It's 2015, and Ordinary High-School Student Ayato Kamina lives in a sharply delimited world. Three years earlier, something happened that enclosed Tokyo in an impenetrable shell. As far as Ayato and the other inhabitants of the city are concerned, the rest of the world simply vanished, and they are all that is left. His painting, and getting by day-to-day while his widowed mother spends all her time on her secret job for the government are more important to him. At least, until mysterious invaders pass through the barrier and attack Tokyo with advanced fighters while strange, sculpture-like war machines protect the city.In the midst of that attack, two women enter his life. The first, Haruka Shitow, claims to be there to "rescue" him and take him out of walled-in Tokyo. The second is Reika Mishima, a strange girl who looks like she just stepped out of the most recent painting Ayato has been working on. Reika approaches the boy and sets him on his way to discovering RahXephon, a giant robot as sculptural as the weapons defending the skies above, encased in a giant "egg" deep below the city. But when Ayato awakens and bonds with RahXephon, his life will never be the same again.Inspired by the 1970s mecha show Brave Raideen and heavily inspired by science fiction literature (The Dandelion Girl), most Western audiences will compare it to Neon Genesis Evangelion. Where Evangelion is about dysfunction and despair cloaked in Kaballah and Judeo-Christian religion, RahXephon is about transcendence and revelation, blending music, gorgeous imagery and Mayan lore to produce a result that is thematically the total opposite to the bleakness of Evangelion's climax. Despite the two series having plot points which are suspiciously similar, RahXephon stands in its own right as a Super Robot series, one that is much-preferred over Evangelion by some fans.See also Eureka Seven and Star Driver, other mecha productions by Studio BONES (the latter of which takes quite a few cues from RahXephon).There be spoilers below!
This show provides examples of:
Adaptation Distillation: The Movie version, Pluralitas Concentio, to varying degrees of effectiveness; threads that were easy to lose over the course of the series are now easier to grasp, but many are cut, a few are changed and some double up on themselves, partly as a result of using both new and old material. As an example of the last, at one point there is new material where Ayato and Haruka have sex. One scene later, in series material, he's asking Megumi if Haruka currently has a boyfriend.
Worth noting is that he does indeed stop whining after getting laid, potentially answering the eternal question of whether this would have worked with Shinji.
Though the only true mechs appear to the advanced jet aircraft present in the show. The others have squishy organic parts, or are made of clay. The Dolems in particular seem to share health pools with a Mulian "pilot". And even the Vermillions are eventually revealed to be mass-produced Dolems that have been outfitted with suits of mech-like armor to allow normal humans to pilot them.
Anyone Can Die: By the time the tuning occurs, the only main cast members still alive are Futagami, Rikudoh, Megumi, Watari, Quon, and Ayato. Maya and Haruka are technically alive, but are both physically dead.
Belligerent Sexual Tension: Played with. Megumi and Ayato show signs of this from basically the fourth episode, including most of the cliched signs, but while Megumi seems to actually be interested about midway through, she can't catch a break (see below). Played with for a less jerkass Ayato (who becomes so through Character Development) and a far more deredere Haruka.
Book Ends: Ayato's painting. It also takes it a step further and, after the ending credits, shows the original inspiration for the painting that kicked-off the whole show.
Boring Invincible Hero: In twenty-six episodes, only once does the Rah Xephon suffer more than a scratch, and even then, the fight is barely more than a few seconds. However, the enemy was never actually trying to destroy or even capture it, but lead Ayato to Yolteotl. The one time where he might've been in danger was the first time Obligatto showed up and, even then, Mamoru waited so he could betray Ayato in front of him to cause him a blue screen. By their second encounter, Ayato is way beyond Mamoru's league.
Subverted by an even gender mix, and individuals have whole episodes dedicated to them.
Deconstructed. The reason Megumi and Kim signed up with TERRA despite being so young is because the former is implied to have severe problems with school and eventually dropped out, and the latter is looking for revenge against the Mu due to losing her parents in one of their attacks.
Lampshaded by the line, "Whoa, check out the sweet new bridge bunny."
Butt Monkey / Love Hurts: Megumi Shitow can not catch a break in love. Fellow coworker Souichi? Too bad, taken by coworker Kim. Ayato? Your sister's got you by a 15-year lead.
Catfight: A brief one between Elvy and Cathy over who Ayato's going to sketch next. But, really, they were just having a fun day at the beach.
Cast of Snowflakes: The only character that has a reused face is Isshiki's, and that's justified because he's part of a mass-produced clone series.
Cherry Blossoms: The "death" mythos is played with; one conversation jokingly mentions that if a human buried under the tree turns the petals red, would a Mulian (who have blue blood) turn the petals blue? This becomes somewhat of a Brick Joke near the end.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: From his first appearance it was clear that Jouji Futagami was more than just a nosy photo journalist. He goes on to solidify his badassness in the finale when he, of all people, kills Big Bad Ernst von Bähbem.
Cryptic Conversation: Quon speaks like this most of the time, and the Bähbem foundation isn't much better. Heck, everyone other than the protagonist has a bad habit of doing this until the plot threads start untangling (at which point he starts doing it from all the revelations coming his way).
