RahXephon: The Movie (also w/box) (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, July 20, 2004
What They Say
Return to the world of RahXephon, where humans and Mu fight for dominance over a shattered Earth, and giant statues are the ultimate weapons. Where music forms the fabric of the universe and the link
between two hearts is the thread upon which the fate of humanity hangs.
It is still a love story, but it is not the same story. Not exactly. Prepare for new visions and new revelations, as the other side of RahXephon is finally revealed.
Compressing the key points of the original series while adding new scenes and rewriting certain parts of it, RahXephon's movie version presents an interesting encapsulated view of the show with some interesting differences.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this movie in its original language of Japanese since we're so familiar with the characters in that form now. Both language tracks are done in Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes and just sound beautiful. There's a lot of directionality used to the rear speakers throughout the movie but it's the obvious action sequences that make out the best and give this show an almost new life based on the extensive differences in the mix. The Japanese track unfortunately is not problem free. While the rear speaker output comes across great, there's an issue with the forward speakers up until the start of chapter five. During the first four chapters, or roughly the first half of the film, all of the dialog is coming from the front right channel and not the front center. It's not massively noticeable depending on your setup, but there are key scenes where you should be hearing the dialogue coming from the left and it's only coming from the right. It was only really noticeable during these kinds of scenes where two characters are positioned by their speakers and were talking one on one as opposed to numerous characters that were less distinct in their placement.
Released in 2003 but made up of animation from the 2001 TV run and new pieces, the RahXephon movie transfer is presented here in its original full frame format. Much like the TV series, the quality of the materials here is simply gorgeous. Though the character artwork and designs don't actually go towards what an original theatrical-aimed production would be like since they basically cobbled together a lot of this from the existing series material, it's a great looking piece that has had a lot of things cleaned up throughout it. The new pieces, which some are easily recognizable while others are not, manage to match the existing pieces nicely while still bringing in more new detail and richer colors. The show is thankfully free of cross coloration and aliasing is just as minimal as the series was. Visually, RahXephon continues to be a stunner in my eyes.
Utilizing the same style of both keepcase and layout design as the series, the cover for the film provides a shot of the RahXephon singing in the background while the foreground gives us a shot of Mishima and Kamina together from their time before Tokyo-Jupiter. The back cover provides a few screenshots from the show as well as a listing of the discs technical specs and extra features. A summary of the show and a listing of the main production credits are also included. The booklet included with this release similar to the TV series run but is completely full color. Starting with a gorgeous blue illustration of Ayato and Quon together on the cover, it delves into a basic character listing and a summary of the films premise. There are a few pages of commentary that discuss some of the shows basis while the rest of the booklet is given over to more technical pieces of the show. This booklet is included in both editions of the release.
With the Limited Edition release, the package includes a new box with different artwork to hold the entire series plus the film and a book. The new box, a nice solid chipboard type, has some great looking artwork on it that just draws the eyes. The spine is an intriguing piece as well with an interesting illustration of Kamina and Mishima holding hands in front of an angelic statute, the very look of innocence between the two of them. While I didn't keep the first box I'm definitely keeping this one.
Included with just the limited edition release is a fifty-four page booklet. This full color book is filled with images from the film and with a lot of pieces of artwork that was used for other releases. Conceptual images, character designs, vehicle visuals, the works. I've barely scraped the surface of what's in this booklet in terms of the text sections and interviews but it's filled with lots of interesting interviews and explanations about different parts of the show. Books like this are rare and worth every penny.
The menus use the abstract artwork from the cover to provide the basis here with a small area playing animation from the show while a portion of the score plays. The layout is pretty simple and easy to navigate with each episode selectable from the main menu, no transitional animations and quick access loads. The disc also read our player preset language settings and started up in the way we wanted it to.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the successful TV run, the plans for the theatrical version of the show was fairly quickly in the works from what I recall as they were intending to go the route of taking much of the existing footage and doing some slight rearrangement of scenes, adding in some new animation and cleaning up other areas. The goal was to take a very complicated and detailed twenty-six episode series and bring it down to its core elements, a love story with a science fiction backdrop, and make it more accessible.
This is one of the more typical ways of creating an anime movie off of an existing show so I wasn't too surprised that BONES would go this route, especially knowing that they're not one of the fastest production studios out there. Being able to take much of the existing show and play with that while adding new pieces to give a new spin on a popular show is definitely something they were capable of doing however while working on other projects that were in the pipeline. It may not make for a better film and it may keep things angled more towards the hardcore fan than opening the story up for a wider audience, but it's definitely cheaper than starting from scratch.
Watching this after having seen the entire series and reading pages upon pages of exposition and thesis-like posts about what it all means, the movie plays out as a condensed reminder of what made the show so enjoyable. The main storyline with Haruka and Ayato is kept while much of the secondary cast is minimized to small or non-existent roles. Some characters, like the reporter that wandered around the place or the female scientist who had fallen for Itsuki are completely removed from the picture. Others, like those that surround Bahbem, are reduced to bookend roles and serve the same purpose as the series but we lose their stories and back history that explains the why of their motivations. Some characters like Meg are reduced considerably but some of their charm and desires still manage to shine through but fall a bit flat in the end.
Mentally, it's easy to fill in the blanks since I've seen the show and make the leaps of logic and emotion the movie requires you to make since they've cut so selectively. In a way, this feels somewhat like what I used to do back in the 80's, watching raw anime movies and trying to imagine what they're really trying to say. The difference is that here we have a dub and a subtitle track to go along with it. The story plays out fairly straightforward and similar to the series at the start as we're introduced to Ayato and he makes his forced escape out of Tokyo Jupiter and into the real world with the help of Haruka. From there it jumps throughout a lot of the series, cutting away at much of Ayato's indecision over his role with the TERRA group and having him be far less emotional over everything that happens. The key events that change him in the show are still present here though, from his mother to Asahina, and even though we're not getting the full picture, the close proximity of so many events ends up making Ayato a compelling character still.
The biggest changes in the show come from Quon. Whereas she was lively and singing throughout much of the TV series, here she's in a sleeping beauty mode, waiting for her prince to come and wake her so that she can perform what is required of her. Her diminished role doesn't affect the show much since what she was going on about in the series was often cryptic, but her presence in this state changes a lot of interactions around her. She still proves to be a key character when everything falls into place though and has some interesting scenes throughout the show.
To someone new to the show, I can see how much of this can be confusing. The jerkiness of some of the cuts to new plot point or story elements sometimes feel far too sudden or like they're out of the blue. For those that have seen it though, it's condensed slightly different nature allows you to take in what happened before in a more linear way and with more exposition that actually explains things. Taken in with conversations about the shows ending and what the entire project was planned to be, the movie is a refresher for the show and helps solidify some of the thoughts that past discussions had raised. It's a very enjoyable return visit to a world that was more complex than I thought and continued to be.
As a complete package and part of the series, the RahXephon movie in its limited edition form brings everything full circle in a way. At the end of the series, it allows you to go back and recapture the pertinent points to the show and gives you the direct ending answers ? just not all of them. The limited edition is really aimed at those that already bought the series due to the box while the regular edition is geared more for those who just want to sample some of the show. I'm not sure that this is a good way to see if you'd want to get into the series since some of the best revelations are given away so quickly due to the shortened length. Almost always the recommendation goes for the series over the movie and that continues here. For those who've seen the series, this is a great way to refresh yourself on it while also enjoying a great 5.1 mix to what we've seen before.
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English subtitles,10-page RahXephon booklet,Box Edition comes with a 52-page booklet
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: F/A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 120
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2