Posted by psgels on 5 February 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews, Bonen no Xamdou

Bones’ latest series is one full of ambition. Aired on the PS3-network, Bonen no Xamdou tells the epic story of a war between two warring countries, centred around a bunch of different main characters and some of the most amazing production values. While not everything went well for this series, and it’s got quite some big flaws here and there, it gets so many points for trying.

What makes this series so awesome is how it prefers natural progression of story-lines above forced climaxes, especially in the first three quarters of the series. Instead of focusing on battle after battle, the creators let everything flow very smoothly, with especially care to flesh out the world that this series takes place in. Akiyuki, the lead character, while he’s a typical teenager at the beginning of the series soon grows into someone as far from your average lead character as you can get. While the story focuses on him, he hardly ever stands in the centre of attention, and instead various of the side characters get to play the hero-part.

This allows for a unique storyline with a fantastic attention to detail that’s the closest to the levels of Seirei no Moribito that I’ve seen so far. The characters also live in a very imaginative world that’s very interesting to explore, with lots of new concepts and ideas. Things like Hirukos, Humanforms and Xam’ds are nice takes on the usual superpowers and super-weapons that you usually see.

The problem, however, is that even though this series is an incredibly solid one, it’s also a series that bit off a bit more than it could chew. The 26 episodes are way too short in order to fully develop everything that’s in this show, and the results of this start showing up in the final quarter of this series. It features the one big climax after the other, but when you look at the big picture it just feels lacking and incomplete because the different settings and characters couldn’t be fully developed. As a result, characters pull random powers and plot twists out of nowhere and big deaths that would make lots of emotional impact with the right amount of development and foreshadowing simply feel like they could have been done better.

In terms of production values, however, this series is really as good as it can possibly get, especially for such a relatively long series. Because the series originally wasn’t aired on local TV, it didn’t have to spend a lot of money on the broadcasting rights, and all of this excess money was put into the series’ animation, with some absolutely gorgeous results. The animation is consistently through 26 episodes of top-notch HD quality, characters are very expressive and every single one of the many action scenes are simply godly animated.

So overall, there’s plenty of great stuff left in this series, but at the same time I’m also a bit bitter: if it had simply gotten more episodes, this really could have been a contender for the best series of the year, possibly the decade. It would have been truly outstanding in every aspect, while right now it’s simply a well written but incomplete series that has a rushed finale.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 10/10
Setting: 8/10

14 Responses

  1. Denizen says:

    I think this review nails this series. It’s a great series in its own, but the opportunities it lost are criminal.

    Considering Bones’s Rainbow in the Pocket features Eureka Seven’s characters and concepts in a different setting, it would be nice to see the world of Xam’d recreated in a different story, I think it could really shine given a different direction and composition.

  2. Jarmel says:

    The rushed finale is the one thing I saw coming,I’m only on ep.22 but probably will catch up later today. This really should have been 50 episodes probably just because they took too slow of a pace on certain episodes and took some unnecessary routes that really didn’t add anything to the story. Maybe if they had a tighter director this could have worked alot better.

  3. Ale says:

    I mostly agree with your assessment.

    The show does a lot of great things, but it falters in some areas. Still it deserves recognition for its amazing production quality and its ambition. I’ll take a dozen flawed yet interesting series like Xam’d over most of the other stuff that gets released these days.

  4. hashi says:

    Great review. “Nails it” is right. The negatives shouldn’t take anything away from one of the best series of 2008.

    I think Sanpei Yuuko’s voice performance as Nakiami was one of the very best of 2008, too. In fact, if she’s a main character, she and her pal Koshimizu Ami (Horo in Spice & Wolf) had the two best performances of the year, in my opinion. If she’s a supporting character, I think I’d now give it to her over even Sawashiro Miyuki, Horie Yui, and Toyoguchi Megumi. Yuuyu just gets better and better.

  5. TR says:

    “Because the series originally wasn’t aired on local TV, it didn’t have to spend a lot of money on the broadcasting rights”

    Question: Do content producers in Japan pay broadcasters to have their shows aired? If so, that’s pretty much the complete opposite of how things work just about everywhere else, where content producers are paid by the broadcasters for the ‘rights’ to air the program (broadcasters making their money from advertising on air and any additional distribution channels they license)

  6. psgels psgels says:

    TR: Yeah, Japan has a pretty strange system in that regard. You really need to pay the broadcasting channels if you want to be able to air something, which is the complete opposite of the rest of the world.

  7. Mihan says:

    I’m an avid reader of your blog and after seeing you rate this series pretty high I just had to see it (I downloaded it, I’m guilty sorry!). Anyways I too did find the last quarter or so rushed compared to the first part. I know this anime doesn’t spell everything out for you so you can imagine some things yourself but the last few concepts really just flew by me. I kind of lost track of the big purpose of it all. Good review!

  8. Tiny says:

    I disagree strongly with your opinion. This is a 60/100 show at best.

    I like action when it’s done well. I like happy endings, especially when they are well deserved. Xamdou succeeds extremely well in the animation, action and music departments, but when it comes to its story and characters, it falls completely flat — the entire storyline is actually a half-baked interpretation of Nausicaa’s main theme of the value of struggling against inevitability.

    Those who’ve read Miyazaki’s manga would know what I mean. Watching Ep26, I couldn’t help wincing at how badly Xamdou’s writers misunderstand the very concepts that they are trying to portray. And that detracts tremendously from my viewing pleasure. Ultimately, Xamdou’s story makes very little sense, in terms of character motivations and plot development.

