Akiyuki lives on post-war Sentan Island, always rushing between the demands of his separated parents and his friends at school. But his carefree days come abruptly to an end when his school bus suffers an explosion, the first attack to plunge Sentan back into war. Akiyuki lives to find himself turned into a Xam'd, a mysterious creature, by the suspected cause of the explosion. Engulfed by Xam'd, Akiyuki is eventually saved by a red-haired girl, Nakiami, only to find himself torn away from those he loves. Now he must work to control and understand the creature within him, all while searching for his family and friends in a world steeped in the secrets and chaos of war.
Xam’d Lost Memories (pronounced zam-d) AKA Bounen no Xam’d, is a unique 26 episode sci-fi war anime, that reminded me a lot of anime like FMA (same studio), Eureka Seven, Evangelion and even Valkyria Chronicles (the game, haven’t watched the anime). The setting is some sort of strange sci-fi future world where there’s anti-gravity technology and flying ships (ala Eureka Seven) sometime after a war, and a neutral country is being plunged into another war. In an early moment, you see the results of the destruction and fighting and realise what a serious anime this is. Amidst the chaos, Isshu’s postal ship continues on its deliveries of mail and parcels, while some mysterious events are set in motion for Akiyuki, all revolving around something called Xam’d. I didn’t do a review for the last anime I watched, since I didn’t feel like it and I was busy. While I’ve technically got no excuses now, I’m falling behind on a few other personal things and will be slowing down the rate at which I watch anime, thereby also giving me more time for these reviews, but also making them less often. I might speed them up if I have time, but who knows. I’ve finally been getting sleep these last few days. Animation The quality and clarity of the animation is amazing. It’s available in full 1080p HD, but even on 720p one can appreciate the effort that went into it. The backgrounds are detailed and the character models look clear, except at a distance of course. But one small thing I noticed. The motion is a bit janky, I was watching the very first episode and after a certain point it seemed the framerate was very low, fluidity was lacking despite the great detail in the animation. This would have absolutely ruined the experience, but thankfully it doesn’t always run like that. Tha small blemish prevents this from being perfect animation for a 2008 anime. The animation style is an uncommon one, the only anime that comes to mind with a similar aesthetic is Eureka Seven. The character designs don’t use transitional colours, it’s kept very simple with some good single colour shading. The movement in the first episode seemed very odd for an anime, it felt like a Disney cartoon to me with the free flow, which was otherwise ruined by terrible framerate/bad mid-animation. I like the design of the mascot character, they look so familiar, but are a unique design. I’m reminded of the mole-pig thing in Gurren Lagann. The most striking and unique aspect of the animation are the life forms and machines. They all have a distinctive design and a lime green colour seems to signify power as well as blood for these creatures? One last thing to add is that there’s no pointless pervy BS in this anime. There are a few strange bits in prison cells, but the themes behind this anime are much more serious and potentially upsetting. After all, this is a Bones studio anime. Sound Oh damn that intro/outro… so good. The intro is done by Boom Boom Satellites and the outro is done by Kylee, both are modern day rock songs. I went and got the entire discography of both artists following this. It’s a nice change, but not uncomfortable from the movie-like music in the anime itself. There’s not much rock in there, the music was very similar to anime like FMA and Eureka Seven, suitable epic music for those moments, tense music and even the pleasant chilled out music where relevant. This anime is in both English and Japanese. I watched it in English, but a few niggles means you’d probably want to watch this in Japanese. I stuck with English because I recognised the voices. Some of the voices seem very off, like the voices of elderly characters. Instead of sounding like elderly people, they sound like young/middle-aged folks trying to do an ‘old person voice.’ A lot of voices for additional characters are overused, some even share voices with main characters. As much as Monica Rial gets around, I found that her voice initially didn’t suit the character of Haru too well here, I’m thinking she’s an overused voice actor. There’s been a few roles where her voice didn’t fit. Later on I got used to it and I even forgot that whose voice it was behind that character. The voices really let the sound of this anime down, such a shame. Akiyuki had the familiar voice of Blake Shepard, who was Otonashi in Angel Beats, Takabayashi in Another, Michio Hoshino in Ghost Hound, Kei Takashima in Special A and Yumeji Fujiwara in Yumekui (Dream Eater) Merry. Haru Nishimura is of course voiced by Monica Rial, the voice of Mei Misaki in Another, Chanet Laforet in Baccano, Chihiro Shindo in Ef: A tale of…, Lyra in FMA, Sayara Yamanobe in Mnemosyne, Tsubaki in Soul Eater, Coopa in Tower of Druaga, Sakura in Tsubasa Chronicle, Hazuki in Tsukuyomi Moonphase and Maria in Witchblade. Nakiami is voiced by Luci Christian, who has voiced Haruo Kamio in Air, Masami Iwasawa and Sekine in Angel Beats, Nagisa Furukawa in Clannad, Ophelia in Claymore, Mariko in Elfen Lied, Miyako Miyamura in Ef: A Tale of…, Wrath in FMA, Sanae Oogami in Ghost Hound, Mishiho Maeno in Mnemosyne, Medusa Gorgon in Soul Eater, Lucy in The World God Only Knows, Chun Hyang in Tsubasa Chronicle, Haiji/Hikaru Midou in Tsukuyomi Moon Phase and Yui Kounagi in Yumekui Merry. I noticed Furuichi as David Matranga, he voiced Hideki Hinata in Angel Beats, Kubodera in Another, Tomoya Okazaki in Clannad, Yuu Himura in Ef: A Tale of…, and some others I’ve forgotten. Isshu Benikawa’s voice was recognised to be Shelley Calene-Black, she voices Kyou Fujibayashi in Clannad, Shirakawa in Elfen Lied, Margery Daw in Shakugan no Shana and Saki Kirishima in Yumekui Merry. Midori Nishimura had the familiar voice of Hilary Haag, who voiced Yui in Angel Beats, Fuuko Ibuki in Clannad, Mizuki Hayama in Ef: a Tale of… and Merry in Yumekui Merry. Finally Raigyo was voiced by Andrew Love of course, who’s voice Akio Furukawa in Clannad, Tadashi Karino in Special A and Yuuya Daigo in Tokyo Majin. Characters Akiyuki Takahara is the lead protagonist in this anime. A teenage highschool boy living on the island of Senten with his divorced mother who uses him as a courier to send food and messages to his father. But not for long, since he leaves Senten after becoming a Xam’d during an invasion of Senten by the forces of the north. This guy is unsure of himself and what he wants, his naivety concerning Xam’d and his insistence on being self-reliant can get him into trouble. He gets treated somewhat badly by the crew members of the ship Zambani, in a somewhat realistic way. They care for him, but won’t show it. While he does look like a typical weedy teenage boy protagonist, he is actually a bit more physically mature, he looks a bit more manly and fits perfectly in the clothes of an older (also manly) guy. Later on, he just looks older than he was at the start. He values the lives of the ones he loves, which is why he can’t permanently return to Senten Island, as his presence may put them in danger. He manages to keep in contact with Haru through letters. Haru Nishimura is Akiyuki’s classmate and childhood friend at Senten Island. She attends a martial arts club along with Furuichi and is quite skilled in hand to hand combat. The 3 of them are very close friends, though she does worry about Akiyuki a bit more than one would expect. When others jokingly refer to him as her boyfriend, she doesn’t deny it despite the actual lack of such a relationship. It’s quite obvious that she loves him. She also is very protective over her younger sister Midori, who is crippled. She lives with just her father and sister on Senten Island, since her mother died when she was younger. Nakiami AKA Cloud Rider Tenjho is a girl from Tessec village (where the inhabitants are easily recognised by their facial tattoos) and a crew member of the Zambani. She lives on the Zambani and is generally a solitary person. She is quite knowledgeable about Xam’d and the human forms, she creates various things with the lab-like equipment in her lab and treats/helps Akiyuki as a Xam’d. According to Isshu, she was an emotional and misbehaved child and was given the name Nakiyami for it. Now Nakiyami is a very sensible but stoic individual, she never smiles or cries. She has a desire to save those abused by the North and turned into human forms, she wants to coexist with people and Xam’d alike. She was meant to be the chief of Tessec village, but this role went to her sister since she ran away to find her own path. Toujirou Kakisu is a commander of the Senten Island army and a key figure in the body that governs the island and keeps it safe. His