4 stars out of 5Xam'd was created by studio BONES, the same guys who did Eureka Seven, and this fact oozes through every facet of the show. I suppose the immense popularity Eureka Seven had caused BONES to maintain the status quo and create a show with a similar conflict and cast. Both shows are about humans trying to maintain peaceful relations with lifeforms that threaten mankind because of our ignorance. Both shows follow young men on a journey of self-discovery, while we watch them traverse the world with a merry band of bohemians pretending to do important work. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that BONES didn't make Xam'd a clone of its predecessor, but an entity capable of standing on its own feet.
Akiyuki and Haru.
The strangely titled Xam'd: Lost Memories presents itself as a save-the-world tale in the same spirit as Eureka Seven and even Ghibli type films, where two warring factions are causing global conflicts that will eventually necessitate a mediator between Earth and man in order to found a new world order. Akiyuki, our central character, is on his way to school with his closest friends Furuichi and Haru when a Northern Government terrorist blows up the bus they are riding. The bomber's objective was to release a "haruko seed" in the midst of the chaos that followed. The haruko implanted itself into Akiyuki's body, transforming him into a Xam'd, a special type of "human-form" monster. He uses his new powers to fend off the human-forms the Northern Government has begun to drop from the sky as they boldly declare war on the Southern Continent Free Zone. Soon after Akiyuki's first human-form battle he begins turning to stone, an inescapable fate for people who cannot control their haruko seeds. Nakiami, an exotic woman from the North (voiced by the lovely Luci Christian in the English dub), offers to help Akiyuki commune with the Xam'd inside him. She takes him aboard the Zanbani, a flying postal ship with a crew reluctant to accept a Xam'd in their midst. This is where Akiyuki's journey of self- discovery begins, among strangers, miles and miles away from home.
Nakiami and Akiyuki.
The show's narrative is fantastic during the first half of the series, and I really do have to congratulate BONES for that. The show isn't incredibly concerned with showing off high-octane human-form fights animated in sloppy Kazuto Nakazawa fashion, but spends a great deal of time on character relations and the issues that manifest as a result of Akiyuki's sudden departure from home. His best friends Haru and Furuichi join the military soon after the Northern army attacks, but Haru sees the military as a means of leaving the island and possibly meeting Akiyuki again, while Furuichi's jealousy of Akiyuki is channeled into hatred that fuels his military prowess. Akiyuki's parents are also strong characters; their estranged relationship makes for good drama as they question the whereabouts of their son, who is likely the only bond keeping them from divorcing for good. The show's characters were well written and watching their relationships either blossom or erode was a treat.
The atmosphere for the show was near perfect. Most characters went through a range of emotions that were embellished by both excellent animation, expressive voices and an amazing classical soundtrack that chimed in on cue every time. Exciting human-form battles were accompanied by music reminiscent of epic clashes in the Shadow of the Colossus video game (according to Wikipedia, Michiru Oshima, the composer for Xam'd, also made music for Ico, the spiritual predecessor of Shadow of the Colossus). Even simple conflicts, such as when Nakiami thinks she has lost her child companion Yango, are elevated when the string music crescendos as she is about to scold him and strike him in the face. Apart from the in-show music, the intro song "Shut Up and Explode," and end theme "Vacancy," were catchy, appropriately lighthearted, and rife with guitar riffs.
Xam'd falls shy of greatness right around mid-season, where the show's flaws become glaringly obvious. While Xam'd does an excellent job of making viewers eagerly await the next episode, when that episode comes around there's no great revelation that one can seize and use to piece the show's narrative together. I've read a few other reviews on Xam'd: Lost Memories and they similarly agree with the notion that instead of making conflicts clearer as the show progressed, Xam'd instead introduces more conflicts and characters and muddles any understanding of the plot viewers thought they had. Was there ever a satisfactory explanation as to how the human-forms work? Why did the Northern Government attack the South? Why do the Xam'd lose their memories, and how exactly are they supposed to help change the world? I had to wonder if that information was ever disclosed, or if I had begun to lose my own memory over the course of the series.
I read a hilarious review on Xam'd: Lost Memories where the writer states BONES is horrible at writing narratives. I won't go that far; Xam'd was initially a perfect show, and all I wanted was a bit more clarity before I would give it a 5 star rating. That clarity never came, which is a real shame considering the show was setting me up for something spectacular. Personally I think Xam'd does a great job of avoiding the long shadow Eureka Seven and even the ongoing Eureka Seven AO cast, but for all its great character innovations Xam'd doesn't quite break the mold BONES has encased itself in.