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.