Interesting idea, but it tries to be too many things and ends up being none of them
What They Say:
Set on a peaceful island during a violent terrorist attack, a young boy is suddenly transformed into a metal-cased mercenary. But with this great power comes even greater danger. Akiyuki must discover how to master this remarkable new power – or risk having this mysterious fusion of rock, metal and magic destroy him!
Contains episodes 1-26.
For this viewing, I took in the English 5.1 dub. In a nice change, the Japanese track is also available in 5.1. Dialogue stayed centered, but there was some nice left/right and front/back directionality with the sound effects, which played out well in battle scenes. Unfortunately, much of the series is dialogue driven, so it didn’t take as much advantage of the mix as it could, but it was nice when it did.
Visually, this is a nice series. The colors are bright and distinct, and the lining is clean. There were some really impressive visuals during the fight scenes, though I did note some soft focus in the quieter scenes. It wasn’t particularly distracting, though, and there were no other technical flaws that I noticed.
This release is four discs which comes in a STACKpack. If you’ve read any of my reviews before, you know how much I abhor STACKpacks. There is helpfully a piece of foam placed in the case to help prevent the discs from sliding around too much, but I still hate the whole setup and wish Sentai would stop using them. Artwise, the case has a nice look, with Akiyuki featured on the front and a Xam’d Furuichi along the back. With all of the red and sharp angles, it looks very dramatic and fits the series well. But I just can’t get past the STACKpack.
As with most DVDs, the menus for this release are simple, but functional. The background is red/pink with a picture of one of the main characters set to the right (I particularly like the picture of Nakiami on the fourth disc). The selections stand out well along white bars set in down the left hand side. There’s no animation here, but the design is clean and easy to discern, and that’s what matters.
Other than clean versions of the OP/ED, there are no extras
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Akiyuki Takehara is a normal boy living on an island paradise. Sure, the island was still suffering from a security lockdown due to a recent war, but otherwise, he has a good life going to school and hanging out with his two best friends: Haru and Furuichi. The have dreams of a great life together, and only the densest of people can’t see the love blossoming between Akiyuki and Haru.
But this tranquility is wrecked when Akiyuki helps a stranger board their school bus one morning who turns out to be a terrorist. The bus is blown up, and in the ensuing confusion, Akiyuki is given a stone by the stranger that embeds itself in his arm. Before he knows what is happening, Akiyuki transforms into a Xam’d: a monstrous life form that have long been the enemy of humans. With the help of the mysterious Nakiami, he is able to protect Haru from any further harm, but his condition forces him to go into hiding on board the mail airship that Nakiami calls home and begin a journey to create a new era of understanding among nations.
Xam’d: Lost Memories is a series that on its surface has a really interesting premise. It has a little bit of everything: politics, war, family, love, science, and mysticism, with a decent amount of action thrown in. However, in this case, it ends up being a bit of a catch-22 as it tries to do far too much and ends up doing a whole lot of nothing. There is just too much going on to really get a proper handle on any of it.
In terms of story arcs, we have Akiyuki’s story to find his place in the world as a Xam’d, Nakiyami’s journey to help the Xam’d and end their suffering, Haru’s journey to become a stronger person and find Akiyuki again, Akiyuki’s father’s journey to make peace with his past and find his son (not to mention get back together with Akiyuki’s mother), etc, etc. I’ve skipped quite a few (I didn’t even touch the mail ship!), but I think you might have the idea. Individually, each of these stories could have been rich and fascinating, but together, there is too much going on and they are all shorted.
This really comes into play in the ending. I had a hard time getting into this series because it didn’t stay still long enough for me to really get a handle on any particular aspect, but I was actually interested in seeing how it all played out by the time we got to the end. It was an interesting feeling considering that as late as the 21st or 22nd episode, I was still (at best) on the fence about the whole thing.
And in the end? I really like how the story was resolved in terms of what the actual outcome was. The problem is that nothing is really explained. There are outcomes, but it all seems kind of arbitrary as to how they came about. It just speaks to the larger problem of there being way too many storylines, and none of them being given enough time to develop. Now, I suppose it’s possible that I am just missing something and that meaning is buried in its mysticism and symbolism and possible a few other –isms, but I don’t think I am really missing much. I can make educated guesses as to why things happened the way they did, but I also think it should be discernable. I don’t mind having to put things together, but I had to make too many leaps in logic to put the things together.
Now, this isn’t to say this series is all bad. The benefit of having so many intertwining storylines is that I really loved a lot of the characters. While the plots might be lacking, the characterization is pretty strong, and that saves it in a lot of way (at least, it does for me). Akiyuki works well as the main protagonist, especially since he doesn’t fall into the trap of being a whiny coward like many in his situation are. Nakiami shows some great growth as she seeks to come to terms with what is supposed to be her fate, and Akiyuki’s parents are just tremendous. In fact, the only character I really had a hard time coming to terms with was Toujiro Kakisu, the Sentan Island Commander, and that was more due to not being able to get a grasp on his motivations more than anything.
By far, my favorite character is Akiyuki’s love interest: Haru. With the possible exception of Nakiami, Haru shows the most growth throughout the series (in fact, if Xam’d: Lost Memories is good at anything, it’s strong female characters). When we start out, she is just a typical high school girl who is helpless during the terrorist attack and when Akiyuki is taken away. But her desire to find him leads her to joining the military to learn to be a stronger person, which she does to the point of not being afraid to desert her post when she realizes that her wishes do not coincide with the military’s.
By the time all is said and done, she has learned to handle herself in combat, has faced down her supervisors, journeyed alone through the world to find Akiyuki, and helps him find himself so that he can finish the job put in front of him. Without her, he fails. And through it all, she never loses who she is and never conforms to what others want her to be. Sure, she gets help along the way, but it is her own determination and will in the face of impossible odds that allows her to succeed.
Unfortunately, though, as much as I loved Haru (and the rest of the cast), it’s just not enough to save the otherwise lacking plot. I don’t know if I would have been happy if I had another 26 episodes to sit through, but I do feel like this is a situation where if they really wanted to pull off everything they try to pull off, they would have been better off doing 52 episodes. Every storyline needed more time to properly germinate and give the desired effect for the ending, for clarity if nothing else.
Xam’d: Lost Memories has a great cast and presents a lot of interesting ideas. Unfortunately, the execution of those ideas is lacking. It certainly wasn’t awful, but I definitely wanted much more out of it than it gave me. It really is a situation where it tries to do so much that it ends up not doing enough. I don’t want to say that you shouldn’t watch it, because the cast is great and there are quite a few terrific moments, but it’s a situation where the whole is much less than the sum of the parts, so I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to watch it either. And it’s a shame, because I really wanted to love it more than I did. Thumbs in the middle.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation.
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: F
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: February 7, 2012
Running Time: 650 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System