Xam'd Collection 1 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, September 21, 2010
A bold technical design can’t quite completely cover up a lack of story details being given but can still provide an entertaining ride.
What They Say
When a young boy on a peaceful island becomes the victim of a terrorist attack, he transforms into Xam'd, a powerful mecha capable of extreme power. Now he must discover the depth of his power, and the role he plays in a world where metal and rock meet flesh, desire, and destiny. Strap yourself in to the amazing anime that is Xam'd!
The English and Japanese audio tracks on this release are both presented in 5.1. For the purpose of this review the Japanese track was used. The mix is a very good one that primarily uses the front speakers for the majority of the dialogue and softer parts but the back speakers and woofer really kick in to add some richness and depth to the sound when needed. This mix also works wonderfully for the openings and closings and the audio is a shining gem for this release.
The video doesn’t fair as well on the DVD release. Noise, ugly dot crawl, color bleed and minor ghosting are all problems that present themselves to a degree or another in the release. While a bit distracting the colors are rich and vivid and can cause the flaws to seem less noticeable and aren’t dampened by any of them. One additional problem that isn’t major is that is that English credits shown after the Japanese closing are a bit of a jerky mess. On the positive side it does retain its 16:9 Anamorphic release which helps the presentation greatly.
The front cover shows the Akiyuki-Xam’d carrying a panicked looking Haru. The background is a primarily reddish-brown with a white bar near the bottom with the logo placed in it. The back contains a shot of Akiyuki putting on a very colorful jacket with a large gear silhouette that has the box copy inside set against a grey background. Also present are eight stills from the series.
The menu on the first disc uses the picture of Akiyuki from the back cover against a red-brown background on the right and on the left a large gear with the episodes, languages and special features as selectable choices within. The Boom Boom Satellites open plays in the background. The second disc replaces Akiyuki with a picture of Haru sitting down brushing her hair with her hand wearing a very colorful summer ensemble with the opening theme present again. The menus are quick to respond and the selections are highlighted very nicely leaving no doubt as to what is being chosen.
The extras on this release are two clean openings (original on-air and DVD) and two clean closings (on-air and DVD) from the series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The series introduces the viewer into a world at war. Two world powers are fighting each other though the residents of Sentan Island largely are directly unaffected by the war in their day to day lives. Additionally for the main character Akiyuki he also has to deal with a cold war of sorts being waged among his parents. Life largely is peaceful for the young lad until he performs an act of charity to help out a young girl.
Unfortunately this act puts him at the center of a terrorist attack that injures many of his school mates and leaves him with him infected with a spirit that turns him into a creature called a human form weapon. During this initial period a military group invades to contain the weapon using their own human form weapon that they have cultivated. The two powerful beings wage war with each other until the arrival of a young woman named Nakiami.
The woman saves Akiyuki from being turned into stone and returns with him to the postal ship she calls home to try to train Akiyuki in the hope he can make peace with the creature now sharing his body so they can both live rather than be turned to stone. The postal ship is commanded by a stern woman of no small temper who is not interested in having a free loader on board and puts Akiyuki to work where he learns he will be stuck for the next six months training with Nakiami.
While this is going on his friend Haru tries to discover what has happened to him as she was rendered unconscious right after the human form fight. As she bounces between his concerned parents she reveals a level of her caring for Akiyuki. After the attack the military has closed down transportation on the island and Haru and Akiyuki’s other friend Furuichi join the military. Haru joins in the hope that she can chase after Akiyuki whereas Furuichi joins for his own reasons but with a dedication and drive Haru doesn’t understand.
Their training will teach them to fight human form weapons and also give some insight into their development. These experiences will play a large role in their development and may wind up changing them in ways they can’t even guess at from the start. What this means for their and Akiyuki’s relationship will slowly be revealed and may lead to another level of conflict between friends.
As the story progresses Akiyuki is placed into situations where he learns more about the Xam’d he carries within while also coming into conflict with other human form weapons and Nakiami’s views on them. As Akiyuki travels with the postal ship he sees that conflicts are not limited to just armies as he witnesses Nakiami running into the remains of the tribe she belonged to and others whose lives were touched by the human form weapons. Sadly the course for him will not get any easier as the paths that he is on will cross with the paths others have taken and not all conflicts can end peacefully.
Xam’d is a gorgeous work on the surface level. There is a depth to the colors and designs that help it stand out well. It also boasts a solid soundtrack, really catchy open and closings and a solid 5.1 track. The world is interesting and there is a large variety to the appearance of the human form weapons. On the downside the world is set up in a way that makes it very complex but the story reveals little of the world going on. The world has a “lived in feel” where the rules are established and characters abide by them but that the rules are an understood. A lot of the world remains unexplained and of the explanations to be found they often have to be either parsed out or inferred from events. It has the unfortunate consequence of making it harder to connect with some of the characters and events and undercutting its goal of making characters relatable. Also for better or worse the series was produced by the same studio that created Eureka 7 and the strong subtly similarities can produce an odd disconnect that draws one out of the story and can cause one to feel this material is familier.
Xam’d part one is a beautiful technical achievement in sound and animation that should have the ability to stand up well years from now. The story however may wind up one that manages to undercut its ability to continue to collect interest in the future as the animators seem so impressed with what they can do that they miss the soul of the series. Many of the characters are barely touched on and motivations remain vague-which can work to set up mystery but can also sever a viewers attempt to connect and care for the characters within. Without that connection the series may run into a place where it is the anime equivalent of an average summer blockbuster-pretty and amazing in the technical field but sorely lacking in the story side.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.
Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Running time: 325
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2