This is part of a series of episodic posts I started up last year. You can find the previous episodes in the same category.
One of the greatest mysteries about Xam’d is the entire concept of turning to stone, and exactly HOW people turn to stone. The threat was always given to us thus far through the petrification of Northern Humanforms or the rocks spontaneously growing around Akiyuki without much explanation. Now, we’re given an example of someone who’s been turned to stone for so long that the figure becomes smooth and moss starts growing around it. Akiyuki is quite familiar with this spectacle, and is also aware that he too would eventually turn into the same thing if it weren’t for Nakiami’s timely intervention, but this is his first time (or our first time) actually seeing the consequences of turning to stone. For starters, it’s not some short-term condition that cures itself: petrification can and will last a long, long time. And it is quite a real threat.
Big Daddy and Hit Girl Kio and Zuizo, a hardened father/daughter duo that Akiyuki chances upon during his journey, appear to us as examples of other people who have been changed by the ever-abstract “hiruko”. The giant rock that Akiyuki encounters ends up being identified as Kio’s mother.
One of the things that caught my attention watching these episodes is the fact that we never see Zuizo transform and do epic shit. While Akiyuki is busy slicing away at a Humanform with his Xam’d powers, Zuizo dispatches the creature with a rifle. I find it fascinating that he does not rely on his supernatural abilities, even when Kio’s well-being was at stake in episode 8. Why go to such lengths to prevent his powers from activating? My guess is that Zuizo has much more to lose if he transformed than if he didn’t, and this has a lot to do with his and her circumstances; reasons and motivations that Akiyuki must take to heart when it comes to reuniting with Haru and Furuichi.
One thing that we are made to understand about Akiyuki is that he is extremely lucky to be where he is right now. He is lucky for Nakiami to have found him when she did. Because of her, having his life reset by the hiruko became a controllable aspect to his growth as a Xam’d. By Nakiami’s guidance, he learns and lives with the being inside him and in turn learns how to apply that principle to his interactions on the Zambani. Of course, his training as a Xam’d is far from perfect. One way being that this is the first time he’s ever gone off on his own, away from both his mentor and his crew. Another way manifests in the realization that he has no idea how the rest of the world sees the Xam’d aside from the Zambani. There are Humanforms and Xam’d in the world, but the distinction is almost never made by ordinary citizens. This too goes for the misconception between the Tessik and the Northern refugees, a particular piece of information that Kiselji had to educate Akiyuki about several episodes prior. He may have become comfortable with his new identity during his time in the Zambani, under the constant surveillance of Nakiami and the constant guidance of Madam Tenshi, but he is not mindful of the consequences of revealing himself to the public eye.
“I may be half stone, but I’m not a Humanform yet, dammit.”
Yet, the real world would not give this kind of opportunity to someone freshly ravaged by aerial bombings and supernatural mutation. Acceptance is a rare trait when it’s survival of the fittest, and Zuizo in particular does not seem to be privy to a warm welcome should he be revealed that he’s on the verge of becoming a humanform. What’s interesting about the above quote is that he doesn’t refer to himself as “humanform”, but instead uses the term “stone”. As if to say that the mere presence of the thing in his arm already meant a certain end to his life. A shrewd observation for someone still clinging to life, perhaps, but a relevant one nonetheless.
He has to adopt this mentality because there exist people out there who would not hesitate to eradicate him. Be it humanform hunters, agents of government, or just ordinary people, there’s too much at stake were he to reveal himself. Perhaps if a person with godlike qualities were to appear before humanity, it would be cast aside much like new science and technology is shunned by tradition. It’s too different, too strange, to comprehend immediately. So, too, do Xam’d appear as a threat to the uneducated and ignorant parts of the human race. Since it is so strange, it is threatening. Threatening things, of course, are dealt with as you might expect of the general populace: with fear and righteous anger.