father was a Southerner and his mother was born on Senten Island, but he was usually regarded by his Southern birth. He wants to protect his island and defeat the north, but he is willing to pay anything to do so. He was saved by Ryuuzou Takehara in the previous war. He oversees a research project worked on by Reizou Kanba, a man from Tessec village, which is instrumental in their campaign against the north. Kakisu is harsh, but troubled man and will let little stand in his way, but he still maintains respect for those like Ryuuzou. The very superficial woman Prois Sukaki is his aide/secretary, who will gladly follow his orders and keeps on top of her own image. She smokes (probably because she thinks it makes her look cool) and sticks to Kakisu like glue. There’s also something to suggest that the two might have some sort of a relationship. She’s often seen giving advice and helping out Haru. Ryuuzou Takehara and Fusa Takehara are Akiyuki’s parents. They live separately, mostly because Akiyuki’s mother is a mean bitch doesn’t get along with her husband anymore. She seems to work an unknown office type job, judging by her attire. But she also very devoted and protective of her son, even if she sometimes gets mad at him. Ryuuzou is a doctor and is a veteran of war, where he saved people’s lives as an army doctor. He is friends with Haru’s father, Jinichirou Nishimura, the General of the army and he is even well acquainted with Commander Kakisu, whose life he saved. He treats any and all patients, disregarding who they are, but he also tries having a go at researching the mysterious seeds related to the Xam’d. He also cares for his son, but holds his emotions back a bit more. He’s a nice person and tried to get along with his wife, despite living apart, often giving her tangerines. Isshu Benikawa AKA the Crimson Revolutionary is the captain of the ship Zambani. She divulges in bad habits like drinking and smoking and doesn’t bother with relationships. She’s fairly womanly and obsessive over her looks, she is also very lax and lazy. But when it calls for it, she will pull her own weight and whip out her guns and weaponry to defend her ship. She’s quite skilled at using them. She likes to make fun of the other crew members and effectively raised Nakiyami, even giving her that name. She won’t show it, but she is rather attached to Nakiyami. Raigyo Tsunomata is another crew member of the Zambani, but he’s not there from the start. He is also a Xam’d and has survived a long time without turning into stone. He returns from a long break and brings back presents for everyone, everyone on the ship seems to love him. He was the ship’s Xam’d before Akiyuki, but he also seems to know Isshu very well, perhaps they had something in common in the past. He’s a sensible, nice guy and advices Akiyuki on occasion, but he generally never gets too close to anyone. Yango can be considered a main character, but he comes in later so it’s a bit spoilery to talk about him. He’s an orphan who is from Tessec and also a Xam’d. He lets his emotions get the better of him. He forms a good bond with one of the main characters whom he meets and their relationship is like that of parent and child. The other characters are mostly side characters. Furuichi Teraoka is a friend of Akiyuki and Haru, he is the one left to comfort Haru when Akiyuki is gone. He joins the army to protect his island and he’s generally a serious guy. He was also in the martial arts club with Haru. He lives with just his mother and ends up being a good soldier. But there is more to this character than meets the eye. Midori Nishimura is Haru’s crippled younger sister, a girl who always smiles and is generally positive. Among the crew of the Zambani is the pilot Ahm, a big guy who gets teased by Isshu as she calls him fat. She also calls the ship’s cook Yunbo fat, but she has an excuse as she is a mother and is raising a kid (though she hasn’t been able to get rid of the pregnancy weight?). Hinokimaru is Yunbo’s child, he looks a lot like Raigyo but there is little mention of who his father really is. His ‘adopted’ sister is Kobako, a girl orphaned by the loss of her parents and brought to the ship by… guess who? Akushiba is the annoying kind-of-a-jerk type guy, who also seems to be a bit of a pervert judging by how many pin-up posters he has next to his bed *shudder*. Kiselji is the old man mechanic who drinks a fair bit. People who aren’t on the ship… Kujireika is Nakiami’s aforementioned sister and the current head of Tessec village. She seems to have certain ambitions. Reizou Kanba is an older man, originating from