The most well known band in Japan has a new introduction to the world in the documentary We Are X, now playing in select Alamo Drafthouse theatres and a few other venues around the country. More dates have become available around the world as well. People familiar with Japanese rock or Visual Kei know X Japan by name at the very least. Credited as one of the pioneers of Visual Kei, this band has faced the kinds of ups and downs that make for a dramatic movie in their own right.

For the uninitiated, X Japan is a band started in the early 90s by drummer Yoshiki and vocalist Toshi. Truly, they started the band as teenagers, but most will remember their start as with Sony. Their original roster included guitarist Pata, guitarist hide, and bassist Taiji in addition to Yoshiki and Toshi. Over the years, that lineup has changed, mostly due to tragedy. Following the firing of original bassist Taiji, Heath succeeded him and has remained a member since. After Toshi left the band to join a cult, hide died from what is considered an accidental suicide and hadn’t been officially replaced even after the band reunited. Many guitarists have filled in for hide, but in the end, Sugizo, best known as a guitarist in LUNA SEA, became an official member of X Japan. Taiji also passed away by suicide, but not before joining X Japan on stage one more time.

X Japan as a band is a force unto themselves. They have garnered some of the most dedicated fans across the globe who will travel great distances to see them play. In his home country, Yoshiki is not able to simply walk the streets without a devoted mob soon gathering and that devotion seems to be happening more and more around the world. Despite the fame, Yoshiki is a very down to earth person who speaks very humanly about his aspirations as well as the hardships that have come over the years. He’s admitted to being physically fragile and it’s apparent when he plays himself to exhaustion for concerts. He wears braces daily and drums with a neck brace after injuring his neck after years of headbanging. The losses that he’s had to face affects him profoundly and he uses his art to express much of that.

Many other artists from Japan expressed their appreciation for X Japan in the documentary, the inspiration the band gave them to pursue music and rock in particular. The story of X Japan revolves primarily between Yoshiki, Toshi and the highs and lows of the band’s journey. Not a lot is devoted to Pata or Heath, possibly due to the stability they’ve managed to achieve during those ups and downs, yet they’re still very much a part of what makes X Japan, X Japan.

Some of the more personal points in the band’s history are painful to hear and equally painful for Yoshiki to tell. It’s clear how much the band means to him and how much music in general means to him. For someone who has spent much of his life in music, Yoshiki has delved into quite a few endeavors, such as his Y by Yoshiki wine, the Yoshiki Foundation, been made into a comic character by Stan Lee and Todd McFarlane and has more recently launched his own kimono line. X Japan remains at the core of what drives this artist. Who’s to say they can’t become the international phenomenon they set out to become. Check out the documentary and you may believe, too.

Review by: AliW