So I'm trying really hard to figure out why this series bugs me, and writing always helps with that. Let's start with the basics.
BONES makes some damn fine looking shows. RahXephon, which was pretty but aped Eva in too many obvious ways, Eureka Seven, why are Japanese people so hung up on Instrumentality oh right they hate their lives, Darker Than Black, the best Evil Eye character ever drawn, and Soul Eater, who else would make the Grim Reaper the hero of the show?
Bounen no Xamdou is also damn fine looking. The framerate, background detail, character designs, voice acting, all of it feels fresh and wonderful. It is also possessing of perhaps the best combination of OP and ED themes ever put into a single show, and it's the only time I can think of that I've regularly sat through both of them during every single episode, and also downloaded and listened to them on their own.
The problem is that it doesn't exist in a vacuum. As with all anime, there are so many elements of the show that are borrowed from the shows that came before it that I find myself comparing them involuntarily. Misfit crew of renegade airship? Check. Boy-transforms-into-fighting-machine-and-might-just-save-the-world? Check. Love triangle with hot high school sweetheart and jealous best friend who'll never get any? Check. Rogue military commander pursuing research into superhumans/weapons in order to win a war? Check. There's even a bevy of, bless their hearts, white haired red-eyed special religious children who go around the world seeding plot devices by blowing up public transportation. Oh, and the matronly elder woman who is somehow behind everything, manipulating people from the comfort of a stone hideout with lots of fountains.
What I can't forgive is how routine all of it feels. Everyone is going through the motions of telling a story that we've heard a hundred times before, and will hear a hundred times again. It's just like the saying in Battlestar Galactica, except we're not dealing with the rise and fall of civilizations, but merely the inability of anime producers to apply the same degree of creativity to their stories as they do to their visual designs. How long has it been since we saw an alternate universe where things were truly different, instead of just having differently shaped doors and goofy pants? There's not a single original idea in BnX that's lying underneath all that pretty paint. I have no idea what it's trying to portray, if it's not a) the folly of man reaching for power and b) the determination of a young man to find or possibly fight his destiny.
The reasons I will continue to watch it are the aforementioned OP/EDs, and a few characters that I find amusing. Akushiba needs more excuses to run fast, and he's got more personality than anyone else on that ship. Any scene with him in it is automatically more interesting than whatever came before. I do feel for Haru, she's one of the few anime heroines who is completely honest and open with her feelings from the start, and doesn't hesitate to act on them. This is refreshing, though I harbour serious doubts about her getting a good ending.
On a related note, this series has also made me realize that, being so jaded and cynical regarding the originality of anime storytelling, the thing I'm most consistently impressed by in any series is it's ability to kill off main characters and have them stay dead. Ga-Rei Zero kills a lot of people and so far that's what's made an otherwise routine magical demon fighting corps show bearable. Mai HiME killed a lot of people (before the SUNRISE LOL RESET) and that made it pretty fucking hardcore. But it saddens me that this is now the best way to surprise a veteran viewer. It doesn't help that while I was writing this I also read this review of The Sky Crawlers, which is clearly pretty contemptuous of these same trends in anime.
I think that's it.