Supernatural forces threaten the world - again - in handsome but asinine anime-cliché import 'X'
Anime clichés run rampant in "X," yet another mock-intellectual 'toon import from Japan in which the world must be saved from fantastically-rendered destruction by a brooding young hero with eyes the size of saucers.
Overflowing with custom mythological tripe and seemingly random symbolism (stars of David, pentagrams, naked mothers in dream sequences -- about half the movie is dream sequences), the picture is adapted from a long-running comic book and shoots itself in the foot in the first three minutes by trying to introduce about 15 characters and their backstories in a roller coaster voice over that goes by at the speed of light. Whoa, whoa, whoa! Will we be tested on this later?
About all that sticks from this rushed prologue is that there's a guy named Kamui who is the Promised One and will determine the fate of Earth. Kamui isn't too keen on the responsibility and pouts about it a lot when he's not traipsing around in surreal dreams. Apparently, seven dragons "will awaken and destroy the Earth" if Kamui doesn't get off his duff and have some kind of "Matrix"-style aerial battle with a supernatural nemesis, involving bolts of lightning and extra-dimensional shields.
Huge chunks of story go utterly unexplained, then suddenly the movie will be inundated with a torrent of expository dialogue so laughably bad that after one exchange -- quoted below word for word so you can understand what I had to sit through -- I gave up all hope of taking the story seriously:
Character No. 1: "Oh yes, that's very dramatic, but I'm not sure how useful it is. Oh sure, the shield will put the area in it into another dimension, and then any damage occurring within the shield will not replicated within the real world. Big deal."
Character No. 2: "Don't forget if the creator of that power shield's killed -- which he could be at any time, drowned for argument's sake -- then the power of the shield will be nullified, and the full force of the damage will be felt."
I would like to think something was lost in the translation, but in the context of the whole movie -- which is full of such speech patterns -- it's pretty clear that's not the case.
"X" is, at times, a very handsome film with some extravagant skyscraper destruction scenes as the super-empowered Kamui dukes it out with dragons and other superhuman freaks in downtown Tokyo ("Does my Godzilla clause cover this?" I joked aloud.). But less than 40 minutes in, director Rintaro (aka Shigeyuki Hayashi) had already developed an annoying habit of recycling the same footage two and three times.
Eventually it became clear the only way to salvage this experience was to begin making fun of the movie with more wise-cracks. I saw "X" on videotape with two friends and before long we were ready to audition for "Mystery Science Theater 3000."
I don't think of myself as someone who doesn't "get" anime. I dig the acknowledged classics ("Akira" and "Ghost In the Shell," for example) and I've enjoyed the occasional obscure rental picked up during Sunday afternoon outings to Japantown in San Francisco. But "X" is just a convoluted mess. I doubt even the most dedicated anime devotee could sit through it without cringing repeatedly.