Wednesday, 10 July 2013

亡念のザムド / Bounen no Zamudo / Xam’d: Lost Memories

There’s an air of the historically significant about Xam’d. No, not because it’s my first-ever review starting with the letter ‘X’. But – though it’s similarly underwhelming – because it was the first series to premier as a download. Released over the Playstation Network, it was actually made available to American downloaders before Japanese ones, which is curious.

This little footnote lends a little weight to the series, but sadly…well, I’m starting to think of this sort of execution as having ‘Done a Bones’. Bones love making really interesting worlds, with attractive and interesting characters, and then meandering for too long, making things obscure and confusing, then ending the whole thing with a finale on a truly epic scale that couldn’t feel more distant and uninvolving. They are masters of making the apocalypse dull.

What makes it a bit worse here is that…well, basically, they’ve just rehashed Eureka7, but gone ‘What would happen if we replaced Eureka with Nausicaä and Renton with Rock from Black Lagoon?’ It’s not just the look of the thing, it feels like the same sort of journey, with the same sort of annoying made-up guff towards the end.

A young man is involved in some kind of altercation with a strange bio-engineered beast on a bus. Through a sequence of events, he ends up on an airship populated by a very eccentric but loveable crew, including some slightly obnoxious kids, where they go such lengths to deliver letters that a Tegami Bachi would be proud. He tries to fit in there while getting to know the mysterious, knowing girl on board called Nakiami, and discovers about the ‘humanform’, a person with some sort of gem embedded into them that allows them to transform into these monsters – a situation Akiyuki now finds himself in.

The rest of the series is basically about exploring people who have this power and how they use it. I really thought that the series had ended halfway through, when one character turns into a giant face-spider thing and rampages, with Akiyuki saving the day, but there was much more to uncover and a much bigger scale to go to. Of course, by the end, overambitious doctors have released a huge emperor monster-thing to turn everyone to stone with its ‘warm rain’, Akiyuki has gone through a period of having a mask fixed on his face but becomes mega-powerful, Nakiami is some sort of goddess who has lived thousands of years and there is some sort of cult of white-haired people ready to give their lives in a vague sort of purification ritual.

I’m sure that, like Eva, given enough time it could be unfolded and examined and most of it will make sense. But it suffers the same central flaw of Final Fantasy XIII’s story – it throws numerous terms at you (‘Xam’d’, ‘humanform’, ‘Tessikan’, ‘The Quickening Chamber’), which has the cumulative effect of being confusing at first and boring in the end. And without the coming-of-age angle Eureka 7 and Evangelion have, it feels even harder to engage and empathise. Ambitious, no doubt, and very attractive to look at, but sadly has an air about it of trying too hard and recycling older, better ideas. 

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