As X reached its half-way mark with its third volume, we were left impressed by the overall aesthetic and potential of the series, while simultaneously hoping for a little more meat and full-blown plot progression from the episodes still to come. With that in mind, can volume four of the series that will never help you to win a round of Countdown deliver?
With the shocking (albeit slightly predictable) appearance of a "second Kamui" in the form of Fuuma at the end of the previous volume, complete with the even more shocking fate of Kotori, the start of volume four leaves us dealing with the fallout of Kamui's reaction to what he's just witnessed, leaving him in a coma and seemingly unreachable by anybody. Thank goodness then for Subaru Sumeragi and his own abilities as one of the Dragons of Heaven, which allows him to dive into Kamui's mind and effectively rescue him from his own grief.
In fact, Subara's story practically book-ends this particular volume, leaving the episodes in-between to see the revitalised Kamui continuing along the path he has chosen and Princess Hinoto dragged even more centrally into the goings-on as the battle for the future of the Earth begins to intensify.
I say "begin to intensify" as even during this fourth volume of the series on DVD, X has a habit of allowing its pacing to become borderline glacial on occasion. It certainly can't be denied that the show continues to offer up a stylistic visual tour de force, but it can easily forget to back that up by pushing on with its plot progression, letting scenes that should arguably only take up a portion of an episode expand out into a full and long-winded episode.
It's only when we get to the final episode on this disc that things really start to pick up for the action fans in the show's audience, granting us a more action-packed and bloody instalment that actually succeeds in delivering upon a lot of the suggestion of tragedy and sorrow that has been alluded to throughout X up to this point. Is this the point where the series turns around and really beings to deliver on its promises? We can only hope, although in all fairness even when things get a little sluggish, at least there's a lot to admire in the frequently gorgeous yet moody animation and backdrops, complete with an interesting cast of characters who are still having their back stories fleshed out even at this juncture.
They say that patience is a virtue, and if it's a virtue you possess then X probably remains worthy of your attention. If you're less impressed by stunning visuals and find yourself more in need of intense action however, then chances are you'll find the pace of this series just a little too sluggish to keep your interest for long enough to work its magic.