The problem with writing an anime blog for any length of time is that I’m prone to repeating myself. I’ve had this ache to write about something, anything, over the last month or so, but there are only so many times I can say “this is good, that is bad” without feeling as though I’m running in circles, writing about anime for the sake of being an anime blogger. I don’t want to go down that road, I want this to be like a natural impulse, something that I’m compelled to do by an honest desire to share my enthusiasm with you. Nothing else.
That is why this post exists. I haven’t stopped watching anime, or anything as dramatic as that, it’s just that my mind has been blank. I’ve been waiting for something to shake me out of that apathy, and it turns out that that something is Xam’d: Lost Memories.
It’s not just that the animation is superb, or that the soundtrack is evocative, or even that the characters are great. It’s everything. The world-building, the whimsical adventure, the sudden bursts of brutality. I adore it because it reminds me of Eureka Seven and Nausicaa, that it makes clear nods towards Miyazaki’s synthesis of nature and fantasy, the sweeping landscapes and complex technologies of a strange new world. It’s so nostalgic for me; a story I can’t help but treasure dearly.
I’ve spent this last week navigating my way through all 26 episodes, and even then, I must admit, it has been difficult to follow. Considering its strange terminologies and complex foreign cultures, this has to be the hardest fantasy anime I’ve seen since Seirei no Moribito, and without ever pausing for reflection, it forges ahead breathlessly with the story. There is little time wasted on explanation or flashback, we’re just dropped right in to the centre of a world war and expected to keep up. In its slower moments, characters dream of their past adventures, regret old battles and wistfully sigh over lost loves, but all we have to go on are painful scars, a name or a place. That’s the thing about Xam’d, really, almost as if it has invented its own language, it speaks in riddles and poetry, and like the best of fantasies, it feels deep. One might compare it to a glass of vintage wine, a subtle taste nurtured over years of careful fermentation. Xam’d is a story in a bottle, a history fermented over thousands of years, a bitter-sweet taste.
It’s bitter because there is no easy way to save the world. Things like religion get in the way. Racism, child soldiers and suicide bombings. All of these things lead to tragedy. There is no escaping the fact that a lot of people die in this show; they inflict horrible wounds on each other and die in gruesome ways, and for 26 episodes straight, there is no end to it. Friends become enemies for stupid, petty reasons. Resentment and hatred boil to the surface. There is no logical reason for it, and only chaos that follows it.
Yet, it’s sweet because there are still people around with the heart to smile. Against all the odds, Akiyuki and Haru fall in love and are reunited, while, time and time again, Nakiami throws herself in harms way so that others may live. This one particular scene is stunning; Akiyuki’s mother runs and runs down the street, scraping her bare feet on the pavement, desperate to catch one last glimpse of her departing son.
There’s so much hatred in Xam’d, but so much love too. It’s vibrant and full of life, just look at how it has been drawn, it’s beautiful. Pretty like a fairy tale.
11 replies on “Free skies, and endless land”
Pretty pretty show. Probably one of the best looking shows along side Seirei no Moribito. The soundtrack in particular is just so whimsical and delivers music to my ears, yes music! The biggest reason I’ve fallen in love with this show is because the character designs mirror that of Eureka 7 (one of my personal favorites). Lots of hatred yes, yet it manages to elicit lots of love too. Such is the sign of a great anime, utilizing two opposing emotions without flaunting. That particular scene of Akiyuki’s mother running is quite spectacular and evocative. I’m just glad all characters manage to bloom into well-developed characters, not some cookie-cutter archetypes of a character. I’m glad you’re back off your slump. What better way to make a return with a show truly emitting that magnificence we tend to miss as the ending credits of an unforgettable show start to roll 🙂 Welcome back!
I can’t say whether or not the show was commercially successful, but I do know that every time I went to download it off of the Playstation Network it was consistently in the top 10 overall video downloads in that week, and at the very top of the HD downloads. Paying $4 for a 24 hour rental of a 20 minute show is ridiculous–but Xam’d was so good I never felt I was wasting my money.
I don’t know how well this would have done if it aired on television normally, without having Sony being the sole sponsor of the production. But I’m glad it came out the way it did, and turned out how it did.
