We Are X (2016 Japanese/American/British documentary) review


Movie: We Are X
Studio: Passion Pictures/Drafthouse Films
Year: 2016


I wanted to watch this documentary about one of the most successful rock bands not just from Japan, but overall at Anime Expo when it was available, but due to time constraints, I was unable to. A flight to Japan gave me a new opportunity to learn about the legacy of X Japan from their rise to fame to obstacle after obstacle of devastation. It was important for me to watch this especially since I wasn’t as familiar with this group because I was also trying to get into the genre of JRock.


This documentar mainly follows and focuses on the leader of X Japan, Yoshiki, who is also the drummer, pianist, and composer of the group. One of the first subjects covered is Yoshiki’s youth as his father took his own life, and Yoshiki needed ways to vent which became music as his mother helped steer him towards that path.

The next subject covered is Yoshiki’s relationship with the lead singer, Toshi, as they have grown up together since their youth and started the group X Japan together along with becoming the forefathers to the concept of Visual Kei which is elaborate costumes with flamboyant hairstyles and exaggerated makeup mixed with Japanese rock music. Visual Kei has influences from the West’s glam rock of the 1980’s.

It also covers Yoshiki’s fragile body as he has to wear a neck brace when drumming due to doing the motions aggressively. He also is required to have an oxygen tank due to ongoing asthma and often has to go to the doctor for check ups.

The documentary also follows the break up of the group after Toshi left the group to join a cult. The breakup of the group caused the return of Yoshiki to classical music. It also eventually caused the suicides of guitarist, hide, and bassist, Taiji.

Many artists are also interviewed from some of the top names in the West like KISS’ Gene Simmons, Marilyn Manson, and Limp Bizkit’s Wes Borland. Bands in the Visual Kei scene that were influenced by X Japan like Dir En Grey, Glay, and Luna Sea were also interviewed as well. It showed that X Japan is one of the groups based out of Japan that has crossed over to the West. Many of the top names in American rock gave X Japan praise.

The redemption part is when they highlighted X Japan’s New York City concert at the famed Madison Square Garden.


As someone who wasn’t familiar with the story of one of the greatest musical acts in the history of Japan, it was an educational trip through Japanese rock history. At the time, it was rare for an artist based out of Japan to make the leap over the Pacific to find success in the United States and also influence many more on American soil with their own brand of music and unique style. They’ve withstood the test of time with breakups, deaths, injuries, and other projects.


I thought that maybe they could have highlighted more on some of the other surviving members as they too have contributed towards the success of X Japan. Some may not have been around as long, but they’re important too.


It made me appreciate that this group has gone through many trials and tribulations. Most groups would never be able to overcome the odds stacked like what X Japan had, but then again, X Japan isn’t like most groups. They dared to be different from everyone else which has allowed them to challenge father time.

Overall rating: 4/5
Reviewed by: Timtastic

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