Reviewby Carlo Santos, Mar 8th 2005
Rahxephon: Pluralitas Concentio
Ayato and Haruka are middle-school sweethearts whose lives take a dire turn when the mysterious Mu invade Tokyo in the year 2012. A hemispherical barrier goes up over the city, giving rise to "Tokyo Jupiter," so-called because the barrier looks like that planet. With Ayato stuck inside Tokyo Jupiter and Haruka outside of it, it seems that they are forever doomed to live in separate worlds. However, when Ayato discovers the RahXephon—a giant robot powered more by mysticism than technology—he also discovers the true relationship between Tokyo Jupiter and the rest of the world. Protecting humanity from the Mu may be Ayato's destiny, but what he really wants is to regain the relationship he once had with Haruka... a love that will have to transcend space, time, and reality itself.
The RahXephon movie tackles a daunting challenge: how do you squeeze a 26-episode anime series into 2 hours? By skimming over complex story elements and focusing on relationships between just a few characters. This isn't just "RahXephon Cliffs Notes," however. Where the original series jumps into the action and reveals the rest of the story in isolated pieces, this one lays out the cards at the beginning and lets things develop in a more linear (yet more confusing) fashion. If you haven't seen RahXephon yet, this could be the gateway drug that will hook you into the complete series. If you're already a fan, prepare to fall in love with the story all over again.
With over half the footage in this movie lifted from the TV show, it's easy to say that the folks at BONES didn't try very hard to come up with a new story. The premise is indeed the same—teenage boy is fated to save the world from unknown invaders, with lots of pretty scenery and props—but the emphasis is much more on Ayato and Haruka's relationship. Now it's a genuine love story rather than a love story disguised as a mecha anime. If you've already seen the RahXephon series, you know where this is going to go, but it's a new way of getting there. Nothing in this movie is more captivating than the heartfelt scenes between Ayato and Haruka, however they keep jumping to action sequences at all the wrong times. Viewers are sure to get mental whiplash from the shuttling between romance and violence, and this stop-and-go pacing could have been avoided if the complex story elements had been cut out completely rather than skimmed over. In fact, the politics and warfare are so condensed that they seem like a jumble of nonsense words and stuff blowing up. It's moments like these that the booklet provided with the DVD comes in very handy.
Even if the world of RahXephon is poorly explained, there's no confusion about the characters that inhabit it. Ayato is one of the more likable mecha pilots in anime, with a mature but passionate approach towards his duty and his friendships. Haruka, meanwhile, has a tough attitude that hides her fear of losing Ayato all over again. It's a shame that these two are often overlooked as one of anime's most enduring couples. The exchange between Ayato and Haruka before his final mission sums up everything between them, and the last scene reveals yet another facet of their relationship that wasn't touched upon in the series. To truly see how these characters grow, however, watching the series is the best way to go.
Studio BONES is up to their old tricks with visuals that follow the school of good, solid animation technique rather than trying to cover things up with modern-day flash. The battles between RahXephon and the Mu's monstrous dolems are as fluid as anything that computer imaging could come up with. Even in quiet, conversational moments, the characters never look stiff, and each one has a unique look that's pleasing to the eye: facial proportions drawn just right, yet distinctive from person to person. On a larger scale, many of the scenes are framed with striking camera angles for a strong visual effect. The mythology of the Mu, which draws its influences from pre-Columbian America, also creates an interesting aesthetic of the ancient set against the futuristic. Even if the metaphysics behind RahXephon are confusing, technology and mysticism still look cool when they come together.
Like the rest of the movie, the music score has an uncommon beauty that lingers because of its distinct style. The turning points in RahXephon wouldn't be half as memorable were it not for Ichiko Hashimoto's meandering, reflective melodies. With various orchestral instruments at hand, Hashimoto creates tunes that teeter on the edge of dissonance, often going in unusual directions, but remaining highly expressive. Since music is a metaphorical theme in the movie, this striking score is an essential element of the production.
ADV brings out their usual cast of voice actors to give the movie a dub that's passionately delivered, but may not be to everyone's tastes. It's easy to blunt the impact of emotionally loaded lines with missteps in rhythm and timing, and there are moments where the cast is guilty of doing this—like Ayato's oddly-placed "Damn it to hell!" when he's facing Tokyo Jupiter's wall from the outside. Nonetheless, the voice actors try their best to present this as a genuine love story, without resorting to dreary navel-gazing or syrupy overacting. Even with such a sensitive work, though, there are still nuances that get lost in translation.
"Life, what is it but a dream?" This quote from Alice Through the Looking-Glass is a recurring motif in the RahXephon movie, reflecting on how reality, memories, and dreams shape our perception of the world. The real message, however, is a more intimate one, of how a love between two people can shape their own particular world. Yes, there's a whole lot of back-story and politics that will befuddle newcomers to RahXephon, but most of it is explained in the TV show. Depending on your perspective, the movie is either an endcap to a remarkable series or a sampler of it—but no matter where you're coming from, it's certainly worth two hours to experience a unique romance from the future.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : B
Animation : A-
Art : A
Music : A
+ A beautiful, touching love story unlike any other
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