Curb-Stomp Battle: Pretty much every single fight between the RahXephon and a Dolem ends in only a few seconds, not including fights where Ayato is being Mind Raped. This goes double whenever RahXephon goes berserk.
Deus ex Machina: Deus Est Machina Literallynote As in if you take the literal translation, and the episode is even named "Deus ex Machina". It avoids being an Ass Pull and works fairly well, though, bucking the trope.
Evolving Credits: The RahXephon itself was shown as a silhouette with glowing eyes in the opening until a few episodes in. Later on the members of the Bähbem Foundation and the Vermillion pilots work their way into the credits too.
Expy: Several characters have a definite resemblance to those of Neon Genesis Evangelion with fewer mental problems. In particular, Haruka is a lot like Misato, being similarly a competent military official with some Man Child mannerisms, although Haruka isn't really a Hard-Drinking Party Girl- her best friend is. Said friend also happens to wear the same cross necklace Misato has.
First Girl Wins: In an odd way, as Haruka was Ayato's sweetheart several years back, but he was given amnesia and due to the time dilation, she ended up several years older than him- but they still end up together; Asahina, the seeming "first girl" doesn't end up with Ayato.
Harem Series: While not a traditional harem anime per se, RahXephon does feature a fair number of female characters who show interest in Ayato, live with him, and/or act jealous when they see him with other girls.
Heroic BSOD: Ayato has one after he learns about Asahina's death. We aren't shown what happens, but it's noted that he was found with her body, "in a state of extreme emotional distress", and had to be physically restrained by the TERRA personnel sent to recover him.
I Know Mortal Kombat: Inverted; Ayato does well in a dogfight game because he has learned to fly with the RahXephon.
Of course, the seasoned fighter pilot still kicks his butt in said game.
Which is the same inverted trope.
Innocent Innuendo: An early episode has Megumi in bed kind of shaking and laughing in bed telling someone that if they "go down there" they will have to take responsibility for it- turns out she's talking to the cat.
Intimate Healing: In the movie, Ayato is shown in a TERRA brig after attacking the team sent to recover him after Asahina's death; see Heroic BSOD. Haruka comes to talk to him... and the conversation leads to something else.
Irony: Tons of it. There's the above Hilarious in Hindsight, Mamoru means "to protect" in Japanese this is something Ayato does, and what Mamoru himself fails at because of his extreme Jerkassery.
My Grandson Myself: An interesting take on this; technically the "new" Bähbems are descendants of the original, but he overwrites their personality with his own when his current body gets too old. When his latest intended host, Isshiki, turned out to be a dud, he Body Surfed into his Opposite-Sex Clone, Helena.
Pose of Supplication: The RahXephon in episode 3. Justified somewhat in that it's on a large ship at sea, which would make standing a bit of an issue.
Power Crystal: And how! Just about any Dolem of importance has a few on it. One whole episode revolves around one and what it can do in the wrong hands.
Refusal of the Call: Ayato refusing to pilot the RahXephon in episode 5 and telling Ixtli to go shove it when she later tells him about his role in the tuning. He comes around both times though.
Replacement Goldfish: After losing Ayato to Tokyo Jupiter, Haruka beings dating Itsuki because he's actually Ayato's clone and looks exactly like him. Their relationship implodes because, well, he's not Ayato.
Ayato does the same thing (inadvertently) with Ixtli, who takes onHaruka's appearance in order to guide Ayato to the RahXephon and to protect him once he starts piloting it.
Probably also Mamoru with Megumi since he notes her similarity to his old love Asahina and pretty much throws himself at her.
Reset Button Ending: Ayato remakes the world, repairing the dimensional split and modifying history so he ends up with Haruka.
Ret Gone: Ayato erases Bähbem and the Mu from existence, allowing everyone who otherwise went through Mu Phase (Mamoru, Itsuki, Asahina, Maya, Quon, himself, et al.) to live normal lives as humans.
There's a reason some people call this show "Evangelion without the angst". You can basically count at least one obligatory reference per episode. To say nothing of how the characters are less wangsty versions of Evangelion characters, or at least aspects of these characters.
Tangled Family Tree: Just trying to diagram Ayato's family tree is sure to induce a headache. It's made even worse by the whole Year Inside, Hour Outside effect. And it completely changes with each iteration (series, manga, and movie).
Throw Away Guns: After futilely emptying a magazine into an apparition of Ayato, Kim Hotal does this at it and then breaks down crying in the penultimate episode. Just to rub it in, the gun doesn't even reach it.
Tomboy and Girly Girl: Weird one with Haruka (girly girl) and Megumi (Tsundere), who're siblings and both have feelings for Ayato: Megumi has a crush while Haruka has deeper feelings that have endured despite more than a decade of separation. Megumi mildly pouts this fact. Haruka has her Action Girl moments, and Megumi is still pretty girly.
Winged Humanoid: The RahXephon is meant to invoke this. Subversion is that the wings on are its head.Played straighter with the "God" RahXephons.
What the Hell, Hero?: Near the end of the series, Ayato accidentally kills Souichi and Elvy in a moment of Power Incontinence as the new RahXephon. Elvy goes mostly unmentioned, but Kim is not happy at all about Souichi. Not that she can do anything about it.