ADV Films // 2003 // 120 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // September 2nd, 2004
Return to the beginning
In the year 2012, humanoid beings from the Mu dimension invade Tokyo. A giant sphere, the surface of which resembles the planet Jupiter, encircles a portion of the city, closing the area off from the rest of the city. The memories of those trapped inside are erased. Time for them no longer proceeds at the pace of that of the outside world. They lead their lives blissfully unaware of the true nature of the Mu, and of the plan that could eventually destroy all human life.
Kamina Ayato is your average high school student, except for the fact that his mother is the leader of a paradimensional race of beings and he is actually an Instrumentalist capable of controlling the god-statue RahXephon. He is in love with his classmate Mishima Haruka, but the two are separated when the Mulians establish Tokyo Jupiter. Three years pass for the residents of this new world, but those on the outside have aged 15 years. Ayato, now 17, is riding home on the subway with his friends Asahina Hiroko (who in secretly in love with him) and Torigai Mamoru, whom Hiroko is dating. There is an accident, and Ayato leaves to get help. Two Mulian agents attempt to kidnap him, but Shitow Haruka, an agent from the Terra Intelligence Division who has infiltrated Tokyo Jupiter in an attempt to bring Ayato to the outside world, foils their plans. Ayato refuses to leave with her, so Haruka sedates him and smuggles him out. Mulian agents pursue them, and in a moment of distress Ayato's true nature is revealed. His burgeoning powers manifest, and he awakens the Xephon, an enormous god-like statue. Ayato and the Xephon synchronize and become True Scared RahXephon Ayato, a being capable of changing the nature of the world. Meanwhile, Ayato's mother has been biding her time; all along having known her son could change the tides of time and make the Mulians the true rulers of earth.
Okay, I think that's what happens. To be honest, I'm not really sure.
RahXephon began life as an award-winning Original Video Animation (OVA) series comprised of 26 episodes. This film is comprised of bits and pieces of the series, which were apparently cut up and edited back together with a chainsaw. A few new scenes have been added, rather awkwardly I might add, in an attempt to fashion a slightly different story. The results might make sense to those familiar with the OVA, but I got lost about ten minutes in and never found my way again. The story raises more questions than it answers; so many, in fact, that I can't even remember what the questions were.
This film has a big emotional climax or turning point once every twelve minutes or so, but there's no connective tissue between these moments. It seems to me the beginnings and endings of the original episodes are included, but that's it. Characters are introduced and then vanish without a trace; plot lines begin but are never resolved, and the viewer ends up confused and annoyed. There are some interesting ideas in the mix, and the OVA very well could be quite enjoyable, but this disc is nothing more than an attempt to squeeze a few more pennies out of the faithful. I can't imagine they'll be too happy either, especially after they discover the new footage, which for some reason is presented in a 1.85:1 ratio as opposed to the full frame ratio of the original footage, runs less than ten minutes. This is more shameless than anything George Lucas has ever pulled (to a certain degree, anyway).
I will admit the animation itself is nice, which is essentially my way of damning the film with faint praise. Please indulge me while I damn it a little more. Included with the disc is an illustrated book that serves as a scorecard of the story's major characters and events. While it was extremely nice to see an actual insert in this day and age, the information contained within, which includes a few spoilers, proved to be of as little use as the glossary of terms handed out in theaters during the theatrical run of Dune or the story summary contained in the liner notes of the Roger Waters album Radio K.A.O.S. Trying to piece all this together is like trying to build a school of tuna out of a bucket of chum.
ADV has done a respectable job on the transfer; colors are vivid and nicely saturated, and the picture is incredibly smooth and at times can be stunning. Edge enhancement is visible in a handful of shots, and while I've come to expect this from anime discs, it's still annoying. They really screwed the pooch on the sound, though. The English dub is well done, if you can get past the poor voice-over acting and the canned nature of the dialogue recording, that is. The surrounds are put to good use, and not just in the battle sequences; the overall effect is quite enveloping. I abhor dubbed tracks, and try to avoid them at all costs, but in this case I was pretty much forced to listen to the English version because the original Japanese track is a complete mess. Due to some flaw in the encoding, the front channels collapse into the front right speaker and the surround information, which was too loud, into the left rear. I switched my receiver to stereo mode, and everything was routed to the front right speaker. Not good, that.
Extras are limited to previews for other ADV titles from the same giant mecha genre. Whoopee.
If you're a RahXephon completist, you may feel the need to purchase this title. Otherwise, I can't see any reason to waste 25 bucks on this disc. On the other hand, if you do have 25 bucks you're dying to spend, contact me and I'll provide you with my address.
ADV films is guilty of releasing a product of poor quality, both technically and artistically. Bones Animation Studio is guilty of contempt for its audience. All involved are hereby sentenced to wax Hayao Miyazaki's car.
Review content copyright © 2004 Mitchell Hattaway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Japanese, original language)
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* ADV Previews