17 December 2003 | cleversimon
A series of unusual intelligence, depth, and soul
'RahXephon' is an engaging, stunningly crafted series, possessed of an emotional depth rarely seen in animation, Japanese or otherwise. Critics often compare 'RahXephon' to 'Neon Genesis Evangelion', even accuse Bones of plagiarizing Gainax's intellectual property, but this is both inaccurate and unfair; while the broad strokes of premise and plot are similar, the two shows are wildly different. At its core, 'Evangelion' was an action series with elements of psychological drama, collapsing into a confused muddle of arcane symbolism and overcomplicated plot twists. 'Eva' was entertaining, even enthralling, despite its flaws, but 'RahXephon' leaves it in the dust.
'RahXephon''s biggest advantage over its contemporaries is its character development. Virtually everyone who appears on screen is given a complex set of motivations and a significant amount of personal depth, and it is in watching these well-developed characters interact that the series' biggest is found. Personal conflicts--between Matoko and Kisaragi Itsuki, between Haruka and Megumi, between Ayato and, well, everybody--are given an emotional weight that invests these situations with a real feeling of tension, as well as sympathy for one, if not both, of the characters involved.
As intricate as the writing is, it would not be half as convincing without the stunning animation throughout the series. The animators imbued every person on screen with a personality displaying in their very appearance, and allowed subtle changes in facial expression and body language to speak as much as the dialogue. There is a shot in a latter episode of the expression on Haruka's face changing so subtly, in tiny movements of her eyebrows and lips, that one doesn't even notice until it's almost complete. The attention to detail is awe-inspiring.
As the series builds towards its thrilling climax, the emotional stakes rise higher, and the characters' situations become increasingly desperate, the show violently plays on the viewers' emotions-impressively enough, -without- being blatantly manipulative. I was lucky enough to watch a bootleg of the entire series in two sittings; I cannot imagine the torture of having to wait a week between instalments.
There are so many elements, so many fine details in 'RahXephon' that are beyond the scope of this review to explain. Whether or not you are an anime fan, whether or not you care for -any- form of animation, you absolutely -must- watch this series. It could change your view of the art form forever.