Episode 23 of Rahxephon is a very, in many ways, typical episode of mecha anime and yet as a result, for this point in the series, a very atypical episode of Rahxephon. As a result, it is disarming, and poignant, and a very strange counterpoint to the crushing anticlimax of the previous two-part story about Makoto’s failure to implement his plan. It closes off a character’s arc in truly heroic style, yet constantly undermines the aesthetic expectations of the audience to make it less simplistically hot-blooded. Furthermore, it hints at tragic ironies but never makes them clear, not spelling out how one character’s doubt and inaction could have prevented another’s tragedy and leaving the doubt in the viewer’s mind of whether or not what happened could have – or should have – been prevented.
Take my hand,
I’m a stranger in Paradise
All lost in a wonderland
A stranger in paradise
If I stand starry eyed,
That’s a danger in Paradise
Mortals who stand beside
An angels like us
Tony Bennett – Stranger in Paradise
Episode 17 of Rahxephon is a fruitless, frustrating buildup to a moment of horrible catharsis divided into two parts that lay plain between them the mysteries of the series. These are mysteries that the viewer knows, or has worked out by inference, but which not all of the characters know to the same extent – and the ways in which they learn these things, in the worst ways at the worst times, set up a grim future for Ayato. The revelations in the episode are not really revelations to the viewer but instead to Ayato, and mark the point where he finally gets what he wants.
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Episode 30 of Eureka Seven seems to be, after so much seriousness and trauma, a return to the endearing oddness and youthful exuberance of the now long-distant first arc. It begins – as, in fact, several such early episodes did – with Renton and other members of the Gekko’s crew on some unspecified mission, completing it in a charmingly amateurish way as they struggle with a large bag of some sort. Indeed, this quite now uncommon style of episode is highlighted as unusual by Renton himself, who talks about how life has returned to normal in a way that he has not seen for some time.
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At its heart, Eureka Seven falls within the mecha subgenre of anime; science-fiction stories where military hardware and the weapons of the future are front and centre. It is even centred around an ostensibly military plot; the protagonists are an armed private military in command of battleships and attack craft, prepared to fight and met with open hostility wherever they go. It is therefore interesting how dehumanised the setting’s action is, and the way in which the characters acknowledge – or refuse to acknowledge – the consequences of their actions.