Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Blahblahthon Episode 6

This is happening. I am going to rewatch and subsequently remark upon Rahxephon, a giant robot anime that I haven’t watched in years, even if it kills me (with boredom (or alcohol poisoning)). Sadly I can’t find the first disk of this series, so I’m starting with episode six, making things even more confusing than they would be anyway.

The basic plot is more or less identical to every giant robot show I’ve seen; a teen boy has to pilot a big robot (here called The Rahxephon) and use it to fight mysterious alien robots (here called the Mu) on behalf of a paramilitary organization. In this episode he tells his supervisors that he won’t fight anymore. Why? Maybe I’d know if I’d reviewed the previous episodes; he doesn’t articulate his reasons here. I suspect the real reason is that the show creators wanted him to be a less annoying version of Shinji, the protagonist of Neon Genesis Evangelion, the popular and influential giant robot show on which Rahxephon is nakedly modeled. Shinji spent a lot of time refusing to fight, and many fans found him annoying (how do I know this? Because I spent way too much time on anime message boards when I should have been going outside, dating, etc). I suspect the disconnect between fans and Shinji stemmed from fans’ desire to have a vicarious heroic experience; a hero who overdoes the “refusing the call” routine doesn’t contribute to the triumphalist vibe. So anyway, Heroboy in Rahxephon emulates Shinji, but replaces realistic adolescent stridency with bland unexplained insistence. Which makes him more suitable for conventional self-insertion and less suitable for fine-grained examination of maturational struggle.

There’s also a bunch of fooferall about military maneuvers that I couldn’t be bothered to follow since it was all delivered in exposition (there’s a reporter covering the paramilitary org who exists entirely to provide such exposition, and will turn out to be an undercover general for some reason oops spoiler warning).

Also in this episode (only) there’s a team member named Kim who keeps privately dwelling on the trauma of having her parents killed by Mu when they first inexplicably attacked earth; she wants revenge on them. She has a pensive conversation with Heroboy about it; he also has reason to be bitter about the Mu because:

Heroboy’s backstory! Years ago the Mu surrounded his city, Tokyo, with a pocket dimension forcefield mammerjammer that makes time run differently (like Lost Island oops spoiler warning) and keeps Tokyoians unknowingly separated from the world outside; an enforced urban provincialism. In the early episodes the exterior war-with-the-Mu irrupts into his seemingly ordinary existence, and he gets expelled from that comfortable quiet life into A Time Of War. With Giant Robots. Also the force field around Tokyo looks like Jupiter, so people refer to Tokyo plus force field as Tokyo Jupiter. As I recorded notes on each episode I started referring to Tokyo Jupiter as Tokyo Pooptrumpet, because at 2 in the morning that is hilarious.

Are you following all this? Tough. Anyway, Heroboy tells Kim that despite all the evil the Mu have done, he doesn’t want revenge. This adjusts her attitude so she stops wanting revenge. She thanks Heroboy. And pretty much disappears from the show. One nice grace note: their pensive conversation takes place on a big concrete rooftop with the sun going down, and whoever colored it got the tone of sunset reflecting off concrete just right; reminds me of college days somehow.

The basic outline of every episode is: Act One, lots of talky stuff; Act Two, Mu Attack. The Rahxephon (Heroboy’s robot, remember) looks like the dorkiest toy robot from 70s Japan ever, which I used to think was an aesthetic lapse. Now, though, I see the point; Japanese viewers see it and intuitively know this is the herobot, since it looks like every herobot in every robot show ever. The Mu look like postmodern sculpture; beautiful but enigmatic.

In this episode The Mu has two strategies: smash into your robot like a wrecking ball, and make you sink into some magical drowning dimension. Happily, if you’re Heroboy, your robot comes equipped with a Mysterious Girl (Mysterious Girls were all the rage in robot anime at the time) with a big yellow scarf who appears out of nowhere and sings, thereby breaking the spell. Then when the Mu smashes into you again it will smash into a bazillion pieces and you’ll be fine. Thanx, Deus Ex Machina girl (named Mishima, like the suicidal novelist)!

That’s Episode Six. Pray for me.