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XAM'd Transformers!

Thursday 23rd February 2012

Andrew Osmond rings the changes with Xam'd


The series Xam’d Lost Memories, now out as a Complete Collection, was pithily described by the cofounder of its studio as being about “a man who transforms.” Specifically, Xam’d shows a teenage boy turning into a terrifying, deadly, out-of-control alien fighter. It recalls one of anime’s finest moments, when a boy became a lump of writhing, suety flesh and spilled over an Olympic stadium in the finale of Akira.

Before they hit puberty, most kids aren’t scared of transformation in itself. Rather, it seems cool and magic. The horror writer Stephen King commented on how his seven year-old son loved the ‘70s Incredible Hulk TV show. Every time Bill Bixby’s eyes turned green and his shirt sleeves ripped round Lou Ferrigno’s painted muscles, King Jr said cheerfully, “Old greenskin is back!” Japanese kids, of course, had their own transforming heroes: Ultramen, Rangers, Kamen Riders, Sailor Scouts…

But teenage transformation… that’s something else. It’s not just the hair and acne, it’s all the inner changes as well, as if some Cronenberg invader is taking residence in your mind and body. It’s well put in the fifth Harry Potter film (Order of the Phoenix), when Harry admits his growing pains to his were-dog godfather, Gary Oldman. “I just feel so angry, all the time. What if after everything that I’ve been through, something’s gone wrong inside me? What if I’m becoming bad?”

In America and Britain, there are few full-on screen portraits of adolescent body-horror. An exception is The Exorcist, a film that’s nearly forty years old, where a sweet young girl turns into a foul-mouthed, slime-spewing demon. (Parents can insert their own joke here.) Today’s blockbuster transformer is the reassuring Spider-Man, whose body makeover is wholly benign. You get boosted pecs and 20/20 vision, without, say, the poison fangs or extra legs.

As we’ve argued before on this blog, one of the ways in which anime appeals to Westerners is that it takes notions we know from our own comics mainstream… and pushes them further. Both Akira and Xam’d share the primary-coloured palette of American superhero strips. Take a look at Xam’d part 14, which features a spectacular battle involving two crazily mutating boys. One of them is a bloated, physiognomy-shifting critter, who looks like a cross between Akira’s boy-blob and the No-face monster from Spirited Away.

Both Akira and Xam’d show male monsters, huge boys’ heads growing from swelling sacks of flesh. Tetsuo, the antihero in Akira, seemed warped by his impotence (the ultimate male teen nightmare), while the Xam’d creatures fight over – what else? – a girl. But female transformations figure strongly in recent anime. In Claymore, for example, the heroine Clare wilfully becomes an outcast demon-slayer by eating the flesh and blood of her beloved... well, that’d be telling. The snag: as she grows in strength, she risks losing control of her power and becoming a demonic Awakened Being.

The recent Darker than Black: Gemini of the Meteor is just as ominous. As fans point out, it seems to parody “magic girl” anime shows (Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura). Only in this traumatic coming-of-age saga, the heroine uses her magic to summon a gun from her body. Meanwhile, her life is being cut away slice by slice: her family, her friends, and finally her self. That old greenskin Hulk lied to the kids. Transformation isn’t magic or cool; it’s inevitable, inexorable and bloody terrifying.

Xam'd: Lost Memories Complete Collection is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

XAM'd Transformers!


Xam\'d Lost Memories Complete Collection

was £39.99
A hidden power, when flesh becomes metal!
When a young boy on a peaceful island becomes the victim of a terrorist attack, he transforms into Xam'd, a powerful mecha capable of extreme power. Now he must discover the depth of his power and the role he plays in a world where metal and rock meet flesh, desire, and destiny.
From STUDIO BONES (Fullmetal Alchemist, Eureka Seven)



One Piece. Pieces of Hate

Been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt....
Of the anime titles turned into T-shirts by Uniqlo, One Piece is the biggest – the reigning king of all the anime and manga franchises, pretty much unchallenged in the 16 years since Eiichiro Oda began the manga, and 14 since Toei Animation started animating it. But perhaps Uniqlo would have turned One Piece into a line of shirts even if the saga hadn’t been a world hit. Just look at those pirate designs – brash, cartoony, uncompromising. There’s no whiff of a committee, no hint of a five-year product plan reliant on changing a heroine’s hair colour (or deepening her cleavage). It just helps that the pictures are as commercial when they move as they are when they’re a cool static graphic in a manga, or on the front of a T-shirt.

One Piece: Strong World

The Straw Hats Pirates come together for an adventure like no other...
Written by One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda himself, Strong World leads the Straw Hats into the deadly path of Golden Lion Shiki.

One Piece - ninja or pirates?

Matt Kamen turns video pirate!
“Ninja or pirates?” While Naruto – representing the ninja corner, of course – has proven hugely popular, UK fans have long been unable to weigh in on the other side. With the long-awaited arrival of One Piece on DVD this May, that finally changes.

