Reviewby Allen Divers, Feb 28th 2003
DVD 1: Orchestration One: Threshold
The world around Tokyo has disappeared, destroyed by invaders. The citizens of Tokyo have continued living, remembering the history of the world and knowing that someday the invaders will return. When the Invaders finally return, young Kamina Ayato begins to question the people and the existence around him. He is soon confronted by Shitow Haruka, a woman who claims to have the answers he seeks. On the run, Kamina is drawn to a temple where the RahXephon awaits him. He is confronted with the possibility that the world he has known all his life is a lie, and the only connection he has with reality lies with the RahXephon and the secrets that Haruka can tell him. Kamina must now confront the secret of the Mu and what really happened to the rest of the world!
ADV looks to take the world by storm once again with yet another high-energy, action packed giant robot series. Following in the footsteps of other classic Sci-Fi robot shows, RahXephon shines in its first volume, working to establish the main characters and the overall plot of the series. RahXephon mixes exciting visuals, a strong soundtrack, a vibrant plot line, and interesting characters to produce a series that breaks new ground for an almost stagnant giant robot genre.
RahXephon Orchestration 1: Threshold fits into what has become the norm for most ADV releases. Presented in a standard TV format, the first volume contains the first five episodes for the series. The extras include the standard clean versions of the opening and closing animations, as well as a special Japanese promotional trailer. An image gallery is included, featuring music from the show and a timed slide show. To make the first volume even more special, ADV has produced two versions: the regular DVD version and a Collector's Edition, featuring the first DVD, a nice box that will hold the entire series, and a T-Shirt.
On the animation production side, RahXephon develops its look and feel from the creative minds at BONES. RahXephon's visual style comes across as bright and almost cheerful. Considering the ominous feel of the plot and much of the tone of the first few episodes, this brightness helps keep RahXephon from degenerating into yet another typical giant robot show. The bright designs work from the character designs all the way into the mecha designs. While most of the military machines are very mechanical in practice, the robots strike a balance between near-organic forms and machine elegance. The color scheme chosen for RahXephon seems to pay homage to one of its forebears in the giant robot genre--while still making for a solid original look.
The soundtrack for RahXephon comes in two flavors: 5.1 English and 2.0 Japanese. Both soundtracks feature the same music and sound effect tracks, keeping a consistency between the two. The English track does a good job of keeping up with the original Japanese script, making allowances for lip flaps and some stronger phrasing. ADV has pulled in some familiar names to voice many of the lead characters, such as Chris Patton as Kamina Ayato and Monica Rial as Shitow Haruka. While Chris is in familiar territory with his performance, Monica fits well in a role very different from some of her quieter work as Hyatt in Excel Saga and Karika in Noir. Overall, both casts do a great job of creating characters to which an audience relate easily.
While some will look at RahXephon as yet another "boy finds robot, saves world" type show, it's actually a series that manages to combine a lot of likeable plot points and tries to build an original story for itself. The viewer finds herself on a journey with Kamina as he discovers the world around him isn't what it seems. While most other shows could quickly build into a lot of action, with non-stop robotic fighting, RahXephon continues to build on the mystery it has established in the first two episodes.
RahXephon proves to be a series with a lot going on. On the surface, there are the typical stereotype characters, such as the reluctant teenage hero, the mysterious girl, the boisterous woman and the enigmatic captain. Below that is a back-story that is slowly revealing itself to the audience. All the while, the characters begin to show depth and life to keep the series from degenerating into a simple action/sci-fi adventure. There is quite a bit of action, especially in the first episode, in which most of the actual combat between the giant robots is concluded quickly, often with very little difficulty on the part of the protagonist.
Balanced against this are the simple needs to move the story forward and provide the necessary background information. The audience is clued in to major revelations at the same time Kamina learns about them. Unfortunately, there are a few times during this process that the viewer simply wants to shout, "Get on with it!" While a bit much for the more action-oriented members of the audience, this slower pacing helps develop the personalities of the major players in this series. Much of this character development, especially in the last few episodes of the disc, help bring out the positive side of things, and show that the characters are still human despite the overwhelming odds they face. While there is still much left to be revealed in future episodes, RahXephon so far manages to hold back the dark tones of its driving plot by allowing character development that moves away from a simple degeneration and destruction of personality. There is hope and humor among the main characters, and it doesn't come across as simple fan service.
RahXephon should prove to be a strong title for ADV. While a bit slow, the first release does help show off an exciting array of visuals and a well thought-out plot. While not exactly a strong balance, the action sequences and plot development work together to create a solid and consistent storyline filled with character development. Action fans may want more mecha action, but believable characters help establish the credibility of a good story. Orchestration 1: Threshold will do a good job of drawing in an audience and leaving them clamoring for more.
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A
+ Strong visuals and a deep plot leave much of the audience clamoring for more
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