Who has heard of X Japan? Not I before this feature. There are many heavyweights in the metal band history. You have the likes of Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Pantera, and Slayer, among others. Perhaps after watching We Are X, you might be convinced that X Japan deserves a spot on the list as well.
We Are X tells the story of X Japan’s history and the days leading up to their Madison Square Garden concert in 2014. The documentary largely follows the leader of the band, Yoshiki, and his life. Through Yoshiki’s eyes we see the band come together and grow. Likewise we also see the band begin to fall apart. The story of their disbanding, largely due to their lead singer, Toshi, being brainwashed is particularly sad. The eventual suicide of Toshi, long time friend of Yoshiki and co-founder, as well as the death of Hide obviously left Yoshiki shaken. With the focal point of the documentary being centered around one person’s narrative, it succeeds in driving home the humanity and pain felt when tragedies strike bands like this. And why shouldn’t it? Celebrities are still people and still hurt like the rest of us do.
A bit of time is also spent in this documentary focusing on the band’s efforts to try to appeal to Western artists and how hard that was. The band had trouble adjusting to singing in English to make the attempt to penetrate the US demographic. It also seems likely that the US audience wasn’t ready to see and listen to metal with the twist that X Japan brought. They were probably even less ready to accept metal sung in Japanese. X Japan was probably ahead of their time in that regard. Years later, I could see them having some mild success in bringing their music here. The struggles shown throughout the documentary are compelling and interesting as we push forward towards the inevitable end with the big concert.
After watching this, I am a little intrigued by the band’s music. As someone who does enjoy various forms of rock and metal genres and has for much of his life, I wish I had heard of X Japan sooner. There is a lot of music played throughout the documentary and some it is rather catchy and enjoyable. I certainly expect that sometime in the not too distant future will check out their music on Amazon Music or a similar provider. And that is due to the exposure of this documentary. And that speaks pretty well for a documentary. Whenever a documentary can not only teach, but interest people in the subject matter, I call that a win.
Picture Quality: 4/5
The video in We Are X looks consistently clean. In both the archival footage and the new footage, everything looks as sharp as could be expected. The colors look true and the blacks stay clean. In the recently recorded concert scenes with a lot of black, I never noticed much muddled blacks or crush.
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
We Are X comes with a strong DST-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The dialog is all mostly clear. The only problems stemming from accents that I am not used to, but that is not a big issue. You are going to read subtitles anyway for Japanese language portions, so you might as well just go ahead and turn them on. The more important component of this release is the soundtrack which sounds clean all throughout.
Special Features and Packaging: 3.5/5
Director Commentary: This gives the backstory on the motivations of the documentary and why they chose to do it the way they did as well as some information on the cultural impact of X Japan. Mostly pretty dry, unfortunately.
Deleted Scenes: A few simple scenes that were cut from the documentary.
Deleted Interviews: Yoshiki, Toshi, Pata, Heath, and Sugizo provide information that didn’t make it into the final cut.
Yoshiki on We Are X: Yoshiki comments on what it is like to relive the years and make this documentary.
Recordings from the last live performance: “Forever Love” and “Kuranai”
“Born to be Free” fan video
The interviews are a nice inclusion to go with this as it is just more information and depth that didn’t fit within the confines of the documentary. The recordings are pleasant to get to hear a few songs in their entirety to get to know the band a bit better.
We Are X comes in a standard one disc case and package. Nothing truly special or interesting here for an interesting documentary.
We Are X is a relatively compelling documentary following the band in a way I wouldn’t have expected. I think they made a good choice by building a narrative focused on the leader and co-founder of the band. The video, old and new, looks solid and the sound is good as well. I enjoyed the story and think more can be gleaned from future rewatching of it, due in part to the language and culture barrier I experienced in the documentary. Now that I know more, I will probably get more out of it. The fact that it is an appealing thing to do, speaks well for the documentary. I would relegate my recommendation for those who are interested in the historical and cultural aspects of modern music. For those who are, I recommend this for a watch and a buy for anyone with interest in this band in particular.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.