The broadcast hiatus held back my appraisal of the series as far as ep 13 but after getting that far I was all settled for one of my usual â€˜halfway thoughtsâ€™ type of posts. Except episode 14 gave the same effect as the book you can’t put down; the shocking events towards the end also gave a strong feeling of one chapter closing and another opening, so that’s where I stand right now. Akiyuki’s journey seems to have drawn him in full circle, back to Senten and back to his family and friends – it seems to be that Akiyuki is on a journey to find his place in his world, with the will of the hiruko acting as a catalyst for that in a literal and metaphorical sense (in that it is probably seeking a meaning to its existence too).
This is either a new type of lava lamp therapy or an important plot point that will crop up later on. My money is on the latter
I’m detecting a theme explored before in Eureka Seven here: namely the idea that war changes lives as well as ends them and draws out allegiances, prejudices and hidden feelings that would never have come to light otherwise. I guess that for the heroes like Akiyuki who protect who and what is important to them, a conflict brings out the best in them. Similarly, for the likes of Furuichi it can bring out the worst of them instead. Of course, the importance of family is a pervading theme of Xam’d but interestingly it was its companion theme, that of friendship, that was portrayed so powerfully at this point of the story as well.
The earlier episodes were a great portrayal of Akiyuki undergoing a period of growing up but ultimately it’s all about the journey in a broader sense: it gave some fascinating instances where the bonds he shares with his loved ones have been changed by the events of the series so far, yet somehow stay the same. When he meets his father again, there’s no tearful reunion you’d expect: they just exchange everyday “I’m back,” and “Welcome home,” greetings as if nothing had happened. Is it a defence mechanism of sorts, to refuse to acknowledge the potentially traumatising things that have happened since he left? Are they lost for word completely? Or, as I suspect, the things that go unsaid are unsaid because for those who are closest of all, they go without saying?
So wonderfully understated
Conversely, Akiyuki’s awkward relationship with his mother is shown in an inverted fashion to reflect the change in situation. There’s no face-to-face greeting here at all: just a packed lunch left on her kitchen table, in the same way that she had made lunches for him in the past. The running scene that followed was emotionally powerful but thematically I loved the bigger picture of the parent-child relationship as enduring but at the same time no longer the same as it was.
The other aspect dealt with in these episodes is how the friendship between Akiyuki, Haru and Furuichi has broken down because feelings that were better off left alone are dragged out into plain view with such violence and unpredictability. I think many of us have harboured similar feelings to these at some time or another, but when there are no extenuating circumstances it’s possible to bottle them up or resolve them out in the open without anyone getting hurt. Here, Furuichi’s jealousy and inferiority take on a much more destructive form thanks to his own hiruko and the results are both frightening and tragic.
It is probably even more serious than it looks here
The final scene of Furuichi’s, when he makes that trip to the shop, gave me feelings of finality in that he was suddenly outwardly calm and speaking of his two best friends, even though the events previously had changed their relationship forever. He was almost too calm and collected: this led me to think, “He’s lost it. It’s all over for him.” but the ending there still took me by surprise. No big speech, no fuss. Just one swipe and it’s all over. But then, aren’t deaths in wartime often sudden, understated and lacking in the pathos they usually enjoy in fiction?
Furuichi’s death wasn’t heroic. After all he’s an anti-hero, a good guy gone bad. I loved to hate him but I also think he was also as much a victim of all this as anyone. His transformation into a monster wasn’t purely his doing because his dark side, as it were, was made reality through his hiruko, an unnatural(?) manifestation. He’s another innocent victim of someone else’s war.
We’re still being drip-fed background to the story in terms of how the supporting cast contribute to the bigger picture. Akiyuki’s father allegedly saved Kakisu’s life, but the military man seems unfazed by any attachment to his former comrade, or anyone else for that matter. I also refuse to believe that the crew of the Zanbani are out of the story already either; they’re such a likable and colourful bunch that I’d love to see them play a part in Akiyuki’s later adventures.
I just had to include a pic of this creature
I’m also grappling with the symbolic significance of the hiruko and those little ututu seeds (another “ZOMG! Ghibli!” moment for me): I’m guessing they’re life forms in their own right, but the ututu seem to turn to dust when isolated. Similarly a xam’d turns to stone if its human will falters. Furuichi’s anger kept him alive; I’m guessing Akiyuki is keeping his human form because he is accepting and trying to understand the life force that now dwells within him, allowing a symbiosis of sorts.
Alongside the more usual issue of kids given superhuman abilities, I’m really appreciating the portrayals of family/friendship allegiances that sit so comfortably next to the social commentary and anti-war sentiment. I know we’re only just over half way here but I feel that this fantastic adventure has so many miles left to run before I get even concerned about tiring of it.
As an aside I tracked down the Boom Boom Satellites’ Exposed album purely on the back of the TV edit of Shut Up and Explode. And by God it’s good.