just anime alone *has watched the anime and read the manga*.

    Oh right, psgels, are you going to watch the Tokyo Babylon OVAs in the future as well?

  16. Reltair says:

    I remember watching X TV way back in the day. Definitely a memorable series with the deep character development and progression to epicness. If you haven’t seen it already, go do so now!

  17. Marla-the-turist says:

    Wow, it brings back memories.. X was among the first animes I have seen and it really impressed me and made me want to check other series as well… it still has very special place in my heart. You just made me want to rewatch it all again, so thanks I guess :)

  18. Shiro, Long Tail\'s says:

    If you didn’t like X (TV) ending you can always give the movie a try. It’s relatively the same but with a different ending. Much shorter too so you can say goodbye to character development or context.

  19. sam says:

    read the manga!!!!!!!!!! the anime is nothing but a pale imatation the other kamui the so called bad guy is so amazing and complex you will love the manga

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  • Ebod
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 08:22 PM)
    V for Vendetta for me has always been a more “literary” work than Watchmen, but Watchmen is spectacular because it’s a story that can only be told in full scope in the comic format. While I feel like many major themes and events from V for Vendetta could easily be adapted into, say, novel format, the same could not be said of Watchmen. Also, the racist whitewashing Hollywood does of Asian characters really has to stop.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:30 AM)
    Watchmen was deemed ‘unadaptable’ for about thirty years, so just getting what Snyder got out of the material is a huge success; it is said that what he did was to write a book version of Ingmar’s Holy Mountain. Watchmen is the only graphic novel to ever win a Hugo award and is easily the most intricate and multilayered Alan Moore comic, so it’s no surprise that it continues to top ‘best comics of all time’ charts to this day.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:20 AM)
    I beg to differ. Doctor Manhatten is the most intriguing character of Watchmen and the comic is a giant in ,not only in the comic world, but the history of literature itself. It is a deconstruction of superheros and Dr. M shows how afraid the world would really be when faced with a ‘superman’ and how a creature in such a higher realm of time and perception would show apathy toward humans and their foolish struggles.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:15 AM)
    GitS just won’t work. Maybe in a world before the Matrix, but not now with so many elements of it borrowed liberally by so many franchises in various mediums. Scarlet Johansson is decent in roles that fit her. She was enjoyable in Lost In Translation, but race aside she has nothing in common with Kusanagi. This is a travesty and the franchise is dear to me so it especially burns my ass.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:10 AM)
    While I am no fan of man of steel, Nolan and Snyder, just about anyone would have a hard time taking a difficult character like superman and making him work on screen.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:08 AM)
    Apart from Veidt and Rorshach I could never get into the characters all that much in watchmen. I also found the film overly long and mediocre acted for the larger part. But to each there own. For Alan moores works I always preferred his Miracleman, swamp thing, V for Vendetta stories.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:06 AM)
    Nolan can produce the action plus personal and dark story that Alita would need, and he also brings talent such as composer Hans Zimmer and Cinematographer Sally Pfister to the table. Him and Snyder have too much combined integrity to make a mockery out of Alita like Spielberg did with the GitS license.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:03 AM)
    Well Snyder has respect for his source materials and that is key in anime-to-film adaptations. Hell I’m a big Watchmen fan and I thought his version was (almost painfully) close to the comic. You’re not going to get that anywhere else in Hollywood. Also the combination of Nolan/Snyder is quite different than them individually.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 05:34 AM)
    And directed it as a co-production with America, using a Japanese cast.
    Yeah…this is impossible…
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 05:32 AM)
    The only way a live action ghost in the shell film would work is if Mamoru oshii directed it.

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