Tessec, but living on Senten and working under Kakisu to achieve his goals. Sannova is the old lady of Tessec descent who seems to know what is going on, she appears to be very close for Nakiami who was originally raised by her. By some coincidence Sannova and Nakiami share the same design of facial tattoos… Sannova also has a group of strange white haired, red eyed children under her command who go around harvesting life force/Haruko from corpses. A special mention for the Roppa, the cute little mascot animal who is adopted by Hinokimaru as a pet. It looks like a cross between a rabbit and a puppy. It can inflate itself into a bouncy pillow like thing. Best of all, it makes squeaking noises, like a squeaky toy or a mouse. It’s just adorable. Story The Island of Senten is a neutral zone between the superpowers of the Northern Empire and the Southern Nation. In the past it was caught up in the war between them. Now war has come again, with the North using their monsters with severely destructive power called ‘human forms’. These are related to the Xam’d. Senten island itself uses mech suits that operate according to the user’s concentration and mental waves, they are a lot like the Evas from Evangelion, except smaller and they can fly. With war breaking out and Akiyuki becoming a Xam’d events have been set in motion, various people follow different paths that will all eventually intertwine. Xam’d are made by the mysterious white-haired children when they release a Haruko and it embeds into a host. If the host loses control, they turn to red stone, which over a long time turns into normal mossy rock. The human can learn to coexist with the Haruko and make use of it’s power. The plot of this anime can be hard to follow. It’s very unique and unlike anything I’ve seen before, though as I mentioned, it reminds me of certain other anime like FMA, Eureka Seven, Evangelion and even the Valkyria Chronicles game, which shares a similar wartime plot of a small nation’s struggle against an aggressive empire. By the end, I think I understood what it all meant, though there was a thing or two in the deep lore that had me confused. It’s definitely not a predictable story, with many sudden revelations and it had me excited for each next episode, my eyes were glued to the screen for the most part. The plot also progresses very fast, time seems to flow well and characters seem to change. Certain teenage characters ‘graduate’ into adults by getting a proper job. I swear Akiyuki’s hair gets longer and he gets a teensy-weensy bit bigger by the second half. Haru also seems to mature from being a simple high-school girl In that respect, the first half is more ‘normal’ if that can be a thing and actually ends by episode 12/13ish. From then on the plot speeds up and goes to various places. There are twists and surprises throughout, viewers may miss some if they aren’t paying attention (I guessed it! Thought it doesn’t make sense). There are many heavy themes here. With war comes great destruction and loss of life. This anime doesn’t shy from showing the horrors and atrocities that result from such acts. There is also the strong theme of religion and this is almost cult-like. Certain characters like Yunbo are religious, it seems to be particularly strong among characters from the North. This anime also tackles the concept of life and death. Family is also another aspect, there are a lot of children lacking one or both parents. In that respect Akiyuki is lucky enough to have both of his parents. Other horrible themes are touched on, think crimes. Torture and dubious experimentation included. The story here is very serious, with plenty of action and a good climax and an actual conclusion. It isn’t afraid to do some crazy things, a few of these might not make sense at first, but then you have to realise some things and they do. Or some of them still make no sense and would have greatly benefit from a good explanation of exposition. With the great pace and even the use of passage of time, especially at the end (dream come true!) for a bit of fan-service (not the ecchi kind), the story and the characters that propel it, is the best bit of this anime and really makes it shine. Conclusion Xam’d is one of few anime that throws the viewer into a world and propels them along the plot at a very fast but good pace. It’s one with very little anime bullshit and the only thing that seems typical of general anime are the Japanese names/fictional terminology and the characters on the intro/outro. Otherwise it’s very similar to a lot of other good anime. It’s not as mind-blowingly amazing (not until