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The Fine Print
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All images for X, the movie © Clamp/Kadohawa Hoten Publishing Co., Ltd. Bandai Visual Marubeni Corporation Shelty Co., Ltd. Sega Enterprises Victor Entertainment, Inc. Animation Studio Madhouse Co., Lted. Movic Co., Ltd.
X, the movie
WARNING: THIS FEATURE MAY CONTAIN MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS ABOUT THE X MOVIE, THE X/1999 MANGA. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!
The all-female team of manga creators known collectively as Clamp have turned out several high-quality shôjo (girls') manga and anime over the years, starting with a tale of Indian mythology called Rg Veda (pronounced "Rig Vay-da") and continuing on with Tokyo Babylon, Clamp School Detectives, Magic Knight Rayearth, Miyuki-chan in Wonderland, and Card Captor Sakura, just to name a few. However, their greatest work is the beautifully elegant, shockingly gruesome, and ultimately hypnotizing saga known simply as X.
First published in compiled form in 1992, Clamp's manga story X was made into a movie in 1996. Directed by anime überdirector Rintaro, the X movie debuted in U.S. theaters in March, and will be available on video this July. As an adaptation of a popular, as-yet-incomplete story, the movie is perhaps best thought of as a chance to experience your favorite manga characters moving and speaking. But if you are a reader of the manga eagerly looking forward to that experience, note that the movie's events (most particularly its ending) are quite different from those of the manga. Yes, Clamp has specifically stated that the manga will have a different ending.
Hence, the X movie, for all its visual power-and it does feature some of the most amazing animation to come out of Japan in years-can seem like a slightly pointless exercise. The story, especially cut down to movie length, doesn't stand terribly well on its own. Or does it...? Maybe the story, complicated as it is, works even better if you don't know what's happening...or maybe not. Ultimately, X is a simply surreal movie experience for both fans of the manga and those who have no idea what to expect.
The manga series, even now, is still going. The story continually growing to encompass characters from Clamp's other manga (such as Tokyo Babylon and Clamp School Detectives), X is currently available in English under the title X/1999, serialized in Animerica's sister magazine, the manga anthology Animerica Extra. Currently in its fourteenth volume in Japan (the U.S. serialization is currently up to the seventh volume), X is the story of a young and almighty boy named Kamui and his role in the final battle for the fate of the Earth. Rendered in Clamp's opulent art style and packed with relentlessly shôjo melodrama, X is unusual because of its superheroic themes and penchant for violence. As such, it appeals to male and female readers alike and has become a legend in its own time.
X's story is one of predestination and tragedy, giving its story an odd, dreamlike quality. The basic premise is that in 1999, two secret groups of supernatural warriors-the Seven Seals and the Seven Harbingers-are destined to fight for the fate of the world. Each side is led by a psychic seer, with one trying to preserve the world and the other trying to destroy it.
The key to Earth's fate lies in Tokyo's spiritual landmarks-forming the points of a star pattern over the city, they imprison the apocalyptic Dragons of Earth and so keep the planet intact. This destructive force is personified by the Seven Harbingers and is opposed by the Dragons of Heaven, which is personified by the Seven Seals. The Seals protect Tokyo's power points through the use of kekkai-ki-generated spirit shields that duplicate a large area into an alternate dimension. The area within the kekkai seems normal to the average person, and any damage inflicted upon the area during a supernatural battle will affect the real world only if the person who generated the kekkai is incapacitated.
When the all-powerful boy Kamui returns to Tokyo to avenge his mother's death, he upsets the balance of power between the Harbingers and the Seals. Initially he refuses to choose sides, determined only to get revenge and to protect his friend Fuma and his childhood love Kotori (Fuma's sister), but he soon discovers that his friends, his family, his entire life are all entangled in the events that will lead to the fated day in 1999-indeed, they always have been.
Fuma and Kotori are doomed by these tragic circumstances. Kamui's decision to side with the Seven Seals kicks the battle for Earth's fate into high gear, as Fuma is forced by fate to take the other side and destroy, rather than protect, his loved ones. Suffering from a heart condition and possessed of the same dreamwalking abilities as the seers, Kotori eventually dies by her brother's hands. The drama and action that ensue are without equal in any comparison in comics or animation, here or in Japan.