This week’s review is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, particularly after my Eureka 7 review last week. This week I’m doing Bounen no Zamned, or Xam’d: Lost Memories. It’s kind of unique in that premiered and aired on the PlayStation Network in July of 2008, and aired on TV (in Japan) later in April of 2009. While it’s a cool precedent, I don’t think there are any series that have followed in Xam’d’s footsteps, so that’s a minor point. Anyway, the show is done by Bones, which is a veteran of many series (and several great ones). I remember when I first watched it I thought to myself “Isn’t this Eureka 7?” Unfortunately, that comparison kept going through my head as I watched the entire series. I’ll try to keep the comparisons out of this, but it did ultimately affect my overall opinion of the show.
The plot of this show is, in a word… Complicated. Understand, first and foremost, that Xam’d is a 26 episode series. Despite that, it carries on with a very convoluted plot with many different threads that come together and eventually require closure, and, well, Xam’d attempts that very admirably. And while I did enjoy the ending, I don’t think the show was very successful on that front. It should have been a 50 episode show. With that out of the way, the plot is actually kind of interesting, if you can keep everything together. It deals with a young man, Akiyuki, who in the first episode gets embedded with some kind of parasite in his right arm, and later gets picked up by a flying band of misfits via this strange girl with strange markings on her face.
Besides the art style, which can be excused as being from the same studio, this is the first time I thought “Boy, this reminds me of Eureka 7.” Of course, the shows are quite dissimilar to the end, but the comparison kept ringing in my head as I watched it. Anyway, it turns out the organism embedded in Akiyuki’s body is called a hiruko, which has the unfortunate side-effect of turning the infected into stone. Luckily, Nakiami (the strange girl Akiyuki met) is some sort of doctor, and to prevent being turned to stone, Akiyuki leaves with this crazy group of people in their sky ship. And then comes several episodes of world-building, where Akiyuki learns about life outside of his peaceful island.
What’s important to note insofar as exposition is concerned is the apparent tension between members of a religious order known as Ruikonism and the military. It has gotten so serious that members of Ruikonism have resorted to suicide bombing (which is, incidentally, how Akiyuki got his hiruko in the first place). This tension is one of the focal conflicts of the show, though I don’t think it’s handled very well. There are a lot of parts to this show that aren’t explained, and while it might just be me being a bit too stupid to understand, there are several facets of the plot that felt quickly mashed together to me.
Particularly the villains at the end, and how they were dealt with. This is primarily due to the way the show is paced. It’s only 26 episodes, and it felt as though there was so much more content and explanations to be had, that just couldn’t make the cut into the series. I felt as if several characters and factions weren’t really fleshed out enough. Perhaps they were left purposefully ambiguous, and while I can respect that sometimes, it can also come across as poor planning on pacing. And that’s the impression I got. Overall, I felt like the plot had a lot of potential, and some of that was realized (the romance subplot, for example) but there was a fair bit that could have used just a bit more time.
The characters were handled a little better than the plot. I feel like they suffered some of the same problems as the plot in that there was more potential than the show gave them. However, I think there were several interesting characters and the main ones were handled well (it was just some of the side ones that could’ve used some work). Takehara Akiyuki is… A pretty generic protagonist I feel. Not that that’s anything against him, but I cannot for the life of me think of anything particularly distinguishing or unique about him, in terms of character or personality. I don’t remember disliking him as I watched the show though, whereas I did kind of dislike Renton at first in Eureka 7. He comes across as a bit more mature than Renton at least (though I think he’s older), and I think by the end he develops into a character that’s enjoyable to watch, just not distinct in any way. The two other main characters are certainly more interesting, though.
Nakiami is more of a quiet character, but she’s quite mature and has a lot of responsibility on her shoulders. I enjoyed watching her since you’d kind of think that this being the main girl introduced in the series, she’d be more of a damsel in distress type, waiting to be saved by Akiyuki at some point. Fortunately, she’s quite a bit more capable than that and it’s honestly refreshing to watch. She has her own personal links to major events happening in the show, and those are fun to watch unfold (though some are just a little weird).
