Reviewby Theron Martin, Nov 12th 2010
Xam'd: Lost Memories
DVD - Collection 2
Now that Furuichi has had a chance to confront Akiyuki with the power of a Xam'd on his side, all of his long-standing jealousy and frustration over Haru being attracted to Akiyuki instead of him boils over, causing Furuichi to lose himself to the hiruko within him, with ugly consequences. Though Nakiami, Akiyuki, and Haru had converged for the confrontation, the aftermath splits them in vastly disparate directions. Haru gets drawn into military custody, where she encounters one of the Children of Ruikon and learns that her sister Midori has become a test subject for the grand Humanform experiments directed by the colonel. Nakiami ventures to Tessik Village in the company of a Tessik boy she picks up, where she has an uncomfortable homecoming. Akiyuki finds himself masked and without his memories as he helps an old woman at a convalescent center, one who, coincidentally, has an important connection to someone back on Sentan Island. Eventually their paths, and those of Lady Sannova and the crew of the Zandani as well, all converge at the holy Quickening Chamber, while Isshu and Raigyo strike off on their own to take the battle to the Hiruken Emperor. Meanwhile, Akiyuki's separated parents struggle with their own relationship against the stressors that surround them. Amidst all of these great events, the ghosts of the past and the destinies of countless lives must get settled.
The second half of Xam'd has been described as a total mess, and while that may not be an entirely fair accusation, neither is it an entirely unwarranted one. Although the series has some ambitious ideas, it ultimately gets so wrapped up in its attempt to deliver the epic feel of earlier BONES series that it gets too complicated for its own good. Think about Eureka 7 scrunched down into 26 episodes with some of its filler content still intact and that should give you a good impression about how Xam'd plays out.
The series' single biggest problem in the second half is that it tries to do too many things at once. At some points it has no less than four different – but somewhat related – plot threads running: one for Sentan Island (which is really subdivided further into what the colonel is doing and what Akiyuki's father is doing), one for Akiyuki, one for Nakiami, and one for the crew of the Zandani, which also soon subdivides into two different groups. Other groups also make brief appearances doing their own things, too. Long-running shonen action series regularly spread themselves this thin because they have the time and space to do so, but here it creates much more of a problem because the wide spread of events prevents viewers from getting an in-depth understanding of anything that is going on. Yes, most of these threads do ultimately converge, but the purpose for their convergence is never entirely clear. The latter stages of the series are best enjoyed if one just gives up trying to figure everything out and goes along for the ride.
There are some good aspects to the storytelling in these episodes, however. The way Akiyuki's parents have a reconciliation of sorts, given everything that has kept them apart, is one of the series' most satisfying aspects. Nakiami's return to her home village, combined with her reflections about how her past motivations have led to her current circumstances, offer perhaps the only case where the series does fully explain itself, and the rescue sequence carried out by the fathers of Akiyuki and Haru has the kind of edge to it which can only be attained in a situation where people who have no business trying to pull off a stunt like that are actually trying to pull off a stunt like that. The series also does succeed in some of its character development aspects and at bringing everything together at the end, even if it doesn't all make sense and never quite achieves the apocalyptic feel that it was aiming for.
The visuals for the series remain sharp throughout this run, with highlights this time including the animation of Furuichi's ever-changing Xam'd form and the battle near the end involving the wonderfully inventively-designed Hiruken Emperor. The Xam'd in Tessik Village also manifests a spectacular alternate form, and the Humanforms in general continue to impress with their distinctive looks. The wealth of visual background detail is still the series' strongest merit, as Bones does a beautiful job here of not only giving settings like Tessik Village their own unique styles but also giving extra character to more ordinary settings; the world they create here, with its diverse flying ships, bioorganic weaponry, and exotic locales, looks like a fascinating place for sight-seeing. The animation only rarely slips up, showing almost none of the minor flaws seen in the first half of the series, and commonly puts some highly active action sequences on display.
At times through this run of episodes the musical score can go a bit overboard, especially when attempting to stress a particularly dramatic scene. It is still normally quite good, however, especially in some of the grand, orchestrated pieces it uses in the late episodes. The great, techno-themed original opener and decent closer used in the first half remain intact throughout this half, too.
Most of the English dub casting decisions and performances in the first half were solid ones, but the second half sees a spottier effort. The nigh-unrecognizable Jessica Boone, using one of her deeper voices, is a good fit in an important role as Kujireika, but Andy McAvin does not fit quite as well as the Hiruken Emperor and some of the bit children parts simply fail; they sound too much like adults straining to sound like kids. There are enough good performances present to balance out the weak ones, however, and the dub script does remain satisfyingly faithful.
Sentai Filmworks has spread the 13 episodes in this set across two disks, with the Extras found on the first disk. These include clean opener and closer for the DVD versions of the episodes and clean versions of the opener and both of the closers for the TV broadcast versions. The menu screen for the second disk also includes a very nice picture of Nakiami dressed in a manner that she never appears in during the series but which has been used in some online advertisements. A Blu-Ray version of the release is also available.
Fantastic visuals and a few strong scenes ultimately elevate this one above the mediocre level, but those are far from enough for this to be reasonably considered a top-tier title. The potential for this one to have been much better is certainly here, but the execution is not.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Animation, background art, a few really strong scenes.
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