Here I am at the end of RahXephon.
Have you ever had a series that you watched at a pivotal time in your fandom, and it will always be a show that you love?
For me, that is RahXephon.
In a lot of ways, my relationship with this show has reached the stage where my heart doesn’t race anymore. I don’t passionately flick to the next episode. And I know a lot of its quirks and eccentricities.
Just to extend the metaphor into the realm of the absurd, RahXephon and I are an old married couple that still enjoy each other’s company. I’m comfortable with this show, but maybe not as passionate.
When I started this series, I hoped to show that RahXephon might be an approachable show, but that doesn’t mean it’s a simple show. I hope I did that.
What I don’t want to do is leave with the impression that it’s a flawless show. One of the things I noticed when I was watching it this time was that this is a show where there is a lot of talking. On first viewing, several of those conversations don’t make sense.
In fact, there are quite a few moments that only make sense after you’ve rolled credits a second or a third time.
Even then, there are conversations that I can only imagine what they were referring to. In particular, Futagami tells Isshiki a story about his grandfather seeing a white whale and never returning from his next fishing trip. It makes you wonder if he was giving Isshiki a subtle warning, or was there some other meaning to the conversation.
This is the one place where the comparison to Evangelion is apt. Neither of these shows spells out their secrets inside the text of the show. But with Eva, there are movies, articles, books and interviews for people to explain what is really going on.
RahXephon doesn’t have any of that. I even picked up The RahXephon Bible (the first piece of merch I’ve ever bought) hoping to get answers. Outside of finding a timeline of events and some good art, it doesn’t offer a lot of clarity.
I’m afraid that Yutaka Izubuchi will take all of those answers to the grave.
It’s a wart I forgive because I really love the world that RahXephon presents me. It’s a world of people who are lost, but who are struggling to understand each other. They are caught up in schemes that are far bigger than them, but they are trying to find their own path through them.
It’s a world where there is hope for the future.
The Power of Hope
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the end-of-the-century ennui that affected anime and all of pop culture starting in the 90s.
Here in the states, it’s obvious when you look at movies like Fight Club, Forrest Gump or shows like X-Files. They are all stories about how the past was better, the present is broken and the future is uncertain. I chalk it up to a Baby Boomer generation who were staring at their own mortality, and Gen Xers who felt like the promises made to them were broken.
I don’t know why it showed up in Japan, but it’s obvious that it did. Evangelion is one of my poster children for this sense of apathy and despair that surrounded that age. There wasn’t the same smack in the face that came about because of Sept. 11, 2001, but it has faded from anime.
RahXephon is the first glimmer of that shift. Yes, most of the characters are carrying some sort of baggage. Yes, most of them are hampered by those traumatic events, but they are more than just their trauma. Haruka is a hard worker who finds a way to reunite with her beloved Ayato. Kim is a lucid eye who finds closure in the death of the dolem that killed her parents. Kunigi learns to accept Mulians as people, even as he gives up his own life to punish Kuki.
When I watch this show, it’s hard not to think of the members of Terra, the Foundation and the Mu as real people put in extraordinary circumstances.
They continue to struggle until the end.
It’s the hope for a better day that drives them, even as all of the color seeps from the world. That is what makes the conclusion feel earned. They are all working for this moment, and to see the world set right feels like a victory.
I wish I could have seen where the other characters ended up, but what I got is enough.
What do I think
When I watched the final scenes of RahXephon for the first time, I cried. I wouldn’t call it a religious experience, but it was a deeply emotional one.
All of these years later, the show still pulled a few tears from me. I knew what was going to happen, so it was less of a surprise and more of a comfort.
One of the criticisms, I can see getting levied at this show is that it offers seemingly simple solutions to our problems. If you can accept yourself and accept others then you can make the world a better place and find happiness.
I agree that what the show is saying is simple and hopeful. The show doesn’t say that it’s easy though. It requires effort to set aside hatred, mistrust and fear. Accepting yourself requires a level of soul-searching that most people aren’t equipped for.
This is where this show’s message contradicts Evangelion. RahXephon stands up defiantly and says, “You are not alone. You are not broken. You can be loved. And even if the world ends, it will be reborn.”
And that is enough for me.
As always, thanks for reading.
Just a note: My plan is to start in on The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya starting in April. I really want to catch up on some tag posts and other things that I’ve let slide during the past few months. On top of that, I’m reading the first two light novels, so I can get a better sense of what the studio was working with.
I hope that those who read my posts enjoyed them. If you’ve watched RahXephon, I’d love to see what you thought.