Upon completing RahXephon, I believe this is the only anime I’ve ever watched in which, while watching, I honestly didn’t know what was going on. The weakness of RahXephon can be summarized in a way that is so simplistic it belies the importance of the fallacy. I recognize the mistake rather easily because it is a trouble I have encountered many times in my writing which, like RahXephon, tends to be full of mystery and pretentiousness. It is apparent that the show’s writer knew what he wanted the show to be, and how he wanted everything to be, but he didn’t communicate it in a way that fully explains himself. I get the feeling that the show makes perfect sense to him, but the rest of us will have to settle with interpreting details in our own way. Another trouble with RahXephon is that throughout, there always seem to be things that the viewer purposefully isn’t informed of which only serves to make situations more contrived and confusing. This continued up to the last episode which answered only as many questions as it raised before usurping everything into a singular conclusion.
Now that the negative is out of the way, I can get down to what i really liked about RahXephon. Firstly, it moves fast, with a lot of emotions rushing at you from all directions all the way through. Admittedly it did seem rushed at times as many epics of this length do (contrary to popular opinion, I think Eureka Seven’s greatest advantage was the time it allowed itself to take deep breaths) however the fast moving did work to Rah’s advantage in that it kept me on my toes. Ayato makes for a great lead because he isn’t caught up in any single emotion. He doesn’t go through stages from weak to strong, he just goes with a suitable mentality for his situation, and it makes for one of the more realistic characters I’ve seen in anime.
Characters could be considered both a strong and weak point of Rah. Emotionally, the characters were all very well developed, however we are never given much of an indication of who they are. Besides Ayato liking to draw and Haruka’s love of drinking and old music, most of the characters are a personality without a really solid being. That’s not really a bad thing, but it leaves most of them quite unmemorable despite the way they wonderfully advanced the plot. Haruka could have been my favorite character as a strong willed girl with a strong heart, but I felt she was really weakened in the last few episodes along with the rest of the female cast as most of them turned into helpless saps crying over their men which was less than satisfying. Likewise, a lot of the secondary characters would have been a little better if I’d known exactly what they were up to. The doctor in the glasses seemed like a great guy but I never could grasp his real motives. My favorite ended up being the goofy older inspector character who’s fun antics made great scenes throughout the show, and even managed to walk away with the best idea of what happened when the dust cleared, even if I have no idea what he knew.
I think the biggest reason for all the confusion in RahXephon is the lack of a real antagonist, or rather that it’s near impossible to tell what each designated faction is really up to. SO many people are under the control of so many others that it all ends up being a giant contrivance, none of which matters in the end because the whole structure of hierarchy falls apart b the end, and most of the people who’s intentions were unclear get shot or stabbed in the conclusion. By the end, wether things went ‘just a planned’ for the bad guys or Ayato blew the cap off of everything is left up for interpretation, but the basis of any interpretation would be difficult to find.
I know that it sounds like I have more bad to say than good, but I really did like RahXephon. A lot of it was in the singular moments which just plain rocked. I gotta give props to the director for taking certain scenes and really figuring out how to put the most stylish and cool spin on them. Even in this case, though, Rah does seem a bit confused with it’s mix of apparently symbolic artwork and plethora of insane designs which sort of reminded me of Neo-Ranga. The execution of artistic ideas was hit and miss, but when it hit, it hit hard. My favorite episode had to be episode 19 which is almost a self-contained story full of gripping dialogue and all-around well-made action splattered with glorious irony. The last episode was another pretty good one with a very impressive style, and even managed to pull a groundbreaking plot twist out of the last minute or so which totally reinvents one’s perception of many of the show’s scenes.
Over time, I always had a mixed vision of how I would receive RahXephon – part of me expected something psychological and pretentious which I would enjoy for those very reasons, and another part expected something boring and gaudy which I wouldn’t like. However, I was surprised by the humbleness of RahXephon even in the face of it’s immense self-consumedness and managed to enjoy it. I wouldn’t say it was one of my favorites, but I think of it fondly.