The Bluebird of Sadness in RahXephon

Of all of the characters in RahXephon, Jin Kunigi is my favorite.

There is a piece of myself that hates this realization. He is exactly the character that I’m meant to like. He’s a conflicted leader, who is trying to redeem himself for his past wrongs.

He is a complicated character. On the one hand, he feels betrayed by the command structure that forced him into the situation where he killed his own daughter.

On the other hand, he is angry at the Mu for their involvement, so he turns to the same military that betrayed him. (There is a fansite here that has a timeline that seems to say that Masayoshi Kuki was a Mu plant.)


As Futagami says in Episode 10 “Atonement for his sins. He’s quite the soldier there Mr. Squirrel.”

All of this is helped by the fact that in the dub, he has nearly all of the best lines. Haruka has a few like, “You, my dear. How can three little words hurt so much.” Ayato has some like, “To hell with the correct time.” But pound for pound, Kunigi gets most of the gut-punch lines. Just to name a few:

“There’s not a person alive who has no doubts, Capt. Shitow.”

“Really. He has no understanding of the situation that he’s in, and although, the means to find out is directly in front of him, he sits there sketching instead.

Exactly what kind of environment do you think would produce someone with such a personality.”

Those are just a few, but he also makes veiled references to Shiro Watari about seeing his son, or about the “federation observer.” Not to mention, he is the only character to have an entire battle dedicated to him.

This is all helped by an excellent performance by John Gremillion. There are so many ways these lines could go wrong, but he brings the right amount of intensity at the right places.

While I love thinking about the character of Jin Kunigi, what I’m really hung up on is the bluebird.

What is in a name?

I just finished Episode 10, which is called “Sonata of Reminiscence/ War in the Remembrance,” and is the episode where they lay out Kunigi’s backstory.

There are a lot of threads I can pick up here. There is the seemingly unfinished violin sonata, which was his daughter’s last message to her father. A tune that carries a certain level of magic to it. Playing it back on a continuous loop can make it so annual flowers never finish blooming.

There is the fact that he ends up on his knees, in front of his daughter’s grave, facing a cross, like he’s begging for forgiveness.

This is a cleverly composed scene

But throughout the episode, we keep coming back to the bluebird that Kunigi keeps in his office. Near the end of the episode, we see a band with the name Michiru inscribed on it. It’s obvious he named the bird after his daughter.

This is where my train of thought keeps running into a wall. Why? RahXephon is very careful in how it uses its symbolism. There’s the shogi board that Rikudoh and Futagami play at during the battle in Episode 7 as Futagami is trying to pump him for information. There is the Ramune bottle which is a connecting force. (I probably could do an entire post on that Ramune bottle.)

So why the bluebird? I can’t find any specific references to bluebirds in Japanese culture. It could be that I’m just bad at Google, which is quite possible, but I came up blank with each search I made.

But I have heard the phrase, “The bluebird of happiness,” but I never really did any research on it. It appears to have its roots in a lot of different cultures, but I think the story that is most pertinent came from a Belgian playwright, according to Wikipedia.  Basically, two children set off in search to find the bluebird of happiness, and find that they had it in a cage all along. It was only by giving it away was it able to bring joy.

I like the depth of field trick on this shot

This symbolism continues through a lot of Western productions, the Wikipedia article continues. Bluebirds fly over the rainbow and into magical lands. They sit on the shoulders and bring good cheer (in unfortunately racist movies).

There is even proof that Akira Kurosawa brought this idea over to Japan in “No Regrets for Our Youth.” So it’s very possible that this is an idea that has permeated Japanese culture.

But we’re left with an uncomfortable question, “Is Michiru a symbol of happiness?”

Well, it’s obvious that he misses his daughter, but when she was alive he didn’t spend a lot of time with her. We learn this during his conversation with his ex-wife. He was always too busy running away to work.

He was never the doting father who loved his daughter. I mean he didn’t even realize his daughter was in danger until after he dropped the bomb.

He also doesn’t treat the bird like it’s a surrogate for his daughter. At least until this point, we never see him really pay attention to the bird. We know it’s important to him, but it’s not central to his life.

Then I am left with the final scene with the bird. As Kunigi goes to his eventual fate, he releases it. Sure he could just be releasing it because he wants to give it a chance to survive. He could be doing it as a final act of atonement, a way to give his daughter the freedom from him that she never had in life.

There is another option though.

The bluebird of lost happiness

What if the bluebird is really a symbol just for Kunigi. Much like Kim Hotal, he is a character defined by his trauma. He regrets not standing up to Kuki. He regrets causing the death of his daughter.

He is angry at Ayato because he represents the ultimate betrayal that he fell victim to. It’s less Ayato’s fault and more that Ayato is one of the Mu.

He bought the bluebird as a way to symbolize the happiness he lost. It’s really telling that the last image of the episode is the bird staring out of the cage and toward freedom. In the distance, you hear the sound of a jet, likely taking his ex-wife away to her new life.

The bird caught

This seems to be hinting that it is something that longs to be free, but that Kunigi is holding on to. That’s what I think it really symbolizes. It is his regret made manifest. While it is in its cage, it’s a reminder of why he does what he does. It’s not so much of a pet as it is a totem for his daughter.

When he releases it, he is finally forgiving himself for what happened. So many of the themes of this show revolve around trying to find forgiveness and acceptance. It’s no mistake that right before his final showdown with Kuki, he invites Ayato to dinner.

When he lets go of his anger, he also lets go of his regret and his sadness.

In the end, it’s much like the tale of the bluebird of happiness. It only becomes the bluebird of happiness when it’s released.

As always, thanks for reading.

4 thoughts on “The Bluebird of Sadness in RahXephon

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