Section23 Films // 2002 // 770 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Steve Power (Retired) // January 23rd, 2010
For in his heart lies the power of RahXephon, and with it all the worlds can be remade.
Section23 Films finally delivers all 26 episodes of the widely regarded RahXephon series in one affordable package. Does it deliver?
It's been 3 years since war between humanity and the pan-dimensional creatures known as the Mu has decimated the population of Earth. What's left of humanity huddles behind a protective barrier in Tokyo. Things are not what they seem, however, and a young teenager named Ayato is about to learn the truth about the fate of mankind, the Mu invaders, and the giant warrior, RahXephon.
The giant robot, or "mecha" genre of anime had always been pretty reliable for sci-fi entertainment. Shows like Armored Trooper Votoms, Mobile Suit Gundam and Super Dimensional Fortress Macross (Robotech in the US) had laid down the blueprints, and things didn't really deviate much for most of the 80's. Enter Neon Genesis Evangelion, and seemingly overnight, the rules had completely changed. "Eva"'s take on the formula proved overwhelmingly popular, and it wouldn't take long for imitations to spring forth. RahXephon has the dubious honor of being perhaps the most widely recognized of the "new wave of Mecha" shows outside of Evangelion itself.
I'll say this right up front; I'm a huge fan of the classic approach. I cut my anime teeth on Robotech before gravitating to the more traditional Gundam outings. These shows set up their giant robots as weapons of war, implements in ongoing struggles against tyrannical invading forces or other humans. Evangelion took the more spiritual route, and Rahxephon takes the mythological. If you can get behind the concept of your giant robots being living statues of clay turned song-powered weapons of mass destruction, well, you just might enjoy this one. If you think it all sounds completely ridiculous, you'd be right.
Beyond the explanation of what, the other four W's are as textbook as it gets. You have your traditional male protagonist, who's just coming of age, getting hair in funny places, discovering girls, and learning his place in the world while coming to grips with having the fate of humanity resting on his shoulders. You have your enigmatic organizations stocked with misfits who are all broadly drawn anime clichés, and of course, you have your mysterious villains who keep tossing stronger and stronger weaponry at the 40-foot tall killing machine, instead of just trucking out the big guns from the get go and calling it a day. Yes, RahXephon plays it pretty safe for the most part, but when the plot does stray from within the lines, boy does it get weird. There are some interesting undercurrents involving an unrequited romance between two characters, and the true nature of "Jupiter Tokyo" is actually kind of clever and threw me for a loop, but overall the show just feels like there was a creative force in place that didn't really have any mandate other than "rip off Evangelion."
More problems arise with the character and mecha designs. All of the characters have a "been there, done that" feel that doesn't really endear them to the viewer, nor does it really give the show any sense of a unique visual identity. Meanwhile, the giant robot designs are too preposterous or downright goofy to be appealing, even the titular giant robot looks goofy, what with the giant feathery wings protruding from the sides of its head.
Section23's transfers are a few years old, and it definitely shows. The
discs have a few interlacing and aliasing issues, and color banding is frequent.
It's not a horrible transfer, but it definitely shows its age.
The sound on the other hand, is more of a mixed bag. The Japanese track is in Stereo, but the mix is a little odd at times, while the English 5.1 track has some awesome surround effects and plenty of punch, but is crippled by a sub par dub job.
Section23 does a solid job with extras, including brief interviews with both the English and Japanese voice casts, a gallery of production sketches, and the now customary textless opening and closing sequences. Disc 8 in the series contains RahXephon: The Motion Picture A re-cut version of the show with some new sequences and a reworked plot, and this is to be avoided at all costs. Heed my warning, if you've seen the show, the movie will be a pointless waste of your time, and if you haven't, it will likely cause your brain to hemorrhage before it explodes. It's a nonsensical mess of a film with no regard for the human mind.
Finally, while I generally don't like to bag on an offering for superfluous reasons like packaging, the packaging for RahXephon downright sucks. Two extra thick cases house 4 discs apiece on a single spindle, all bound together with a cardboard sleeve. It's the kind of packaging I've been seeing with PC games for the last few years, and I still hate it.
If there's one thing you have to give RahXephon, the animation by Bones (Sword of the Stranger) is top drawer for series work, particularly for a series from early in the 21st century.
While I definitely have my issues with the overall plot of the show, I will say the home stretch and the endgame are for more satisfying than that of Evangelion and its ilk. The "what the heck?" moments come fairly early, leaving the latter bit of the show to clue up in a satisfying fashion. For that I'm very thankful, another final act like Evangelion, and I might have cut myself. Deeply.
RahXephon definitely borrows heavily from Neon Genesis Evangelion, and while the plot is definitely inferior, the technical merits easily outstrip anything in Evangelion, and it leaves a much more satisfying aftertaste when all is said and done. As long as you ignore the movie on Disc 8 you'll be a-ok.
RahXephon, while not completely without merit, is guilty of being derivative to a fault. Section23 is guilty of one of the lousiest packaging jobs I've ever seen for this sort of set. Now get out of my sight.
Review content copyright © 2010 Steve Power; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Section23 Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 770 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Textless Open/Close
* Photo Gallery