The last main character is Nishimura Haru. For the first several episodes, it may not seem like she’s all that important, but she plays a fairly pivotal role as the series goes on. She’s also Akiyuki’s romantic interest, and I think the development and culmination of their relationship is one of the best aspects of this show. It is one of the few moments I can distinctly remember at least. There’s a pretty nice cast of support characters, from Furuichi (one of Haru and Akiyuki’s friends) to Akiyuki’s parents, and they get a fair bit of development and interesting plotlines. However, I felt that on the whole, side characters were introduced and not developed as well as they could’ve been. Particularly in the case Ishuu (the captain of the sky ship) and Raigyo (another member of the ship, and also has a hiruko within him), I felt like there was a lot of wasted potential.
On to the art… I don’t really have any complaints with it, honestly. It looks to me like just a more refined version of the Eureka 7. Which makes sense, considering this came out a good deal later than Eureka 7. I think some of the awkward things I noticed for that show I didn’t really have a problem with here. Particularly in the case of unnatural faces and facial expressions. I do prefer the character designs in Xam’d over the ones in Eureka 7, though. I think they’re more interesting and varied.
Akiyuki’s a little boring, but Nakiami’s general design (particularly the hair) and outfit are pretty cool. Raigyo as well, his character design really screams the kind of laid back cool older guy persona he exhibits. Honestly, when I first saw him I thought he’d be a bit more of a mentor to Akiyuki (though that job seems to be more Nakiami’s) but that’s just a long list of disappointments I had with Raigyo’s character.
Finally, Haru. Haru was my favorite character in the show, both in in terms of development and character design. I think, like Raigyo, her design fits her character very well and it’s a treat to watch her develop. That sounds really creepy and perverted, but I mean her personality and her experiences during the events in the show. But back to the art… I think it’s alright. It doesn’t have any glaring issues, like Eureka 7 kinda did, but it’s certainly not the best I’ve ever seen.
The animation is another segment that, like the art, is kind of improved from Eureka 7 (I feel the comparison is more valid in these cases since they are both done by the studio Bones). While I thought Eureka 7 had some nice animations, and while Xam’d doesn’t really have as many action-filled fight sequences as Eureka 7, Xam’d’s certainly look better. The animations come out smoother, and while it may sound weird, I think the choreography on the action looks better. Just the way the movements are done and how they’re handled.
Lastly, the music. The music was surprisingly excellent in certain respects. I did enjoy the BGM, I distinctly remember enjoying it (though I can’t remember a single track for the life of me). So on that front the music is better than the average, I’d say. As far as openings and endings are concerned, it’s a little weird. For starters, the openings and endings are different from the PSN and broadcast versions of the show (though done by the same people). I’m only familiar with the PSN version, so I’ll comment on that.
The opening, “Shut up and explode” by Boom Boom Satellites is really repetitive. For some reason I really liked it, though now it gets on my nerves. Despite all of that, I’m sure if you watch the show the song will forever be imprinted in your mind. Depending on what you think, the phrase RUN AWAY RUN AWAY will either make you exhibit some ridiculous trauma or good feelings. At this point I’m getting more of the trauma.
On the flip side, however, the ending theme is pretty good. It’s “Vacancy” by Kylee, and she sings in English for the song, and the English isn’t super terrible like it could be. She’s done songs for other shows (Heroman, I believe) in Japanese, so she can do both. Looking her up quickly, it turns out she’s only 17 and still in high school, which makes me feel like I haven’t accomplished much in my life. But anyway, the music’s pretty good in this show.
Director: Masayuki Miyaji
Character design: Ayumi Kurashima
Music: Michiru Oshima
Original run: July 6, 2008 – February 3, 2009
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