Rahxephon: The Motion Picture
two hours... two hours of my precious life, balancing between exquisite agony and the urge to just break out laughing. Sad as it is I think the memory of this title will live on a long time in my mind.
Once upon a time there was an anime series that was a bit of a rip off from Neon Genesis Evangelion.... actually there's been quite a few. But this one was about a strange alien plan to "tune" the world into a new creation. Wait a sec, Eva had that as well. At the core of the plot was a young man, hampered by his lack of faith in himself, called Shinji Ik.... I mean Kamina Ayato. He had a mystical purpose, a dirty great mecha, and this mysterious weird chick who came to love him. And after a bunch of confusing events, a couple of fights, and a bit of angsting the special effects kicked in and something happened. I think we won, possibly.
In other words I honestly can't be bothered writing a serious synopsis for this movie. There's basically three reasons for this. The first is that the synopsis would inevitably spoil the plot of the series from which this movie is derived. And since the series, while nothing special, was much better than this I'm not really interested in doing that. This is amplified because this movie, in order to cram everything into the 2 hour running time (which admittedly felt like a lot longer), is much more direct at giving away spoilers. There's basically a couple of sections, including the opening, where things that were still mysterious at the end of the series are basically just stated directly.
The more direct reason is that the story progression is downright incoherent. They need to give away so many spoilers because barely anything else makes much sense. Admittedly I can't give a truly neutral review of this material, I still remember the series, but I tried to maintain a clear mind and let this movie tell its own story. However as far as I can tell that's just impossible, the movie leaps all over the place in story progression. One minute Ayato is happy, next minute he's next to a weird wet girl (they got caught in the rain, but there's no time to show that), then he's in a mecha screaming. It might be better to pretend it's just some weird surrealist experiment than a movie you are supposed to take seriously.
One of the reasons for this is because the movie is basically a Frankenstein's monster sewn together from shreds of the series. There's a new opening, close, and a couple of other scenes but easily 90%+ of it is original footage cut and pasted together. And it is pretty obvious it really doesn't fit that well. They even have to talk over the original, borrow footage out of order and simplify the story even to get it close. Nor do they edit all that cleverly. For example the Asahino story arc was one of the most powerful in the original series, but it was effectively a side story... it could, and should, have been cut in this. Partly to give them more time for core elements but mostly because it was just never going to work without the time or foundation it needed. But no, they try, and they fail... producing a mangled wreck that does little more than spoil the potential to enjoy the original.
So as you may have guessed the third reason not to write a synopsis is because I don't recommend this movie to anyone. I wouldn't willingly inflict this on my worst enemy, its just awful, a bizarre progression of illogical scenes that both spoil the original and make you realize how silly a lot of it was. This sort of "make a buck" butchery is about the biggest sin I can imagine an anime creator being responsible for. I don't even care if this was an America only edit, it still stands as a monument of shame for everyone involved. If you care even a little bit about the series don't watch this... and if you don't care about this series then don't watch it either!
In a desperate attempt to be positive I will admit there are two things it did give me. The first was, in its desperation to cram everything in, some of the spoilers were mildly interesting. You can't really trust them though, because they're breaking story elements all over the place (check how Quon's role got concatenated to nothing!). The other is that a certain "romantic tension" that is stretched way too far in the original series is over a lot quicker here. There's even a implied sex scene to consummate it. Most of Ayato's whining gets cut too. In short the best thing about this movie is that the pain stops reasonably quickly.
Well, considering its 90% resurrected footage, you can read my review of the original for my thoughts. The new additions are definitely aiming for the same look, but to my eye are actually worse than the source. I didn't really like the animation style, the very open linework with solid and somewhat drab colors, but there's some stuff here even worse than I remember. Of course the chopped up action doesn't work, no setup either so there's no tension to it. Heck, even the music can't keep it together. They've obviously had to chop that up to, and overlay some more aggressive new tracks, to make it work. If you bought this with the expectation that "movie" means more money for better production quality then, basically, you got ripped off.
Some anime sites (not ones I regularly source from) gave this title an A rating? I'm in shock. Some of them (like the often amusing Anime on DVD) seem to consider it wonderful as an encore performance from the original. This basically admits the show has no merits of its own but it still gets an A? I'd hate to see what sort of movie gets a B! It's no surprise that Australia's primary (only?) anime distributor quotes from that review. I don't think they'll be quoting from this one.