Some reactions to RahXephon
I finished watching RahXephon last night and I want to jot down some reactions while they're fresh in my mind. First, one striking thing about the show is that it was almost compulsively watchable. I ran through episodes at a really high rate (for me), often watching four or five at once until I ran out of time, and there was almost never a time where I didn't want to watch the next episode.
Overall I feel that RahXephon is a good series that is somewhat let down by its ending. Not that the ending is bad or incompetent, but it's merely ordinary; weird but reasonably explicable stuff happens, the show waves its hands a bit, and there is a nominally happy outcome. In retrospect, even before the ending the show lacked the vital spark necessary to lift it above merely competent and good (Shingu has that spark, for example). With that said there's plenty of decent stuff in the show; there are appealing characters, an engaging presentation (as mentioned), and the show can be clever and subtle when it wants to be. I do like how a number of things become clear in retrospect, including Haruka's activities in Tokyo Jupiter in the first episode. I certainly don't regret watching it.
(While the epilogue confused me initially I did wind up sorting out what was going on and who was who, although the show seems to have gone out of its way to be a bit confusing.)
There are unpleasant aspects, though. In particular an awful lot of people die over the course of the show, especially at the end in a very End of Evangelion-esque sequence that's essentially pointless. The show dangles a bunch of mysteries in front of us that it doesn't explain at all. There is a core romance in the show that I found both somewhat unrealistic and somewhat disturbing.
After thinking about the ending for a while, sorting out more or less what's going on in the epilogue, and reading spoilers in the Wikipedia entry, I think that it's a happy ending and a decent one, one that resolves what became the core issues of the series. I don't think that it's very exciting or very powerful (this may be a generic failing with 'reset' style endings). The sequence of emotional development and so on that led to the ending is okay but again not something I found exciting or powerful; it was more an affirmation of what the show had developed than anything more abrupt.
I wish it was possible for me to watch RahXephon without thinking about the long shadow of Neon Genesis Evangelion. As I put it on Twitter I strongly believe that they're quite different stories, but the two shows are definitely playing in the same territory and I couldn't help but compare and contrast them as I was watching. I know that 'a better Evangelion' is apparently something that Izubuchi was aiming for but I don't think that's how RahXephon came out, except very broadly.
(I could write an entire entry about RahXephon versus Evangelion and I probably will at some point.)
Sidebar: Some notes, especially on the ending
There are big spoilers here. In general the Wikipedia entry clears up several things if I trust it.
- I saw people wondering why Mishima Reika showed up to work for Isshiki
Makoto when he was commander of TERRA. My view is that she showed up
for the same reason as she had earlier; she wanted to hang out around
Ayato and 'working' for TERRA was a convenient way of doing so. She
disappeared again when there wasn't any point to this.
- Reika doesn't actually exist as a normal human person. I maintain
that this is clear from her first appearance in the first episode
(and other events in the first episode go out of their way to reinforce
this). She is effectively a manifesting spirit or the like. Most people
magically remember or forget her because that's what she wants.
- Ayato clearly returned at least some dead people back to life when
he re-tuned the world, in particular Asahina. I'll assume that he
revived at least everyone he knew about, so Souichi is alive again
(Wikipedia states this outright but I don't believe we have any evidence
for it in the TV series unless I missed something in passing).
- The 'Dandelion Girl Coda' post re-tuning part of the last episode
is first in the current time, showing a married Haruka and Ayato
(although he wears his hair very much like Itsuki) and baby Quon,
and then in a flashback to when Ayato and Haruka first met before
the series started (that explains the whole picture motif). I assume
that Haruka's question about the painting is rhetorical and she knows
perfectly well who and what it's about.
This is not at all clear in the show and I've read people who think that something else is going on. However I think this version is the simplest answer.
(It's not clear to me if adult Ayato's voice is provided by Itsuki's VA. Maybe I was mishearing, but his voice in the modern day segment didn't really sound like his voice in the rest of the show.)
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Written on 19 December 2013.