The witty thing would be to make an EVA joke here, but I’ll avoid that. That’s what the rest of the review is for…
What They Say
For 15 years, the remnants of the human race have fought a losing battle against the Mu and their Dolem, knowing that the key to victory lies within the domed walls of Tokyo Jupiter, where time flows in a different path and none of the mind-wiped citizens even know that the city has been conquered. But no one has been able to get into Tokyo... until now.
Includes the complete series plus the standalone movie!
For this viewing, I listened to the 5.1 English dub. As is standard, the Japanese track is only offered in 2.0. The mix for this release is really nice, with plenty of left/right directionality for the sound effects and dialogue tracks. Spot checking the Japanese track suggests that the sound effects and dialogue get some depth in the 5.1 dub, though I would not go so far as to suggest there is true directionality. However, each channel and track is clear, and there is no dropout anywhere, so it sounds really nice.
I was less impressed with the video, however. These discs appear to be the same transfer as from the original releases, which were well received for their visuals, but they do not stand up well to 1080p upconversion. At times the colors appeared washed out, and the lining was indistinct. But even when the image was crisper, the objects and characters looked to be in a soft focus as there seemed to be a halo outlining each of them. There were no real technical flaws in terms of digitization, but I definitely would have liked to have seen some remastering done, as it does not stand up well to modern setups.
Visually, this set looks nice, but it comes in the ADV stackpacks that I really dislike. This particular series has the eight discs in two separate stackpacks with a card sleeve to keep them together. The front side of the sleeve has a shot of the RehXephon set against an orange background, while the back has an image of Ayato holding Haruka Mishima with the RahXephon in the background. The stackpacks reuse the same images for their front covers, while the backs have the standard summary, screenshots, and technical details. But I dislike the stackpacks because it seems like the discs could easily get scratched up in the cases. At least in this set, they packed some foam in the “booklet” space that should help prevent the discs from moving around too much in the case.
The menus are pretty basic, but visually well constructed. The menu opens up with a short animatic of a mosaic that opens up to a white background that has a sketch of the RahXephon. In the top right is a small window that plays a loop of some scenes from the episodes. The episode selections are offered to the left, while the other selections are on the right. The black text makes them stand out well, and the red objects to the side act almost as bullet points. However, the highlight appears over the bullet points in a darker shade of red, so it might be difficult to see on some setups.
There is a lot of good stuff spread throughout the first seven discs (no extras for the OAV). Each disc has a bunch of production sketches and options for clean opening and closing animations. And spread throughout the discs are a series of interviews with staff and cast, some promotional trailers, and other art. There is quite a bit here to sink your teeth into if you like extras.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This collection brings together both the RahXephon TV series and the follow-up, alternate universe Motion Picture. Often times considered an Evangelion clone (or even “EVA done right” by RahX fans), RahXephon nonetheless features a decent plot, strong characters, and one of the most interesting love stories I have ever seen. What this means is that it stands well on its own two feet and does not need comparisons to justify itself.
Three years ago, in 2012, Earth came under attack from an alien race known as the Mulians. While the Mu were driven off, the toll on the planet was devastating as the Earth’s population was reduced to just over twenty-six million. A defensive barrier was then erected around Tokyo to protect the remaining population.
Ayato Kamina is a seventeen year old boy who lived through that war, but is now finding that life has returned much to the same as it was before the war. He goes to school, he hangs out with his friends, and in his spare time, he loves to paint. The only thing that concerns him is that he has this nagging feeling that he is forgetting something. The image of a girl continually jumps into his head, but no matter how much he concentrates, he can never remember who she is. Instead, she dominates his paintings.
But in all, he leads a happy life until another war suddenly breaks out. In trying to find help for his wounded friends, Ayato runs into Reika Mishima, a girl who looks stirkingly like the girl in his paintings, but one Ayato seems to know well. But as Mishima enters more aspects of his life, it is obvious that she has a strange ability to make people remember her, even if they have never met before. Reika seems to know something about Ayato, but he is oblivious to her attempts to push him into something.
Soon after the attack, Ayato finds himself the target of a secret organization. When agents confront him, they try to bring him in, only to be stopped by the appearance of Haruka Shitow, who has been following Ayato for her own reasons. When Haruka beats up the secret agents, Ayato notices that they have blue blood and is freaked out enough that he agrees to follow Haruka when she promises that she can explain it all to him.
