“I almost feel like I was looking for a reason to die. That’s why I play drums like there’s no tomorrow.” – YOSHIKI

Welcome to the turbulent world of X Japan. You may have heard the name but are you ready to go beyond the music and discover through the darkness, hope continues to shine through?

‘We Are X’ opens with scenes from X Japan’s live performance at Madison Square Garden with the best seat in the house, directly behind vocalist Toshi screaming out into the audience as as a chain of pyrotechnics ripples towards the stage. Japan’s Visual Kei pioneers have a story like no other; death seems to be constantly overcasting the band, vocalist Toshi is brainwashed by a cult (introduced to him through his wife) and the constant battle trying to break cultural barriers is ever present as Gene Simmons explains: “If those guys were either born in America or England and sung in English, they might be the biggest band in the world.”

There are many layers to ‘We Are X’, beautifully crafted by Director Stephen Kijak (Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, Stones In Exile) combining jaw dropping live scenes, footage of the band arriving on US soil for the first time and an attempt to lift the lid on why Yoshiki fired bassist Taiji, a subject that Yoshiki is still not ready to discuss to this day.

X Japan stands outside Madison Square Garden prior to their concert in Drafthouse Films’ We Are X. Image Courtesy of Drafthouse Films.

 

One theme that’s clear throughout the 93 minute documentary is that Yoshiki is the driving force and the glue holding the band together – from the very start to present day, even at the cost of his own health. Throughout ‘We Are X’, pain is a subject that is exorcised through the music and in everyday life. Yoshiki is seen swallowing various medical pills in his hotel room, injections in his arm to assist with the pain and he even visits multiple doctors (one advises on surgery) to discuss the torn ligaments in his wrist. Yoshiki battles on, pounding his drum kit, literally living in the moment which continues to inspire fans, one of which recalls how X Japan’s music helped him through his grandfathers passing. Their music continues to be a source of hope and inspiration for fans worldwide.

The other members of the band contribute in their own way recalling the early days of X Japan and there’s a touching scene by the piano between Toshi & Yoshiki recalling how over dinner instead of them both discussing plans to reunite the band (at the time), they both relived their childhood stories together instead, which still holds a special place in Toshi’s heart today.

Do we now know everything about X Japan after watching ‘We Are X’? No, but it’s a refreshing feeling to want to dig a little deeper independently and not have all the answers delivered to your feet.