(Japan); 1996/2000; Not Rated; 98 Minutes
Tomokazu Seki: Kamui Shiro
Junko Iwao: Kotori Mono
Ken Narita: Fuma Mono
Produced by Kazuo Yokoyama, Masanori Maruyama, Kazuhiko
Ikeguchi and Tsunehiko Kadokawa; Directed by Rintaro;
Screenwritten by Asami Watanabe, Nanase Ohkawa and
by DAVID KEYES
adore movies that keep the curtains pulled over the eyes
of the viewer, sporadically giving off hints so that they
are forced to solve the mystery right alongside the characters.
It's the kind of approach that keeps eyes peeled with perpetual
awareness, and allows the audience to feel like they have
a significant role in how the story resolves. Would "Dark
City" have been effective if we were informed of the mystery
and the characters weren't? Hardly. Would we find much excitement
in the "Scream" pictures if we knew who the killers were
beforehand? Definitely not.The most stimulating pictures
are those that construct a story of massive audacity, only
to deliver conclusions that have the same impact on the
audience as it does on the characters.
an effect, this is how many apocalyptic pictures are handled,
and understandably so. The word itself refers to the end
of the world--something that everyone wishes would never
happen. Yet characters in movies, and the audience itself,
are always skeptical of the turnout; we can either perish
as the result of some astronomical event, or conquer it
using our skills and determinations. Some movies ("Deep
Impact," for instance) depict the survival of humanity using
the strong wills of those in pursuit of making a difference;
others, like "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," perceive the
possibility that the apocalyptic future may be something
that cannot be changed.
yourself to absorb the above information before you plan
on seeing the Japanese Anima hit "X," a new title to arrive
here in the states. After experiencing great success over
in Japan four years ago, Manga Video, the lead distributor
in Anima films, is bringing it to the states for a brief
theatrical run, and then an extensive video release this
spring. It will be one of the few Anime films in history
to be seen in US theaters--another, a lavish production
titled “Princess Mononoke,” was released last fall.
never been a big fan of Anime; in fact, before "Princess
Mononoke," the only endeavor that was ever able to capture
my attention was the wildly sophisticated "Akira." But "X"
is completely out of this world--beautiful, smart, inventive,
stylistic and all-around fun. Japanese animation has always
been a little eccentric compared to that of American, but
here is something that excels in bizarre circumstances and
comes off an exciting, intense adventure. It is treated
with such careful craftsmanship that, even with the odd
story, everything manages to make sense.
story takes us through a shadow of despair and betrayal,
as two opposing forces threaten the very existence of humanity
and nature. Legend foretells of a violent war between the
dragons of Heaven and Earth, one in which the planet's future
may be catastrophic without the opposition from a liberator.
The dragons of Earth destine to destroy the human race so
that nature can be reborn; those of Heaven choose to protect
the humans from any kind of apocalypse. At the center of
these opposing influences is a human named Kamui, who returns
to his home of Tokyo after having a dream in which his deceased
mother alerts him to his importance of this war. It is said
that he holds the very fate of humanity in his hands (the
name "Kamui" itself means something prophetic), and he is
instructed to seek out the dragons of heaven and join forces
with them to protect Earth's peoples.
dragon comes in the form of, at first, a human being boasting
special power shields and a wide variety of supernatural
abilities. As each side fights to the death and the numbers
of the dragons are decreased (there are seven to begin with
for each team), we meet the sources of these attacks--two
psychic sisters who travel through the dreams of humans
searching for the "chosen one." Each predicts a separate
future for Earth, but our faith lies in she who desires
to save humanity, an elaborate princess-like figure with
red eyes and white hair that drapes over her bright costume.
The other sister, a gloomy enchantress etched in dark shadows,
serves as the film's antagonist, although maybe not intentionally.
features, including the perception of Kamui as a liberator
for the human race, echo similarities to "The Matrix," if
only to help reinforce the fantasy angle instead of inspiring
a science fiction twist. A close friend argued my final
judgment of the premise, though, claiming that science fiction
and fantasy are essentially the same thing. I beg to differ--the
first can have possible existence in reality; fantasy is
merely something that can only dwell on paper or in the
mind. The same case here: "The Matrix" uses computers, a
real creation, to threaten humanity. "X" relies on spiritual,
and often legendary, beings to decide the fate of mankind.
is preordained to help the Heaven dragons, but that doesn't
stop Earth's power shields. The enchantress of the Earth
seeks out Kamui's best friend, Fuma, to be his opposing
influence, and since we are told that he who is chosen to
defend Earth's dragons is stripped of all compassion, Kamui
himself realizes that there will be no convincing his friend
of a peace, and they must fight for the sake of all that
lives. This pitch forces on us a skepticism last seen in
"Play It To The Bone"--how can two lifelong friends fight
each other to the end, or in this case, death? But the movie
doesn't entail a traditional studio ending in which both
characters stop the fight and join hands for a chorus of
"We Shall Overcome." We are given a climax so surprising,
so unforeseen and so incredibly daring, that it compares
to the magnificent twist recently seen in Paul Thomas Anderson's
scene is given an array of detail, from rippling water effects
to symbolic floating blossom petals, and even to the beauty
of Tokyo itself (which looks almost real in a few brief
shots). Adding to the beauty of the concept are the dragons,
whose powers are displayed with sharp edges and fast-paced
projectiles, hinting that inspiration may be drawn from
comic books; and the characters themselves, while not particularly
distinguished, generate our interest during some of the
slow scenes. But most importantly, the story is completely
engrossing; the audience is never given advanced notice
of certain outcomes, and they only become revealed just
as the characters are making the discoveries. Now, with
the increase in demand for Japanese animation here in the
states, it is possible for "X" to experience the monumental
success that other great Anime features like "Princess Mononoke"
have already achieved.
David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
Please e-mail the author here
if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.