She tells Ayato that everything he knows has been a lie. She tells him that the Mu are really in control of Tokyo, and that life outside the barrier has not actually been ended. The war took its toll, but there are still over six billion people alive around the world. And not only that, but time inside the barrier has been slowed; in reality, fifteen years have passed since the first war. Ayato is hesitant to believe this, but as they try to escape, he is drawn into a hidden underground chamber where, for the first time, he sees the RahXephon—a giant mecha he is destined to pilot.
Without and knowledge of how or why he does it, Ayato enters the RahXephon and escapes the secret facility. With Haruka nestled safely in the RahXephon’s hand, Ayato breaks through the barrier to the outside world where he joins in the fight against the Mu and their Dolen (other mecha). In the process, he sets about to find his place in the world as well as discover what he has lost since he became lost inside the barrier.
The initial setup for the plot of RahXephon is decent, but nothing particularly earth shattering. The concept for the conflict was neat, but smacked of nothing more than an alien invasion story. I was enjoying it, but it certainly was not standing out as anything special. I thought the whole concept of time-dilation had potential (which I’ll get into below), bus as a whole RahXephon was starting out as a good show—not the great series others have claimed it to be.
But I found RahXephon to have a bit of a slow build to it. As the story developed and grew in complexity, I was drawn into it more and more. Being from inside the barrier, Ayato faces discrimination from various people outside Tokyo Jupiter (the name the outsiders have given the isolated city) despite the fact that he is the only person who can pilot the RahXephon (and therefore the only one who can fight off the threat of the Dolen).
After a while, Ayato becomes disenchanted with some of the higher-ups at TERRA (anti-Mu organization) and fears that they are using him for undiscovered purposes. But despite his distaste, he continues to fight as he wants to protect his friends. And it is his relationships with the various people—in particular, women—in his life that really drives this series.
He finds himself fast friends with Megumi Shitow, Haruka’s younger sister, who is Ayato’s age and who has a bit of a crush on him. But despite some minor sexual tension between the two, their relationship never progresses beyond “good friends.” He also has a very close relationship with Hiroko Asahina, a girl in his class back in Tokyo Jupiter. When Ayato returns to the city inside the barrier, he finds Asahina slowly losing it as—like him before he left—she feels like something is wrong, but nobody will believe her. After noticing that she too has developed the blue blood that symbolizes a Mu, Ayato agrees to take her with him as he returns to the real world. But unfortunately, that decision ultimately meets with disastrous results.
But the best relationship is the one that the entire series hinges on: the one between Ayato and Haruka. Despite Haruka being twelve years his senior, it is obvious that there is a spark between the two from almost the beginning. Though they never act upon it, that spark grows as Ayato becomes more comfortable with his role and more sure of himself as a person. And often, when he claims that all he wants to do is protect people, it is inferred that he really means “Haruka” when he says “people.”
But this is where the time-dilation comes in to really make their relationship interesting. The truth, as hinted early on but not revealed until late, is that Haruka and Ayato were in fact childhood sweethearts, but she continued to grow up while Ayato’s development was slowed in Tokyo Jupiter. And since his memories have been adjusted by the Mu leadership, Ayato has no memories of their time together. This leaves Haruka in the tough situation as she has spent her whole life pining to get him back, only to find that he has not grown up and has no memory of her. This aspect, more than any other, is what pushes RahXephon over the top.
Also included in this set is the RahXephon Motion Picture. At first glance, the Motion Picture is little more than a two hour clip show of the series, but it is in fact very different. While the majority of the scenes are made up of repeated footage from the TV series, the scenes are actually reordered quite a bit, and much of the dialogue has been completely redone with new information. The effect is twofold. First: there is a lot of changes in character dynamics as some characters rise to greater prominence, others disappear completely, and the relationships between them all make some dramatic shifts. Second: where the TV series used the relationship between Haruka and Ayato to enhance the larger conflict with the Mu, the Motion Picture sees the relationship become the main focus of the storyline, and the conflict with the Mu just acts as background to that story. It makes for an interesting change to the story and was neat to watch from an “alternate universe” perspective.
RahXephon started fairly slowly for me, but picked up as it went along. The rather standard initial setup ultimately gave way to an interesting story filled with great characters and a really interesting twist on a love story. What it ends up with is a great human drama with some decent action thrown in to boot. One of the better series I have seen in a while. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Production Sketches, Promotional Video, Cast/Staff Interviews
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection upconverted to 1080p, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System