Xam’d: Lost Memories is More than a Title

Xam’d: Lost Memories is a very ambitious show by BONES, the studio behind Eureka Seven and Full Metal Alchemist. The story follows a teenage boy named Akiyuki who, caught in the middle of a war which spans both the technological and the mystical, gains the ability to transform into a mysterious creature known as a “Xam’d of the Lost Memories.”

Though the show was originally aired on the Sony Playstation Network around the world, it recently received a TV broadcast in Japan with entirely new opening and ending themes. Whether DVDs will be available in the US is uncertain.

Xam’d is a very divisive show and there are two reasons for this split in opinion from those who have seen Xam’d. First, world-building and plot development occur at the same pace. Second, you are never given a comprehensive view of that world or its characters.

Xam’d and Eureka Seven share much of the same staff and even the same character designer, Yoshida Ken’ichi. As such, I am going to be comparing the two in order to further illustrate my points. When Eureka Seven presents its story, it first sets up the world and its characters, giving you a rough sense of what is “normal” and how everything works before it begins to tell its grand narrative. Once the “real” story begins, you have a strong understanding of how and why the world works and what the character’s motivations are. A solid foundation is built so that its story can be that much bigger, and by the end the story encompasses the entirety of the world in which it takes place.

Xam’d on the other hand thrusts you right into the story with little to no set-up or understanding of what is supposed to be going on. Episode 1 puts the main character in the middle of a violent battle, but you the viewer are unable to make a distinction between which side is which as the show does not inform you of any possible identifiers to differentiate nations or armies. It is only episodes down the line that you are made aware of the distinguishing features and pasts of the nations at war, but it doesn’t flash back to the first episode to make it clearer to you, nor does it ever actually explicitly mention it. This is how story development works in Xam’d. Rather than setting up the world and telling a story through it as Eureka Seven would, Xam’d instead tells the viewer about the world only when it’s needed to understand what is going on in the main plot. To put it differently, any time you learn about the history of the world and characters in Xam’d, it directly correlates to something vital in the actual story. Past and present are revealed simultaneously.

Even then however, you as the person watching this show are never given a full understanding of anything that’s going on. Unlike E7, the characters always know much more about anything than you. As a result, many actions that occur in the show can come as a surprise, and many details have to be inferred. It is also very different from a mystery, where you know very little and gradually learn more until you understand everything. That feeling of confusion will remain with you throughout the show. While you are made aware that the world of Xam’d is complex, you are rarely shown any of its complexities, and though the world is vast, the story told in Xam’d concerns only a small part of it, and of that fragment you are only ever allowed to view it from a distance or through blinders.

Whether handing over the reins of imagination is a brilliant move or a hopelessly imbecilic one on the part of the show and its creators is the main contention between supports and detractors of Xam’d. “Lost Memories” is more than a part of the title, as it not only describes an important aspect of the story, but it also hints at the nature of the storytelling itself. Whether you will want to keep watching is heavily predicated on how much you enjoy the incomplete and fractured view that the series gives you from beginning to end, but I would recommend it anyway just so you can be exposed to a different sort of narrative style.

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11 thoughts on “Xam’d: Lost Memories is More than a Title

  1. Hum, on my side I can’t complain or say I was confused because the setting mattered not to me, or rather felt unimportant to me as I felt it was more about Akiyuki, Haru and Nakiyami’s journey than anything else. We got to see them grow and evolve from the first time we saw them, and I think that’s the important part.
    Not to mention the suparb music, I didn’t really get the time to ponder about who’s side is righteous, who are the villain, ect. I’ll admit that the very last scene where akiyuki and Haru speak got me wondering a bit about the how and why what happened happened, but in the end it mattered not. But yeah, while recommandable , it’s definitly not a show for everyone.

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  2. I liked it. But then, I love things that make me think, wonder, and guess what’s going on. Sadly, that kind of thing can’t last until the very end of the story, and of course didn’t in this case either. So the first eps of the anime were much better than the last, to me.

    I don’t regret watching it in the least, though. It was fun and I looked forward to each new ep. And it’s beautifully drawn as well.

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  3. I think the ultimate problem was that Xam’d is a 26 episode show, so it has half the space to expose its setting and characters than Eureka 7. In effect, the episodes in Xam’d never stopped and let the viewer catch its breath in terms of explaining it. The few times it did, it was done to explain to the characters. It never ceased to show us something new about the same, persistent setting–even in the epilogue!

    The problem with that is the information is available, it just takes work to extract it for the viewer (best way to do this is to rewatch it, actually). I would not call this an “imbecilic” anything even if I disagree with the approach. That’s a bit of pearl-before-swine IMO…

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    • To add to that–I don’t really think the real flaw to Xam’d, as I presume in regards to most of its detractors, is the way it approaches its setting. It’s about assembling the ensemble cast and making the narrative structure work in a compelling manner when the focus is frayed between 3-4-5 different parties at the same time. It’s something that works on paper but difficult to actually execute.

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      • This. I liked how things were setup, but when they were finally knocked down, things didn’t nicely fall into place, creating some confusion and a lack of fulfillment in some ways. And while that’s not a problem, I feel like that lack of “proper placement” could have been executed a little better. Maybe with more episodes, like everyone has been saying.

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  4. Interesting. I haven’t seen any of Xam’d, but I’ve heard good things.

    The plot/world-building issue sounds like Last Exile. Similar to how it was done there?

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  5. I wasn’t aware Xam’d received updated OP’s and ED’s. While I find the new OP to be inferior in terms of awesome songs the animation for both the OP and ED strike me as both nostalgic and curious. It’s good to see the characters you watched in what appears to be new but familiar scenes, but, it’s also curious that some of the scenes appear to be completely new. Perhaps they are a showing littles bits of the characters that would normally occur offscreen but it also appears to be showings angles of the characters that I didn’t consider to be the focus of their portrayal. This poor choice of words is starting to confuse me a little. Nevertheless, I’d like to take another crack at the show and unlock some of the complexities of Xam’d ‘s viewer-imagined world.

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  6. I fully agree with omo and the original post. The show was a perfect example of a 50 episode show being compressed to half it’s length. Everything screamed more episodes and the final half just seemed too compressed and too many plot points were rushed. I think as of right now it’s mediocre but the true tragedy is that this had the potential to become extremely epic. The fact that we never get a real sense of what the world is and the different factions means the audience has a much harder time following everything that is going on and things just seem to be thrown around left and right. Unlike the characters in the story, we don’t have the option of looking at a history book and understanding the background and history of this world.

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  7. On a more practical note, Xam’d is a glorious audiovisual experience. This might not have been possible if it was stretched for double the episode count without a matching in funds, I suspect.

    To that end I’m much more satisfied with Xam’d than any episodes of Eureka 7.

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