Reviews: Rah Xephon
It's alright, but it's not as good as Evangelion
I just finished watching RahXephon, and as many people have said, it really is Neon Genesis Evangelion lite. The similarities in both characters and plot are too numerous to ignore. It's less angsty than Evangelion, and while that will definitely appeal to some people, it leaves most of the characters feeling very flat and bland. The Evangelion characters were engaging because they were fleshed out with emotional problems that informed their personalities, making them three-dimensional characters. Take that away and the characters become less interesting and more stock; that's how most of the RahXephon characters felt. Because of this, the emotional element doesn't pack as much of a punch as it did in Evangelion. That being said, the romance between the two main characters was the most emotionally resonant aspect of the show. As for the plot, it starts off pretty slow but begins to pick up around the halfway point. It's also surprisingly difficult to follow. Eva gets a lot of flack for being incomprehensible, but it really isn't hard to understand at all. I was watching RahXephon attentively and by the end I only had a vague idea of what was happening and why because so many plot points are either unexplained or only vaguely explained at best. The details weren't always clear in Evangelion, but I could always get the gist of what was happening at any given time and why it was happening. Ironically, it's only because the plot is so similar to Eva's that I was able to grasp what was happening at all. The show looks fine visually, though the RahXephon and the Dolums don't really stand out to me design-wise when compared to the Evangelions and the Angels. The music is pretty good, but one track that stuck out to me was the battle theme. Continuing the Eva comparisons, the battle theme sounds very similar to some of Eva's battle music, suspiciously similar. If it sounds like I'm being hard on RahXephon, that's because its being so similar to Evangelion is practically inviting comparisons; and when compared, it comes off like a watered-down version. In spite of all that though, I did think the show was alright for what it was overall. I can see why some people would prefer this to Evangelion, but it just didn't resonate with me the way Eva did.
RahXephon — Better than Eva?
It's a great show, in my opinion. I watched it believing it was going to be some sort of "lighter and fuzzier" knockoff. This, fortunately, turned out not to be the case. The first two episodes were a cosmic mindscrew, but by episode three it became quite watchable. It takes the show some time to mature into its own, but by a good six or seven episodes in, it begins owing less and less to Eva. On one hand, the characters are slow to develop, but, on the other, they are well-thought-out, many-faceted pieces of work. Such depth is rarely seen in mech anime, and it sets Rah apart as being a cut above. Even the villains and meaner TERRA leaders get their day in the sun. There are scenes of institutionalized child abuse, both physical and emotional, in episode 15. (I think it's 15.) This is where I have to criticize it the most: It's extremely hard to watch, even if you have a strong stomach like me. It does, however, serve to add a tinge of tragedy to the backstory of one of the more unlikable characters. The soundtrack is as good as it's chalked up to be, the animation is beautiful, (I don't like how the characters are drawn when they're in profile, but other than that, it's great,) and the story is compelling. In short, I would recommend RahXephon. I really have to withhold judgement as to whether it's better than Evangelion, though. It's certainly far, far more accessible, and the budget is clearly several times Gainax's budget for Eva. And the main character isn't as whiny.