X/1999 is an anime movie adaptation of the book of the same name written by a Shojo manga collective ClAMP. The anime was directed by notable anime director Rintaro. The movie is set in a very corrupt Tokyo and the action focuses on Kamui A Esper, who leaves Tokyo for 6 years to prepare himself for the coming end of the world. He reunites with his friends Kotori and Fuma and he vows to protect them as the end of the world nears. There is also a conflict in Tokyo between the dragons of earth and the dragons of heaven and Kamui is at the center of the conflict. He has no choice but to pick a side in order to stop the impending apocalypse and to save his friends from a horrible fate.
The story is heavily inspired by Go Nagai’s Devilman, especially the use of violence and how two best friends would eventually become rivals. There is a lot of Christian Symbolism and motifs in the series. Kamui is portrayed as a Christ like figure who is destined to save Japan. There is a computer named “Beast” which represents Satan itself and it has the infamous 666 brand. Crucifixion, pentagrams and the Book of Revelations have all influenced the story.
The rivalry between the dragons of heaven and of earth also comes from the book of revelations representing the war between humanity and angels but in this case its humans vs humans in a clash of ideals. One side wants to save humanity while the other wants to save the earth by removing humanity. Dragons of Heaven represents the people for preserving humanity whereas Dragons of Earth represents preserving the earth.
There is also a subtle story element where it is not something supernatural that will bring the end of earth but it will be humanity itself which is why the Dragons of Earth think that killing all humans will save the earth. In addition, there is also the relationship between humanity and the earth itself which asks the questions if humans will save the earth and who will save humanity?
Environmental preservation themes are heavily explored and the effects of human activity on earth is touched on. Without humanity, the earth can recover in time. There will be crime, corruption and pollution because these are human related issues.
The letter “X” itself has no definite meaning as there are many interpretations. Notably, it is used as an unknown number or in a biblical terminology it means death and rebirth such as the main plot of the story.
The story explores the personality of mankind and their bonds with others.
The dynamics between Fuma and Kamui is explored quite subtly as both have a same goal to protect the ones they love and to end the apocalypse but both are separated by their different beliefs. Fuma was manipulated by kanoe into bringing on the end of the world by kidnapping his younger sister Kotori. Kamui simply wants to find Kanoe and to protect the ones he loves by stopping anyone trying to kickstart the apocalypse.
There are no clear lines between who is good or who is evil as everyone has their own moral code of what is right or wrong. Heroes are capable of doing courageous deeds as well as bad ones. Fuma perfectly represents this as while being manipulated, he becomes delusional and his sense of right and wrong becomes blurred and he commits may horrible deeds. Kamui does everything in his power to restrain himself from falling into temptation especially as his job as an Esper is to be a representative of God. Everyone has their own belief on how fate should be handled. Kamui has no interest in submitting tohis predesigned fate.
Dreams are a big plot point in the story. They represent all of the possible futures that can happen. Dreams are often lucid as they can be controlled by the person who is in it either directly or indirectly. Some dreams are so powerful that all one can do is just wake up and watch the events happening. It is nearly impossible to gain control of your fate in the story.
Before fights start, special spells are cast to prevent any damage happening to the outside world. If the spellcaster dies, then the outside world will be damaged. The best highlight was the action scenes. Every scene was very intense and fast pace and anybody could be killed at any moment. Mutilations were very frequent and bloody. Every character had their own special abilities and skills.
The intricate art style was one of the highlights of the movie. The use of the shadows comes from Rintaro’s own fondness of the noir genre. The dark color design as well fit perfectly along with its dark shadowy visual effect for the story.
The background imagery of Japan was very detailed and brooding. I also liked the character designs as well too. The dream like atmosphere was perfect for the movie as it mixes in perfectly with the dark, shadowy, mysterious and brooding story and atmosphere.
The music is really fitting for the movie. The opening theme of the movie is done by the band X Japan and just like many of the music, it is quite poetic and very emotionally charged.
The characters in the film are really one sided and not multi-dimensional and the entire premise was really cliched. Kamui as a hero, seems more of a carbon copy of Squall Leonhart from Final Fantasy 8. The whole rivalry between Fuma and Kamui could have been avoided entirely had Fuma not been so susceptible to Kanoe’s manipulations. It reuses the friend returns after a long time trope and has to face a destiny that he is the chosen one just because he has special powers. Some of the plot ideas as well was derivative of other mediums seen such as controlling one’s own fate and the apocalypse must be stop by one person and their group of friends. The voice acting wasn’t that great either as some of the characters can sound hammy at certain parts which really does not fit in the serious nature of the story. You really don’t care that much if characters live or die and some did not have that much involvement in the story either.
This was not the best way to showcase an entire manga series that is so complex and lengthy.
It gets about 3 stars out of 5.
The manga series is currently on hold because back then, this would be considered to be really edgy and dark for audiences. Yet ironically, NANA a manga and anime series for female audiences by Ai Yazawa, that came after this series contained edgy themes and was not afraid to show the dark side of working in the music industry such as sexual relationships and the liberal use of narcotics. The manga series should continue as there are plenty of loose ends that needed to be tied up in the series.
If you are into CLAMP’s works then this would be perfect for you.