Yet Another Haru Fanboy post is brewing somewhere here, no doubt, but I’ll try to be evenhanded. Emphasis on “try.”
This post is, more or less, going to cover a huge, expansive swath of Xam’d time (from 12 to 17), and, since in that huge, expansive swath of Xam’d time there has been quite a lot of goings-on (notably in episode 14), is probably going to serve more for me to get my thoughts straight on the series (as they frequently tend to be, since I think best by writing and not just sitting there), and I fervently hope I can do justice to everything that deserves to be addressed without boring nearly everyone else on the planet with it, but, alas, on the latter I doubt it will, less because of impending Haru-tangents and more because I’ve been getting the feeling that I’m probably going to have to rewatch the series at least once or twice if I really want to get justice done.
The most obvious starting place right now would be episode 14, a fairly critical turning point. Akiyuki and Nakiami return to Sentan Island while Akiyuki accompanies Nakiami to the northern Tessik Village, whereupon they reunite with Haru and Furuichi, neither of whom seem particularly thrilled to see Akiyuki–Haru because she’s trying very hard to be a Gritty Dispassionate Soldier (and, to my delight, failing), Furuichi because he, well, he’s got a bone to pick with Akiyuki. Or, rather, not a bone, but a Hiruko.
The twisted triangle between Akiyuki, Haru, and Furuichi that so dominated the first half seems to be a key factor in a major theme of Xam’d: that time-honored standard of having someone next to you, to believe in you, and to support you. We see, almost casually, when one of the while-haired children (not the Fantastic Children, mind) informs Haru that she must “guide her Xam’d to the gathering place”, that the implication is that a Xam’d cannot exist inside one person without there being someone else to guide and shepherd it along. Akiyuki handles himself fine with Nakiami’s help throughout the first part, but he’s driven, more or less, by a desire to see and communicate with both his home and with Haru, so we could apply a little interpretative liberty and state that the thought of Haru was enough to keep him from turning to stone.
Meanwhile, of course, Furuichi is nursing a Hiruko of his own, while still clinging on to the shards of hope that he can somehow convince Haru that he’s pretty good looking and available and willing. But Haru, of course, is still stuck on Akiyuki, even when she’s trying very hard not to admit it, leaving Furuichi’s feelings unrequited, leading, essentially, to his Xam’d spiraling out of control, being unable to control himself, and setting off on a destructive rampage, literally forcibly consuming Haru, who refuses to see him as anything other than a friend.
Of course, the conclusion of this whole mess: Haru thrown in military confinement, Akiyuki spending too much time in the Xam’d form and forgetting who he is, and Furuichi, in what probably wins the “most disturbing scene of the year” award, commits suicide. Furuichi’s conclusion seems to be the most logical: rejected by Haru, he succumbs to his own despair and offs himself. Akiyuki’s memory loss and entrapment within the motionless, fixed mask of Xam’d, stems from Haru’s rejection of him, too, as she explicitly told him that the last thing she wanted was for him to return, forcing her to tell the military about him. She loves him, but she wants him to stay away; if a Xam’d requires the knowledge of love, or what have you, from some outside source, then that kind of rejection would seem to embody itself in Akiyuki’s silence and amnesia. It isn’t a full rejection, but it still has a negative effect.
Meanwhile, while Akiyuki drifts around, meaningless, and with his own disembodied spirit (I’m pretty sure that the floating eye thing is supposed to be Akiyuki’s sense of self; it eats the food he cannot, the attachment it has to him, and the sense that it’s guiding him all seem to point to it being a kind of reflection of himself), and winds up in the care of a mentally unstable person (or is she unstable? I don’t know), Nakiami, ever the unloving type, finds her heart softened by a young child in possession of a Xam’d in a town along the way to Tessik Village. She intially doesn’t want anything to do with him, but eventually sacrifices her Kayak and travels with him to Tessik. Naturally, of course, if the goal of those who are linked to a Xam’d is to help assist the Xam’d to the gathering place, then Nakiami seems to have found hers, along, perhaps, with a sense of purpose not granted by working with Akiyuki and Raigyou, and someone to protect, however reluctantly she might admit it to herself.
Meanwhile, after throwing Haru in the brig (or whatever them landlubbin’ military types call it), Toujirou becomes even less of a human than he was before (mostly as the result of a demand for research results in a short period of time), a feat I thought impossible. From threatening the very researcher he’s supposed to be assisting conduct research (who, himself, has much more personality than I assumed at first glance), it’s getting increasingly clear that he’s acting less and less logically as his sense of desperation increases. It’s almost telling of how far he’s gone when Prois, who’s always seemed to be an apathetic assistant to Toujirou, steps into Haru’s cell, delivers some rather esoteric semi-insults, and then loudly announces that she forgot the key, and that it’d be really nice if Haru wouldn’t escape in the next, oh, hour. I think, more than anything else in the past eight or so episodes, that was the development that shocked me the most–having perceived her as apathetic, that she’d actually do something contrary to Toujirou seems inconceivable, although, given her nature and strange fondness for Haru, it’s not totally implausible.
I told you, he’s inhuman.
And Haru! Oh, yes, Haru! More than nearly everyone else, I’d be tempted to make the argument that she is intended to be the main character and/or protagonist more so than, say, Akiyuki or Nakiami are supposed to be. The concept itself is nebulous, but so much of what happens seems, more or less, to hinge on Haru that she seems to be more important than nearly everyone else, despite not actually doing much of anything. I think, more or less, that I’ve explicated most of my thoughts pertaining to her developments already, but I do want to mention several things: one, she is now fast approaching the upper echelon of characters I like, the kind I actively admire, more for the fact that they go to nearly absurd lengths to stand up for their own personal ideals–in Haru’s case, openly inviting sexual harassment from Toujirou (causing it herself, even) to demonstrate that there is nothing he can do to dissuade her from her desires and will.
Two, and this is probably utterly weird, but Haru gets extra points for being so downright pensive and melancholy all the time. Although I’m positively overjoyed when she smiles for the first time in I don’t know how long when she’s given the opportunity to escape, I cannot help but think that it looks positively unnatural in screencap form–it’s warm, pleasant, and utterly satisfying in its in-show context, but as a screencap, well, she just looks deranged. Considering that my favorite image of her is from the OP and is currently spending a ridiculous amount of time as my background on various electronic devices (as well as my representative portrait of choice on IM clients), this might just be some kind of absurd fixation on her frequently moody state of mind due to its possible relation to my own, rather than being owed to a failure of the art style of Xam’d being unable to translate into still images with ease.
I should probably end this post before it eats up my life trying to put all these stray thoughts about the series into words–I will probably save those for the inevitable rewatch, whenever that might happen (I’m looking at you, DVD releases, whereever you are). There’s still a lot left unsaid, but some of that is still ongoing and might change between now and later, and I need to not think for a few precious more hours before work on my final papers of the semester (and of my undergraduate career, one hopes).
In summation: need more Haru, STAT. 50cc, please, intravenous.