RAHXEPHON (2001)

 

Format: 26 23-minute episodes on 7 DVDs

 

Rating: PG-13 (BN, AC, GV)

 

Type: Mecha

 

American Production: ADV Films

 

Japanese Production: BONES

 

Grading

 

Premise:

C+

Story:

B+ 

Writing:

B+

Character Design:

A-

Mecha Design:

B+

Animation:

B

Artistic Merits:

B+ 

English Dub:

B+

Musical Score:

A-

Songs:

C

Opener:

B+

Closer:

B-

 

 

Humor Content:

n/a

Action Content:

B-

Drama Content:

A-

 

 

DVD Presentation:

DVD Extras:

 

 

 

OVERALL:

B+

 

Synopsis

      17-year old Ayato Kamina lives in a Tokyo that has been surrounded by a gigantic energy sphere which cuts it off from the rest of the world, which is presumed destroyed in the face of an invasion by an alien race called the Mu, who inhabit giant flying cities and attack via the use of Dolems (basically remote-controlled mecha). In the midst of the most recent Mu attack Ayato is separated from his friends and drawn away by the image of a mysterious brown-haired girl in a yellow dress – the same one that has appeared in his paintings and in his school class that no one seems able to remember! Soon he encounters a brunette in her late 20s named Haruka, who starts him on a journey with three startling discoveries:

1)      He is able to bond with and pilot a mecha called the RahXephon, which hatches from a massive egg;

2)      His mother has the same blue blood as the Mulians are supposed to have; and

3)      The outside world really hasn’t been destroyed, Tokyo’s just been stuck in a time dilation zone which is only permeable with special equipment and which has caused only three years to pass in Tokyo while fifteen have passed in the outside world.

 

      Soon Ayato finds himself reluctantly joining forces with TERRA, a well-equipped and well-funded paramilitary organization dedicated to battling the Mu incursions that occasionally strike beyond the dome, and living with Haruka and her teenage sister Megumi (who also works for TERRA) at their grandfather’s place. All the while a myriad array of manipulative forces and complicated interpersonal relationships swirl around him, all with interests (for one reason or another) in the RahXephon and dealing with the Mu. The secrets run wide and deep as Ayato struggles to find his place and resolve his feelings. And what of the mysterious girl Quon, who seems to speak in riddles, called Ayatoollin” and has similar marks on her belly to the ones Ayato has? And what of the friends he left behind in Tokyo? And what about his mother?

 

The Long View

      RahXephon is an extraordinarily complex and convoluted series which in many ways is a direct descendant of Neon Genesis Evangelion; the above Synopsis doesn’t even begin to do it justice. A long and fierce debate has been waged in the fan community about whether or not RahXephon is an original work or just a derivative of Evangelion, and about which one is ultimately better. My ratings of the two should make it clear where I stand on the latter issue; although RahXephon is a good series, Evangelion is better and ultimately has more depth. As for the former, it is my opinion that anyone who claims RahXephon doesn’t owe homage to Evangelion is being unrealistic; although it takes a distinctly different approach to its story, there are a few too many similarities to deny a connection.

      Although it may not appear so at first, RahXephon is ultimately as much a love story as it is a mecha story. At the center of it all is Haruka’s love for Ayato and his failure – until late in the story – to realize it. That a 29-year-old woman would fall so hopelessly over a 17-year-old boy might seem strange at first, but there is a reason for it; in fact, nothing in this series happens haphazardly, although motivations are not always clear. A number of other romantic interests are peppered throughout the supporting characters, which always keeps the storyline pumping even when the mecha battles aren’t up to the task. The storyline is also laden with layers of mysteries and secrets so formidable that it gives even Evangelion a run for its money as the most intricate mecha story ever told in anime. At times the lack of clarity about what’s going on and who has what motivations is maddening (and overdone), but the series never runs short on its secrets and quite a few of them, when revealed, are doozies. The writing, which plays almost entirely seriously, is capable of generating some powerful drama. The pinnacle of the series in this regard is episode 19, when the fruits of Ayato’s return to Tokyo turn tragically sour. I would rate this as one of the single best episodes of any series I have seen to date.

