salinea: (Default)
Xam'd : Lost Memories aka Bounen no Xamdou aka Bounen no Zamned aka fuck that shit, it's got too many names



Akiyuki is an ordinary highschool boy living on the quiet Sentan island along with his separated parents, and his two best friends Haru (female) and Furuichii (male), when someday he helps a mysterious white haired girl trump the security to get on their bus for school. During the trip, Sentan Island is attacked by the Northern Empire by using Humanforms (= magibiotech weapon that transform ordinary people into huge rampaging monsters with flashy colours) and the white haired girl has their bus explode and puts a Hiroki in Akiyuki's arm that makes him into a Xam'd, a smaller scale rampaging monster who starts fighting with the Humanform, causing much damage to the city. Haru runs after him to help him, without success, until a mysterious girl (another one), Nakiami (aka 'Second Coming of Nausicaa'), shows up, gets Akiyuki to turn back into a human and then kidnaps him onto.... the Postal airship where she lives on, hoping to teach Akiyuki to control his Xam'd ability so he doesn't turn into stone and die. Meanwhile, the Southern country already at war with the Northern country allies itself with Sentan island and sends military forces there as well as a team of researchers into Humanform technology.

Xam'd is a show with excellent production values, awesome characterisation, compelling drama and a story that doesn't make much sense at all.

The character design is lovely and vivid, the animation ranges from excellent to stunning, and the soundtrack is wonderful. I also loved both generics, Boom Boom Satellite who made the OP music is my new favourite band ♥

There are a lot of characters, and the story doesn't shy away from developing and giving their own agency to characters who could have seen as fairly minor or secondary. Akiyuki's parents are fairly well developed for example (and pretty damn awesome), so is Haru's sister and most of the characters on board of the postal ship. This throws up the story in a lot of interesting, complicated directions although it's also what made the story lose its focus. The main cast is also very endearing : Akiyuki despite beint your ordinary young male lead has a sympathetic personnality you can relate with and is willing to learn and grow very easily. Nakiyami, being Nausicaa Lite, is of course fairly awesome, determined and strong, empathetic, and very much badass. Haru despite being in the designated Love Interest role is a fairly interesting character with a lot of agency and backbone. However sometimes characterisation intersected with the WTF-ness of the plot in ways that were odd and disappointing, concluding a character arc in unsatisfactory ways or making some of them rather inconsistent.



The world building remained a little bit too vague and kitchen-sink-y trough most of the story. On the one hand there's the way they drop so many kind of elements in there : highschool students, aircrafts, a war, magitek and biomecha and what nots in ways that felt very... video games-y? I dunno, it didn't feel like there were much consistency to it, especially since there were very little exposition or explanation, and the underlying mythology that bears the story was very much confused and near-ununderstandable (still not sure there was actually something to understand). Despite this, thanks to the quality of the animation and soundtrack, it's very vivid and awe-inducing.

The plot meanders in weird ways. With good dramas, so I can't say I was ever bored or not enjoying myself, but in ways that are utterly baffling at times. Where do they go with it? Who are the antagonists? Who are the protagonists? What are the sides of the war? Exactly what roles do the Tessik, the token Magical Discriminated against people (that Nakiami belongs to), play in this and what is their past? Who are the white haired children and how are they related to the Tessik and what is their plan? Who does the Postal Ship work for exactly and do they have a mission asides from mailing stuff which explains how badass they are? I'm not really sure what's the answer to most of those questions after watching the show. I'm not sure there is one.

As a result, the themes aren't much clear or well developed either, there's a nice compassionate heart to it, where killing people/creatures that were once people is seen as bad/sad. There's a nice motif of letters / communication which is kind of cool if fairly aimless. And some more vague stuff about how war affect a population. And how embittered discriminated minorities shouldn't succumb to rage and stuff -_-;. And some disability fail which was fairly wtf x_x. So yeah, nothing great on the theme front.