I can’t recall where I read this, but apparently a good chunk of Dennou Coil’s staff worked on Xam’d too. There was a looooot of running in Dennou Coil. They’re good at running 😛 ‘Running Barefoot’ was also one of my favourite sequences in the show.
Akiyuki’s parents and Prois (Kakisu’s blonde assistant) were my favourite characters. One of the lines that sticks out in my memories comes from Prois, in the remark she makes after Haru and Midori’s father slaps her for saying her father didn’t care about her (or something). Requires a lot more context than that if you haven’t seen it, but her short response of “If only that were true” had more weight and meaning than any flashback could have had at that point.
@Ivy: Kindest regards for the welcome back! I knew you’d agree with me 🙂 The of autumn season of 2008 was awesome. Xam’d, Michiko to Hatchin and Casshern Sins are all right up there in the year’s best for me, which I’m hoping to write sometime in April. Maybe. Either way, I’m marathoning my way through much of the anime I’d put on hold through the winter months and there’s some seriously great stuff just finishing up.
@JKTrix: To be honest, there are too many great scenes to mention. This post could have easily doubled in size; I think you’ve definitely named a couple of ones there. The huge battle in the last couple of episodes should merit some real attention too, I loved the way it was drawn. It was effectively epic and cinematic, like Escaflowne and Rahxephon, very dark and apocalyptic. I would have loved more attention on Kakisu and Prois, too; they were fascinating and complicated.
As for whether or not the show made enough money, I’m not sure? I’m sure a lot of people who would otherwise be downloading the fansubs of Xam’d may have rented it from the PSN instead? That’s got to be some extra money right there, surely?
Anyway, I’ve always wondered how an anime series like Xam’d fares in Japan; it’s obviously not an ‘otaku’ series, so it isn’t as discussed online as the more ‘fan friendly’ stuff, but I’m sure a more general TV audience would find it more entertaining than the average episode of Clannad? Maybe Bones are looking to make their money back overseas? I should think that it’s perfect for airing on TV in the US, etc?
Xam’d is one of my infinite number of series and stuff on my to watch list. +_+
I didn’t want to read all the post because of the fear of eventual spoilers, but i liked the first paragraph and sentence, since it’s similar to some thoughts i have regarding what i will write about soon. I’m currently thinking about Casshern Sins, that i finished last week, and preparing to write something about it. Unsure if i will have words to describe the feelings of another great series, but i will just let myself go. :p
The more time I spend away from Xam’d the more I find to criticize, namely that I felt it never formed into a fully cohesive narrative. The war and the reasons for it were murky at best, certain plot lines never really went anywhere (like Midori’s transformation) and the end tore at my heartstrings but didn’t do enough to explain the why or the how of anything.
Still, your post has reminded me that while I was watching Xam’d I loved just about every single minute of it. The beautiful animation, the Ghibli and Eureka Seven homages, the characters’ relationships with each other and just certain atmospheric moments – a memory bathed in the warm glow of sunlight or Nakiami frantically running through the snow in search of Yango.
I guess I have some problems with the storytelling and ending but I still find it hard not to love Xam’d for all the reasons you mentioned in this post. I hope Masayuki Miyaji goes on to direct something else, I’d like to see what he does next.
For me Xam’d highlights how my approach to viewing has changed a bit in recent months – where I used to pick apart and analyse things I now go more on gut instinct when judging them. I’ve always loved atmospheric pieces but a more passive approach rather than reading between the lines appeals to my increasingly lazy viewing habits!
This meant that, although there were avenues that weren’t followed up such as side-characters or unexplained background details, still loved this series. I guess I could’ve allowed myself to be distracted by minor details and inconsistencies but letting the emotional aspect of the series carry me along was rewarding enough for me. The fact that it did indeed feel like a collision of Nausicaa and Eureka Seven didn’t hurt either!
The distribution methods for this show were interesting in themselves – I think Bones and Sony could really be onto something in terms of a compromise between cash-strapped creators and impatient viewers.
Great article, as expected of bateszi.
For me Xam’d was a fine, enjoyable experience, but nothing extraordinary. My initial approach certainly is partly to blame for that. Before watching I only heard good things about the series so my expectations were unreasonably high.
