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DVD Review

DVD cover

Xam'd: Lost Memories
Collection 2


Starring (voice): Atsushi Abe, Fumika Orikasa and Yuko Sanpei
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 12
Available 05 September 2011

Akiyuki isn't the only one who's become possessed by the mysterious power that is Xam'd. Seems his friend Furuichi is also filled with the dangerous energy, but while Akiyuki tries to harness it, his friend seems hell-bent on letting the Xam'd control his every dangerous move...

Part two of Xam'd picks up directly with the first season's cliffhanger ending, as the resentment and jealousy felt by Furuichi over his best friends' enduring romantic feelings for one another boils over into a surprisingly nasty confrontation, the grotesque physical transmutations so often representative of repressed feelings in anime here displayed in the series' typically inventive fashion. It's a drama that's resolved in unexpectedly short order, though, in a twist that throws aside the promised unifying of the series' plot strands, instead sending the three main protagonists off on entirely separate paths.

The episodes that follow are some of the best in the whole of Xam'd, as Akiyuki descends into a bizarre interlude of identityless wandering, Haru is forced to confront the revolting scientific developments in the corrupt military unit she serves, and Nakiami sets a course for her long-abandoned home. This last storyline is perhaps the best handled: forced by circumstances to give up her role as aeronaut and gaining an unexpected travelling companion (an obnoxious street urchin, portrayed slightly more subtly than typically seen in anime), Nakiami's eventual reunion with her outcast people is convincingly fraught with conflict and compromise. It's an unfortunate reflection on the series' planning that these episodes benefit greatly from the reduced screen time given to the crew of the postal ship that dominated the first season, a group of characters without much charm or direction - once more, a comparison with Studio Bones' earlier triumph Eureka Seven that would seem unfair if the series itself didn't attempt to trade on its predecessor's success.

The final episodes of necessity bring all of the conflicts and mysteries throughout the series to a head, and while some stories are better resolved than others - the series' earlier reluctance to flesh out its mythology means than much of the exposition in these episodes feels rushed - the shadowy Hiruken Emperor revealed at the climax is a memorable monstrosity. The obscure elements of Shinto myth that inspired this character and the cult that surrounds him are so interesting that it's worth considering how much more rewarding Xam'd would have been if it had attempted to explore established mythologies rather than devise sketchily conceived new ones. With all that, though, the sacrifices the characters endure in the name of saving the world feel authentically hard-fought, and while the series' ending shares familiar elements with older shows - without wishing to spoil unduly, both Gunbuster 2 and El-Hazard have similar resolutions - it at least makes sense and feels emotionally satisfying, two things that TV anime endings often seem to find it difficult to manage.

Ultimately Xam'd is an odd series: with a far higher budget and profile than seem fitting for such an oblique and - by the standards of today's anime - experimental show, it seems unfair to give it the clichéd label of flawed-but-interesting. It certainly lacks the joy and release of Eureka Seven, and the characters, while sophisticatedly drawn, are rather too solemn to be loveable. Xam'd may be doomed to obscurity, but if you're in the mood for anime that doesn't make easy choices and prefers to spend time developing its characters rather than throw them into silly comedy or contrived conflicts, it's worth sticking with to the end.


Richard Hunt

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