X is Clamp's foray into apocalyptic fiction. It combines elements from various end of the world scenarios, both secular and religious, with its own mythos. The story takes place at the end of days, in the year 1999. The series follows Kamui Shirō, a young esper who returns home to Tokyo after a six-year absence to face his destiny as the one who will determine humanity's fate. The series is intended for a female audience, so X is drawn in the ornate style characteristic of shōjo manga but with the emphasis on moral conflict and gruesome violence expected of seinen works. The story is influenced by the works of Go Nagai and Kyokutei Bakin.
The unfinished series spans 18 collected volumes and five uncollected chapters. The manga was serialized in Kadokawa Shoten's Monthly Asuka from May 1992, until the magazine's editors showed concern with the increasingly violent stories and stopped publishing it on March 2003. X has since been translated into English, Portuguese, Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Korean, Polish and Spanish and adapted into a series of audio dramas, an animated feature film and television series.
Unbeknownst to the three friends, Kamui and Fūma are destined to fight each other during the end of the world. The first half of the series focuses on the gathering of the soldiers in the final battle and culminates with Kotori's death at the hands of her brother Fūma, sealing Kamui's choice as the protector of mankind and Fūma's place as his foil. The second half follows Kamui as he grows into his role as savior while the world moves along toward its inevitable destruction.
The story is Kamui's heroic journey, where the narrative places an emphasis on his choices and how they affect the world around him as he attempts to reconcile his dual destinies.
Kamui Shirō is the series protagonist, a powerful esper believed to be the one who holds the key to the fate of the world. He never knew his father and was raised only by his mother, Tōru of the Magami Clan. Kotori and Fūma Monou are the children of the Togakushi Shrine. They were raised by their father Kyōgo after their mother Saya died under mysterious circumstances. The siblings' friendship with Kamui stems from a promise the three made as children: to always protect one another.
Following Kamui's arrival the Dragons of Heaven and the Dragons of Earth, the two factions in the final battle for humanity's future, vie for the young man's allegiance, convinced his power will assure their victory.
Serialization stopped on March 2003. The editors of Monthly Asuka were concerned with the increasingly violent stories and, rather than censoring themselves, the artists opted for a hiatus. Columnist John Oppliger, however, is of the persuasion the members of Clamp do not have a clear ending in mind and, contractual obligations notwithstanding, the rumored dispute should not impede publishing the remaining chapters.
The series is divided into seven story arcs: , , , , , and , starting in volume seventeen. Volumes five through seventeen of the Japanese release include short stories detailing the individual backgrounds of the Dragons of Heaven and Earth.
On September 26, 2006, Kadokawa Shoten published Clamp Newtype Platinum, a special Clamp edition of Newtype Magazine. The issue includes the "X 18.5" supplement, a re-print of five previously uncollected chapters. The series is expected to reach twenty-one volumes upon completion.
The North American version of the manga, retitled X/1999, was serialized in Viz Media's Animerica Extra and released in graphic novel form under the Shōjo imprint. Chuang Yi handles distribution of the English language version in Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. The series has also been translated into Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Korean, Polish and Spanish.
The television series is considered a better adaptation than the feature film. The 2001 incarnation makes use of its longer running time and episode format to explore the original mythos and works the characters' back-stories into the narrative through the use of flashbacks.
X finished its run on March 27, 2002, totaling twenty-four episodes. Two days later, Pioneer Entertainment claimed ownership of the series for distribution in North America. On July 11, 2006, Geneon released the X TV Series Remix, a box set with re-encoded video and audio, including 5.1 surround sound for both the Japanese and English tracks. The series has been broadcast in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Latin America.
Ohkawa cites Go Nagai's Devilman as a stylistic and thematic influence. Beyond his penchant for drawing extreme violence, Nagai's writing involves themes like the nature of good and evil and fear, ideas that left an impression on Clamp's writer at an early age. Like Devilman, X follows two male best friends destined to fight each other on Armageddon, a confrontation brought about by the murder of the hero's childhood sweetheart. The rest of the cast includes characters from the group's entire canon, including unpublished works, effectively creating a whole world inhabited by their creations. The ensemble cast, inspired on Kyokutei Bakin's Nansō Satomi Hakkenden, includes Subaru Sumeragi and Seishirō Sakurazuka from Tokyo Babylon and the main characters of Clamp School Detectives.
The title of "X" was chosen because it has no fixed meaning. In mathematics, it is a common variable. Beyond mathematics, "X" is a generic placeholder whose value is secret or unknown. "X" is also a cruciform, an allusion to Christian mythology, and the representation of death and rebirth in Kabbalah.
X is Clamp's take on the apocalyptic fiction genre. The series combines elements from various end of the world scenarios and myths, including Christian eschatology, with Clamp's own modern mythology to tell the tale of the fate of the world. The X mythos is inspired on the Apocalypse of John, with Tokyo standing as a modern-day Babylon. Like the biblical city, Clamp's Tokyo is "the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird" (Rev. 18:2 KJV) and slated for destruction.
