The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 70 – X


We conclude our quick glimpse at our look at the early work of the all-female Clamp group of manga artists by look at what is considered by many to be their greatest work. It is also possibly the best treatment of any of their work, and also certainly the anime with the shortest title – with the exceptions of the series known as F and K.

X, also known as X/1999 because it is set in the year 1999, began as a manga in 1992 and has published 18 volumes to date. It has been given two anime treatments. The first was as a feature film in 1996, and the second as a TV series with a straight-to-DVD pilot that ran from 2001-2002. The series is a mixture of action, tragedy, romance and the supernatural, which all combines together to create one apocalyptically great work.

The story begins with teenager Kamui Shiro returning to Tokyo after a long absence. His mother has died and his main desire is to protect the people closest to him: his old school friend Fuma Monou, and Fuma’s sister Kotori. During his visit however Kamui learns that Tokyo is to be the site of the battle which will determine the fate of the world, which is to be fought between two forces of supernatural abilities.

On one side are the seven “Dragons of Heaven”, who believe that humanity can live alongside the Earth and guide it safely into the new millennium. On the other are the seven “Dragons of Earth”, who believe that humanity is a plague on Earth and should be wiped out to insure the planet’s survival.

Kamui is contacted by various people and is asked to join one of the two sides, but all he wants to do is protect Fuma and Kotori. However, when they are dragged into the battle, Kamui is forced to make his choice. His choice results in him not just trying to rescue his friends from a terrible fate, but will also decide the entire future of humankind itself.

There are several reasons for watching X, the first of which is that this is one of the best adaptations of any of Clamp’s work. Both the film and the TV series have merit. The film may have while released while the manga was only just beginning, and thus is not the most faithful of adaptations. But it looks stunning visually, the action is thrilling, and some scenes are pleasantly dreamlike. It is a powerful watch.

The TV series meanwhile is the more faithful adaptation, although like the film it was made while the manga was still being written. The plot makes use of themes such as religion and the environment, as well as combining a story aimed at women that featured elements of more violent male-orientated manga.

The other major draw is the characters. Kamui, the lead character, seems to be one that divides people. Many people find him off-putting because he’s so gloomy, brooding and dark. However, others claim that due to his tragic background and the life around him, he’s one of Clamp’s more interesting characters.

Again, Clamp’s cross-referencing comes into play, with some of the characters in X appearing in later works. But also characters from earlier projects reappear in this series. The most notable characters to crop up in X are Subaru Sumeragi and Seishiro Sakurazuka from Tokyo Babylon. I will not reveal their exact roles in X however, as it would spoil it for people who have not read the Tokyo Babylon manga.

If X has one big problem it is the ending. As stated, both the film and the TV series were released at a time when the series was still being written. Indeed the series is still being written… and yet it’s not being written. In 2003 the magazine publishing X was worried it was becoming too violent, and as a result it has since been in hiatus, so no-one knows how the series will end, if at all. Let’s hope that one day it will have the finale it deserves.

The film version of X is released by Manga Entertainment. The TV version of X is released by MVM Films.