We Are X (Film Review)

We Are X
Film Review by Nhu Nguyen


We Are X brings one of the biggest untold rock stories to the masses. Capturing the level of fanaticism usually reserved for The Beatles’ early days, the documentary brings to life not only the story of X Japan, the band, but also the struggles of the famous people we only know from the outside as musicians — people who strive to persevere and succeed despite dealing with many obstacles: death, pain, and even a cult.

In the 80s, X Japan pioneered a rock movement called ‘visual kei’ or ‘visual style’ – a more detailed, intricate and androgynous version of glam rock than the musical style’s original western counterpart. The band’s music was a form of sophisticatedly-crafted heavy metal courtesy of classically-trained band leader, drummer Yoshiki. With sales of over 30 million records around the world and at home, fans flocked to X Japan like teens run to One Direction.


Spliced in between glamorous archive photos and video clips of the band, along with footage of their 2014 Madison Square Garden gig, We Are X balances episodes of the band’s success with past tragedies: Yoshiki’s first brush with death at age 10 when his father commits suicide, vocalist Toshi’s involvement in a cult that led to the bands demise in 1997, guitarist hide’s suicide five months after the band’s break-up, and bassist Taiji’s suicide in 2011.

Even through Yoshiki’s emotional pain and frequent physical pain (multiple clips showed him receiving shots of pain medication and visiting the doctor), he is determined to do everything he can to make X Japan and the members’ dreams of succeeding overseas come true. They first attempted to break into the American music scene in 1992, but were unsuccessful. In a candid moment of present-day X Japan in the dressing room before a concert over two decades later, the members discussed a negative press article and brought up the possibility of race being a factor. Success in Japan doesn’t matter — to move forward into the world spotlight, the racial barrier is still a hurdle they are all aware they must face.


For people experiencing this world for the first time, I asked Yoshiki what he wanted them to walk away with after watching the movie. He says he hopes it helps people learn to overcome anything. The film is more than a document of the band’s history shot with vibrant visuals and cool edits, soundtracked to X Japan’s thunderous and classical take on metal — We Are X will make you want to give your all as well.

We Are X information and showtimes: http://www.wearexfilm.com