Episode 6 of Rahxephon was perhaps the first to properly follow the structure of a super-robot animé episode, with its setup of an enemy showing its power, the creation of a plan to fight it and then the fight itself, in which the enemy’s unique ability caused setbacks which had to be overcome with special abilities from Ayato’s machine. Yet it was something more than that formula mostly due to the history within the setting ascribed to the enemy. Most super-robot series have a new monster each episode created at its start by the enemy to do battle with the hero, but the Dolem from episode 6 was shown to be a seasoned weapon of the Mu which had previously destroyed much of Australia. The episode was thus as much about Kim’s coming to terms with this and taking part in the fight as Ayato’s continued quest for acceptance and understanding his position.
The fifth episode of Rahxephon built up to a series of guarded revelations that both explained more of what the future holds for the story and also explained how powerless Ayato actually is within it; the conspiratorial confusion that defines the action is given a more cruel, personal aspect in how it is denying him apparently simple answers to genuine and reasonable questions. It is clear he is being used to the audience, and his realisation of this is the main dramatic conflict within the episode. Yet it ends with some measure of harmony; while his life with Megumi and her uncle is a strange one based on necessity over genuine friendship, the way it is visually framed in the cliches of young love suggests there is hope for the future. Episode six begins some time after this, immediately revealing its core conflict. The personal is apparently being set aside for the human-versus-alien war that one might expect from a mecha animé.
The first half of episode 5 of Rahxephon was heavily focused on establishing Ayato’s position within TERRA – the outsider, saying the wrong thing to some people and ignored by most. It built on episode 4′s cryptic introductory scenes and made clear through implication and passing interactions not only what the other characters think of Ayato but how their own behaviours might be fronts for if not secrets but insecureties. The only characters who really emerge as sympathetic are the doctor and his sister Quan; both may have secrets but they act in a way which does not exclude or apparently set out to deceive Ayato.
Episode 4 of Rahxephon ended with the first fight between Ayato and a Dolem in the series after the revelation about Tokyo Jupiter and TERRA; it was a perfunctory and abruptly-ended affair which reinforced both how immensely powerful the Rahxephon is, and how uncontrollable it is. Thus it is fitting that episode 5 should begin with the other characters – those who spent the previous episode debating what should be done – trying to make sense of the mysteries. Continue reading
It has taken three episodes but the main plot of Rahxephon is finally revealed; the nature of the conflict against the Mu, and the world of Tokyo Jupiter, is now clear. The episode begins with a recapitulation of what is known to ensure that the viewer enters what follows completely clear about the world depicted, which if anything is a valuable device; while an attentive viewer knows all the information it provides, by laying it out plainly the audience are reminded of any basic developments they may have missed. It also clearly explains the future of the series; Ayato will pilot the Rahxephon and fight against the Mu. This sets it clearly as a mecha series; there are alien invaders, and a machine to fight them.
The first two episodes of Rahxephon built its setting up through continually changing the goalposts of what information the viewer had; each answered question so significantly changed the perception of the setting that it created new ones in turn. Yet finally the viewer has the best possible picture of what they are dealing with; the Rahxephon itself is a superweapon similar in kind to the Mu’s other terror weapons the Dolems. Securing it – and its apparently chosen pilot Ayato, the Olen who the Mu are eager to track down – is the mission of a human strike force sent into Mu-occupied Tokyo.
Episode 1 of Rahxephon established a setting, and through its use of a steadily revealed mystery and stream of misdirections provided both strong contextual information and a number of unanswered questions to be built on. While comparisons with Neon Genesis Evangelion are ultimately only of limited use (the series share subject matter but differ in approach) it is worth considering how different the two first episodes actually are.
I have mentioned the series Rahxephon a few times in past articles as a good example of a supernatural science-fiction series in the vein of something like Space Runaway Ideon or Neon Genesis Evangelion. While it is a series which has earned a reputation for being thematically very similar to Evangelion, Rahxephon is very much its own entity and a highly intriguing look at what are arguably well-covered themes. This series blog, much like my articles on Eureka Seven, may not consider each episode singly but instead combine more broad-scale discussion of the series with detailed looks at significant episodes.
In the previous article in this series I focused on one of the two main features of what I called the “underdog-robot” subgenre of super-robot anime – the technological disparity between mankind and its enemies. The genre is based on the subversion of the traditional inherently superior hero archtype – while traditionally in the superhero or super-robot genre, the protagonist is at least able to fight on an even technological or power footing with the enemies (setting them ahead of the “ordinary” characters who cannot), a series like the previously-mentioned Evangelion takes a different approach. In it, the “best” that can be put forward is generally shown to be inadequate in some way, or unpredictably effective. While in a series like Fafner this balance of power is skewed too far against the heroes to make their continued success and survival seem likely, when done well it forms the core of a genre based around innovative action and a different kind of dramatic tension to the norm.
Note: This article contains significant plot information about Rahxephon, especially Episode 19.
A stock-in-trade plot device in alien invasion stories is the inadequacy of modern technology in the face of a superior foe; notable examples include The War of the Worlds, where the invading Martians effectively outfight the humans only to die in time to common illnesses, and even stories like Independence Day where the patriotic ending is only possible after human guile undermines the aliens’ shields. This subgenre of science-fiction is picked up in anime, as well, but given a slightly more hopeful spin in the super-robot genre with a single effective weapon paving the way for resistance. The heroes are painted as the people capable of fighting back against superior enemy forces with cutting-edge weapons, ultimately a patriotic view of superior technology and willpower winning out in the end.