Once again, feeling kind of at a loss for something to read, I decided to hit the “surprise me” button on MangaPanda. The random generator directed me to this: RahXephon, which is categorized as: action, mecha, ecchi, drama, and seinen.
Important for my current needs, it was considered complete at sixteen chapters.
I read the whole thing.
I’ll be honest, ecchi and hentai are usually two labels I avoid. You and your straight sex is fine with me, so long as you do it behind closed doors, okay? (*teasing!*) But, you know, there’s a little truth to that, in that I’m happy for the labels so I chose to read or not.
This time I chose. So, I’ve really never read anything that’s been considered ecchi before, and now I feel I understand this term a bit more. It involves a lot of nipples–either being seen through clothes or actually full-on naked shower scenes–and panty shots. Wikipedia tells me that ecchi is more playful and less explicitly sexual than hentai, and I would totally agree with that assessment. Ecchi felt to me like super-aggressive fan service, to the point where I wondered if this was supposed to be a science fiction harem manga.
But, whatever. Personally, I found it little distracting from the story (like I do most fan service), but milage may vary.
The concept behind RahXephon is kind interesting. Seventeen year-old Ayato Kamina grew up reading Wizard of Oz, and I was hooked by this introduction to the manga:
And we very quickly discover, in the vein of the movie “The Matrix,” things are really not as they seem. In fact, Kamina isn’t even living in the TIME he thinks he is….
With this strong hook, the story actually skips back to set-up a bit about who Kamina is.
He’s actually kind of annoying.
He has a tendency to blow off Reika, a girl he grew up with–who lives with him, in fact, but who isn’t related by blood. She’s kind of an adopted sister, but she’s clearly got a crush on him. He’s been pushing her away pretty much their whole life, including one time so hard she fell off a wall and scarred up her back. Kamina is currently trying to discourage Reika’s affection by hooking up with another girl.
Bickering over the boy ensues.
I would have been bored by this already, except when Kamina is being hauled around between the arms of his two warring love interests, we cut to a scene of someone in futuristic military-esque garb who is spying on them.
Then, the sunglass-wearing men in black arrive who try to kidnap Kamina, with some noise about his special ability. The spy, a woman named Hiroka, shows up in the nick of time and kicks the butts of the men in black and our real adventure begins at last!
Hiroka breaks our heroes into an underground facility where they start to realize that, maybe, they’re underwater? Moreover, there’s a giant egg that holds a super powerful robot that Hiroka says is a threat to her people’s existence.
When asked who her people are, Hiroka basically says, “Earthlings.” She informs them she’s working for TERRA, the future United Nations.
Okay, there’s a surprise.
Turns out, our heroes have been living in a bubble. Literally. The people inside what is known as Tokyo Jupiter think it’s 2015, but in actuality it’s 2033. And, Tokyo has been secretly controlled by a race of blue-blooded alternate-Earthlings called Mulians, (“Mu” for short). The Mu are obsessed with reversing the timeline and reverting Earth back to their ancestral paradise (an odd sort of Aztec-ish fantasy world). To do that, however, they have to control this robot, known as RehXephon, which is reputed to have the power to alter reality by granting the wishes of its pilot. Of course, the only one who can pilot RehXephon is our hero, Kamina.
Kamina decides to join forces with TERRA and helps wage war on what are essentially his own people. And, it turns out, the connection is deeper than that. His own mother is the leader of the Mu.
Despite using every opportunity to show off naked/half-naked lady bits, there’s actually a lot going on in this manga. We learn early on that the connection RehXephon has with Kamina extends to Reika, his adoptive sister/love interest.
In fact, one of the things I ended up enjoying about RehXephon (kind of despite myself,) is that all the intriguing mysteries that were set-up from the start get revealed. Like, even though it’s kind of standard to just have the audience accept the ‘chosen one’ trope, we eventually find out WHY RehXephon has a connection to Kamina… and Reika.
The villains are villainous, but they also have a reason for doing what they do. I was a little disappointed in Mom, if only because we never really saw (in the manga, anyway,) why the so-called paradise is so much more appealing than “filthy” Earth. I would have preferred more There there, but my imagination could fill in. It wasn’t like TERRA didn’t have faults, and one could extrapolate from what we see that maybe all of Earth had become a kind of military hegemony.
But, by in large, (ignoring the random boob shots), the story was satisfying. It started out being about the conflicted relationship of brother/lover, that conflict was central to the plot, and ended with that relationship resolved/healed. Tokyo is freed from the tyranny of the time/AU alien overlords and the (false?) paradise lost, but the reader is left with the impression we saved the right people for the right reasons.
There is sacrifice and there is loss, but like Dorothy in Oz , our heroes embrace the ‘real world’ over the fantasy one.
Would I recommend you read it? I’m not sure. The boobies were awfully distracting (SO. MANY. BOOBIES.) and the story veered so far into cheesy that, at one point, I stopped reading to check to see WHEN RahXephon was written, expecting to find that it was from the 80s, or something.
Turns out, no. It was made in this century. Early in this century, but still this century.
It was at this point that I discovered that this story was simultaneously produced with an anime https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RahXephon (26 episodes). I guess, even though it sounds like the anime is quite different in several regards, I might recommend that, if my description of the story sounds interesting to to you, you should try the anime, instead. Most people I know prefer to binge watch a thing, and this might be a good candidate for that. I’d love to hear from someone who has already watched it, or chose to watch it after having read this.
I’m not sure if I’m going to bother tracking the anime down. I like the premise all right, but it wasn’t as grabby-hands for me as, say, Psycho Pass. Like, I read all the way to the end, despite all the perky/exposed nipples, but that was enough for me, you know?
So not exactly a ringing endorsement, I’m afraid.