One of the thing that amused me about that show was many of the similarities it's got with Eureka 7, another Bones show which I dropped after watching more than half of it. One of the thing I disliked about Eureka 7 was how tight the focus was on the main idiotic male character, and how other characters relate to him (and his family), with the large cast of otherwise cool characters having very little agency - Xam'd shows the flaw of going the opposite way, although I still like it better that way (at least Xam'd doesn't take more than 15 episodes before it first passes the Bechdel test, for example, and some of the female character's story in Xam'd aren't about male characters at all *gasp*). Of course another advantage Xam'd has is that its main character isn't utterly stupid. I assume Eureka had, in the end, a much better mythology/world and more consistent story and worthy ending though I never got up to that, based on how many people like the series.

In the end, I found Xam'd to be a very enjoyable show at the I was watching it, but when I think twice about it, I am disappointed by the waste of potential that a show with such gorgeous production value and promising characters ended up with.
salinea: (Default)
I've watched so many series last year, I think I'm going to make a separate post for the liveaction shows.

The Awesome
Natsume Yuujinchou (S1&2): The very good adaptation of one of my favourite fantastique shoujo manga. Here's hoping to a third season!
Mononoke: Gorgeous art and chilling historical horror at its best.
Michiko e Hatchin: Action road movie series about a young badass orphan girl and a female gangster on the run in Brazil of some years back. This one really caught my heart.
Black Lagoon (S1&2): Comparable to Michiko e Hatchin with original setting and many badass female characters, this one has slightly less "heart" and compensates for it with gonzo action & dark existential musings.
Mushishi: Sublime historical supernatural cases stories!
Baccano!: Tarantinesque action & narrative deconstruction meet alchemical immortality in the 30's. Woohoo!
Aoi Hana: High school f/f romance & slice of life at its best, served by beautiful animation.
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0: Poignant catastrophe story.

The Good
Shion no Ou: Murder mystery meets Japanese Chess series, excellent plotting served by a break neck pacing.
Spice and Wolf (S1&2): Fantasy with a focus on economics & the relationship between a wandering merchant and a trickster wolf goddess.
Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood (on going): A pretty good adaptation of an excellent manga series; after a few clumsy first episodes it really took its strides and really delivered in the high points of the storytelling so far.
Ghost Hunt: Extremely solid supernatural case stories with endearing regular characters.
Ghost Hound: Horror & mystery series with a great creepy atmosphere and excellent characterisation.
Kodomo no Omocha (on going): An adorable and very funny old shoujo series (from the 90's) about an hyperactive ten years old child actress and her day to day life. I've been stuck in the middle of this one because I couldn't find good subtitled version of the episodes after ep 40 ;_;
Taishou Yakyuu Musume: Adorable and well crafted comedy series about a female baseball team in the 20's.
Le Chevalier d'Eon: Swashbuckling meets alchemical zombies meets esoteric conspiracies meets genderfuck in 18th century Europe.
Sasameki Koto: Well crafted High school comedy & f/f romance with very endearing characters.
Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann: Reconstruction of the mecha genre. Even for someone like me who rather hates the genre this show is a love letter too, this series stood out as pretty awesome and communicative in enthusiasm.
Towards the Terra: Epic old school space opera with psychic powers.

The Okay
Ristorante Paradiso: One of the two series I finished watching this year which I failed to write a review of (oops). A slice of life show around a restaurant in Rome which focus on, err, fetishizing old men with glasses. I'm a bit at a loss about what to say about it, it's no unpleasant to watch and rather refreshing in its originality, but it was strongly lacking in plot and characterisation.
Kazemakase Tsukikake Ran (on going): A female samurai and a female kung fu warrior wander Japan and fight crime injustice. I'm only 2 episodes from the ending. It's a rather charming chambara show despite some weakness of the episodic plots and the way the sidekick is mostly used as the butt monkey of the story.
Requiem for the Phantom: Noir story about assassins, a little bit overdone and with some flaws, but still decent enough overall in terms of story and characters.
Rental Magica (on going): I'm halfway through this urban fantasy stories about a team of Magicians for hire. Pretty slim characterisation and plots, but the magical system is interesting at least.

