Our confused main protagonist.
My second review in 2 days (may be the last for quite some time) is for another series in my back-log, titled Bounen no Xamdou. This 2008 title is the biggest challenge for the current Anime of the Year 2008 incumbent Wolf and Spice, but it failed just a teeny-weeny bit short. This is a unique anime in its own right, which may actually put off some viewers that has certain expectations normal for the genre this anime is in. Still, while breaking some of my pre-conceptions I have when loading the first episode, this anime is actually very, very good.
In a modern fictional setting, the world where this anime is set is in a war between the northern and southern part of the world. Our main male protagonist that lives in an island in the southern territory, is late going to school when suddenly a suicide bomber blew the bus he is in. As if in cue, the northern army suddenly decided to attack the island too using some kind of mysterious monsters that destroyed everything in its path. During the explosion, our hero managed to gain an ability to change into Xam’d, a being with supernatural powers, and he went on to kick some northern monsters’ asses.
The very expansive storyline in this anime is excellent and it flows smoothly as the series went on, but what prevents this anime from taking the Anime of the Year 2008 title from Wolf and Spice is the fact that the pacing of the storyline is slower than I would like it to be. You may wonder why an insignificant factor like pacing affects that decision (and yes, pacing is usually just one of many criterias I used in this section when doing a review) but that has something to do with several unique factors that has truly defined this series.
The first factor that really make this anime unique (and has truly caught me off-guard) is the lack of action in this anime. In fact, the main male protagonist only fully transform into his Xam’d form three times; at the start of the anime, at the ending and once in the middle of the series. Plus, with the anime’s setting within a world engulfed in war, there are relatively few moments where you can actually see those war battles; like in the start and the ending of the anime, and other places like the hidden Tessik village. Instead, this anime focused more upon multiple angle story arcs, whether it concerned the main male protagonist flying around in a postal ship, or the ones that involved his parents and love interest back at his island homeland etc.
This means that compared to other titles in the same genre (for example, Speed Grapher where the main protagonist also get a supernatural power after a certain incident), Bounen no Xamdou is predominantly dialogue-heavy and has slice-of-life genre tendencies. Thus, without the usual intensity that accompanied titles of this genre, the laid-back pacing of this anime is a major drawback for it. This anime would have benefited from a faster flow of the storyline (which may cause episode numbers to decrease if the story is not retrofitted) and probably more intensity within the presentation. The aforementioned Speed Grapher is a good example where fast pacing can really be beneficial.
The second factor that makes this anime unique is its unorthodox character development strategies. Taking the main protagonist as an example, after he went aboard the postal ship at the start of the anime, he doesn’t really follows conventional genre traditions and tried to master that new power/ability of his, but instead the anime focused more upon his relationships with the crew of the ship and also with his love interest Haru via correspondence. Well, the lack of opponents he has to face may contribute to that. For other characters such as Haru, Nakiami, the island army commander (which I consider to be the best character in the series) and the ship captain, they also have their own personalized character development strategies that you have to see by yourself by watching the anime. Nevertheless, those diverse strategies has a common similarity in them, which is the higher dependence upon the storyline for character developments. This is not always a good thing because it means that character developments will have to depend on the quality of the storyline, but in this case, it pays off handsomely.
The ending is excellent, and using the last episode to tie up all the loose ends and telling the audience what has happened to all the characters in the series is a very good move. It (the ending) is just as good as the one in Wolf and Spice, probably even better.
Not your typical shounen character design, but more seinen-like like the ones you can see in Nodame Cantabile series. Black hair is quite common even in this fictional setting, with the main male protagonist, his father and the island army commander (amongst others) having them in spades. Definitely a positive point of this anime.
The voice acting in this anime are uneven at best. The main male protagonist are ordinary, and so are many others. But the airship captain, the main protagonist’s mother and also the island army commander voice actors/actresses has done an excellent job behind those microphones. Could have been better, especially in light of this dialogue-heavy anime.
This anime has very good OST and also OP theme. There’s nothing to say about the ED theme. BTW, I am watching the 2008 version ripped (and poorly subtitled by Fabulous fansub group – damn you distracting hardsub that cannot be turned off) from PlayStation Network, not the version aired on TV this year that has different OP and ED themes.
The animation quality in this high-definition series is decent, but not as good as the second season of Gundam 00 reviewed previously. Choreography for whatever little action scenes this anime has are done well, especially the one at the end of the series. Directing is also very well done, except for the pacing problem mentioned above.
10 out of 10, but Wolf and Spice is still the best anime in 2008. If I were to pretend that this anime was aired in 2009, could have easily taken Anime of the Year 2009 title.
One of the things you don't want happening to you if you are a virile young man.
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