Review: X


Episodes: 1-24 (complete)
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Superpower


(Note: this review was written more than 10 years ago)

When I was first exposed to anime nearly seven years ago, it came from the forward-thinking Cartoon Network. Their 3-hour “Toonami” block was something that I watched religiously and–at that time–thought it could not get any better than Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, and Gundam Wing. Oh how time flies, eh? Not only has the medium of anime in general improved but so have the story-telling, characterization, and animation quality as well. You can now watch true classics like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Serial Experiments Lain, Cowboy Bebop, Akira, and Princess Monokoe, among countless others. I am happy to report that X can be officially added to that prestigious list.

If there was any one area in which I could distinctly point to when I explain why X is just so good, it would have to be the characters. While the plot is gripping, emotional, and poignant, it is only these things because the viewer’s personal involvement in the characters that drive the plot forward. The cast is a very defined group of people, with only a handful of secondary characters who are entrusted to represent the rest of humanity. The smaller cast of characters allows X to spend an unusually long time expressing each of their backstories, typically to the point where each character has at least his or her own episode. While this sort of characterization “formula” has been attempted in a lot of other anime shows, none quite pull it off as well as X. It is hard to detail exactly what it is about the characters, but if pressured, I would have to mention their interesting personalities and their human-ness. In other words, these characters are consistent people who act like you would expect people to act instead of acting merely as the plot directs.

Before you even get five minutes into the series, the animation quality in X becomes apparent. The tiniest details of shadows, hair movements, and the way concrete shatters as it is subjected to magic force is attended to in interesting and colorful ways. The character designs are pretty unique and most of the them just plain look cool. The soundtrack for X probably consisted of less than seven unique songs, but despite reusing them so many times over the course of the series, the songs themselves are still very good and rarely if ever become repetitive.

If I have yet to heap enough praise on this series let me add a final paragraph to the pile: X is simply entertaining to watch. The action and fight scenes are more of a dueling nature rather than “epic,” but the difference is pretty much indistinguishable with such compelling characters. Every act, conversation, and explosion draws you further and further into the narrative and more involved in the fates of the various members of the Seals and Angels. While the emotional conclusion is heavily foreshadowed throughout the entire season, how profoundly connected you become to the cast is not. I expected a fairly straightforward and better organized Dragonball Z. What I got was something much better: an anime that can count itself among the greatest experiences ever produced.