Xam'd Collection 2 (of 2) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, November 09, 2010
A textbook example that style alone doesn’t cover up for a lack of substance in other key areas.
What They Say
Get ready for a second collection of awesome mecha action with the anime hit XAM'D! 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. There are more powerful and dangerous Xam'ds working in every action-packed episode! So don't miss XAM'D, the high-flying, heavy-armored action-adventure takes mecha anime to a whole new level!
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 ratio which helps the presentation greatly.
The packaging itself is a standard 2 disc case with the hubs on opposite sides of each other. The cover has the Akiyuki/Xamd carrying an unconscious Nakiami with stones starting to appear on her and his arm while a shocked looking Haru stands on the right side. There is a yellow rain and goo falling/covering Akiyuki/Xamd’s arm and Nakiami while a couple other Xamd and smoke can be seen behind them with the logo on the lower right hand side. It is a bit over busy and comes across as a bit ill defined. The back has the new character of Yango with his arm transformed leaping over 7 stills placed in a triangular fashion. The gear design returns with the copy inside it once again. The spine has a beautiful picture of Nakiami that looks like she is wearing a bridal dress.
The menu on the first disc uses the picture of Yango 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 extras menu has a shot of Furuichi while the audio selection has Nakiami’s sister (and is a bit of a spoiler) with the end theme playing behind them. The second disc has the beautiful picture of Nakiami that looks like she is wearing a bridal dress from the spine while the opening theme is present again and the language menu uses pictures of Akiyuki’s parents dressed to the 9s. The menus are quick to respond and the selections are highlighted very nicely leaving no doubt as to what is being chosen. The label has a scene of a fight from the series that is also spoilerish as is the cover of the second disc which has Akiyuki in Xamd form with a threat looming behind him.
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 and are the same as on the first set.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The events of this disc pick up with the fallout from the revelations from the previous set. The relationship between Akiyuki, Haru and Furuichi is both explored a bit and laid out. Also appearing are the sorrow that comes from emotions that exist and those that will never be returned that brings a raw emotion to the front. The intervention of the military will cause the friends to part (as well as Akiyuki and Nakiami) and some will never meet again.
Events then lead to Akiyuki finding himself in a position where he has lost his memories and is found by slave traders. He will then encounter a new creature as well as an elder woman who try to help him regain himself. As this is happening Haru is finding that her sister Midori has chosen to work with the military in a horrific experiment that will change her life. Haru is placed in a position where she has to decide if she is going to try to chase Akiyuki or try to stay and figure out how to deal with Midori as well as what her commander is expecting from her. At the same time Nakiami is on a journey to reconcile her own past and encounters another young boy (Yango) with the power to become Xamd. Also the members of the postal ship will become active in the roles they will play as will Akiyuki’s and Haru’s fathers as they try to help their children and the world they will inherit.
Each of the individuals will continue their quest though what they find at their paths end will not be the same as some find identity and others have to settle for purpose. The fact that all these people have their own goals and desires in regard to their feelings of self and other will run into a new problem as they become key players in events that could lead to the end of their world. The characters must decide how to approach a tremendous tragedy and accept what sacrifices they must make to help those they love and the world around them while also remaining true to themselves and what their self discovery has taught them.
Xamd really gets going in the second half by focusing on the characters and their motivations while placing them into emotional conflict with those around them. It feels like some of the characters are finally fleshed out and given motivation for some of their actions. Sadly many never get fully filled out and the series itself seems to trip by moving toward a major conflict that feels more like a last minute addition than something carefully built up to increase the tension. Too much is left in a void for the viewer to try to guess at-especially early on to gather a sense of the approaching dread or even many emotional conflicts that finally bring the characters to a semblance of life.
Xamd is a triumph of style and technical presentation. Sadly the story that is used as substance is far less impressive and doesn’t seem to reflect the same attention to detail or effort in creation. Many characters are really never developed and even the build up and payoff of that is placed secondary to an ultimate threat that doesn’t feel all that dire due to lack of its build up. It sadly feels like a series that could be remade using more time with more care being put into the characters so the viewer can develop an affinity for them and their trials. It is pretty though.
Japanese 5.1 Language Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, On Air Opening, On Air 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: C+
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: C
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: C
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