As we learn more about Zuizo and Kio, the more dire Akiyuki’s impending reunion with Haru is. She and Furuichi are not necessarily in the right position to welcome him with open arms, now that they are part of the army. Furuichi even less so, given his massive envy towards his best friend for being the center of Haru’s attention, even after his disappearance from Sentan Island. It seems a bit unreasonable, doesn’t it? For Furuichi to hold so much of a grudge towards Akiyuki even after all these years of being friends with him? We’re given an explanation as to why he behaves this way later in the story, but for now we’re privy to two different potential reactions to Akiyuki’s return. Haru would be happy, predictably, and perhaps she, Akiyuki, and Furuichi would be able to go back to Sentan Island and live in peace again.
It is a hopeless thought at best, as Haru is aware of Akiyuki’s circumstances as well as her own entrapment in the military. She is, however, still hopeful of it happening in the future, when everything gets resolved. After all, she still holds onto Akiyuki’s armband, a symbol that one day both him, and normalcy, will return to her.
Things come to a head in this scene, where Akiyuki briefly reunites with his friends on the mining bridge. Bridges hold a significant amount of meaning in the world of Xam’d, where once before it was used to illustrate Ishu’s connection with Nakiami and her Tessik blood, and will continue to make appearances throughout the anime. In this particular case, Furuichi’s reaction to Akiyuki’s return comes to us both predictably and outrageously. He uses this place as an opportunity to tell Akiyuki how much of a monster he is for reasons beyond his control. In his self-centered pursuit for a purpose in life, Furuichi adopted the army’s code as his own, and has thus come to represent how the army, and to an extent Sentan Island, would treat Akiyuki if he were to return with them.
Obviously, Akiyuki answers that he cannot go back.
We must remember one important aspect of Akiyuki’s journey to this bridge. He didn’t come here in order to go back to Sentan Island, nor was he looking for any approval or love from his friends for what he has become. Zuizo and Kio warned him that this was going to happen. He was going to tell his friends that he was going to leave again. So why does he still petrify at the sound of Furuichi’s wanton verbal abuse? More importantly, why does he make this trip in the first place? It is because he seeks confirmation.
Akiyuki is told many things about the world of Xam’d, both from his teachers and from those who have experienced it before him. But such knowledge is moot if he himself does not fully believe it to be true. Knowing that he doesn’t belong with mankind does not hurt, but being told that by his best friend certainly will. The last remnants of Akiyuki’s previous life revolve around the time he’s spent with his friends, and to see those bonds being broken is confirmation that he’s no longer welcome in Sentan Island, but it’s confirmation with a hefty price. He still clings to those peaceful times, at first unwilling to admit that his transformation has completely and finally separated himself from normalcy. By saying that he cannot go back, he lets go of his old self, one that only knew peace in Sentan Island. That doesn’t stop him from feeling the pangs of loneliness right there and then. He may have people waiting for him on the Zambani now, but at this point in time, at this moment, the notion that he’s not wanted by his homeland anymore is enough to turn him to stone.
Perhaps to mirror this sentiment, the bridge explodes. Communication breaks down, bonds are cut, and Akiyuki is told to run for his life, something that he, at this point in time, has trouble legitimizing as a worthwhile thing. He is able to calm down later by reminding himself of his name. He is Takehara Akiyuki. No matter what happens to him, or the world around him, the fact he holds this name proves that he exists, and that he must continue living because of it.
Akiyuki’s journey is fulfilled in two ways: one is that he learns more about how the society he’s familiar with will treat him once he leaves the Zambani for good. Two is that he knows for sure that he can no longer come back home. All he has left now is the Zambani, Nakiami, and the hiruko.
- I’d like to take this point in time to talk about humanforms and Xam’d. They’re obviously two different creatures but are often clumped together because of how similar they look. The circumstances of the transformation are also quite different. Nakiami even treats the two differently and goes about dealing with each creature with different methods. However, the more you try to differentiate the two, the more confused you get when it comes to actually defining them. The anime does not treat the two organisms with any practical or logical sense; rather, they only serve a narrative purpose. Xam’d are the ones chosen to play a major role in the story, whilst the humanforms are not. This element of the story impacts Nakiami’s character development the most, and I’ll talk about it further in a future post.
- I plan to finish this series so long as this blog exists. Lateness or discrepancies in updates be damned.
- Holy shit this post has been sitting in my dashboard for almost a year.