I’m nearly at the end of talking about RahXephon.
Well, maybe not. I’ll probably never stop talking about RahXephon, but I’ve spent three months on my blog largely focused on this show, and I would like to finish talking about it this month.
That said, I have a lot of small things I really wanted to talk about that I don’t think need to be entire blog posts, but I do think deserved to be mentioned.
Fair warning, there are many a spoiler ahead.
The visuals in the final episode
The final episode in this show really does deserve its own blog post, but I have a feeling people would give up on me before I stopped swooning over the fact that it went into a letterbox format for the last episode. This time instead of conveying a confined and artificial world, it was done to show a slowly dying world.
As we move forward in the episode, the color slowly drains out of the “real” world. One of the images that struck me was the final shot we see of Maya, in the real world, she is entirely without color.
The splashes of color we get all come from the past. For example, we see Quon in color reflected in Itsuki’s glasses and the three children in color standing over Isshiki, Itsuki and Nanamori.
We do get the barest hint of color on Babhem’s face right before his end. This is something I never noticed during my first watch through, but it does give the series a sense of formality.
Then in the dream world, the only two colors we get are red and blue. What is interesting is the Quon, who has blue blood, has red hair and Ayato, who has red blood, has blue hair. It’s a reiteration of the main theme of the show that people are connected, and that those things that seem to divide us are also part of us.
Basically, there is part of Ayato that is Mulian and part of Quon that is human.
What is also interesting is that the color fully returns as they move into the scene in the schoolroom where Ayato accepts his lost memory of Haruka and Quon accepts Itsuki.
Then the screen widens out as the world is being covered by the egg indicating that the world is going to be reborn.
If you like cinematography, this show is worth watching just to get the payoff in that episode. But there is more.
Depth of field and other cinematography tricks
If I hadn’t taken photos as part of my job, I never would have noticed the amount of times this show uses depth of field to let the audience in on something while other characters are left out of it, or just to provide depth in a scene.
One of my favorite examples is a moment where we see Nanamori walking away from Itsuki and Isshiki and her face remains in focus while the two men behind her slip out of focus. We see her look disgusted, but neither of the men realize it. This is something that is done multiple times throughout the series.
The other trick is used to it’s best effect when we see Kunigi at his daughter’s grave and Quon standing in the foreground. It’s important that we know that Quon is there, but Kunigi is the focus of the scene.
This show also uses Dutch angles really well. Generally, it’s used to depict something around the mystical elements of RahXephon. In particular, it’s used aroundIxtli, but we do see it around Maya and the three promised children as well. It’s a neat trick.
There are also a lot of really well-composed shots in this show. I was glancing through my screenshots and there are several that just say, “I really like this shot.” I initially thought that the show wasn’t as visually brave as Evangelion, but it’s as brave just in a different way.
I really don’t see anime shot like this anymore. I’m not sure if I’m just not paying attention, or if they’re relying on more of a straight animation style. Either way, this show is worth watching for its visuals.
Sometimes there is a question that sticks with you for years, and you still don’t have a good answer for it. Well for me it’s a painting that shows up in Episode 1 at the train stop after Ayato meets Reika. It looks like someone laid an outline of a bird over a drawing of the sky.
We see the painting several times throughout the show, generally in reference to something being strange. We see it in the letterbox dream world. We see it in the motel room in Episode 19. It finally seems to get paid off in seemingly Episode 25 when it’s reflected in Ayato’s transformation scene.
But I can’t be certain, and I don’t have a strong opinion about it.
The ramune soda bottle is another continuing motif. This one is pretty easy to figure out. It serves as a bridge between people. It’s generally set in between people, but it’s an interesting motif.
The Mu and Mythology
To be perfectly honest, I really planned to write a post about how the Mu and alternate mythology served the show or didn’t.
Here’s the deal. Churchward was an occultist from what I like to think of as the Golden Age of Occultism. That period from the late Victorian era to the mid-1920s. He argued there was a lost continent that influenced the Mayan Culture. Because every white occultist worth his salt needs to find a connection back to some sort of pre-Christian peoples.
Churchward’s present contemporaries are the ancient aliens folks that believe that all human history is shaped by ancient civilizations that predate the already ancient civilizations that existed. The Continent of Mu (or Lemuria as others refer to it as) is just another Atlantis. When it disappeared it was a tragic loss for mankind, according to Churchward.
When I compare this to Evangelion, this is a mythological connection that is way more thought out. It asks, “What if the Mu were real and now they’ve returned after being separated from Earth thousands of years ago?”
The problem I kept coming away with is that the Mu were just a convenience rather than a useful symbol. It is clever that much like Perry’s Black Ships, they showed up unannounced and laid waste to Japan before settling in for a long and life-changing occupation.
But I don’t think the series is trying to say that the Japanese should accept Okinawa. In fact, I think the show depicts war as tragic and conflict as a byproduct of misunderstanding.
While I think RahXephon does a much better job of incorporating mythology into a show, it’s not any better at using it thematically than Evangelion. It’s closer to something like Saiyuki, which uses the Journey to the West as a framework to tell the story.
Quon, the fairy queen
Someone on Twitter asked me why Quon is the way she is. There is no real reason she should seem like an otherworldly fairy. She does though.
Overall, I think it works to add a more mysterious element to the show and make her seem mystical, which is something that helps in the middle/late episodes.
But I can find no logical reason why she does what she does.
Between RahXephon and The Big O, I have a newfound respect for Chiaki Konaka. When he is given boundaries, I think he is one of the best episode writers that worked in anime during this era.
Where I think he goes off the rails is when he is given complete control over a show, like the second half of The Big O.
A strange difficulty in analysis
One of the things that I realized as I started researching his show is that Yutaka Izubuchi never directed or conceived of another show. Unlike someone list Anno or Taniguchi or Tomino where we can see the themes that they keep coming back to, we will never see another Izubuchi work. Now I’m assuming since I’ve seen pictures of him, that he’s a real person and not some pen name.
I’m also assuming that I didn’t miss anything when I read his filmography on ANN. But he’s done tons of design work, but he’s never done anything else that I can find.
It’s a shame really. I wonder what a world would look like if we saw an exceptional sophomore effort from Izubuchi.
Reading the liner notes
So just in case, you couldn’t tell, I watched these on my original 2003/4 DVDs that I bought from Sam Goody. The neat thing is that they have liner notes, which I should have read. It basically says that Michuru, the bluebird, is a reference to the story of the bluebird of happiness. I want to correct my earlier post here. The story is well known in Japan.
Wikipedia you have failed me yet again.
Final housekeeping note
So I have one more post to write about RahXephon, and this three month journey will be over. I appreciate everyone who has read these and left a like or a comment. I hope I did the series justice, and I hope that I convinced some people that there is something worth seeing there.
I ran a poll on Twitter for what I’m going to watch next for one of these series, and initially, Haruhi was winning. That prompted me to buy the first light novel. So when Haruhi and Lain tied, I decided to side with Haruhi. Now I just have to find out if there is a way to watch them in broadcast order.
As always, thanks for reading.