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Rahxephon - Complete Collection
With so much giant robot and monstrous creature anime on the market you'd think that the over saturation would lead to the byproduct of poor quality and a lack of originality. Back in 2003 when RahXephon was released by ADV it peaked my interest thanks to its fantastic presentation but I'll admit that I chalked it up to a Neon Genesis Evangelion rip off without ever seeing it. Now that the thinpak has been released I decided to leave my preconceptions at the door and check out the show. Let's just say you can't judge a book by its cover and this series shattered my assumption of its nature.
Originally released in 2002 the Yutaka Izubuchi manga turned anime is fantasy and science fiction all rolled into one. The show ran in Japan with a full season of 26 episodes and was enough of a success to warrant the release of a full length feature in 2003.
The series takes place in the year 2015 and starts off in Tokyo. It would seem that a war with a mysterious alien race has decimated the Earth and what we see is all that remains of humanity. Ayato Kamina is your typical 17 year old kid living in the city. He goes to school, has friends and loves to paint in his spare time. He dreams about a particular girl named Reika Mishima and soon enough their fates will intertwine.
The silent peace is broken and barrages of enemy invaders infiltrate Tokyo airspace. In an instant Ayato is involved in an accident and finds himself separated from his friends. While stumbling through wreckage and avoiding falling skyscrapers he makes his way to a point where Mishima is standing just like in one of his paintings. That's where things go south for Ayato real quick like. Bizarre creatures known as the Dolem appear and destroy the enemy ships while Ayato is lead to a very special chamber. There RahXephon rests and it's where Ayato's destiny begins. By now I'm sure you're thinking to yourself "RahXephon who?" or "Dolem what now?"
In the world that Ayato lives in there are a few things that need to be explained in order to appreciate what's going on here. A Dolem is a clay-like creature who is seemingly controlled by magic generated from a race known as the Mu. Each Dolem has a pilot who controls the beast with song and there are a variety of powers at their disposal. Naturally this makes the Mu a very dangerous foe but the kicker is that they look exactly like humans. The only real way to tell the difference between the two races is the fact that our blood is red and theirs is blue.
That's something we and Ayato discover early into the series when a mysterious woman named Haruka Shitow shows up and breaks out some kung fu. She promises Ayato that she'll show him the true world and all this, but he rejects her advances to follow Mishima to meet RahXephon. At first RahXephon is a giant egg but it eventually hatches to reveal an extremely powerful Dolem. The boy and this beast are connected somehow and Mishima is featured prominently in the middle of them.
Eventually Ayato, RahXephon and Shitow find themselves in a fight against another Dolem and they break free from Tokyo during the conflict. It turns out that there is a barrier around Tokyo and Shitow is a government agent from the other side. The Tokyo that Aytao knew is in fact called Tokyo Jupiter because of the strange Jupiter-like field that surrounds the city. It would seem that the Mu created a barrier around the city that slowed time and set the two societies apart. While Aytao is convinced that the year is 2015 it is in fact a much later date than that. The truth about the world comes crashing down on him and his very existence becomes a surprise.
As RahXephon progresses the show takes on a lot of nuances that really separate it apart from other boy-pilot inspired anime. The whole history surrounding Ayato unravels before our eyes and adds an unfathomable amount of depth to his character. Simply describing it can't do it justice and to be honest I don't want to spoil anything for those of you with interest in the show.
The great thing about RahXephon that really drew me in was the fact that each episode furthers the story. Instead of featuring stories of an episodic nature the entire 26 episode series is one giant, complex and emotionally deep tale. This is one of the most impressive anime that I have seen in a long time and to be honest I'm a bit embarrassed I originally passed it off as an Evangelion clone. RahXephon is a show all its own and stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the very best series on the market. If you're looking for a unique sci-fi war series with a lot of twists and turns you can't go wrong with this one.
RahXephon is presented on DVD with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio and looks absolutely gorgeous. The art style is one of the most attractive I have seen for a show of this variety. The animation is fluid, the lines are strong, and the backgrounds are true masterpieces. The video quality is absolutely superb with no aliasing, grain or shimmer to complain about. My only gripe is that I wish this show was presented in anamorphic widescreen to truly capitalize on the grandeur of the art.
As is typical with releases from ADV there are two language tracks included for this series. The original Japanese track is presented with 2.0 Dolby Digital while the English comes with a 5.1 selection. In terms of audio quality both tracks offer a decent experience with some great voice acting. I typically go with the Japanese tracks but found the English one here to be acceptable especially with the added channel support. It's mostly used for voices but some sound effects and music worked there way into the rear speakers as well.
Just like with the Noir thinpak release RahXephon includes a wealth of bonus features which really surprised me. Picking up these sets is a great way to save a few bucks but the drawback is the lack of supplemental material. Luckily each disc here has something to offer, even if it is merely something minor. The seven discs all feature production sketches as well as clean opening and ending animations. Throughout the set there are also promotional trailers, interviews with the English voice cast, as well as interviews with animation character designer Hiroki Kanno and the Japanese cast.
As a series RahXephon proved to be a solid release but as a thinpak collection it is something that can't be passed up. From start to finish this show is riddled with mystery, action, humor, and emotion. If you do what I did and just write it off as an Evangelion clone you're missing out on a near equally good series with a unique atmosphere. I loved every second of RahXephon and can't recommend it enough if you are looking for an anime of this nature. Highly Recommended