One piece: Crew Manifest #1

Matt Kamen finds out who’s who in the One Piece anime
Monkey D. Luffy: The founder and captain of the Straw Hats, Luffy is a carefree soul who wants to become king of the pirates. After eating the Gum-Gum Devil Fruit, he gained an elastic body, making him near-invulnerable and able to stretch but paradoxically making him unable to swim.

One Piece: Crew Manifest #2

Back at sea for volume two of One Piece
Before you set sail on the second round of voyages for One Piece, brush up on who you’ll be encountering in this latest volume of nautical nonsense

One Piece music: TOMATO CUBE

Tom Smith on One Piece’s TOMATO CUBE
One-hit wonders. Every country has them. And, as PSY can most likely attest, very few musicians really want to be labelled as one. Sure, it’s all fun, games and fancy dinners when that royalty cheque floats through the letter box. The one with all the zeroes from that single from yesteryear that went massive. But what about the rest of your work? It must be somewhat unsatisfying as an artist to be known for one track, while everything else remains relatively overlooked, and expectations are high for that difficult follow up single. If you’re TOMATO CUBE, you do nothing. Ever again.


Sir Run Run Shaw (1907-2014)

Remembering a giant of Asian cinema
At their production peak, Shaw Studios sanded down some of the historical elements in their epics, concentrating on acrobatics and heavier violence. This, in turn, made them more palatable or at least accessible to non-Chinese audiences, and inadvertently stoked the fires of the Kung Fu Boom.

Chinese Zodiac

Jonathan Clements on Jackie Chan and the Garden of Gardens
Jackie Chan’s films have often smuggled in the odd political nudge and wink behind the tomfoolery, but Chinese Zodiac puts it all front and centre. Rather nobly, it shies away from issues of race or one-sided nationalism, making greed itself the great unifier – ensuring that Europeans and Chinese can be found on both sides of the battle.

Redline vs Fujiko Mine

If you liked that, you might like this…
Redline and Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine showcase the talent of Takeshi Koike, a rising star in the anime firmament. While the two titles are very different, they’re both brash and arresting, the obverse of any safe house ‘style’...

Eureka Seven Ao

Kicking it old-school, with giant robots
Pacific Rim opened a new gateway to ’bot sagas for youngsters, and for oldsters too. They’ll see del Toro’s film, learn how much he was inspired by Japanese cartoons, and then check out the originals. If they choose Eureka Seven Ao, they’ll find elements also seen in Pacific Rim, embedded in a very different show.

Naruto Music: Okamoto's

Tom Smith on Naruto Shippuden’s 18th ending theme
As Naruto ups the ante and swears to take on Sasuke alone in box set 18 of Naruto Shippuden, the team responsible for the encompassing episodes’ ending theme have also took it upon themselves to up the pace.

Sword Art Online Music: LiSa

Tom Smith on Sword Art Online's LiSa
Salarymen to the left of me, shoppers to the right. And here I am, stuck in the middle with otaku. Well, more accurately I’m frolicking with them, in Hibiya Open-Air Concert Hall, a concrete amphitheatre that’s dwarfed by the towering skyscrapers of Tokyo’s business district to the west, and high-end retail haven Ginza to the east. Between the two is the venue, hidden in the peaceful Hibiya Park. Peaceful, that is, until 3,000 anime fans descend en masse, clutching chunky glow batons, wearing identical shirts and all waiting for the latest lady-singer that tickles the tastes of otaku to hit the stage; LiSA.

London Ghibli Season

BFI announce a festival of Miyazaki, Takahata, et al...
The BFI South Bank cinema in London will be screening a Studio Ghibli season throughout April and May. Curator Justin Johnson will be giving an introduction to Ghibli on the 2nd April, followed by screenings of all the major Ghibli works and a number of relative obscurities

The Decline of the Japanese X Museum

Stephen Turnbull plays whack-a-mole with willies
The word hihokan is usually translated as ‘sex museum’, although most are best described as indoor sexual theme parks. Imagine that an anthropological collection has been bought by the London Dungeon and put on show there by the owner of a strip club with a degree in engineering and a penchant for voyeurism. The result would be the hihokan: a garish combination of serious museum and soft pornography in a bizarre and often haphazard blend.

Anime on iTunes

Discover a whole new world of anime on your tablet or phone
There's a whole bunch of Manga Entertainment titles available for direct download on the iTunes site, including Shinji Aramaki's Appleseed, Mamoru Hosoda's Wolf Children, and K-on: The Movie.

Bleach Music: Universe

Tom Smith on series 13’s rainbow rockers...
While the Soul Reapers form an uneasy alliance with the Visoreds in Bleach series 13 part 2, the band providing the episode’s ending theme have an uneasy alliance of their own.
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