RahXephon: A Harmonic Analysis

One of my biggest influences is my love for animation, especially Japanese animation.  Among anime, my favorite series is Yutaka Izubuchi’s mecha epic RahXephon.  Praised for its stunning visuals and Matrix-like plot, RahXephon, even upon a first glance, looks unlike anything else in anime.

Many anime fans will tell you that the pinnacle of mecha anime is Neon Genesis Evangelion.  While it is a good show, Eva has more than its fair share of flaws (running out of money with two episodes left, chronically whiny/depressed characters, confusing resolution), flaws RahXephon does not replicate, especially in a subgenre of anime that typically walks down the same road as Eva.

Case in point, RahXephon‘s lead, Ayato Kamina.  Ayato is a student and aspiring painter, having just finished sketching out an elaborate piece when we first see him.  Ayato doesn’t realize that he is actually an instrumentalist (a special form of mech pilot in RahXephon).  Of course, that’s only the smallest part of what Ayato learns over the course of the series.  Ayato serves as our point of view, so many characters know more of what’s going on than Ayato.  His story and character growth is as rich and detailed as his supporting cast, none of which are two-dimensional.

I’m going to look at what’s going on in RahXephon in detail, so I can learn how to better pace plot, story, and character.  I’m going to show a few fun details about the show how to string together mysteries and make them all pay off in the end.  I’m doing this because I know RahXephon is a fantastic show and it’s been way too long since I’ve watched it.

Some things to make note of:

Music is important.  With a diverse soundtrack and frequent use of terms like instrumentalist, music has a greater role in RahXephon than in most anime.  Many of the Dolems sing their attacks and all of them are named after musical tones (Fortissimo, Allegretto).  Episodes are referred to as “movements,” and DVDs in their original release are labeled as “orchestrations.”

Characters are more important than combat. Even though RahXephon has spectacular battles, there are some episodes where the RahXephon doesn’t do anything, leaving the plot on the shoulders of Ayato, the Mu, and the staff of TERRA.

RahXephon isn’t actually a mech show. Even though it is a mech show, that’s not what the story is really about.  I’m not going to say what the story is really about since that’s the biggest mystery RahXephon offers.  I will tell you that RahXephon is about family, about friends, and lost love.

So sit back, relax and listen to the song, the forbidden song that will create freedom once again.

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5 thoughts on “RahXephon: A Harmonic Analysis

  1. Beautifuly Said, RahXephon is one of my favorite animes that people dont seem to appreciate. Its beautiful, wonderful and just all around amazing. If you enjoy art, music and complex in depth story lines you should definitly watch this anime.

  2. I agree with you on RahXephon’s merits, but I still like Evangelion better. Not only is it nostalgic for me (seeing as how it was the first anime I ever watched), but I feel the many problems that arose in EVA’s ending were bandaged by the “End of Evangelion” movie, which, while still not perfect by a long shot, made the series a little clearer and gave it one hell of a send off.
    I will admit that Shinji get annoying at times, but most of his rants and outbursts (as well as the rest of the casts’) always feel believable and considering the amount of stress and trauma something like Third Impact or the death of a loved one can create for a person (especially in youth), and then the added pressure of having to save the world from constant threat while being consistently put in harm’s way, I see how everyone could be so disturbed by the end of the series. Eva has its melodramatic monologues and plot problems, but the depth of the psychologies of its characters always kinda made up for it in my eyes.

    1. As a writer, I prefer the story to be cohesive. I can’t say that applies to Evangelion’s final third of episodes. However, I love what the new Evangelion movies are doing and I eagerly anticipate seeing the next two of those.

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