We Are X

Why X Japan never made it big in America.

The recent documentary Danny Says unintentionally made the case that we’re running out of interesting stories to tell about English-language rock music — or at least about famous, Boomer-beloved bands. This means it’s high time for documentaries like Stephen Kijak’s We Are X, about the Japanese prog-metal band X Japan, whom you’ve probably never heard of unless you’re a J-Pop aficionado. The picture follows their turbulent career from the 1980s to their fallow period in the 2000s through their obligatory triumphant comeback show at Madison Square Garden, and focuses on founder and consummate tortured artist Yoshiki to the extent that I Am X might have been a more appropriate title. The more interesting threads of the time lead singer Toshi spent in a cult(!), as well as X Japan’s inability to break through in America are given short shrift. (Among the domestic rockers interviewed, Gene Simmons is a dick as usual, while Marilyn Manson again proves to be the most thoughtful guy in the room.) As told in We Are X, the band’s story becomes less “underdogs fighting to make it big” like Anvil! The Story of Anvil and more of a “superstars crumbling under the weight of their own success” story like Metallica: Some Kind of Monster. Ultimately, it comes across more like a bonus disc than a feature film.

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