At the risk of being called a contrarian due to the reappearance of a certain show on Netflix called Neon Genesis Evangelion, let’s talk RahXephon. (I’m in the middle of rewatching Eva at the moment at my own pace, so please be patient with me.) A show that has been annoyingly dragged through the mud and called an Evangelion clone ever since it came out. Many shows borrowed heavily from Eva during the early 2000’s, so I don’t get why people hate focus on this one specifically. I guess if you are looking at both shows at the distance without any tools to aid you, then they might be similar. Maybe. The framework of both shows might seem the same, but the core of their stories and how they go about them couldn’t be anymore different from each other. At the risk of generalizing things too much, Evangelion is about finding self love while RahXephon is about how love is an unknown quantity that time and space can’t stop. That isn’t all the comparisons there is, but that is where all the comparisons between the two series stop in this post. Let’s only talk about RahXephon now.
(This is my second time watching RahXephon, so I caught a lot more things this time around then I did last time. It’s kind of shocking how obvious some things were.)
Around RahXepon’s universe in the year 2012, the aliens called the Mu showed around Tokyo and Sendai with two floating cities. With their appearance came conflict with human kind that escalated into Nuclear War. Eventually, the Mulian race put a massive time dilation wall around Tokyo that looks like Jupiter on the outside. Hence the title “Tokyo Jupiter”. Within those walls, time is diluted to moving only at one fifth of the time of the outside world and the Mulian completely brain washed the humans in whatever way they feel like. On the outside of that wall, humankind is slowing building up their forces to invade Tokyo and rescue the human beings inside. Rahxephon’s story starts in the middle of that conflict one morning when the humans from outside the wall make their way into Tokyo Jupiter for the first time.
In a day like any other, our protagonist Ayato Kamina is traveling back home from school, where we learn this society only knows about what is in Tokyo, with his friends on the subway. I’m sure that must be a much more common thing in Japan then it is here where we just have lame, yellow school busses taking us to and back from school. But anyway, the trip home gets interrupted when some unknown invaders appear out of nowhere. An accident suddenly occurs where his friends are hurt, so he immediately escapes from the subway while searching for someone with medical expertize to help his friends. Upon this trip, he has a mysterious encounter with one of the invaders, Haruka. Someone who tempts him with knowledge of what the world is really like. One event after another happens after that meeting shaking Ayato’s sense of self and how he sees his current world leading to him and Haruka escaping to the outside world using the unknown robot called the RahXephon. With that, this show’s journey truly begins. With the RahXephon, Ayato joins an organization called Terra whose purpose is fighting against the Mulians.
RahXephon is a show full of mysteries that carrying a musical motif behind them. It is also a show that explores it’s themes, character motivations, and uses the robots in question in a big picture sort of way instead of getting down and dirty in the mud with them to tell you all the meticulous details. That makes in the context of the series, because there is always a god watching over everything. The ending theme is framed in a way that represents this aspect. It’s very easy to call RahXephon a monster of the week show, but the enemies in question, called Dolems, don’t attack every episode. As far as RahXephon goes, the world is never in that much jeopardy so there is more focus on character interactions, Ayato’s situation inside of Terra, intrigue, interference with Terra from government’s across the world, and just day to day lives of the people of Terra. RahXephon never tells you what the RahXephon is until the end of the series. Even then, can you say you know for sure? It doesn’t matter though. That’s not the point of all of this.
In RahXephon, the RahXephon is an invincible tool/robot/thing whose only weakness is the pilot, Ayato Kamina. That’s perfect when it comes to what this show is about because its about Ayato finding a connection with other people. His title is the instrumentalist for mysteries that will be revealed later and because the show is subtly about music. (Dolems use musical chords to destroy things, so it takes a musical instrument to defeat them.) In this anime, Ayato is a foreigner to everyone. He doesn’t belong in Tokyo Jupiter and he doesn’t belong with Terra outside of Tokyo Jupiter because he’s constantly looked down on because of where he came from at the beginning of this series. Yet, he finds some sense of normality in his situation and has a group of people that he hangs with all the time. Maybe that’s because it’s familiar to him. Finding normalcy in strangeness is his largest strength because he always knows who he, as a person, is. If anything, he can always return to his painting to center himself. Finding something and someone to fight for is how he moves forward because he needs attachment that is longer lasting then focusing on himself. Maybe he found that in the opening acts of this series. Who knows?
