RahXephon Orchestration 1: Threshold
Reaching the subway they do not find sanctuary but instead are accosted by several men in black suits, only to be rescued by a woman, Haruka, who claims that everything is not as it first appears. Refusing to listen to Haruka's revelations he spies Reika on a subway train and follows, unaware of its destination. The train arrives at the shrine of Xephon, an unusual station to say the least. Here Ayato finds himself in a bizarre open-air temple, the centre of which houses a giant egg. Born from the egg is giant humanoid mecha which for reasons untold accepts Ayato as its pilot. Now in control of the super-weapon, he leaves the shrine of Xephon to fight the combatting forces.
Waking up in hospital with little or no memory of events, he later arranges a rendevous with Haruka who tells him that the Earth has been the victim of an invasion that led to the creation of Tokyo Jupiter: a false city housed within a large dome shaped structure where none of Image 1 of 3. Click to enlarge
Image 1 of 3. Click to enlarge
Excuse the over-long plot synopsis; RahXephon moves at a quick pace, in particular during the earlier episodes. So much information is given yet so little is really explained. We are made aware of Tokyo Jupiter, the mysterious girl Reika and her apparent connection with the mech RahXephon, yet they remain enigmatic for the entirety of the five episodes on this disc. Although I have no doubt that more thorough explanations will be given in time, I can recall several occasions where I was screaming at Ayato to ask 'why?' or 'what the hell is going on?'. That said, the mysterious nature of the plot, the potentially devastating twists and turns and the excitement of it all made me come back for more and more until I'd finished the five episodes in one sitting. I can complain about the lack of explanations all I want, but I cannot deny RahXephon had me gripped.
Apparently uninquisitive regardless of the events transpiring around him, Ayato is the central character in a cast of many. As expected, the majority of these do Image 2 of 3. Click to enlarge
Image 2 of 3. Click to enlarge
This awkward foster family scenario, though not entirely original is nonetheless engaging. It remains to be seen how these relationships will develop, if the situation will remain the same and if any of the characters are harbouring untold secrets (highly, highly likely). Whatever the eventuality it is evident that the majority of these characters posses more than enough personality to compliment the excellent plot.
While not totally devoid of comedy, RahXephon is an anime with its foot firmly rooted in drama. Don't misinterpret me, I do not mean to say that RahXephon is a sombre experience, I merely wanted to warn those expecting a jovial one. Comic moments are brief but not unwelcome, and I generally found there were enough to tide me over (baring in mind that I'm not a great fan of humourless anime). Still, drama is its forte and here it excels.
Action is not so prominent despite the obvious mecha theme. In the few skirmishes that do feature the winged robot RahXephon the action is not nearly as dynamic as Evangelion and the opponents at this stage Image 3 of 3. Click to enlarge
Image 3 of 3. Click to enlarge
The animation is fantastic; a culmination of digital techniques that retains the beauty of hand-drawn artwork. The cel animation is nothing extraordinary (although it is as accomplished as any of its contemporaries), it is the integration of the digital effects with the more traditional cel work that is remarkable. The only telltale sign of CGI in RahXephon is the impossibly smooth movement that could not be accomplished without the aid of computers. Yes, this feat will no doubt be surpassed in the near future, but we have already reached a stage where a lengthy series can feature such beautiful animation previously the reserve of high-budget films and OVAs and RahXephon is testament to this.
It may be that RahXephon loses its impetus somewhere down the line. Or perhaps it will become even better as the characters settle and more is explained? Whatever is yet to come, the fact remains that this first volume is one of the best openings to a series that I've seen in a long time. I can't wait for the second DVD: it could be the start of something great.
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