The story of Two Watches and RahXephon — an #AniTwitWatches post

So I’m writing about RahXephon again.

A few months ago, we finished up watching RahXephon as part of #anitwitwatches. What is #anitwitwatches, you might ask? Well, it’s a group watch led by Jon Spencer Reviews where we watch episodes of a show every Monday and tweet about them. I’ve been participating since 2019.

It’s a great way to watch shows I wouldn’t usually watch, and there is a pretty wide range of opinions.

Each of the shows is picked using a vote on Twitter, and when RahXephon came up for a vote, I stumped hard for it. I went to discord channels. I posted about it on Twitter. I went to Facebook. I wanted a group watch of this show.

Why is that? Well, RahXephon is my favorite show of all time. I’ve shared the story of when I started loving it, and for fear of starting to get sappy, I won’t repeat it here.

The thing is that it’s been a couple of months, and I haven’t felt like writing on my days off, so I haven’t gotten around to talking about it. Time has moved on, and we’ve watched another whole show for #anitwitwatches.

Now I’ve got a whole bunch of ideas sitting around in the back of my head. But they all start here — what is it about RahXephon that makes it my favorite show of all time.

And for that, I have to talk about two watches.

Episode 19

Just for a bit of background for those who may not remember or never watched the show, RahXephon revolves around Ayato Kamina, the pilot of a metal giant named, well, the RahXephon. The show starts with Kamina inside of a Tokyo taken over by a race called the Mu.

Tokyo is inside a time-displacement bubble and cut off from the rest of the world until Kamina can turn 17. The Mu’s plan was for him to stay inside this bubble until he could come of age to remake the world in a way that would favor them. Instead, he escapes with the giant robot and starts fighting alongside a group of people outside. 

Well, after some good times and bad times, Ayato learns that he’s not really human. In an act to discover where he fits into the world, he returns to Tokyo Jupiter. The problem is that he finds it isn’t the home that he remembered. So he, along with a childhood friend, Hiroko Asahina, flee Tokyo. But Kamina isn’t ready to return to his home away from home. 

This is where we start Episode 19. 

The last time I wrote about Episode 19, I didn’t do a great job of it. I struggled to make sense of what the show was trying to say with Asahina. Was she just getting punished for not accepting herself? 

I’ve realized the episode contains one of the central theses of the show, but before that, I said I was going to talk about some watches. 

Early in the episode, Ayato pawns his and Asahina’s watches. One notable thing is that they are telling different times. Asahina’s is still set for Tokyo Jupiter time, and Ayato’s remains in “normal” time. 

This is notable because it indicates that they are running up the worlds they are coming from. Ayato and Asahina both note that he is running from something. Asahina’s dolem self points out that she is also running away from the truth. 

In fact, this whole episode takes place in a kind of alternate world, where neither of them needs to face the bigger questions posed to them. By casting away their watches, they become “timeless,” adrift in the world without responsibilities or ties. 

What happens by the end of this episode shows, of course, that they can’t escape the ties that bind them. They are part of the larger conflict. It also ironically shows Ayato that he and the RahXephon are not tools of war. But that’s a discussion for another time. 

Why are the watches important?

So I spent the last couple of paragraphs explaining why selling the watches is an important point from a character’s point of view — they are trying to escape their responsibilities. 

It’s also essential from a thematic point of view. These are two people now tied to very different “times.” Asahina spends the episode trying to explain her concerns but is unable to communicate. She’s not able to understand who and what she is. This is one of the show’s central themes — self-discovery is a personal journey. You can’t let other people determine your identity. 

Here is the thing. Those watches are on screen for maybe half a minute. They are unimportant to the larger story. You don’t need to pay attention to them to enjoy the show or the episode. 

But someone, somewhere along the way, took the time to make sure they had different times on them. Someone thought to have that be the item each of them pawn. 

This is why I love RahXephon. There are so many of these significant elements, but unless you’re looking for them, you’ll never see them. 

For instance, Ayato’s painting of the Girl in Yellow changes throughout the show. It starts with her being crowded by a lot of apparent Mulian symbolism.

Then in the middle of the show, when Ayato is still trying to decide between his two worlds, she is just standing on a patch of grass in an empty field.

In the end, we get the final Girl in Yellow painting, which is the world he really wants. 

Not only are each of the versions of the Girl in Yellow tied to a time in Ayato’s life, but that initial version of the Girl in Yellow appears every time the Mu bring up the painting. That is the world that they want. 

All of this is significant. If you understand these elements, it will help you comprehend the show better. 

But do you need them? No. You don’t. 

At its heart, RahXephon is a story about the trauma of war, the loss caused by it and how love can transcend time. It can just be enjoyed as a story about those things. You don’t need to pay attention to paintings or watches.

I don’t need to think about watches and paintings to enjoy this show. But I can. It’s like a puzzle box. When I open a new door or slide out a panel, it reconfigures into a new and interesting shape, but it’s just as beautiful. 

Favorites and Rankings

I recognize that I haven’t talked about my new thoughts on Episode 19. I think I might in another post because they don’t fit into this one. 

I wanted to use this to start talking about my list of favorite shows of all time. Yes. I may actually be adjusting the list of favorite shows of all time. This is because there really is a show that I want to add to the list. But to do that, I want to talk about whether the shows on that list still belong there. 

It’s a little bit of navel-gazing, but I enjoy this kind of thing. 

But, as usual, for these #anitwitwatches lists, I will rank the shows that I have watched as part of the group. I missed the shows during the first two seasons, and I haven’t watched any of the movies that have been shown as part of #anitwitwatches. 

It’s no surprise that RahXephon ends up on top of the rankings. It is my favorite show of all time. I love the characters. I love the thematic depth. I love thinking about what it all can mean. As much as I enjoy Astra: Lost in Space, it can’t hold a candle to RahXephon in my book. 

I’m also going to put Fate/Stay Night (2006) on the list. I’ll write a post about it later. The short review is that it’s a messy show with some excellent parts. It goes on the “flawed but enjoyable” section of the list. Right under Gridman and right above School Days. 

Here are the new rankings:

RahXephon

Astra Lost in Space

Another

Wandering Son

Rolling Girls

Girls’ Last Tour

SSSS. Gridman

Fate/Stay Night (2006)

School Days

From the New World

The Perfect Insider

Kanon

6 thoughts on “The story of Two Watches and RahXephon — an #AniTwitWatches post

  1. I didn’t read through this completely because it goes into detail on RahXephon and am planning to watch it for the first time but whenever someone writes with so much passion about a show it’s usually going to be a good watch. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Oh, man. I hope you enjoy it. It is definitely my favorite show of all time. Even after 12 or 13 times watching it and nearly 20 years.

      1. Oh damn. That’s a lot of watches! But I getcha. Bebop is like that for me. Just something you relate to or hooks you and you keep revisiting the story. Those are the best ones. 🙂

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