Title: X (X/1999)
Publisher: Viz Media
Volume: Volume 1 (3-in-1) (ongoing), $19.99
Vintage: 1992-1993 by Kadokawa Shoten in Japan, by Viz Media originally in 2003, this version November 8, 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Fantasy, action, drama
If you’re at all familiar with CLAMP, chances are you’ve at least heard of X/1999. Maybe you’ve seen the anime series, released by Geneon originally in 2002-2003, then again by FUNimation in 2010. X is certainly a fan favorite (though I can’t really think of a CLAMP title that isn’t a fan favorite), but it’s remained unfinished for several years due to publishing issues. The manga was originally released as X/1999 by Viz Media in the late 90s, finishing up the 18 collected volumes in 2005. This edition collects three original volumes in one omnibus, in what appears to be a remastered format, with high quality art, beautiful color page inserts, and printed in the original Japanese format. So what is X? Well, X is CLAMP’s apocalyptic drama that focuses on a world ending battle in 1999 between the Dragons of Heaven and Dragons of Earth, or the Seven Seals and the Seven Angels (respectively). The Dragons of Heaven and Earth take opposing sides for the fate of Earth, with the Seven Seals protecting the planet from the Seven Angels’ destruction. As long as even one Seal remains, Armageddon can be avoided. It’s not that simple, of course. The Dragons on each side are humans possessed with incredible supernatural powers that are so destructive the Seals are gifted with the ability to create kekkai, giant barriers that create an alternate dimension of the area encased inside them so the real plane is not damaged. The story’s main focus is on three childhood friends – Fuma, his little sister Kotori, and their friend Kamui, who are all high school students (around 15 years of age or so). About six years ago, Fuma and Kotori’s mother died a gruesome death, and Kamui and his mother left Tokyo immediately after. Now it’s 1999, and Kamui has returned after the death of his own mother. Short tempered and violent, Kamui is nothing like the kind and cheerful boy his friends once knew. In fact, Kamui wants nothing to do with them…or anybody at all. He doesn’t have much of a choice, however, as he begins to be randomly attacked by powerful humans and shiki (minor summoned spirits), and approached by several people wanting to test his abilities or talk with him about the impending battle. After being severely injured in a battle against a wind user named Saiki, Kamui is found by Fuma and taken to the Monou house. Outside the house, one of the Seven Seals, a shrine acolyte named Sorata, battles one of the Seven Angels, Yuto Kigai. Their battle is interrupted when Fuma somehow manages to enter Sorata’s kekkai (which shouldn’t be possible), and the boys go together to check on Kamui and Kotori. While he’s sleeping, Kamui has a bizarre dream involving a strange girl, visions of the Earth shattering, his mother’s death, and Kotori tied to a sort of cross. The girl in the dream, a dreamseer named Hinoto, tells Kamui that what he has been shown is a vision of one possible future, and asks him to save the world. The dream is spied on, however, by a woman named Kanoe, who has begun to set her own plans in motion. Back at the Monou house, Sorata tries to explain to Kamui about the coming battle and their roles in it, but they’re interrupted by an explosion coming from the shrine on the property, where Fuma and Kotori’s father is in a heated battle to protect the Sacred Sword which will be used in the battle for Earth. As destinies begin to intertwine, more and more of the Dragons begin to appear in Tokyo, drawn by Kamui’s presence. Hinoto begins to see more graphic and distressing dreams, including one that could change everything she thought she knew – a vision of a second Kamui and a second Sacred Sword. Of course, Kanoe, who has been spying on Hinoto’s dreams from the beginning, also learns this information, and plans to use it to her, and therefore the Seven Angels’, advantage. As the Seals and Angels gather, Kamui meets a relative he didn’t even know he had – his mother’s younger sister. She intends to tell Kamui all about his family and his own destiny, but mysteriously disappears before she can impart her valuable information. Meanwhile, Fuma begins having strange and foreboding dreams of his own.
Plagued by all manner of obstacles, fans have wondered whether CLAMP’s X series would ever be finished. Well, I still don’t think there’s a definitive time table for the series, though I do believe CLAMP intends to finish it. Hopefully this new edition from Viz Media (as well as the publishing of old CLAMP series by Dark Horse) will pave the way for the group to finally finish their apocalyptic story. If you’ve never read X before, this is the time to get in on the action. This beautiful first volume from Viz will look great on the shelf, feels great in your hands, and is a great feast for your eyes. It’s just as beautifully done as the Dark Horse CLAMP omnibuses, but I don’t get the feeling that the pages are going to fall out if I turn a page with anything more than the bare minimum physical force. My only real complaint is that I wish it had been edited with a finer toothed comb. There are many distracting instances in the text, far more than something marketed like this should have. Viz has added some nice touches to this edition, including about 24 pages of gorgeous color artwork (and title pages), a brief glossary of terms, mini character bios to keep things straight, and a glossary of the color pages used within the volume with comments from…Mokona, maybe? It doesn’t say who the comments are by, but she’s the main artist, so I would assume they’re from her. For the artists out there, she also lists the paper the original pieces are drawn on, as well as what pens/markers/inks were used to draw and color them. It’s a really lovely presentation, though while the black cover is quite classy, it also attracts dust and fingerprints like a magnet.
What I like most about X (and CLAMP series in general) is the story and the world that these goddesses of manga have created to tell it. They put a lot of work into creating a story filled with depth, mythology, interesting characters, intriguing sub-plots, and a gaggle of twists and turns that you never see coming. The big twist in this first volume is the relationship between Kamui and Fuma, although it’s still just sort of teased about at this point. There’s an obvious connection between Kamui and the Monous. We’ve already seen heartrending images of Kotori in Kamui’s dreams, we know that their mother sacrificed herself to create the Sacred Sword, and that their father would do anything to protect the sword from falling into the wrong hands. It’s also apparent, since he can walk into a kekkai without impediment, that Fuma has some latent powers that have yet to awaken. Kanoe knows something is up, and approaches Fuma through his dreams to manipulate him for her own goals. I won’t give away what that all adds up to, especially since it’s not spelled out in this book, but it’s an expertly portrayed story element that will have huge repercussions throughout the series. Kotori starts out a little flat in this volume, until she starts having intense flashbacks of memories that she had suppressed years ago. It’s then that we know she’s not the perfect, cheery, simple girl that she first appears; something dark lingers behind her radiant smile. And let’s not forget the horrifying images of her in Kamui’s dreams. She’ll have a definitive role to play before the end. As will everyone else. Right now, there’s a lot of talk about destiny and an end-world battle, but we haven’t even met all the players yet. In fact, so far only a small fraction of them have appeared at all. Of the ones who have, each of them views their role differently depending on their unique perspective, and having fourteen essentially loose canons running around Tokyo, each with their own motivations and desires that drive them, should make an interesting read. As will finding out how they will each deal with their destiny. Kamui’s already tried to fight against it in his own way, but can’t seem to escape his fate. Sorata believes firmly in unyielding destiny, and seems to be perfectly fine with letting his future play out on its preordained path. However, there is more than one possible future, though only an all out battle between the Seals and Angels will determine which future wins out.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.