Xam'd Collection 2 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, November 09, 2010
The spiritual journey runs parallel to the military and personal ones until it all comes together for a big whimper of an ending.b
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!
This release gets a pair of DTS HD MA 5.1 audio tracks so both the Japanese and English tracks really shine well here. Right from the start it's an engaging track with the opening sequence from the Boom Boom Satellites. The action scenes is where it shines the most with a good solid soundstage used that has a good bit of directionality and depth to it. Similar to their release of Tears to Tiara, it uses a mostly static bitrate for the show where it sticks to about 3.5mbps as even the very quiet scenes don't dip below there. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and while the music makes out the best overall, it's an engaging mix overall with a good balance of big moments and quiet moments.
Originally airing in 2008 and into 2009, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the VC-1 codec. The show is spread across two discs in a fairly standard nine/four format that gives it a good bit of space to work with even with the audio tracks not utilizing the variable bitrate well. The series has a very, very strong visual design and it looks gorgeous here. Colors are very rich and vibrant while detail is very strong with all the little nuances BONES is known for with their productions. So much of this has a theatrical feeling to it and the encoding brings out the beauty of the source materials wonderfully.
This release comes in a standard Blu-ray case that holds both discs against the interior sides. The front cover is what I think of as one of the weaker images for the show as it has Akiyuki in his transformed mode with Haru standing off to the side watching as he absorbs Nakiami. The background is pretty busy with all the various biological aspects that are there that gives it a very alien feeling to it. The nice part to it is the logo and related elements that fit in with the theme of the show. There's a really nice design element in the show with its technical aspects and it comes across nicely here. The back cover brings a bit of that in to contain the summary while the rest of the top section has a good shot of Yango as well as several small shots from the show itself. The summary covers things in a very minimal way, not even using any character names, but gets the basics across. The bottom third is given over to the usual production credits and the high definition technical grid. The grid is solid as well though I hope they do eventually start adding in the clarity as to whether it's a native HD release or an upscale since people will be looking for that. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for Xam'd belie what I'd expect out of Sentai at this point and some previous releases as it's pretty slick and wonderfully in theme. The two discs have different character artwork, such as the piece of Yango from the back cover, set against a red bland background. The detail of the character artwork is appealing here but it's the navigation that really sells ti as it uses the partial circle design with it along the left. The colors and fonts work well as it lists each of the episodes with their respective number and easy to access languages and extras. I also liked that as this serves as the pop-up menu and I was very surprised to see that it highlights the episode you're on when you use it. Player presets were a mixed bag as it worked on the first disc but not on the second. Every loads quickly and fits in great with the show making it the kind of menus I wish we had more of.
The extras for this release are pretty minimal with the clean opening and closing sequences as well as the original on-air sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first half of Xam'd: Lost Memories, I really wasn't sure what to think. Well, at least about one area. I adored the animation and style of the show which gives the viewer a very rich and detailed world to immerse yourself into. It's the kind of show that offers up younger viewers in their teens and twenties something to really sink your teeth into when it comes to things like converting it to a game or fanfic or something. There's just so much there to run with and expand on, and it's all so beautifully animated, that you can get into it very easily and make so much more of it. But the story... the story really leaves you trying to connect with it as two young people find themselves on journeys to figure out what they really want out of life. Like just about everyone else.
With all that the first season offered up, the main theme that you could walk away from it with is that we're all on that journey and it takes us down strange and interesting paths if we allow it. That's a main theme in the second half as we see that Akiyuki has lost himself inside the Xam'd and is now in human form but with the mask on him with no recollection of who he is. The wandering side doesn't last long as he's captured and sold as slave labor, but he ends up with a kindly old woman who has a creature only she can see trying to nudge Akiyuki back into discovering himself.
Nakiami for her part is on a similar journey as she's left the postal ship and is making her way back to Tessik. Since she left there so long ago, ran away from her responsibilites as the Tenjo and all that entailed and even left the Sannova because of the issues she had with some of the teachings. Her life has been about walking away from things but she's learned that she has to go back and try to make amends so she can move forward with life again. Her return to Tessik is going to be difficult because of the people she left behind there that may hold grudges but also because her position that has them wanting her to take on the role again. Something she's not terribly interested in even still.
Nakiami's journey is a bit more interesting because she does end up running across another Tessican, a young boy named Yango. Yango lost his parents in an accident recently while heading to someplace safe and has been on his own since then. He's an eager young man who wants to feel like he belongs somewhere and latches onto Nakiami since she's helped him out of a jam. While both Nakiami and Akiyuki spend their time on spiritual journeys, Nakiami's goes to a whole other level as she starts to understand more of what's at stake in the world with the hiruko and the arrival of the hiruko emperor that comes only once every thousand years.
With the pilgrimage that's brought into the series as the Tessik village heads to the location where they intend to go through the ritual, offering themselves up to its revival, Xam'd moves towards its inevitable conclusion. With the military side of the story drawn in with their own plans to eliminate a lot of things and gain control of incredible weapons, there's a strong push towards this big epic moment where they attack where the hiruko emperor is about to return only to see them get destroyed instead. The epic moments, the big battle, feels like so much of the series in that without the lack of a real connection to the characters it all comes across as flat. The final battle has more of a whimper than a bang because the show has spent so much time building an elaborate world that when it shifts so heavily to the spiritual side, it jumps the shark in a sense because they can pull out any word or phrase along with a maneuver and it can fit the needs of the story. Though there may be a great internal consistency to the show, the viewer never feels like he's fully clued in.
Over the thirteen episodes here, the first half of it has Akiyuki going through his faceless journey as he starts to be nudged towards remembering who he is. With such a less than easy to connect with storyline, the show spends a lot of its time with Haru who manages to escape from the military but also has to contend with Midori being taken in by them. Haru's story is just as disjointed as everyone else, but what makes it fun is that once Midori is fully in the military's hands, the General makes an attack on the base using Akiyuki and Midori's fathers, both of which really shine here as does Akiyuki's mother when she gets involved with all of it. The parents are the high point of the series for much of this since they bring a bit of character consistency throughout and add a bit more back story without overdoing it.
I went into Xam'd as a whole with a hell of a lot of enthusiasm and interest in it. Bones has done some amazing work over the years and they've built a rich and fascinating world here, but they failed to draw the viewer into it in the right way so as to make it accessible. There's such a sense of disconnect on it that you're reduced to just enjoying the visuals and piecing together the pieces as best as you can. There's a lot to love here in that regard, but Xam'd could have been so much more than it was here. The second half does settle down a lot more, but with many of the characters from the first half shunted to background status and one of the leads spending a lot of it as a faceless lost Xam'd, the show simply plays out with nothing to captivate and draw you in with characters and story. It's a visual treat, of which Bones provides with ease, but it's empty and soulless.
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Japanese DTS HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles Clean Opening, Clean Closing, On Air Opening, On Air Closing
Mania Grade: C
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Running time: 325
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 1080p
Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC