"I have the feeling I'm going to be confused again."—Ayato Kamina
Ayato is a teen with a dream. Unfortunately, it is not a particularly ambitious dream: he merely wants to pass his exams and get up the courage to talk to the pretty girl in class that he paints portraits of in secret. But when Tokyo is abruptly attacked by flying craft, then just as suddenly defended by weird, angelic beings, Ayato finds himself caught in the middle of the conflict. Following his dream girl Reika into the subway, he rides the train to the Shrine of Xephon.
In the Room of Rah, Ayato accidentally triggers an egg, which hatches into a winged mech: Rah-Xephon. But is this new weapon meant to save the world, or destroy it?
All this may not sound familiar right away, but think about it for a moment. Ayato has an emotionally distant, workaholic parent who is clearly manipulating him to some sinister end. He has a crush on a mysterious girl who speaks in riddles. He is rescued by a spunky field agent for a government organization called TERRA that is dedicated to saving the world from an alien invasion. This woman (Haruka) takes him to live in a utopian city with a giant pyramidal structure, where he moves in with a temperamental redhead and takes care of a cute pet (a cat, much friskier I suppose than a penguin).
Yes, call RahXephon "Evangelion lite." Very little in this show does not seem conspicuously borrowed—more like ripped off completely—from that hugely influential series. RahXephon has pretty animation: its action sequences use that blurred-motion technique currently trendy after Cowboy Bebop. And it has a jazzy incidental score (although its theme song has nothing on "Cruel Angel's Thesis"). But you have seen everything done better, and the producers seem just to be cranking out the latest "post-modern" mecha show to fill the schedule on Fuji Television. Even the cast and crew cannot muster up much interesting to say in the brief interview quotes that ADV includes in the insert booklet.
RahXephon does try a bit half-heartedly to add its own spin on the Eva formula. Tokyo is trapped in a time bubble by the evil Mu (the Japanese version of Atlantis), where the year is stuck in 2015, compared to 2027 outside. Get it? Eva takes place in 2015, and the producers of RahXephon are sending the message that their predecessor is stuck in the past. Anyway, our hero, Ayato, escapes Tokyo and his alien mother to fight for Earth against Mu's organic, regenerating mecha (don't call them Angels—call them Dolem). This gives him a built in conflict, just like Shinji, over which side he is supposed to be fighting for. But Ayato does not brood much, at least compared to Shinji. And the show harps on an orchestral motif to give it a more artsy feel, although I suspect this was inspired by the string quartet conceit in Evangelion: Death and Rebirth.
Nor is it as difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys in RahXephon. There are a few mysteries left after the first five episodes packaged by ADV on the first volume of this show, but no major revelations seem to lurk after about episode 3. So, there is less angst, fewer divided loyalties, and a general sense that the show is really just here to fill a few hours of your time rather than try anything ambitious either thematically or artistically.
This is not to say that RahXephon is a bad show. It is pleasant and pretty and lightweight fun. But hasn't it all been done before? This Evangelion Lite tastes good enough, but is much less filling.
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