One of the temptations I’ve faced as I’ve been watching RahXephon is to compare it to Neon Genesis Evangelion.
There are two reasons for that.
The first is that everyone compares this show to Eva, even if they’re doing it in a positive light. I’m just as guilty of this as the next person. I will compare Misato to Haruka just to prove that they’re different characters. I will compare, and eventually, I will even do it on this blog, the underlying psychological theories that both series are espousing.
The second reason is that RahXephon invites these comparisons. They both involve mystical mumbo-jumbo window dressing as an excuse to follow the main character through a journey of self-discovery. They each have shadowy secret organizations that appear to operate outside of the bounds of the law to accomplish strange ends.
The comparisons are there to make, so we make them.
There is also the function of time. This show came up seven short years after Eva toward the middle of the ripples that Eva set off. Years before Tengen Toppen Gurren Lagann would wipe our memory clean of whiny boy robot pilots.
But the more I think about Episode 3 of RahXephon — helpfully called “A World of Two” — the more I wonder if these comparisons are really helpful. And I wonder if we shouldn’t be looking at Gundam, or Macross or some other real robot show for comparisons.
A world in conflict
So I can pretty much sum up the plot of Episode 3 with a few sentences. We start with Ayato in the RahXephon, discovering that his mom is really a blue-blooded alien. He, along with Haruka, escape Tokyo Jupiter, and along the way, Reika appears to die. He wakes up in the destroyed city of Muira and he and Haruka wander around until they’re picked up by Terra.
The plot isn’t what is important here. What I want to focus on is the world-building.
We finally get a picture that there are two worlds in conflict. On one side, we have old Earth, and on the other side, we have the Mu.
This gives RahXephon a central conflict that informs the rest of the show, and it’s something Eva just doesn’t have.
Yes, NERV is fighting against the Angels, but they are nonsense monsters in the context of the series. Whatever they “want” is largely meaningless unless it informs the dynamics between the other characters. They have even less reason for being than a Power Rangers monster of the week.
On top of this, Shinji is a boy without a country and a past. His only real conflict is with his father, and it isn’t as much a conflict as it is a mixed bag of emotions that plays into Shinji’s journey to the end of the show.
On the other hand, RahXephon sets up two words that are at war. On one side, you have the largely artificial world of Tokyo Jupiter and the Mu. On the other side, you have an Earth that while laid low is still covered with trees.
This episode also gives a face to each of these worlds, and how they affect Ayato. Tokyo Jupiter is represented by Maya, Ayato’s “mother,” and Earth is represented by Haruka.
A war made small
I’m going to examine what the macro war means in a later post, but I really wanted to focus on the small side of the conflict for now.
In a lot of ways, Maya’s plight is sympathetic. She was brought to Earth to carry out a very specific plan. She would take care of Ayato and groom him to be the person who remade the world into a place the Mu could live. She’s not acting out of malice.
The nearest I can determine is that the Mu fled their homeworld, and need to find a new place to be. The only way they can exist on Earth though (without being tied to dolem) is by changing the world. It will be a process that humanity will completely forget.
Haruka isn’t acting out of selfless motivations either. She is still in love with Ayato. While she acted in the Earth’s interest by rescuing the Ollin, I am certain that she would have acted whether or not Ayato was part of a larger plan.
But she does want him to be free to make his own decisions and she gives him the opportunity
On a small level that is the central conflict of this show. On the one hand, you have a woman, who loves Ayato like an aunt, but really wants him for what he represents to her people.
On the other, you have a woman who is desperately in love with Ayato but wants him to have the freedom to decide his own path.
The small war between these two women and why they want from Ayato provides context for the rest of the show.
One final theory
What I wonder when I think about this conflict is what it could mean. Underlying the show, there is a theme of social obligation as opposed to what you really want.
I’m developing a theory that RahXephon is as much of a show about an artist fighting against social stigma to produce art, but I’m not convinced I can prove that.
What I can say is that the war between Maya and Haruka is one where one woman wants to control Ayato’s fate, and the other just wants Ayato’s happiness.
I know this is a weak way to end an analysis, but it’s an idea I’ve been thinking about.
What do you think? Am I on the right track? What do you think about the lack of a real central conflict
As always, thanks for reading.