If most anime fans were asked what the typical CLAMP work would contain, noodley pretty boys swinging swords in fantasy settings would probably top the list followed by adorable little girls whirling magical wands accompanied by fluffy lions. X/1999 does contain pretty boys and adorable girls, but let me tell you that there is a severe lack of fluff in this work. Dark, moody and apocalyptic, X contains vicious fighting and gallons of blood, many times on said pretty boys and adorable girls. Believe me when I say that Chobits or Card Captor Sakura this is not.
Follow me after the jump to see why this nine year old show is a must own, despite a few of its inherent flaws.
X (Originally released in 2003, re-released June 2010)
Important preface: DO NOT WATCH EPISODE 0 FIRST. It will spoil the major plot fights from the entire series. It was made as a primer for people unfamiliar with the original manga. I suggest waiting until after the series to give it a watch.
X centers around Kamui Shirou, a high school boy whose destiny is to save the world. It's a pretty run of the mill conceit, except there are two ways he can accomplish this task. He can either be the savior of humanity or he can wipe the slate clean and destroy them all. Needless to say, there are quite a few people interested with this prophecy and quite a few more that want to sway him one way or another. The two mains groups are the Dragons of Heaven, who want to save civilization and keep humanity running about, and the Dragons of Earth, who prefer the slash and burn method of saving the planet.
Some time later another prophecy reveals a "twin star", a person similar to Kamui that can accomplish the prophecy just as well as he can. This sets a series of events in motion that leads to Kamui having to face off against his closest friend, leading to a ridiculous amount of angst and hand wringing. This wouldn't be such a surprising thing if Kamui wasn't a surly bad ass up to the big reveal. He goes from a devil-may-care jerkass to a whiny bitch paralyzed by his indecision. He's under a lot of strain and is put in a bad situation, but you will get tired of it real quick.
It's a good thing that the show has a strong supporting cast. The show spends its first half introducing the Dragons and developing their back stories, which vary from kind of sad to absolutely tragic. These side characters are there to support their respective leader, but their personalities and powers really make the show shine. For example, there are a couple of magic users, a girl that can jack into a computer Matrix-style, a monk who's rocking an early 90's B-boy style and a lady of the night...who tends to stay in her knickers. There will be someone for every one, and they all get their chance to shine. It's a shame that so many end up getting killed, since they became so much more enjoyable than Kamui and his insipid waffling.
The show is animated by Madhouse and it shows. It looks like it could have been released last year, which is a testament to the budget this baby must have had back in 2001. X looks fantastic on this transfer and when I saw it on a 50" TV upconverted on a PS3, it looked gorgeous. It has aged very well and holds up to anything released today. The music is also excellent, very much worth looking for and listening to. The voice acting is great, my personal favorites being Mamiko Noto (Kotori) and Mitsuaki Madono (Sorata). The dub is serviceable, if not spectacular.
Although the X manga remains incomplete (and probably always will), don't let that be a deterrent. The show is fully enjoyable despite the nagging feeling that there should be more. If for some reason you have a problem with boy/boy affections, worry not. Though the promotional art for the show has Kamui and his friend Fuma in an embrace, they do not have that kind of relationship in the show. In fact, CLAMP does a good job balancing a design that is aimed at women with content that is aimed at men. Ladies can oogle the pretty boys and men can dig the fights and the occasional bit of cheesecake. Collected all in one volume, X is easily worth the price of admission.
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