To celebrate the Playstation Network Video service, studio Bones created Xam’d. Being an exclusive headline show it went all out on the animation and art front, giving us a cross between Studio Ghibli and Eureka Seven. Hard to think of a better combination. Xam’d is finally out over here on DVD, felt like an eternity and the years waiting have changed my original opinion on the show. People turning into crazy mecha creatures, but focusing more on human natures and interaction? What’s going on here? Something beautiful is what.
The tale of Xam’d is very complicated. War terms, characters and other terminology is thrown at the viewer constantly, making for a hard to approach and very confusing show. But to take the core action, Xam’d is about a group of terrorists exploding in numerous parts of the world. When this happens the strange mecha creatures, Humanforms appear to cause trouble and the other strange similar looking type of creature, the Xam’d, is birthed. The different between a Humanform and a Xam’d seems to be that the Humanforms are controlled by a person nearby, while a Xam’d is a person transforming completely into the creature. The show doesn’t really outright tell you this is the case, but it does seem to be the general idea, I think.
Our main character, Akiyuki, is transformed into one after a bus explosion, then saved by mysterious girl, Nakiami, who take shim to a flying postal ship full of bright and colourful characters. He goes about learning the truth of his form, while his parents and friends are left in the war zone to worry sick over him. The story switches between his buddies, divorced parents and his own adventures which make a tale full of plot strands to get to grips with. Initially confusing, eventually rewarding as everything pieces together in perfect form. Most anime glosses over the parents lives, but here their concerns, daily lives and concerns over their son make some of the most heartwarming and emotional scenes in the series. Despite a rather crazy and annoying electronica Engrish opening, the show is very much a mature tale for adults.
As a teenager I loved that opening though, and felt the show could do with more fight scenes. In the thirteen episodes most of the action is minor or short, though all carrying amazing animation which makes the motions of everything incredibly lifelike. Now when I watch it, I appreciate it isn’t just dumping fight scene after fight scene on us, and the tale of Akiyuki discovering himself is far more interesting than non stop action. Xam’d is centered on war, but the sheer scale of the war is kept largely in the background. Instead we see the characters living through the war, people the show has managed to inject great realism into thanks to excellent dialogue and animation.
In the crew everyone feels unique and the dialogue while sometimes coming across a little pretentious, mainly when they talk in metaphors on life, can be very much blunt and lacking in telling us everything. Which is a good thing of course. The captain of the ship is a beautiful woman, but one who swears, locks herself away, drinks, attacks crewmates, but has a subtle soft side we see now and then. With all these traits she becomes a character who no longer feels like a two-dimensional drawing. The same goes for most of the cast.
Collection 1 deals with the set up, Akiyuki’s life on the postal ship and how his two best friends sign up to the army to get over his absence. His best female friend Haru is deeply in love with him and while she at first wants to seek him out, ends up pushing him out of his life to move on. Meanwhile his best male friend, Furuichi, is sick with envy over Akiyuki and desperately wants Haru’s attention. He ends up turning into a man we must all avoid following. The story of the three is what really pulls the story along and the evil cliffhanger between the three make collection 2 a necessity rather than a desire to see. Xam’d may focus more on characters, but these characters in the beautiful fictional world make it a compulsive watch.