DVD Review: X Japan – “We Are X”
Over the years there have been many documentaries about bands, some more notable than others. From Metallica’s Some Kind of Monster to Anvil! The Story of Anvil, metal and rock acts are very well represented in this genre. However, few have the emotional heart and the incredible rollercoaster ride that X Japan have as part of the back story of the band, something We Are X conveys brilliantly.
The documentary mostly focuses on Yoshiki, who basically is X Japan. He’s the drummer, the driving force creatively, and the glue for the band. From very early on it’s clear that he is a complicated and complex individual, still haunted by the suicide of his father when he was a child. He is the defacto viewpoint for the story, which details how X Japan came together, his struggles with mortality, the creative differences that forced their original bassist Taiji to leave the band (there is also some sort of incident which is never clarified that accompanies these issues), the death of guitarist Hide, and most stunningly the brainwashing of lead singer Toshi which led to him quitting the band and joining a cult, which physically and mentally abused him. He would eventually re-join the band, but it’s clear he is still deeply affected by the experience.
All of these stories from their past are juxtaposed with the preparations for their biggest gig ever outside Japan, as they prepare to play a sold out Madison Square Garden in New York. It’s a great framing device to go back through their history and the rather turbulent road X Japan have had to walk in order to get to that point, and all the sacrifices they have made along the way.
One of the most striking things about this documentary is the level of archive footage available. There are numerous interviews with various band members from throughout the years, as well as tons of archive news footage showing the various dramas of the band being reported by major news outlets, as well as documenting the huge fervour of their fans. Honestly, it’s Beatles-esque in the madness of their followers, and really gives excellent context on what an enormously important, and successful, band X Japan are in their homeland.
They may not be household names in Europe or America, but X Japan are one of the most important musical acts to come out of Japan ever, and this documentary does a great job of illustrating that. Whether you are a fan of their work or not, it really doesn’t matter; this is a hugely engrossing story, with twists and turns aplenty, and it makes for compelling viewing form start to finish. One of the best music documentaries in years, and a real must-see for anyone who enjoys the rock genre.