||home / september 2002 / feature
By En Hong
I think Asian people have some sort of Mecha fetish. I mean, the Japanese freaking worship big robots. Sure, it'd be cool if I looked out my window and saw this gigantic metal man locked in combat with like a huge Energizer Bunny or something, but it would start sucking really quickly when the giant robot invariably falls/steps/defecates on my house and kills me. That being said, RahXephon is a yet another mecha series by Production BONES, which started airing in the land of big robots (i.e. Japan) on January 21, 2002.
The series director, Yataka Izubuchi (of Patlabor fame), is also credited for the storyline, but I don't know what this little tidbit of knowledge is good for. Maybe you get a kick out of knowing things like that. Anyway, since this is Animefringe, and I'm not getting paid to just sit here and ramble on about Japanese directors, let's move onto the anime itself.
When I started watching the series, one thought came to mind. I won't describe it here in fear that it features acts that may be illegal in your (and in all likelihood my) country, but suffice to say, it involved a lot of beeswax and refried pork skins. The second thought that came to mind was how RahXephon bears an incredible similarity to Neon Genesis Evangelion. The words 'rip' and 'off' came to mind as well, and amazingly enough, not in the context of 'girls' and 'panties'. Then I kept watching, and realized that either this is either one complex series, or I'm not nearly as smart as I know I am. Since the latter can't possibly be true, I'm gonna go with the complex series take on RahXephon.
This leaves me with quite a dilemma, because I have two contrasting viewpoints - one from when I first started watching, and one from watching the majority of the series. Now, I could just go ahead and give you the standard feature fare and talk about the plot, characters, etc. but I'm not going to. Instead, I'm going to do a nice point-counterpoint discussion.
"But wait," you say, "don't you need two people to do point-counterpoint? You'd have to be a crazy man to argue with yourself!" That would be my cue to nod sagely and continue muttering to myself. But, unless you have a habit of talking to your monitor, the above scenario will never happen - so let's venture onward to the happy world of Dissociative Identity Disorder (http://www.sidran.org/didbr.html)!
Point: RahXephon is so not different from Evangelion that it puts the fine line between 7-UP and Sprite to shame.
In the beginning of RahXephon, we're introduced Ayato Kamina, your typical *coughshinji* high school student who lives in Tokyo *coughTokyoIII*. He meets his friend at the train station and we catch glimpses of a sunglasses-clad woman who seems to be tracking him. Amazingly enough, as he and his friends are leaving on the train, their city is attacked. Oddly, it's not by giant bloated colorful objects from space, but by futuristic fighter planes. Worry not, because soon enough, a giant floating mecha thing appears to save the day while still managing to cut down a few office buildings and send thousands to their deaths. But it's OK, because it SAVED Tokyo.
Now, if you still don’t catch the Evangelion similarities, just keep watching. In subseqent episodes (ie. two), Ayato finds himself in a winged mecha, RahXephon, which he uses to destroy another floating mecha. During all this action, he somehow manages to hook up with the previous lady stalker-in-sunglasses *coughmisato* who promises to show him the ‘truth’. Not convinced yet? Well, Ayato then fiddles some more with RahXephon and escapes from Tokyo with his shiny new giant winged man-thing. He also carries lady stalker out with him. She turns out to be Shitow Haruka, a member of the organization TERRA. TERRA's *coughnerv's* purpose is to defend against an enemy known as MU. Well, it turns out that these “Murians” (aka MU, aka blue blooded humans) are in control of Tokyo and are hell bent on sending Evangelionesque Angel-things against the rest of the world. Well, you know the rest... (Ayato is semi-forced into piloting RahXephon for TERRA. RahXephon kills other mecha. Japanese people clap. Crazy bondage ensues).
In the first ten episodes I watched, there was always this feeling at some point in an episode that just screamed, "This is straight out of Evangelion!" It got so that I started wondering how much more they could actually rip before someone at Gainax noticed and gave them a call. Oh well, since my point has been made and the series has been properly introduced, I will turn this discussion over to me. My parting shot, RahXephon is so a copy of Evangelion.
Counterpoint: It's sooooo different.
All right, let me just say that you should disregard everything just said because it's so wrong. I mean, a trained Japanese monkey could have watched RahXephon and seen how different it was from Evangelion. First of all, there's the entire Tokyo Jupiter slant, which is completely original. Tokyo Jupiter is the name that TERRA gives to Tokyo because it's surrounded by a shield that causes time to run slower within. It also looks like Jupiter. Those crazy Japanese and their Engrish.
Also, the characters in RahXephon are more fleshed out and human than those in Evangelion. Ayato Kamina isn't obsessed with not running away for the entire series. He's an artist and a high school student who's been placed in the strange situation of being able to pilot RahXephon. There's also his companion, Haruka Shitow, who was the one following him from the first episode and eventually leads him to escape Tokyo. He meets up with Haruka's little sister Megumi Shitow who ends up sharing her house with him. She's about the same age as Ayato, but is ridiculed by other kids because she refuses to go to school. Then there's the mysterious girl Mishima Reika who tends to pop up randomly and sporadically - like those gophers in that game at the arcade with the hammer and they keep popping up and I keep missing them and they make that high-pitched laughing sound and I cry. Damn those gophers.
Aside from gophers, RahXephon also features an intricate and incredibly complex storyline, which defies the powers of mortal men such as myself to comprehend. Since anime can't be normal and cater to the lowest common denominator of white man, RahXephon's overlying theme is music and sound. Mishima Reika hints that Ayato's true purpose is to 'tune the world' - and thus, whenever anything of any significance occurs, you can expect a rousing score to suddenly fade in and things to explode in spectacular fashion. Also, there's this entire subtle Egyptian thing going on, but I think the creators just threw it in because it was damn cool.
After getting over the first few episodes that were pretty much an introduction to the world, I realized that RahXephon is quite different from anything else I've watched. The only real similarities to Evangelion stem from the attacks of the Murian's 'D-1' mecha, but RahXephon focuses on these encounters only for a small fraction of the episode they appear in. All other episode time is spent delving into the past of the assorted characters and introducing more plotlines than your average season of The X-Files. Not that the complexity is bad. Every character becomes so multifaceted because small nuances in their lives are developed so skillfully that we can believe these characters are self-conscious entities and not just parts to be filled for the story to progress.
Overall, if you like complex storylines and intricate character development in your anime (that's almost a redundant statement), then RahXephon is well worth a look. Be sure to check out RahXephon now if you live in Japan or don't mind a little fansub action. For the rest, you'll just have to wait for its eventual domestic release.
|STEEL RAHZEPHON - CHARACTER DOSSIER
He's your normal, artistically talented 17-year old Japanese dude who looks European. Incidentally, he's the only one who can pilot RahXephon and thusly gets to live with a cute girl with purple hair. Damn those Japanese, I demand my share! Where are my babes with colorful hair?
She appears randomly, disappears randomly, and is always accompanied by massive imagery. Typically, we call this type of character 'Mystery Figure A'. She's sort of a guiding force for Ayato and some refer to her as Ishitori. As with most animated characters, she never changes her clothing.
She's Ayato's mom and holds some importance in the Mu leadership. For some reason, she's got blue blood but Ayato's got red blood. Nonetheless, she's still his mom and the quest for his own identity is one of confusion and conflict.
She's the intelligence division for Terra and is the one who initially finds Ayato and puts in motion his eventual exodus from Tokyo Jupiter. She's tough, but can be still be cutesy and happy in the Japanese fashion. Her number one priority is the well being of Ayato to whom she has some connection in the past.
17 years old, works for Terra, and is Haruka's little sister. She is also asked to take Kamina in as a houseguest to ease his transition to the outside world. Megumi's harassed by other kids her age because she refuses to go to school, but she's always got a cute personality and she sports purple-pink hair with a matching pink outfit.
She's the younger sister of Itsuki Kisaragi. Pale skinned and Rei-like, but with bigger breasts. 17 years old, but physically frail, she wears a life support vest at most times. Her talent is playing musical instruments and spouting off obscure predictions. It's all good though, because they always fulfill themselves.