Xam’d Episode 05.1: Tear Stained Letter

Various astrological sites I’ve snooped claim that a lunar eclipse represents a time when momentous change occurs, where the world moves with frightening eventfulness. Fittingly, in this episode, three important transitions happen in the world of Xam’d. I will cover each of those with a separate post.

“You look like a mother bird who’s lost her chick.”

~Zeygend, addressing Ishu

This is much more of a Nakiami thing, but since I get to talk boatloads about her in later episodes I’ll just talk about our lovable, stubborn captain Ishu. She’s quite a piece of work, diving headfirst into heavy responsibility by commandeering an entire ship with an admirable amount of dedication. Better, she’s one of those harsh, drill sergeant type captains that don’t take any excuse from anyone; not even old Kiselji escapes her bursts of frustration at times. We all know this sort of woman, the type who prefers chasing her own dreams rather than be subjected to the whims of male dominance. As such, she rejects the stereotypical trappings of housewives: being emotionally open, nurturing children as an instinctual habit, lightly scolding people with a stern expression, things of that nature. She defines her own femininity by actively rejecting society’s views on what’s feminine.

Of course, Ishu would not seem nearly as feminist if Yunbo weren’t around to act as her stout companion and foil. Yunbo cares about her son Hinokimaru, as well as Kobako. It might be fitting to say that she possesses the maternal instinct when it comes to housewifery, as she takes care of the children, cooks all the meals, does everyone’s laundry, and other domestic duties and burdens that she shoulders with relative ease. While Ishu’s main concern on the Zambani is progress and leadership, Yunbo’s responsibilities fall squarely on sustainability and maintenance. These differences, frankly, only strengthen their kinship and respect for each other. They plan routes, converse casually, and drink with one another as fellow women, albeit with diverging ideals as to their roles in society. One difference that stands out this particular episode, however, is motherhood. As witnessed in the previous episode, Yunbo would not mind in the slightest if Hinokimaru somehow became a Xam’d, for her kid to shoulder responsibility like she does. She refers to such a thing, specifically, as an “honor”. What we learn about being a Xam’d through Akiyuki’s trials is that the person subject to this treatment ultimately becomes a better individual, although it’s not without a great risk to one’s life. Yunbo desires nothing more than to be proud of her son, and to undergo a means to that end through pain and pleasure alike. Ishu scoffs at this sentiment, dismissing Yunbo’s thoughts as a mother’s point of view and therefore irrelevant to the goals and desires of the captain of the Zambani.

Such lovely disdain towards maternal behavior flies out the window, however, when Nakiami is involved. Nakiami, like Akiyuki, has a path already paved for her in the future, and is bound by fate to do so. When the Zambani almost collides with a Tessik ship, Nakiami proposes the opportunity to contact them in order to gain some much-needed Northern Government intel for the Zambani. Ishu interprets this, however, as a potential danger to her ship. Being a Tessik herself, Nakiami doesn’t have much reason to stay with the Zambani permanently and could easily abandon them at the slightest suggestion when it comes to returning to her much-oppressed kin. Her skills as a navigator and her prowess with the beat kayak are simply too much to sacrifice by risking a conversation with the Tessik ship. However, this isn’t the primary reason. Later in this episode, we learn that Nakiami is a name that Ishu herself gave to the girl, whose actual name is Cloud Rider, and that their history on the ship runs far deeper than mere business associates. Thus, Ishu’s concern goes deeper than merely losing a valuable work source.

Allow me to state this clearer than what’s presented: Nakiami brings out Ishu’s maternal instinct. Unlike Yunbo’s attitude towards her son, Ishu is much more protective of Nakiami than she lets on. When she incorrectly tries to persuade her from seeing the Tessiks by using their downtrodden circumstances as fuel, it’s much less her actual disdain towards Tessiks themselves than an awkward attempt to plead with Nakiami to not go to them. Ishu fears that Nakiami, when given the chance, will slip from her fingers and embark on a fateful journey when Ishu isn’t ready for it. Her jab at the Tessiks hurts Nakiami, as she sees this as an attack on her own heritage as well. Likewise, since Nakiami becomes emotionally distressed by Ishu’s own device, she is similarly devastated at an emotional level. Children become sad when their parents are sad, and the same can be said if the positions were reversed. There is no denying that Ishu cares about her surrogate daughter.

So, what kind of transition am I talking about when it comes to Ishu? To put it simply, she’s become aware of motherly love, and it takes the threat of losing something precious for her to realize that. Nakiami ends up staying with the Zambani, so nothing really changes on that front, but the feelings that the emotional tension stirred up remain fresh. As much as she despises Zeygend for his snide, misogynist remarks and shameless displays of inhumanity, for him to praise her handling of Nakiami, when he as a Tessik would know best about how a Tessik should be raised, is something that’s noteworthy for Ishu to know. She’s become more aware of exactly how much she’s emotionally invested into that girl, and it only digs deeper into the heart to be reminded that, someday, Nakiami will leave the Zambani to fulfill her destiny. Until then, the opportunity to continue looking after her for a while longer is nothing short of the ideal outcome for Ishu. Nakiami’s apology to her for being so demanding is diminished only by the fact that Ishu has already pretty much forgiven her by that point.

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