    If you think differently, try explaining why Nakiami and Sannova made the decisions that they did. Try examining the logic behind Sannova’s “religion”. In the end, what are the writers trying to say? That nihilism is good? That it’s something to struggle against? How so?

    They’ve tried to cast Nakiami into a messianic role, similar to Neo in Matrix Revolutions, but failed to build up her motivations effectively. Her actions, in the end, just don’t add up. Hence this hollow feeling despite a gloriously animated ending.

  9. Reiter says:

    I completely agree with you on this one. Xamdou is a definitely a gorgeous looking series and I like how the side characters often take center stage, but felt the writers kind of wrote themselves into a corner at the very finale. The pacing of the show could have been a bit tighter in the middle (especially when Akiyuki lost his self-identity by sprouting his mask, and Haru’s back-and-forth indecisiveness), but overall the initial execution was excellent but the final culmination left me scratching my head at the end.

    The similarities to Nausicaa are definitely there, and I feel the original Miyazaki classic does in its shorter feature length runtime a much better job of getting its main message of sacrifice and world preservation across than Xamdou. Still, BnX scores lots of points for its animation, music (I have to find the soundtrack for this), and character development (I especially liked Akiyuki’s parents, they were so believable when most other anime parents are kinda footnotes).

    But the show does leave you with the sense of what could have been, not to mention wanting more. Especially considering they flash forward 9 years in the future and we get to see shots of an older Yango and other characters all grown up. If they had stretched the show out to maybe another 10 episodes, it would have been a certifiable hit, instead of just pretty good.

  10. chounokoe says:

    I don’t know but I absolutely loved the ending of the series and the final 2 episodes saved the series for me, because it really seemed to go into the direction of ‘Just let it end’.

    Of course everything was kinda crammed into episode 25, explaining all of Sannova’s motivations (I don’t even know if I would have understood it if I had to rely on the subs) and basically everything that caused the events of the series in about 10 minutes.

    I haven’t read the manga, but because it started half a year after the series began airing I still understand it as something complementary to the series and not it’s origin.

  11. billish says:

    just finished this series: if someone doesnt mind explaining why exactly Akiyuki shows up in the last scene? It didn’t make any sense at all, though I certainly didn’t lose any sleep super-analysing.
    Other than that randomness in the end, I loved this series. The quality of animation drew me in and I must admit I enjoyed the pacing the characters and the story individually and as a whole. The few beefs I have involve the ending of Akiyuki’s storyline; like i said earlier it just didnt make sense to me.
    I also enjoyed your review, psgels, I relate more to this review than many of your others.

  12. billish says:

    I’ll also thank you psgels: I certainly wouldnt have found this series without re-reading one of your earlier FMA: Brotherhood posts (episode 52?) in which you cited Xam’ds animation quality.

  13. Arno says:

    This show is both a success and a failure.

    It has impressive graphics, music, geography, adventure.

    The bad is the transformations. In order to build a story, objects and characters need to have definite properties. If the nature of everything is to mutate, then there is no story anymore.

    All the characters might as well have stayed home because they looked powerless against the transformations throughout, and the transformations didn’t seem to particularly care about the story.

    This examplifies a certain trend from Bone to produce great graphics with weak story lines, or even a tendency to sacrifice plots just in order to insert gorgeous graphics.

  14. Jedman says:

    I agree with some of the other people that commented here, I really tried to like this show, it had some good moments, but a lot of moments that left me thinking ‘what the hell’ I felt that overall the story really didn’t make much sense, to many things were not explained, what actually are human forms, hirukos and xamds? why is there a war between the north and south, what was the hiroken emperor, what was sanova trying to acomplish, nothing was really explained. While some of the characters were believable and consistent like Haru and Nakiami, others I felt were inconsistent and not very well developed and I couldn’t really understand what their motivations were at all. Towards the end I pretty much gave up on this show and just wanted it to end. I wouldn’t recommended it to anyone, felt like a waste of time overall.

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  • Bam
    (Sunday, Nov 29. 2015 03:25 AM)
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 10:22 PM)
    @Aidan: it does seem like you’ve actually seen Xavier, in which case I’m impressed. Didn’t think you had it in you.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 09:35 PM)
    Speaking of errors, can anybody else open Evil Genius Scanlations page? I keep getting a gateway error. I know there should be a new Berserk on there but some force is keeping it from me. This is messed up.
  • AidanAK47
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 05:38 PM)
    @Bam, Easy. 404 not found
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 05:45 AM)
    It takes a true magnificence to propose such a grand question as: What dot life?!
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 05:42 AM)
    @Kaiser: the show does vary in quality, but for the first season they generally crank up the insanity with every episode until a very remarkable season finale where Xavier faces his worst enemy.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 05:40 AM)
    @Bam: Oh in symphogears case, I certainly laughed but I wasn’t supposed to.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 05:39 AM)
    @Bam: While it didn’t always work, that first episode of renegade angel was amusing, I particularly liked the part where he went on about Aids being invented.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 05:22 AM)
    and don’t be fooled by the simple graphics, the crudeness is completely intentional.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Nov 28. 2015 05:21 AM)
    @Kaiser: as far as Xavier goes I implore you to download and watch the first episode to get the gist of it. That show is the pinnacle of absurdist and meta humor. It’s strangely adored within the animation circles, getting very high praise from the industry, but it’s very dense and bizarre so people either love or hate it. If you’re anything like me it might become one of your most beloved shows.

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