Here’s another ancient artefact unearthed during my idle excavation of anime past. RahXephon is an original anime series from the long-gone era of 2002, back when George W Bush ruled the free world with an iron fist and people thought Witch Hunter Robin was actually enjoyable. Those were simpler times. *switches on flame shield*
I enjoyed RahXephon the first time I watched it, so naturally when I recently had the chance to revisit the series, I assumed that like most good things from my (relative) childhood it would turn out to be a piece of turd. Fortunately I was proven wrong.
Ayato Kamina is a perfectly normal boy… Oh screw it. I’m too lazy to write a summary for this, so I shall plagiarize one from ANN:
In a world where time passes at a crawl and the blood of your neighbor runs blue, 17 year old high school student Ayato Kamina goes about his daily life within Tokyo Jupiter oblivious to the world around him, having been educated with the fact that the all civilization but Tokyo has been destroyed. But all that changes when the mysterious civilization “MU” invades his home, raining destruction down from the sky in the form of strange monsters called Dolems. The events that occur next will lead Ayato to the mysterious woman named Reika Mishima, to the truth of their existence, the discovery of what and who he is, and to the powerful angelic robot RahXephon.
Once again invoking my arguably paradoxical belief that all anime can be mathematically derived from preceding titles, the appropriate equation for this occasion is probably: Evangelion – Judeo-Christianity + Music + Mesoamerica = RahXephon
It would be somewhat of an understatement to say that RahXephon bares striking similarities to Evangelion. The influences are unmistakeable and a compelling case can be made that RahXephon was intentionally conceived to be an improvement upon Evangelion’s framework.
Let’s see here… Ayato is basically a cooler Shinji who is a gifted painter and popular with the chicks. During the attack on Tokyo, he meets Haruka Shitow, an agent working for TERRA, a paramilitary organization under the umbrella of a futuristic UN. Haruka is basically Misato except she is the female lead. After some love comedic ups and downs with the older woman, Ayato ends up at TERRA’s headquarters where he meets Quon Kisaragi, who is basically a hotter and cuter Rei, i.e. a constant source of mysticism and fanservice.
The battle music in RahXephon is curiously reminiscent of Evangelion’s “Decisive Battle” and there’s a whole shopping list of other similarities that can be found between the two: a mysterious organization influencing global events, biomechanical mechas with dark secrets, ancient prophecies of world-resetting armagaddon and all the standard post-Eva existential essentials. Normally, I would be one of the first to reject these superficial similarities as merely the common features of an established genre, but RahXephon, I feel, goes beyond that.
Remember how when you first watched Evangelion, the ending left you confused and emotionally traumatized? I believe, with little evidence beyond my gut, that RahXephon’s producers set out to recreate the complex web of emotions that Eva gave us so as to give it the proper finality that End of Evangelion failed to provide for many. It’s kind of like how fan-fiction writers write alternative endings to match their wishes for the characters, although it sounds rather lame when I put it in that context. Haha.
That is not to say that RahXephon is trapped in the shadows of its source of inspiration — It is a story of human emotions that stand very well on its own. Perhaps because I’m not fluent enough in the language of the heart to fully appreciate the depths of Evangelion, but I found its presentation of human psychology rather incomprehensible at times, perhaps overly avant garde for the sake of it. RahXephon has its fair share of Alice-in-wonderland moments, but somehow manages to do a better job of tying things together while remaining relevant. In that sense, RahXephon provides a much more engaging and emotional experience.
RahXephon is like a work of art, really.
Beyond its heavy use of music as an important plot device, it is also highly effective in its visuals. I think there are few episodes in any anime that left such a deep impression on me as RahXephon’s episode 19. As Ayato desperately tries to protect his childhood friend Hiroko from the attacking Mulian in an ironic gesture whose futility can only be appreciated by the audience, the entire city’s power grid became a flashing display for a young girl’s heartfelt affection. The word “goodbye” trails off into infinity and, after a moment of darkness, the city is once again lit up. A powerful and imaginative scene.
The final episode also does an excellent job in its surrealist presentation.
As usual, I shall end my post here in an abrupt manner before I end up spoilering the entire series. Oh yeah, Maaya Sakamoto voiced Reika Mishima, so huzzah! And with that, I leave you with a bunch of purdy pictures.