The people who Kamina stays with are always fun and full of energy. Haruka Shitow, the person who broke him out of Tokyo Jupiter is in her older twenties and is more true to her heart then a lot of people I’ve met. Yet, Haruka is longing for someone as well. Someone she just can’t forget. Haruka is also intelligent, knows how to fight, and endlessly enthusiastic about everything. Haruka and Ayato instantly has a connection to each other from their odd food tastes to how they just click. Even if they had a decent age gap between them. Maybe. But anyway, Haruka has a younger sister named Megumi who is around Ayato’s age. They also click off each other extremely well, even if it’s more of a sibling kind of vibe. That’s the feeling I get anyway. Megumi has hopes and dreams that center on finding a place at Terra considering that her high school life is lagging where people expect her to be. I don’t know what it is about the Shitow family, but they all seem wonderful to me.
Then there is the other instrumentalist in the series, Quon. She is the perfect balance of creepy and attractive. Why was she important, why did she require attention, how does she affect everything? Qoun is a puzzle box full of ambiguities. She constantly knows what she is doing and what she is waiting for to happen in a confident manner, yet everyone around her passes her off as someone who is off the wall crazy or like she lost all the wits she had left. Just to let you guys know, it’s always the crazy ones that you need to look out for. Quon is the perfect crafting of tension and mystery that RahXephon needs in order build up the show’s tension even more to a higher levels thought impossible. She doesn’t need to pilot a robot in all of this, because Quon never does. Quon just needs to be herself and she’s perfect at that.
RahXephon’s cast is generally amazing. Every single member of the command crew and scientist team of Terra is given at least a moment to shine, a character moment, a relationship to another, or characterized by being compared to other people through complete visual queues. It’s honestly incredibly well done. Even the main villain is at least given some semblance of motivation. There is that prevailing theme of authenticity through each of the characters motivations and explorations. Are the people in Tokyo Jupiter real, is everyone who they seem to be, is there a fake version of people around? All questions that RahXephon answers in it’s own way through visual queues and subtle jabs to the viewer.
Speaking of visuals, RahXephon was created a younger Studio Bones right when it was starting out. You can feel that by the lack of animation in a lot of occasions. The character art was consistent, the “robots” looked pretty cool. I mean, they started that special Studio Bones feel that goes through all of their mech shows and that’s good. Also, I loved all the unique settings and backgrounds that carried a lot of the RahXephon’s mysteries with them. I do have to admit that the direction behind a lot of scenes where some characters were on higher elevations compared to others or the wings that appeared behind people’s backs was kind of obvious way to give all of them a sense of importance was kind of too on point though. What can you do though? On an animation front, there were some still frames and cut out shots for mechs while also having some solid cuts here and there for hand and fist action and mecha action. Once again, it’s obvious this is a studio still trying to find it’s footing. I guess it might have worked considering that Bones still exists.
I don’t think that I’ve made it clear yet, but I really love RahXephon. It’s fair to say that it has a lot of plot holes through out it’s run. If you want to look for them, they are there. RahXephon is about the big over all picture sort of like a Christopher Nolan film. The prevailing themes of characters finding love and getting involved in things beyond people’s control with some cool characters, a solid story, and good characterization on the side. The more that you want to look into RahXephon in a thematic and story manner, the more you will get out of it. A lot of my favorite pieces of anime media are like that. RahXephon is an underrated piece of media marred from history for stupid reasons and needs more love from all the merit it carries with it. I can’t recommend it enough.