      The writing for RahXephon works with two distinct themes. One is music, which is a cornerstone of everything that goes on. Both the RahXephon and many of the Dolems it fights can attack by singing, and there are constant references to Ayato being an “instrumentalist” and his ultimate destiny being “to tune the world.” The episode titles are all “Movements” and the common tag line in the Next Episode sections is “the world suffused with sound.” Two of the characters – Quon and Mishima – are even able to manipulate things at various points through their own singing. The other theme is Nahua (Aztec) culture. Many of the symbols and naming conventions which pop up throughout the series are drawn from the Nahuatl language, and Nahua philosophies about uniting the “heart” and the “face” (in other words, orienting one’s self to express outwardly what one feels inwardly) provide the philosophical underpinnings for the series. I strongly recommend that anyone who finishes the series does some research on their own about the Nahua names and terms referenced in the series, especially in the later stages. You’ll understand things better if you do.

      Compared to most 26-episode series, RahXephon has an enormous active cast – and by this I mean characters that see significant character development and have a significant ongoing presence in the storyline. Although a cast of well-developed characters is generally a Good Thing, RahXephon goes a bit overboard here, as a scorecard is sometimes necessary to keep track of who has what motivation and what kind of relationships with the other characters. (It also doesn’t help that a few of the characters have similar-sounding names; Haruka vs. Hiroko and Isshiki vs. Itsuki, for instance.) The relative appeal of the characters can change over the course of the series, and some of the characters may surprise you at points. I know my opinion of the cast changed dramatically as I watched the series; although I did not find many of the characters to be particularly interesting at first, by the end of the series I felt that the cast was arguably the series’ strongest feature.

      The artistry to RahXephon is generally quite good, although there are moments when it regresses to very ordinary levels. Bonus points go to the character designer for the designs of the Mu and for an honest attempt to give many of the characters original looks. The animation is good by series standards and the action scenes are generally well-executed (although I have seen better). The musical scoring is great, and the English dub does not disappoint. The opener is one of the better ones out there, except for its last shot, while the closer is more ordinary.

      As graphic content goes, RahXephon is relatively tame. There is no sex or actual nudity; the Brief Nudity indicator is there mainly because a couple of characters do appear naked at various points but you don’t actually get to see anything. The suggestive content is minimal, but the Adult Content indicator is warranted because the series functions on a conceptual level that would be incomprehensible to most younger viewers (and some older ones, for that matter). The graphic violence is significant at points but neither extreme nor pervasive.

      Does RahXephon ultimately make any sense? Well. . . I’ll leave that for the individual viewer to decide. I liked the ending, even though it falls far short of explaining things or even being completely comprehensible, but the series has been lambasted in some circles for not making much sense overall. I can’t entirely disagree with this complaint. Although fans of the series hate to hear it called “the next Evangelion,” that’s really what it is. If you liked the one, you should like the other.

 

DVD Extras

      The liner notes include color character and mecha profiles, translation notes (very valuable!), and text interviews. The DVDs themselves have:

·  Clean openers and closers

·  Company trailers

·  Production sketches

·  Interview with American or Japanese cast and/or crew (subjects of interviews vary from volume to volume)

·  Special Japanese promo trailer (vol. 1)

·  Early production promo (vol. 3)

·  Original Japanese cover artwork (vol. 5)

·  Fate of Katun music video (vol. 7)

  

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Ayato Kamina 

Chris Patton

Reika Mishima, Lt. Haruka

Mandy Clark

Haruka Shitow

Monica Rial

Megumi Shitow

Hillary Haag

Quon Kisaragi

Kira Vincent Davies

Itsuki Kisaragi, minor roles

Jay Hickman

Makoto Isshiki

Illich Guardiola

Kim Hotal, minor roles 

Tiffany Grant

Souchi Yagumo, minor roles

Mark Laskowski

Hiroko Asahina

Cynthia Martinez

Jin Kunugi, minor roles

John Gremillion

Maya Kamina (Ayato’s mother) 

Laura Chapman

Shuogo Rikudo

Jon Swasey

Johji Futagami 

Andy McAvin

Helena Bahbem 

Kelli Cousins

Ernst Bahbem

Ted Pfister 

Mamoru Torigai 

Vic Mignogna

Shinobu Miwa, minor roles

Melissa Cybele

Elvy Hadhiyet

Christine Auten

Cathy MacMahon

Allison Keith

Jean-Patrick Shapplin

James Faulkner

Masayoshi Kuki

Mike Vance

Masaru Gomi

Jason Douglas

Youhei Yomoda, minor roles

Randy Sparks

Captain Nomad, minor roles

George Manley

Shirow Watari

Mike Kleinhenz

Sayoko Nanamori

Kelly Manison

Mariko, computer system

Emily Carter-Essex

Donny Wong

Paul Locklear

butler

John Tyson

 

 

 

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