Continuing with X/1999 with the series second volume, which ups the ante a bit from the series first volume.
Title: X/1999 Volume 2 – Overture
Written & Illustrated by CLAMP
Translated by Fred Burke
Retouch & Lettering by Wayne Truman
Originally Serialized in Kadokawa Shoten’s Monthly Asuka
In this volume, we learn a bit more about Kotori and Fuma’s background with Kamui, and why Kamui and his mother left Tokyo. We also learn a bit more why they returned, and a bit more about the forces at work in the setting, though we don’t quite know where everyone is aligned yet.
The High Points
The fight scenes and backgrounds are still great here. I’m also impressed that they take the time here to answer some important setting related questions right away. We get some information on what the sides are, and some information on who is on what side, as well as, presumably, where Hikaru and Seishiro from Tokyo Babylon will fall when they finally appear in the manga. However, they don’t answer all the questions too soon, and they leave a few questions unanswered that are important, without leaving the audience confused.
The Low Points
This volume spends a lot of time just sitting and giving expository dialog – either through characters sitting down and having the setting explained to them, or through flashbacks and other similar devices. We still get a couple interesting fight scenes book-ending this volume, but the rest of the volume is, essentially, straight-up exposition.
This volume is extremely more violent than the last volume – almost on par with the Blade of the Immortal. A character is seen in flashback after she has been gruesomely dismembered with copious blood and gore. Viz gives this volume on it’s back cover a Teen+ rating, but they don’t do much to explain what that means, even on their web page. However, again, while there is no nudity, there is graphic violence with blood and gore, so parents who see the “Older Teen” label on the back and are considering picking it up for their kids, and are concerned about that sort of thing, should be warned.
Originality: The story is still pretty original so far, though I see it starting to borrow from biblical stuff really soon. 5 out of 6.
Artwork: Again, artwork is one of Clamp’s strong points, it’s just as good here as it was in the last volume, and in their more recent stuff that I’ve been reading (XxxHolic, Tsubasa). 5 out of 6.
Story: It’s pretty straightforward to follow the story thus far, and we actually get some useful answers this early on, which is nice in comparison to some other series (even in the US) which make getting even basic answers like pulling teeth. 5 out of 6.
Characterization: We get some development for the characters we’ve already met, and a couple more are introduced. Now, the characters we’ve already met are still pretty shallow, and Kamui is still an obnoxious jerk. However, the semi-exception to this is Kotori and Fuma. While their backgrounds aren’t totally fleshed out, we do learn that their mother was brutally murdered by some mysterious force, and Kotori was traumatized by it, which she’s still dealing with, and that their mother’s death was the impetus for Kamui and his mother’s departure. That adds some reasonable pathos to their characters. 4 out of 6.
Emotional Response: Now we’re starting to figure out who’s on what team, and some information about their motivations. I also had some legitimate empathy for Kotori and Fuma because of their background – something that can’t be said for Kamui. 4 out of 6.
Flow: 6 out of 6.
Overall: On the series second volume it’s already improving dramatically. I’m quite impressed with the steps the series has taken thus far, and I’m definitely hooked now. 4 out of 6.
In Total, X/1999 Vol. 2 gets 33/42.