The second reason is the plot. As much as I was satisfied with the first couple of episodes, the more I watched the more disappointment creeped in. Somehow the story felt disjointed and inconsequent. I couldn’t feel a strong attachment to any of the characters since their problems seemed a bit distant and fake.
This doesn’t mean I think Xam’d is bad, because it clearly stands out in the average crowd and the superb animation is not the only reason for that. It just doesn’t have the qualities I was expecting it to have. On a side note, it seems I am getting more and more picky when it comes to anime. Must be getting old 😉
@bateszi: I’m kind of curious regarding Michiko to Hatchin. How’s that coming for you? To be honest I found it to be boring and repetitive – I watched it till episode 10 or so and then dropped the series..
I’ve spent this last week navigating my way through all 26 episodes
Quite a lot to take in. Still wish it would have run for ~50 episodes ^^
@Azelpds: I love Casshern Sins too. It’s one of those series that, every time I watch it, I feel utterly compelled to write about it, so I’ve been avoiding it for a few weeks in order to catch my breath! Anyway, I just looked at your blog and see you’ve posted something about it– great stuff! 🙂
@Lbrevis: Thanks, and I do share some of your other feelings on it too. I wish it was 52 episodes. There was so much more to explore. Alas, I suspect it was simply too expensively animated and too ‘straight’ a story (i.e. no toys to sell) to stretch that far.
Still, it’s amazing to think Masayuki Miyaji was a first time director, but looking at his(her?) ANN encyclopedia entry, I can’t help but wonder if he was another prodigy of Studio Ghibli that, for whatever reason, went in a different direction; another Mamoru Hosada in the making? Fingers crossed.
@Martin: I tend to go on my gut instinct a lot of the time too. As long as a series is nicely animated and has a good soundtrack, I’ll stick around. Obviously, I loved this unreservedly, in fact so much so that I’m making excuses for its failings. I really fell for the characters and quite often, that’s all it takes for me to love a story. This had me from the first to the last.
@Johny: Thanks, and fair enough. I remember you tend to be a bit more critical of anime than me (Gurren Lagann comes to mind 🙂 ) and Xam’d certainly isn’t perfect, but like I said to Martin above, this was never a series I could be objective about. I just love fantasy anime, I guess!
As for Michiko to Hatchin, I’ve found it a bit uneven so far, probably because I haven’t really worked out exactly what it’s trying to do, sometimes it seems really superficial and empty, but other times, exciting and cool, sometimes it even feels like I’m watching ‘NANA’ or something. There’s a really exciting car chase in episode 13 and a brooding hold-up in episode 11; any of the episodes involving the gangster Satoshi are great, but otherwise, I’ve yet to feel much of anything about the characters. I’m hoping to do a write up of it for this weekend, so, more then 😉
@Ryan A: Indeed. It’s begging for another season or two, but I suspect the ‘money men’ might have something to say about that 🙁
[…] but I’m still playing catch up with a lot of last year’s finest. Last week it was Xam’d, and this week it’s Michiko e Hatchin and […]
I just finished this anime today,it’s actually the first series i finish in quite a while and it only took me two days to finish it,i guess it is also thanks to the unusual weather,it does not stop raining,but lately i have only been reading manga and i am glad to have found a anime i enjoyed watching so much.
There is not much to say about the production values of this show,the animation is superb,i loved the music too,it’s as good as anime can get.As for the story i can’t really decide,it’s unique it pays attention to details and i can’t say it i did not enjoy it.The drama during the 1st part was very good,Furuichi was a great character,i might have hated him at times but i found his role to be very important and i never though his death would actually have had an impact on me,but the creators of this anime managed to impress me when i saw his death scene,of course there are many other great scenes and Furuichi’s death is just one of them.
What problems does this anime have? Probably only one that is really worth mentioning,the length,i felt like the last few episodes were a bit rushed and neither the conflicts between the characters had the same impact on me compared to the 1st part,still i would say the ending is satisfying as it did give us a feeling of closure for most of the characters.
Anyway,glad to have watched this anime and the only regret i have with this one is that is was not longer.