A Mixtape of Influences: Listeners

In a pre-recorded interview for FunimationCon, writer Sato Dai was asked how he came to work on the anime Listeners. His response: the original creator, Jin, specifically sought him out due to his work on anime like Eureka Seven. But for anyone who’s watched even a little bit of Listeners, that much is crystal clear. Everything about the series—from the heavy music references to the mecha to the boy-meets-girl-in-a-nowhere-town science fiction plot— attests to that influence. While I at first wondered why they would try to, in spirit, remake such a classic anime, it occurred to me that Eureka Seven is actually 15 years old. How time flies.

Echo, a teenage boy, lives in the town of Liverchester, where people are taught to be content with staying in town forever and leading uneventful lives. Echo believes this to be his fate as well, but he has dreams deep down, thanks to his idolization of “Players,” individuals who fight mysterious creatures known as the Earless by commanding giant robots known as “Equipment.” An encounter with an amnesiac girl he finds in a scrap heap takes him far off the predictable track and towards discovering the true secret of his town and its history.

One big difference between Listeners and Eureka Seven is that the former is only 13 episodes in contrast to the latter’s 50, and this inevitably leads to very different storytelling. Eureka Seven is a relatively slow burn that very gradually and powerfully escalates its drama. Listeners, on the other hand, has more of a travel-show vibe that’s layered with unambiguous music references. When you see characters who are literally Prince and Kurt Cobain parodies, it goes a step beyond just “subtle nods.” Because of this, Listeners often comes across like Eureka Seven by way of Xam’d: Lost Memories (for its 1:1 world-building to plot reveal ratio) and Rolling Girls (for the “town to town” episodic feel), but isn’t really greater than the sum of its parts.

I do think Listeners is a decent series with plenty going for it. The characters, particularly the main duo of Echo and Mu, give a very “authentic” impression in that they aren’t overly “perfect” in design. Similarly, the aesthetics of the series have this sort of messy and put-together feel, and I like how the main robot doesn’t look terribly “heroic.” However, I really think that 13 episodes is too short for the story it tries to tell (even Xam’d has 26), and the music references are much more tied into the appeal of the show compared to how Eureka Seven utilizes them. 

What I’m actually looking forward to most from Listeners is seeing it someday debut in Super Robot Wars. Can you imagine the interactions with the cast of Eureka Seven or Macross 7? That would, well, rock.

Review Time

How soon after you watch something should you review it?

Over the course of writing Ogiue Maniax, I’ve taken different approaches to writing reviews. Sometimes Iwrite them almost immediately after watching something, while other times I wait a day or a week. In some instances the delay is a month or more. Writing a review right after finishing something means that the experience is very fresh, that a lot of the emotions you felt in watching it are still welling up inside, but expressing your thoughts so soon after can also mean that you haven’t had time to process everything. On the other hand, the longer you wait, the more distance you give yourself in order to really chew on the work, to really see what it says. Too much time however, and you might start to forget important things. But then if you forgot those things, were they really that important in your mind?

So then you might say, “Why not rewatch it? That way you’ll have your memories of having seen it the first time, and then also it’ll be fresh in your mind.” But while I’m in no way against rewatching a show for review purposes or otherwise, I have to wonder about what the process of rewatching does to your experience with a work. In my review of Xam’d, I talk about how the series pretty much thrusts you into a very complex situation with little or no explanation to the extent that you aren’t even sure who’s on what side until a few episodes later. Going back and rewatching those episodes after having finished at least a good portion of the series means you can actually see what is happening in those early episodes, but at the same time is that a good thing? Is it a positive that you have that greater clarity, or is the loss of that rushed, turbulent feeling detrimental to your experience with it? Lost memories, indeed.

One last question for you all: The concept of “reviewing” aside, do you feel the way you talk about a show or a film or a book changing as time passes, like when you compare your conversation right after you get out of the theater to when you’re talking about it one month later?

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.


It’s the exciting new series that has the animation critics calling it even better than Voltron and Macron-1…combined!

