"X The Series": Proving the Future Isn't Determinable (Except When It Is)
It’s important to note that the title of the 24-episode anime series X, based on the manga series of the same name, doesn’t refer to the letter X. Rather, X is what you see when two swords cross, which is important in this series that is about doubles and the clash of two forces. In a nutshell, X is the story of opposing groups and the fate of the world. The Dragons of Heaven, or the Seven Seals, are the designated good guys. Their job is to preserve the world the way it is. They come together to fight the Dragons of Earth, or the Seven Angels, who want to destroy the planet (for its own good, of course).
Although the character designs aren’t exactly standout, they do give the sense that the characters are a part of humankind, whether schoolgirl or businessman. The look of the series overall is fairly dark, but there are several moments when the screen is bombarded by a hail of feathers, as if someone was off camera gunning down a flock of birds. This is used to highlight the idea of heaven and angels and whatnot, but it’s excessive and at times distracting. The score is pretty cool, though. An epic-sounding music piece booms in to conclude each episode.
In addition to having a solid style overall, the series is also distinct in that it gives its characters specialized powers. Sure, everyone has the standard ability to leap high and move fast, but those are only secondary to their specific powers, such as element manipulation and the wielding of magic weapons. One of the more unique aspects of the series is the concept of Barrier Fields, which enable the fighters to produce a green geometric shape that creates sort of a second landscape, one that replicates everything in the immediate area. It lets them do as much damage to the scenery as they want while keeping any innocent civilians out. Naturally, only the good guys can do it.
Although the series has a lot of things going for it, the biggest drawback is the number of episodes it has to go through until the story really takes off. The main character is a teenager named Kamui, who learns of his destiny and is told he has to choose which side to fight on by a Dream Seer named Hinoto. It’s also revealed that there is another Kamui, referred to as his twin star, who is destined to fight on the other side. Although Hinoto stresses the fact that Kamui’s destiny is already written, she also tells him that he has a choice in the matter of which destiny he’s going to fulfill. The story of Kamui’s decision is all well and good, and actually comes with a couple of surprising twists and turns, but it’s weighed down by heavy exposition, which is told over and over. After hearing all this stuff about destiny and choice once or twice, the viewer kind of gets the point and becomes anxious to actually see how it all unfolds.
The series doesn’t really start to widen its scope until the focus is spread among the other Dragons of Heaven. There’s Sorata, the comic relief character who takes his mission seriously; Arashi, sword-wielder who buries her emotions deep; Yuzuriha, cheerful schoolgirl accompanied by a shape-shifting dog; Subaru, armed with magic cards and as dependable as the car company whose name he shares; Aoki, the working class family man with the ability to control wind; and Kasumi, the lady of the evening with fire powers. The interaction among the Dragons of Heaven is amusing, and it’s great to watch them form close relationships, romantic and otherwise. Some of the better episodes single out a Dragon and flashback on their life and depict how they discovered their abilities and forged their goals. Even the Dragons of Earth, who want to destroy the planet, are given depth and motivation. They become sympathetic characters so much to the point you don’t want these two groups to combat each other.
Which is probably a good thing because they don’t. Not in the sense that there’s a massive seven-on-seven melee, in any event. The battles, although pretty amazing to watch, are on a smaller scale, with mostly one or two fighters on each side. The final battle that decides the fate of Earth is between the twin star Kamuis. It’s exciting in and of itself and comes to a satisfying conclusion, but don’t expect an all-out brawl after all that build up.
In addition to all 24 episodes, the X DVD set comes with a few extras, including an OVA, “OVA 0 – An Omen.” There’s actually not that much to it, as it’s basically just a 20-minute or so preview told from the point of view of one of the minor characters. The OVA plot has already been incorporated into the series, so you can either watch this before the episodes or skip it entirely. There’s also a short featurette that interviews writer and director Yoshiaki Kawajiri and two of the Japanese voice actors. It’s informative and gives good insight into what the director wanted to achieve and how the actors approached their performances.
X is a good series that has a strong basis for a series-long conflict. It introduces some interesting concepts, though a lot of those concepts get bogged down with repeated scenes and overused lines of vague dialogue. Fortunately, the series does get better as it progresses. When it’s all over and done with, you end up wishing there were more.