on March 10, 2000 by Wade Major
   Like most neo-apocalyptic, Tokyo-centric, messianic cyber-myths, "X" represents both the best and the worst in Japanese anime. It's a confusing morass of dreams, premonitions and flashbacks dolled-up with eye-popping artwork so stunning that it almost excuses the lack of substance.
   Directed by the esteemed Rintaro (aka Shigeyuki Hayashi), a seminal figure in the creation of anime as a director on the original "Astro Boy" television series, this feature adaptation from the popular Manga comic of the same name is basically standard-issue Gog and Magog stuff, a millennial rehashing of the single most pervasive theme in postwar Japanese cinema--the final battle. On the one hand there are the "Dragons of the Earth," superpowered beings seeking the destruction of mankind (beginning, of course, with Tokyo). On the other side, defending humanity, are the "Dragons of Heaven," a less obviously intimidating but more youthful and sincere lot. It is young Kamui Shiro, however, whose actions will determine the winner of the battle...for he is...the Chosen One.
   For the better part of the film's first half, it's virtually impossible to know what's going on, much less keep track of the seemingly endless parade of characters. It is only by attrition, as the various "Dragons" begin offing one another, that it becomes possible to make sense of who's who and after what. But just barely. By and large, "X" exists more to showcase Rintaro's highly imaginative animation style than to tell a cogent story. Anime fans, on the other hand, won't much care, just so long as the film offers destruction, psychedelia and weirdness galore.
   Anyone not already converted to the cult of Japanese animation, though, should be wary of initiating themselves with "X." For the time being, a repeat viewing of the anime-inspired "The Matrix" or a tender dose of "Pokemon" might be the better way to go.    Directed by Rintaro. Written by Asami Watanabe, Nanase Ohkawa and Rintaro. Produced by Kazuo Yokoyama, Masanori Maruyama and Kazuhiko Ikeguchi. A Manga release. Anime. Rated R for violence/gore and some nudity. Running time: 98 min.
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