The Omega Skies centers around a boy destined for greatness. This boy, Renton Thurston, is a fan of the latest craze on the planet, SKY SURFING! Sky surfing is so popular that not only do people do it, but robots as well! However, what he couldn’t predict was that his love of Sky Surfing would lead him to meet a mysterious girl named Eureka!

Not only that, but she’s friends with the most out-there rebel and Sky Surfing pro, Holland!

Joining Holland and Eureka on their custom-made radical airship, the “Gecko,” Renton’s life is transformed as he too realizes he has the potential for greatness, especially when the alien menace, the Coraelians arrive! Action-packed fights explode everywhere the Sky Surfers go!

But just when you think the story’s over, there’s more! Don’t look below this line if you don’t want to ruin the big events in The Omega Skies!

Continue reading

Seriously, Go Rewatch Xam’d

Xam’d is an interesting show, and having finished recently, I know a lot of people aren’t quite sure what to think of it. Throughout the series, the story seemed to come in piece-meal, characters’ motives appeared ambiguous, and there just wasn’t a lot of information to go on from episode to episode. It was like the vital parts of the story were being dropped into the pond off-screen and we were simply watching the ripples.

But this is why I’m telling you to rewatch Xam’d, or at the very least the first episode. The second too, if you’re feeling daring.

I know it seems odd to say that if you maybe didn’t like a show that you should first watch through the whole thing and then watch it again, but what I’m telling you is that a lot of what we might call vagueries in Xam’d turn out to be anything but in retrospect. It is only because we have so little information at the beginning that everything about Xam’d seems so hazy.

With all of the character introductions in episode 1, those brief first encounters with the cast of the show, they at first hardly seem like people. You get bits of information in regards to who they are, but it’s still very difficult to form any opinion on them. But go watch them again, and you’ll see that their first appearances speak volumes about the characters. In episode one, when Ishuu is calling for someone to wake up Nakiami and tell her to get going, Nakiami’s already at the hangar ready to leave. Prior to that moment we see Nakiami silently ordering Akushiba to wake up and then immediately changing her clothes in the same room. It’s mainly in hindsight that one realizes that this hints strongly at not only Nakiami’s attitude but also her relationship with Ishuu.

There’s also other, smaller things.

Just look at the yellow rings.

Or the Opening.

Monster Design Talk Starring the Hiruken Emperor

When it comes to monster designs, I follow a philosophy of more disturbing = better monster, and I have specific ideas about what is the most effectively disturbing. The key is not to make something grotesque or to show off the monster’s capacity for violence and destruction but instead to take what is  familiar and twist it into something unsettling. The goal is for the monster to exist on just the other side of the uncanny. As an example, let’s look at the Hiruken Emperor from Xam’d: Lost Memories.

Something familiar to all humans is the anatomy of the human body and the Hiruken Emperor’s is close to that of a human being. It has two legs, two arms, head and torso with organic musculature, but the stiff, unnatural movements combined with its expression-less face make it difficult to discern its intentions. When it’s a machine, this only makes sense. When it’s a living breathing creature, it becomes uncanny.

The Hiruken Emperor also takes the comforting idea of symmetry and distorts it into something jarring. Symmetry is a recurring theme in nature. Most things on this planet have some degree of symmetry, but in the case of the Hiruken Emperor the symmetry is too perfect, and the viewer is made painfully aware of that fact. With such perfect symmetry on such an organic creature, the comfort of natural symmetry is replaced by a fear of the alien.

Taking organs and placing them in unusual areas can further enhance the unsettling appearance of a monster. In the case of the Hiruken Emperor, the eyes are utilized in unusual ways. The Hiruken Emperor has four eyes, and none of them are where they should be. Two large ones are placed roughly at the shoulders, one equally large is above the head, and there is also a smaller one inside the head behind the white mask. It’s this unusual placement of the Hiruken Emperor’s eyes that really make it disturbing. Eyes are also an especially effective part of the body to move and rearrange because of how important they can be in human interaction. Human beings easily reveal their emotions through their eyes. However, the Hiruken Emperor’s eyes fail to exhibit emotion, and the blank, all-consuming stare of the Hiruken Emperor eats into your expectations.

