We Are X
X Japan is the greatest rock group that you probably haven’t heard of. Formed in 1982, going by simply X at the time, the band has sold more than 30 million albums and has sold out Tokyo Dome a record breaking 18 times. A blend of Rock and Metal with the style of Glam Rock and New Romantic, X Japan’s music has an emotional intensity to it that blows the listener away. We Are X, a title taken from a chant frequently used by the both the band and fans, is a documentary that uncovers a story that is as strange as it is fascinating.
The best documentaries are ones that even if you have no knowledge of the subject going in and you come out both exhilarated with knowing about something new, but also hungry to find out more, and this does that so effortlessly. It helps that Yoshiki himself is such a compelling subject, and we get a picture of him through interviews with him, his bandmates, and various admirers and collaborators. Drummer, songwriter and classical pianist, for him, the music is his life and worth risking everything for, including his own health as he frequently collapses on stage and has to play in a neck brace. For him the music is a release, a way of dealing with a lot of emotions, particularly ones concerning the suicide of his father when Yoshiki was young, and the later death of friend and bandmate Hide after X Japan’s break-up in 1997. Between the widespread, highly passionate fan following and the drama between bandmates, particularly Yoshiki and former bass guitarist Taiji, or Toshi, band co-founder and childhood friend falling prey to a cult. It would be hard to make up a more “rockstar” story than X Japan’s truth. We learn this story, highs and lows, framed between sections of the band preparing for a concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City. If the film hadn’t gotten across the energy of seeing the band live, if you didn’t feel the intensity that the crowd feels when watching the band, then the film wouldn’t have worked. Thankfully you really get a sense of the spectacle in the band’s performance, and can see what it is that makes the band’s concerts so special for those in attendance.
There are a few areas where the film glosses over events; nothing is mentioned of the various brief bandmates that came and went over the years. Also current band members Pata, Heath, and Sugizo don’t get anywhere near the focus that Yoshiki and Toshi do. There are definitely times where more input from their points of view would have been interesting. However this is excusable when what the film does focus on is done so in such intimate detail.