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We Are X, Blu-ray (2017)

We Are X, Blu-ray (2017)

A stunning documentary about Japan’s greatest metal band!

Cast: Yoshiki; Toshi; Pata; Hide; Heath Sugizo; Taiji with interviews by Gene Simmons; Marilyn Manson; and Stan Lee
Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment 1156 [4/25/2017]
Director: Stephen Kijak
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Video: 1.78:1 for 1080P HD, color
Length: 95 minutes
Bonus Features; Deleted Scenes; Deleted Interviews (Yoshiki; Toshi; Pata; Heath; Sugizo); Yoshiko on We Are X; “Forever Love” “Kurenai”; Born To Be free Fan Video

Rating:         Audio: ****1/2                           Video: ****1/2                           Overall****1/2

Magnolia Home Entertainment has released a fascinating documentary, We Are X on blu-ray. Utilizing extensive interviews with visionary founder, drummer, pianist, composer Yoshiki (and to a lesser degree other band members), the film traces the decade-long meteoric rise of the Japanese band known as X and Then Japan X. This band had an impact in Japan like Led Zeppelin, Kiss or any other metal band. But the cultural and language challenges keep them joining their peers in American superstardom. Their glam conceptual presence (referred to as visual kei), included androgynous costuming and intense, hyper-speed metal rock. Their founder, composer Yoshiki was trained as a classical pianist, and became a phenomenal drummer. With his childhood friend Toshi (who provided the requisite high-register 80’s vocals), they formed a high-energy group that used stage pyrotechnics to augment their intense performances. At the core of the story is their dubious quest to crossover in America. Yoshiki’s childhood problems (including his father’s suicide and severe asthma) shaped his relentless ambition and ferocious drumming. At the end of each concert, he collapses in what appears to be stage exhaustion, but it is mostly real.

Along the way, Japan X suffers from a variety of band issues, including firing, suicide, and a nefarious takeover of a member by a cult. In many ways, they resemble classic rock bands with the amalgam of music vision and personal tragedy. But as Kiss’ Gene Simmons explains, “.If they spoke English primarily, they would have been the biggest band in the world…”. Japanese X persevered through the heartaches and setbacks, eventually playing their dream concert, Madison Square Garden. Yoshiki is an enigmatic, creative spirit, but there is little disclosures of his personal life. Of course, the group disbands, but an opportunity to perform an original classic piece before the Emperor of Japan brings Yoshiki back. Eventually, there is a reunion and a world tour, but without the desired world acclaim. There are occasional (not many) lighter moments including a scene where Yoshiki and Toshi are reminiscing about their first visit to the Palladium in Los Angeles. Someone asks for “Ex”, and Yoshiki says “We Are X”. This three-word phrase becomes the trademark of the group which also includes a coordinated hand gesture ion the shape of the letter X. There is a touching scene where the two founding members visit the grave of their former band mate Hide.

The audio quality of the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is excellent. The music is booming and you can feel the power of Yoshiki’s drumming. The dialogue (with some help from subtitles) is clear. The video quality is also superior. The colors are vivid and the blacks are subdued even in concert footage. The cinematography is visually artistic and the editing is crisp. The extras are underwhelming, at best. We Are X is a great documentary about a band that never achieved American Fame.

—Robbie Gerson

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