A monster doesn’t have to resemble a human being or living creature in order to be a successful design. Manipulating how much the viewer relates to the monster will also influence the effectiveness of the monster. Making the viewer unsure of whether or not they can relate to the monster will make it even better.

Thanks, Anime

It’s an interesting time in anime, and there’s plenty of stuff to be grateful for.

Thanks, Anime, for providing affordable DVDS of series loved by all types of otaku, from Gurren-Lagann to Ouran High School Host Club to Aria and beyond.

Thanks, Anime, for making strides to becoming more accessible. Strike Witches isn’t what I’d call a show I’d recommend to others, but I commend GONZO for putting itself out there. And while some of you may have made a few missteps, like Sony with your super-expensive PS3 episodes of Xam’d, I’ll still be there to buy the DVDs.

Thanks, Anime, for having an incredible season this year with something for everyone, with fine work in practically every genre and sub-genre. With this, I have no regrets.

Thanks, Anime, for your plans to give us an Ultimate Crossover Pretty Cure Movie that we’ve been waiting for since Max Heart ended. I look forward to the 11-girl Ultimate Crossover Pretty Cure Finisher. It’s also thanks to this image that I realize that the more athletic Precure girls have tanner skin. You learn something everyday.

Thanks, Anime, for slating a Professor Layton Animated Movie scheduled for 2010. I’m not even kidding.

And finally, Thank You for an incredible year of Ogiue, JAM Project, good friends, good opportunities, and so much more.

A Guide to the Characters of Xam’d: Lost Memories

Takehara Akiyuki

Nishimura Haru


Teraoka Furuichi


Kakisu Toujirou

Benikawa Ishuu

Xam it all to hell

As you might know, I have been looking forward to Bounen no Xamdou, now known as “Xam’d: Lost Memories,” ever since it was announced. I’m a big fan of Eureka Seven to the extent that I bought all the DVDs individually as special editions (when those editions were available) as a show of support, and I expect good things out of the show.

I was surprised when I found out that BONES is doing a legitimate and subbed worldwide release. “This is a good thing,” I thought. The only problem is that it is a pain in the ass.

The only way to get the episodes legit is to download them from the Playstation Network. That is to say, you have to spend $400-$600 on a Playstation 3 before you can actually download the episodes at $3 US per episode.

C’mon, man. I want to give you money but you’re just making it difficult.

Depending on how things go, I might heed OGT‘s suggestion and simply pay for the episodes legitimately but download the torrents anyway. Either that, or I’ll have to wait for the DVDs.

Oh, and to get it out of my system, here’s some additional puns.

Xam’bot 3

Okay, I’m done.

Bounen no Xamdou Trailer: Thoughts

Finally got around to watching the trailer for Xamdou. It’s very short, so there’s not too much to say. Check my previous post for information on how to view it.

The video focuses on a boy and his transformation into what I assume is the titular Xamdou. An object appears out of his forehead and causes him to transform into a white humanoid creature vaguely resembling the final form of the Nirvash in Eureka Seven.

And speaking of Eureka Seven, I got tired of people making FLCL references to it back when it first aired, so I’m sure I’ll be enjoying the comments about the vague similarities between Xamdou emerging from his forehead as compared to Naota and Canti.

The music is electric guitar-heavy (as in, that’s all there is to the music in the trailer), and from what little I can see of the environment, the world of Xamdou seems to resemble Eureka Seven in that parts of it are somewhat ravaged and there’s some kind of significant military presence.

I think there’s some hope that this might somehow relate to the Eureka Seven universe, based on just the look and feel of the show, but it’s really anybody’s guess and can probably just be chalked up to having the same team working on both shows.

…But man, Xamdou and Nirvash really do look similar.