So last Friday in his Answerman column, Zac Bertschy talked about how the fandom for Eva has shrunk over the years. And at the end he mentioned RahXephon (still my favorite series) and how it compares. This reminded me of all of the debate surrounding the two series, which basically boils down to one question: Is RahXephon just an Eva clone?
I’m going to offer my analysis on the two series and, hopefully, prove that RahXephon is a work that can be considered on it’s own, as well as in the shadow of Eva.
Warning: This will contain spoilers. If you haven’t watched these two series, I suggest you do because they are that good. In fact they’re both arguably classics and deserve to at least be rented. Okay, so that’s done.
Generally when anyone brings up the “clone” argument they use the similarities between the series to prove it. They draw parallels between Misato and Haruka, between Ayato and Shinji, between Megumi and Asuka and between Rei and Quon. On the surface all of these comparisions seem legitimate. And in the case of Rei and Quon they’re pretty close. But the fundemental argument relies on one assumption: Yutaka Izubuchi is a hack.
Now let’s assume that he isn’t a hack and those comparisions are not accidental. They’re far from perfect. Let’s face it, if Misato and Shinji had the same kind of relationship as Haruka and Ayato, we’d be having a very different discussion here. And while yes, both Megumi and Asuka are foils for the main character, they come to drastically different conclusions. Megumi is able to move on with her life and keep struggling. Whereas Asuka collapses and even in the brief moment that she manages to recoup, she still collapses and ultimately fails. And with Rei and Quon, even with the strength of that comparison, they’re still different characters. Rei is cold and distant, a souless copy of Gendou Ikari’s wife. Whereas Quon is a stunted child, but more of a spiritual guide for Ayato.
So why are those comparisions there in the first place? Didn’t Izubuchi know that his series wouldn’t be taken as seriously as Evangelion? The answer is simple: RahXephon is a response to Eva. It takes similiar elements and comes to exactely the opposite conclusion.
The central idea in both series is the question of self? How is self defined? How can people connect with each other in meaningful dialogue? Can the self understand other selves?
Evangelion says that self is defined by two ways. By what the self thinks about itself and what others think about it. This is shown pretty strongly in those scenes where Shinji is sitting in the room with the light across the side. In those vaguely dreamy scenes, when Shinji is speaking with himself or other selves, he’s told that there is the person that he thinks he is and the person that Asuka or Rei or Misato think he is. And they can never know each other because of it.
That is the fundamental premise of Evangelion. No matter how well we communicate we’ll never really know each other. One of the best scenes with this, is when Shinji is going to leave NERV in the beginning of the series. When he decides to stay he’s standing opposite of Misato (his foil) on the train platform, while Misato is standing on the other side of the tracks below him. They’re seperated by the fence and the train tracks, like staring into a mirror.
(On an additional note: Arguably Misato’s counterpoint in RahXephon is not Haruka, but Dr. Kisaragi, but either argument can be made)
So what does RahXephon say about the self? It says that the self, is the self. No matter what other people say about you or think about you or want from you, the self remains the self. To borrow, Souichi’s words, “You are you.” Also that just by the nature of being human, we are all connected to each other. There are a couple points where this comes up, but the most memorable is when Quon and Ayato are standing on the bridge in the last episode of the series and they are watching the television and Ayato is hearing what people have to say about him. Even with their opinions, they still accept him for who he is, not what their perceptions of him are.
There is a counterpart scene in RahXephon to the one I mentioned in Evangelion (actually there are two of them, but I’ll just go with the first one.) In episode three, when Ayato and Haruka are standing at the edge of Tokyo Jupiter. They aren’t seperated staring at each other, but both standing next to each other staring at the thing that connects them.
So there it is. I could go on about where I think the connections between the two series are, and who is a counterpart for who. But I think the comparisions are a bit muddy for that. In the end though, I think they both pose interesting questions and radically different answers. And so saying RahXephon is a copy of Evangelion does a disservice to both series.
Agree or disagree? Leave a comment below or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org