This is a post about two girls.
Well, not really two girls, but a picture of two girls in an image of RahXephon. It’s really the childhood selves of Kim Hotal, who we are fully introduced to in Episode 6 “Obliterated Cities/Lost Songs, Forgotten Melodies.”
While RahXephon stays fairly rooted in reality much of the time, this episode uses some interesting techniques for flashbacks. We generally see what is a young Kim standing against a white background while things fill in around her.
At one point, we see the music box that her parents sent her while they were on vacation during her birthday. At another point, we see a sepia-toned kitchen scene where her aunt and uncle are talking about how they can’t take on another child.
See Kim’s life is dominated by the fact that her parents died while on a trip to Australia. A dolem sucked the city of Sydney into some sort of null space and just left a strange symbol behind. They give it a name, but I can’t seem to find it when I search the web.
The dolem returns, and this time it takes a Japanese city. As Kim is trying to determine where the dolem is going to strike next we get a series of these images of the young Kim. It ends with one where one version of young Kim is crying while the other version of is walking away purposefully.
This is RahXephon’s image of trauma.
I can hear a lot of people just say, “Well so what?” Well, what I think is interesting about it is just how much credit it gives to people for their ability to adapt.
Talking about trauma
I want to make sure that I don’t oversimplify how trauma, and especially trauma in childhood, can have real lasting effects. While I do think that RahXephon says it leaves marks, I also think that it is focused on a group of adults who are marked by trauma, they aren’t destroyed by it.
I don’t want to spend too much time on it, but here is a video that talks about Adverse Childhood Experiences and their effect.
That’s not to say that the characters in RahXephon aren’t defined in some ways by their trauma. What we see with Kim is that the two sides of her personality are very much defined by losing her parents. There is the public face of the girl marching away and the girl crying, but no matter how far she runs she is still defined by it.
We see this in the episode where she reaches for the music box and pauses a moment before flipping up the lid. We see it when she gets mad at Ayato for not being willing to strike back at the dolem.
And we see it most prominently, when Quon asks her, “Why are you crying?” when she sits across from her on the boat. Even though she projects that little girl walking away, the crying girl still exists inside of her.
Predictably, Ayato decides to pilot the RahXephon and fight the dolem before it strikes again. (Just a note, that this is one of the few times that Ayato seeks out the dolem rather than the dolem seeking him out.)
I spent a lot of time trying to parse out what this could be saying about trauma. Is it just saying that if you strike out in revenge then your trauma will magically get better? While I don’t think it’s the right way to interpret it, you can get there.
It’s something that is both profound in a way, but really quite simple.
I get by with a little help from my friends
I’ve been itching to go back to another image. This is the one we get of Asuka when we are first introduced in Neon Genesis Evangelion. This one shows her as a black void against the sun. In a not-so-subtle way, we’re told that Asuka is an empty void.
She is another character that is defined by her trauma, but like a lot of characters, it’s her only characteristic. In fact, Evangelion is a show full of people defined by their trauma. It’s a poster child for Adverse Childhood Experiences.
What we see in Kim is a character who finds a way to come to a resolution with this aspect of her past. It goes without saying, but this is the opposite of what happens to Asuka. Not only is she defined by it, but she also can’t figure out a way to come to terms with it and eventually, it destroys her.
How she does it is probably the most important moment, and it’s captured the best in the scene when Ayato and Kim are talking before the final battle. She asks “Why are you doing this? Is it for revenge like me?”
His answer is deceptively simple. He says, “I just decided that there must be a reason that I’ve got this ability.” He is helping because he can. Unlike Evangelion, RahXephon says that trauma can be defining, but it doesn’t need to be crippling.
And by Ayato’s answer, we see that there are people who can help, so they will.
Yes. It may seem hokey. The show is saying, “Yes. You are not trapped in a forever pit of your own despair and destined to eat your liver.” It’s not as appealing as Evangelion’s unrelenting darkness.
But I don’t think hope should be considered hokey or unrealistic.
Sometimes all we need is a little help from our friends.
As always, thanks for reading.