Kamui is established as a Christ figure. He is the one prophesied to return to Tokyo and the one who will determine humanity's fate. The construction of Kamui as a messiah is reinforced by his miraculous birth and given name. "Kamui", like "Christ", doubles as a title that alludes to the character's divine nature. Apocalyptic allusions abound with respect to nomenclature. The Dragons of Heaven take their moniker from the seven seals introduced in Chapter 5 of the Book of Revelation, while the antagonistic Angels allude to the seven celestial beings ordered to "go [their] ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth" (Rev. 16:1 KJV). On the side of the Angels is , a sentient supercomputer branded with the number 666.
Other apocalyptic standards, such as earthquakes, are employed but the apocalypse of Clamp's manga trades the religious element for an environmental theme. Inspired by the Gaia theory, the idea that the Earth itself is one living organism, Ohkawa crafts an end brought on by humanity's abuse of the planet. The story reflects environmental concerns in its depiction of Judgment Day. Mankind exists in binary opposition to the Earth. By the end of days, humanity has become such a nuisance that the only way to save the planet is to destroy the whole of civilization. The Angels, human beings themselves, expect a post-judgment return to paradise. With mankind gone, the planet can regulate itself back to health and experience a rebirth. The Seals, however, look to preserve the status quo and entrust the future of the planet to the people.
Like its predecessor Tokyo Babylon, X deals with societal issues. Being set in the present provides an outlet for the authors to reflect and comment on Japan's state of affairs. But unlike Tokyo Babylon, where the characters were vocal in their concerns, topics in X go unspoken and implied.
The story places an emphasis on familial dignity and individualism. The Dragons of Heaven, Kamui included, were appointed from birth with the task of protecting mankind. They were raised individually with their destiny in mind and the obligation to their families prevents them from haphazardly changing sides. While it is possible for the Seals to sympathize with the Angels' ideals, ultimately, they must do what feels right for them. Their ability to summon the kekkai, and thus the status as a Dragon of Heaven, is bound to the will to fight for something or someone.
X delves on the relationship between Man and the Earth. In an interview with Puff Magazine, Ohkawa talks of how mankind's concern for the preservation, restoration and improvement of the planet stems from a desire to perpetuate its own existence. She explains "people will save the Earth to save themselves, but who will risk themselves to save the Earth?"
Ohkawa admits to being fascinated with the doctrine of dualism. Dualism is the interdependence between opposing elements, the generalization that two opposing-complementary forces are found in all things. She interprets it as "qualities that seem pleasant in one person but can make you hate the next. That's the dual nature we all have." Inspired by the works of Go Nagai, Ohkawa sought to create heroes capable of wrongdoing, even evil. Kamui is the personification of this doctrine. carries a double connotation: "the one who represents the majesty of God", meaning the one who protects the world and carries out God's will; and "the one who hunts the majesty of God", meaning the one who kills those given God's power and destroys the world. Kamui's decision to save the world as he knows it is a defining moment as it gives rise to his twin star, Fūma. Fūma undergoes a personality change to the point he is no longer recognizable to his best friend. He takes the name of "Kamui", thus fulfilling the dual prophecy and bringing balance to the conflict. Fūma's "Kamui" persona is Kamui's other half; it represents Kamui's potential for destruction. "Kamui" is the epitome of the evil, and good, that men do. The duality motif extends to the Dragons of Heaven and Earth, two groups of warriors, both alike in power, led to battle by opposite sisters. On each side is a , a diviner who sees the future in its dreams.
Dreams are a source of inspiration for Ohkawa, and thus became a standard motif in her writing. In Tokyo Babylon, the protagonist's dreams reveal to him a hidden truth. In xxxHolic, the characters' dreams comprise a whole world parallel to their own. Dreams in X depict the future, the destruction of mankind. Hinoto, dreamgazer for the Dragons of Heaven, is convinced it can be changed. Ohkawa explains it as lucid dreaming, where the individual can exert conscious control over the dream to the point it can perform impossible feats. Kakyo of the Dragons of Earth is a dreamgazer in a permanent coma who lives in the dreamscape, always dreaming of the future and knowing there is nothing he can do about it. Although he hopes for a better future, he cannot get involved and is convinced all is predetermined, including Kamui's return.
Kamui's arrival in Tokyo unwillingly sets Armageddon in motion. Kotori's death and Fuma's turning were foretold, but subject to the young man's allegiance. Thinking of the people he loves, Kamui chooses to become a Dragon of Heaven to protect them, but ends up losing them for it. Other characters are also at the mercy of Fate. Sorata Arisugawa is destined to die for a woman; but, unlike Kamui, the warrior monk embraces his preordained future and chooses Arashi Kishū of the Dragons of Heaven as the one he'll give his life for. Subaru Sumeragi expresses no interest in the future of the Earth, but still he and his counterpart are drawn to Tokyo on the Promised Day. Even with the fatalist atmosphere that persists in the series, Ohkawa is convinced individuals exert control over their destiny the same way they choose between right and wrong.