The Mediocre
Kannazuki no Miko: Mecha & magical girl series plagued by a horrible lead and trying too hard for fetish tropes.
Daughter of 20 Faces: Great female Phantom Thief premise undercut by terrible storytelling.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya S2: Repetitive sequel :p (worst time loop story ever)

Mixed Feelings ones
Ayakashi: Japanese Ghost Stories: Classical horror stories anthology of very uneven qualities.
Sayonara Zetsubuou Sensei (S1&S2): The other anime series I finished watching (well, up to the season season at least) which I failed to review. Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is tough to describe... imagine South Park with better art and more fanservice? Dark&morbid humour, parody, puns & gorgeous animation meet in a crackful fest around the class of the weirdest high school students of Japan and their suicidal teacher. First season is pretty good (if frequently offensive), but the second loses most of its charm and originality.
Bakemonogatori (on going): Interesting graphics and supernatural cases stories but undermined by harem dynamics & disturbing fanservice.
Kemonozume: Weird supernatural love story with a dark and ironic atmosphere. Pretty good up through the surrealist ending. Gets prop for originality and art.
Simoun: Steampunk war story in a genderfucked world; a great setting and characterisation but too many flaws of pacing and storytelling.
Spiral: It's hard to decide if a mystery focussed series is good or bad WHEN THERE IS NO ENDING! (grrr)

The ones I dropped
Fate/Stay Night: Contemporary magical tournament for the Graal of teams of one Magician and one Heroes of Legend servant. So many bad sides to this one... a terrible lead character, annoying harem dynamics, bad graphism and animation. On the other hand one of the female lead is made of awesome and has great snarky interaction with her own servant. In the end i gave it up when I read some spoilers about more of the world/story. It's just... not my kind of stuff.
Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji: A very weird series about a desperate loser taking part in gambling tournaments in hope of winning enough money to repay his debts. Very idiosyncratic in style, so it gets prop for originality and for trying for interesting themes about the darkness of human nature and hope one can have nevertheless; although the pacing was sometimes very annoying and oddly enough has zero female characters. I dropped it because I'm depressed enough in my life, I don't need a show to increase my anxiety level. XD
Eureka Seven: Surfing mecha shows. Pretty intriguing setting and overall story, but I got annoyed by the lead - obligatory 14 year old boy - and how everything in the story is focussed on him and his romance with obligatory Emotionless girl, and all the relatively cool secondary characters only get to play peanut gallery to his antics. Bad pacing too.
Kemono no Souja Erin: Coming of age fantasy. Dropped it after 6 episodes because it seemed to much built as a children show; but with the superlative reviews I've seen of it lately, I think I'll probably pick it up again.

The not sure yet
Ergo Proxy (on going): Post apocalyptic/cyberpunk mystery. I'm a bit more than halfway through and it's a pretty interesting stories if a bit tough to get into at first. My final opinion will depend a lot of the ending and how it resolves of the mystery, but it'll probably be at least "good".
Legend of Galactic Heroes (on going): Very old, very epic, and very long Space Opera drama series. I'm in the middle of S2 on a total of 4 seasons (not counting the movies and side stories). It's really good, with excellent characters, plotting and political intrigue and battle scenes, with most of the flaws I can blame on the age of the series (mid 80s to early 90s).
Bokurano (on going): Deconstruction of the humongous mecha genre, with a lot of death and character exploration. It's been pretty good so far, although I'll need to compare it to the manga sometimes.
Kobato (on going): CLAMP's latest slice of life/supernatural adaptation. Cute and pretty pleasant to watch so far.
Armed Librarians of Bantorra (on going): Action/mystery series in a weird diesel punk world where everyone leaves a "book" (a stone tablet than can be read by touch) behind them when they die. So far I have mixed feelings: animation is pretty bad and characters are somewhat clicheed but the storytelling has been pretty good and the setting is intriguing.
Aoi Bungaku (on going): Anthology adaptation of Japanese Literature classics. So far what I've seen has been stylistically awesome, but the source material is seldom to my taste.

NB:
- on going means I'm still in the process of watching it, not that it's still being broadcasted. Although, in some cases, it is still being broadcasted.
- Links go to my reviews of the series, when I made one




Total series: 41 (well shit)
Best series overall: Mushishi
Best Male Lead: Natsume
Best Female Lead: Michiko
Best Art/Character Design: Mononoke
Best Animation: Baccano!
Best Plot: Baccano!
Best Storytelling: Mushishi
Best Soundtrack: Mushishi

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