I'll be perfectly honest, when Sentai Filmworks/Section23 announced Xam'd I said "Huh?". I knew absolutely nothing about the series and had never heard of it before. Even more baffling was the fact that the title was being released on Blu-ray. Typically it's the higher profile shows that hit Blu-ray, so when I heard that a show was coming out I knew nothing about naturally my interest piqued. What was this series that slipped beneath my radar?
Xam'd was a 2008 to 2009 series that lasted for 26 episodes. Produced by Bones the series has a rather interesting background due to the fact that it was made available via the Sony PlayStation Network first, before being shown on television. A manga was released in the latter part of 2008 as well. But what's it all about?
To be perfectly honest Xam'd is kind of a mech show with some light supernatural elements. Events take place in a futuristic world where there are flying ships and fortresses, personalized mecha, and a bizarre organic form of technology known as Humanform. There's been a rich history in this world and plenty of wars in the past, so there are references to many things that help elaborate upon the setting. Everyone has been affected by war in some way, but it's the present day that things get most interesting.
Taking place on a small island known as Sentan, the tranquil setting is removed from the war going on between the Northern Government and the Southern Continent Free Zone. It's something that's not really explained well early on in the show and when you start watching just keep in mind that there are two forces clashing with each other. The fighting comes to Sentan one day when a suicide bomber attacks a school. That's not the most interesting course of events, however.
Caught up in the bombing is a teenage school boy named Akiyuki. He's separated from his friends a becomes infected with a being known as Xam'd. This being is a parasite or symbiote of sorts that transforms Akiyuki into a fearsome looking white monster capable of great destruction. His transformation comes just in time as bizarre humanform monsters attack Sentan, but before Akiyuki can say goodbye to the world he knew he's whisked away into the sky by a mysterious girl named Nakiami who offers him life or death. Naturally he chose life.
What he finds with Nakiami is life aboard a postal ship named the Zanbani. That's right, Nakiami is part of a futuristic postal service. But really the Zanbani feels like a rebel crew of sorts. They straddle the line between the two warring factions and have no home to call their own aside from their bunks. It's almost nomadic and they are definitely well-traveled and versed in the politics of the world. Akiyuki could stand to learn a lot from his time on the Zanbani, but most of the moments we see of him early on aren't very flattering. He's whiny and pig-headed, and it takes him a long time to come to terms with the fact that he's possessed by some weird alien-like entity that could easily end his life.
As the show progresses Akiyuki becomes less of a pain and more of a likeable protagonist. The show builds up the sense that he's destined to be a damn good Xam'd; almost like he's a hero of prophecy or something, however, other Xam'd come out of the woodwork as well. This doesn't happen until later in the series, but it's enough to leave Akiyuki feeling less and less special. It's interesting in terms of building up the story and world though it isn't flattering to Akiyuki's character.
This collection ends in a manner that leaves you wanting to see how things are resolved in the second half. How are things going to go back on Sentan Island? What's in store for Akiyuki and his friends? Xam'd is definitely interesting enough to keep you asking questions, but it's not an amazing show by any means. Elements of the world are highly imaginative, but rarely explained, and the pacing is all over the map. Those looking for a supernatural sci-fi kind of show will enjoy Xam'd. Consider it recommended, though that might change depending how the second half is.
Xam'd is presented on Blu-ray with a 16:9 aspect ratio and full 1080p high definition with AVC encoding. Whether it was a result of Sentai Filmworks/Section 23's transfer, or the native resolution, it's worth noting that Xam'd looks really good. The show offers clean lines, vibrant colors, and some fantastic clarity. There's a touch of aliasing now and then, but that's really the extent of flaw to find on this release. Whether the show is featuring some awesome action or simply just offering up a conversation between two characters, the series is dynamic looking. Then again, the show was produced by Bones so I suppose that's to be expected.
This is one of those rare series that actually receives a 5.1 track for both English and Japanese. DTS-HD Master Audio tracks are included for both and the quality is fantastic across the board. Clean dialog, great sound effects, solid music, and a finely crafted sense of immersion really draw you in as you watch and leave you impressed. It's not quite reference material or something you'd use to show off your home theater, but it's one of the better audio packages for an anime series that I've experienced.
Clean animations and trailers are about all you're going to find here.
Whether you've heard of Xam'd or not, you should pay attention to this release. The series offers some intents action, an interesting story, and some downright glorious detail thanks to the presentation. There's a strong Eureka Seven vibe at work here and one could almost see the two worlds being connected somehow, though they aren't. The first half of the season isn't a "blow your socks off" kind of experience, but it's one that leaves the door open for the second half and it's quite entertaining. I'm going to strongly recommend Xam'd.