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a review of the series

[RahXephon]The world, suffused in sound
review by Aaron Dodson

RahXephon is nothing short of a masterpiece, an incredibly intelligent story with humor, friendships and romantic relationships – some of them absolutely heart-breaking. The tale is firmly planted in the human story and full of verisimilitude because of the basic human element and the robust fleshing out of each of the characters. The political and social intrigue is mature and sophisticated without being complex and convoluted. Because of these things this show is more believable and entertaining than any other show of it’s kind - animated or live action.

The premise of this astounding show operates on many different levels. The year is 2015 in the city of Tokyo, Japan, which is cut off from the rest of the world by a visible barrier that resembles the planet Jupiter. Thus, the city is now called Tokyo Jupiter by the rest of the outside world; the barrier was created by invaders who are known as “Mu.”
The primary story is centralized around a young man of 17 years of age named Kamina Ayoto. As with many other good stories, the viewer is not given an omniscient view of the universe in which Kamina lives. Kamina is thrust into events that he does not understand and the story begins to unfold immediately. There is no sub-standard build-up or watered down exposition with the advent of the first episode; the questions and mystery of this series begin to entice almost immediately.

The most important thing that sets this mecha anime apart from other similar series, is that you quickly begin to realize that despite the fantastic action, this is very much a drama piece - a love story to be more specific. It’s safe to say there is much more character development than on-screen action, but as with any good story, you won’t notice what you thought you would miss. Because of this, the series has a universal appeal to it that will attract viewers of all ages and both sexes.

The concepts of music and sound – and how music and sounds affect us and are produced by us - are a primary character in the theme of the story. This idea operates at several layers within the series. It operates first as an analogy to how people are in tune or out of tune with one another, their surroundings, and their walk in life. This theme also operates as terminology within the show to express the action and inaction on the screen and within the minds of the characters. The theme also operates as a description of some of the characters, races, and objects themselves. Many musical terms are used in and out of context of the vernacular widely used in compositions and performance since the beginning of modern music and what is currently used today.
In fact, the verbiage is even included to describe each episode as an individual movement in a large orchestral work, rather than simply an episode. The story is large and each movement moves the continuing storyline forward in expert fashion while still giving each movement a definitive theme in itself.

Because this show utilizes music, sound, and artistry as it’s fundamental concept, it goes without saying that the actual music used for the show would need to be very special itself. The musical experience delivers in spades. The soundtrack consists of high-caliber original orchestral tracks, fusion jazz, classical guitar and piano, and a Capella choirs that are both modern and timeless in their fashion. The animation itself is top-notch. Anime series similar to this one are notorious for having their budgets cut halfway through production and thus the quality of the animation suffers noticeably.
Thankfully, this series seems to have escaped that fate. The artistry and quality of the animation of this series is consistent from the first frame to the last.

There are beautifully drawn people… most of them desirable for one reason or another. Many of them are very alluring, and not just because of how shapely they are, but because of what kind of character they are and the emotions and motivations, memories, and yes – the experiences they share and how they all interact with one another.

If all of this is not enough to convince you that this is a different kind of anime, than consider the differences between this and other “mecha” anime:
RahXephon is often a warm story, lacking the cynicism that has become a tired staple of similar shows.
There is a real sense of compassion and strong ties between characters that are platonic, romantic, or familial. Another difference between this series and others of it’s genre, is that while you may not know what’s going on with this intriguing tale, pieces are still put together for you each episode and there are few unanswered questions at the end of the road. This show is not so lofty as to leave it to you to just “figure it out.” The aim of the series is in the telling of a good story. The mecha themselves really aren’t mecha either, instead they are giant golems or “dolls” made of clay, or “Dolems”. To say more would spoil the series.

RahXephon even explores the metaphysical realm, even though much of what actually takes place in reality seems like it is dealing in the metaphysical arena. As is the case with most mature anime, the metaphysical element of the series plays an increasing role in the series until the finale deals almost entirely with it in regards to the storytelling and as a device to let the viewer explore the inner-workings of the characters minds and emotions.

There is always a tendency for RahXephon and many other mecha anime to be inevitably compared to others. There is one anime series in particular that draws the obvious comparisons. There is no need to expound on the similarities here; suffice it to say that there are always common elements in any story of similar genres, and that this show manages a few moments in some scenes to pay tribute or acknowledge those other films or series that will delight fans of this show and the ones that came before it.

Ultimately, RahXephon is a masterful tale that delivers mystery, drama, action, and a superior love story that leaves you satisfied long after the credits have rolled.


Note: This review was written based on a viewing with Japanese dialogue and English sub-titles. Watching it in English may yield an entirely different experience, for reasons I won’t go into here.

email me: adodson (at) charter (dot) net

Related Links:
please be aware most of these sites contain spoilers! Go watch the series first!

Official English website
Official Japanese website
RahXephon on the Internet Movie Database
RahXephon timeline (unofficial, uncited info., but good read)

© 2006 ADX Music