the climax anyway) and it does have its issues, early animation and voice acting included, but damn is it good. If you like anime like FMA, Eureka Seven or even enjoyed the Valkyria Chronicles game, I recommend you to give this a go. The fact it is competent should not have to be praised, but in this world where most anime lack plot or solid conclusion, this one of the few that we can rely on. And the unique world setting also makes it more interesting. Give the first few episodes a go to see if you like it, please don’t judge it by the animation in the first episode or few, or by the sub-par voicing. Try to see this for the brain-melting (though not psychedelic like Evangelion) and unique plot. This seems to me like an anime a lot of people can enjoy, despite the difficult subject matter. Family-friendliness Rating: 3/5 Family friendly, but a couple of jokes and the crazy plot… maybe I should give it a 4? (lower is better) Overall Rating: 9/10 (higher is better)
If you've heard of this show you've likely seen all the familiar predecessors, and the bottom line is there isn't really anything new or original here. It starts off as a very unique and compelling show (with all the usual tropes and cliches) but slowly devolves into just another generic anime shortly after half-way. By the end you'll be scratching your head over what you just saw when you realize the show has literally come full circle and not really answered much of anything. If you're new to anime or just looking for an above average show to pass the time, it's worth a watch. If you're looking for something unique or action-packed (don't be confused by the first couple episodes), give this show a pass.
Plot: The plotline of Xam'd, although pretty original and not very predictable, is not the strong point. I had no problems with the plot and really liked it, except for the fact that a clear explanation of why a war was being waged between the North and the South was never explained. Sometimes the episodes meanderd a bit during the first third of the series. Also, for those people who don't like slice of life type of stories might find the beginning a bit slow. However, since I do enjoy slice of life, I had no problems.However in the last part, the director knows exactly what he wants to do. It isn't rushed like most endings now a days are, and it leaves a satisfying feeling when it ends.Another thing that I really liked about Xam'd, was that there antagonists weren't some brainless screaming villains that had no real motives behind their actions, and they weren't the type of villains who were 'only doing evil because of their horrible past'. For example even though I hated the commander, I found myself pitying/sympathizing him in the end.I can't be more specific than this, because I don't want to give the plot away.Animation:The animation was fantastic. Especially the battle scenes. One movement just flowed into the next, and in my opinion looked kind of graceful. Also, the sceneries that were drawn each had their own feel in them that helped establish the mood, and each place evoked different emotions in you, and to some extent the characters as well. It was just flawless, it really brings animation to a whole different level.Sound:Michiru Oshima has done it again. For those who don't know who Michiru Oshima is, she composed the music for Full Metal Alchemist.I love the soundtrack, to the point where I actually have it on my iPod and frequently listen to it. It establishes the right mood for all the sceneries and has just the sound that Xam'd requires. If any other person composed the music, I'm almost positively sure that it wouldn't have the same impact and effect on the series.Characters:The character designed slightly resembled Miyazaki's style of art. Also, Nakiami's character reminded me a bit of Nausicaa.The characters in this show is what truly makes this anime a master piece. Each character is well developed and unique. The characters mature over time, and the relationships they establish with one another are strong and believable. The way they interact with one another provides entertaining results at times, due to their unique personalities.Looking back, even Nakiami, who rarely exhibits emotions in the beginning of the series, and is kind of quiet, has her own feel that doesn't resemble anything like the traditional quiet apathetic girl you get in most animes.Overall:Overall, this series was amazing. This is probably my favorite anime right now, and I have gone back to it several times, because it is a sheer pleasure to watch.
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