Mike delves into the technical side of anime and discovers a whole world of knowledge.
Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Jan 12th 2004
DVD 7: Crescendo
The world as we know it is drawing to a close. The Absolute Barrier around Tokyo has been destroyed during Operation Down Fall, and the Mu have appeared over every major city in the world. As the Mu civilization prepares to cover the Earth, Ayato and Quon, two instrumentalists following Ixtli to become the true RahXephon, must decide what kind of world they want to create.
RahXephon is, without a doubt, an absolute masterpiece. Here, BONES has created not only a complete world, but one that manages to carry the heavy load of expectations associated with the cerebral-mecha genre created by Hideaki Anno's Neon Genesis Evangelion (the series that RahXephon shall forever be compared to), without turning into a confusing, muddled hodgepodge of nonsensical references to long-dead religions. While the comparison isn't entirely fair to RahXephon, it's easiest to view the series as a competently executed, intelligent, adult version of Evangelion. Volume 7, the final volume in the series, proves that you can create a series that is mature and incredibly complicated without leaving you suicidal or asking a million questions.
A paragon of responsible storytelling, RahXephon comes full circle in the end. These final three episodes bring the story to a thrilling peak. No loose strings are left; we see the conclusion of every character's storyline. Of course, you really have to have your brain turned on to enjoy this series, as this show demands that you actively watch it. It's far too complicated to just sit back and enjoy. Like Evangelion, you have to bend and warp your brain around this thing, but unlike Evangelion, if you think about it, it all makes sense. Everything connects. The terms all mean something. Every event has significance and can be accounted for in the course of the series.
In the end, the basic theme is that humans can't be controlled or coerced through any amount of power. We have free will, and the most powerful thing to do with that free will is to establish meaningful, loving relationships with the people around us. No matter how bad things may get, no matter how crushed we are under the weight of an oppressive rule, the human animal will always rise to the occasion and cry for freedom. Ayato discovers that human connection is the most powerful force imaginable and creates a world in which love reigns supreme. It's a surprisingly upbeat ending for a show that could have come crashing down as a parable about human selfishness.
Some will only see similarities, though, and will undoubtedly become the beasts who shout, "Rip-off!" at the heart of the world. RahXephon, while taking many cues from Gainax's magnum opus, creates an entirely new story. Yes, Ayato is chosen to remake the world through a clandestine and confusing process involving strange mecha. That's about where the similarities end. Evangelion had essentially no sympathetic characters; its cast was a string of metaphors, symbolizing the endless depressing flaws we all share. If Evangelion is a condemnation of the human condition, RahXephon is a celebration of everything that makes us human and how unique and powerful that is. Ayato is a strong-willed, likable and sympathetic kid who stumbles a few times but says what he means, confesses his feelings, and does the right thing. He's a hero. It's easy to get behind him. Over the course of the series, you'll develop attachments to many of the other characters, and you'll see them all get their due.
The production values are absolutely top-notch. The animation quality has remained consistently excellent throughout the series, and volume 7 is no exception. Some of the scenes in the final episode reach a theatrical level of quality. It's clear where the money went into this show; there are scenes of unparalleled beauty. The end of the world never looked so good as it does here, and since we're talking about anime, that's saying a lot. The score also holds together. Music is an integral part of what the show is supposed to be about, so the score complements the visuals perfectly.
The dub is spectacularly performed. Throughout all seven volumes, the voice cast for this series has performed above and beyond any expectation they may have had. What they've created is a dub with more feeling, intensity and emotion than the original Japanese; this is what English dubbing should be like. For an English-speaking audience, their native language will always have more intensity behind it than the culturally sedate Japanese. It isn't better, but it is different, and for drama, English seems more capable of conveying real, raw emotion than the gentle, flowing tones of Japanese. RahXephon is truly brought to life through the superbly talented voices of Chris Patton, Monica Rial and a host of others; there is believable conviction behind their line readings. The end of this series, which is emotionally draining and overwrought at times, comes across perfectly. There are no bad line readings, no faulty takes, no missteps; it is aural perfection. Kudos to the entire ADV staff for putting together what has raised the bar across the board for anime dubs.
Simply put, every anime fan should give this show a try. It is intelligent, touching, meaningful, beautifully animated, and superbly acted. It rises above its genre shackles and becomes something more than it is on the surface. It is unquestionably adult, and proves that animation is capable of telling stories that are unique and special to an educated and focused mind. Anime doesn't have to be scattershot, huge-breasts-huge-guns-collectable-card nonsense. It can be a thing of unrivalled artistic beauty. RahXephon proves that. With the final volume, this series takes its place in the pantheon of anime classics. Don't miss it.
Overall (dub) : A+
Overall (sub) : A+
Story : A+
Animation : A+
Art : A+
Music : A+
+ The perfect ending to one of the greatest anime series ever produced.
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