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ADV Films presents
RahXephon #2: Tonal Pattern (2001)

"I won't pilot it again."
- Ayato (Hiro Shimono)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: May 05, 2003

Stars: Hiro Shimono, Maaya Sakamoto, Aya Hisakawa
Other Stars: Houko Kuwashima, Ichiko Hashimoto, Hirofumi Nojima, Yumi Kakazu, Yuu Sugimoto
Director: Yutaka Izubuchi

Manufacturer: MOFC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (15+ for violence and brief nudity)
Run Time: 01h:40m:00s
Release Date: May 06, 2003
UPC: 702727039126
Genre: anime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

With Volume Two of RahXephon comes more complex plotting, more heavy-handed symbolism, and lots more robot fighting. Sadly, what does not come is anything approaching a coherent story. The disc is subtitled "Tonal Shift," and that's an appropriate moniker—it's a huge switch from the bizarre Twilight Zone-like twists of the premiere installment. Those first five episodes were very confusing, and the characters and plots sketchily introduced, but the animation was good enough and the atmosphere intriguing enough that I was willing to forgive the convoluted storyline. Plus, I assumed everything would make sense as the series progressed.

The four episodes on Volume Two don't do much to further that goal, though. The mysteries of the first disc—Tyoko overtaken by an alien force called the Mu; lead character Ayato's strange ability to pilot the RahXephon, the only weapon against the Mulians invading machines the Dolem)—fall by the wayside as suddenly Ayato seems fully integrated into his new life outside of Tokyo, working for the government against the Mu. Though there are three Dolem battles, nothing more is revealed of the Mu threat or Ayato's origins (despite the fact that we were led to believe in the last volume that his mother was a Mu).

Even as character pieces, these episodes are fairly confounding. The cast tends to blend together, particularly the women, three of whom seem to have their eyes on Ayato. As for Ayato, his development is handled rather poorly. In one episode, he is swearing that he will never pilot the RahXephon again, and that he doesn't want to fight (shut up, Shinji!). Then, all of a sudden, the next Dolem attacks and he jumps at the chance to defend the city; his moment of decision, a struggle that should have defined in large part his character, is handled off-screen and with a line of clunky exposition—he pilots because he "can."

I get the feeling that director Yutaka Izubuchi was going for an epic, mind-bending series but concentrated more on the visuals than on the story. The animation is unique, even amidst the crowded sub-genre of mecha anime, the character designs are attractive and the mecha battles impressive. I'm still hoping that the story will catch up with the imagery one of these days, particularly if ADV goes through with plans to release the series in seven volumes instead of the usual six. If there is as little story progression in Volume Three as in number Two, I can't see myself recommending another purchase. As it stands, this disc gets a pass because I was still entertained throughout, but I expect more next time around.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: RahXephon is a very recent series, and the animation looks wonderful. Colors are solid and show no cross coloration. Even bust sections of animation are free from edginess and artifacting. The source materials are immaculate, without a speck of dirt to be seen. With ADV releasing newer series all the time, it is getting difficult to think of something to say about the transfer quality—most of them look wonderful.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japaneseyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Included along with the original 2.0 Japanese mix is an English 5.1 remix. While I think the dub is fine, I found the 5.1 track to be fairly irritating, as LFE seems punched up to the point where it doesn't match the onscreen action. The pumping base during the theme, for example, is quite annoying. The 2.0 mix is better—the soundfield feels more natural, and though LFE is lacking, I don't think that hurts the overall affect of the track. Dialogue sounds clear and natural, and the sound effects are presented across the front soundstage with decent directionality. The grade is for the Japanese track only; the English mix earns a B.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Full Metal Panic, Eden's Bowy, Spriggan, b>Ushio & Tora, Sakura Wars TV, You're Under Arrest: Mini Specials
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Production Sketches
  2. Clean Open and Closing Animation
  3. Video Interview with American Cast
Extras Review: This disc includes the now standard clean opening and closing animations, along with an animated gallery of production art. The included booklet has sketches and information of this volume's Dolems, text interviews with the creative team, and a few pages of helpful translation notes.

There is a 13-minute interview with the dub cast, including Kira Vincent Davis (Quon), Monica Rial (Haruka), and Chris Patton (Ayato). The three talk a bit about the voice acting process, their thoughts about their characters, and the series as a whole. The clips are choppily edited, and there isn't a whole lot of substance, but it is nice to see what these people look like for once. Plus, though I most often listen to the original Japanese tracks, I like the dub work that ADV does, and I respect the actors a great deal—it must be tough fitting emotions into the already animated lip flaps.

This disc's ADV trailers include Full Metal Panic, Eden's Bowy, Spriggan, b>Ushio & Tora, Sakura Wars TV, and You're Under Arrest: Mini Specials.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

I found the second volume of RahXephon to be a bit of a disappointment. I'm still intrigued by the slowly unfolding mystery, but I'm starting to feel like it's unfolding a little too slowly. Adding to my ennui are the as yet underdeveloped characters who get few moments to shine even in these four ostensibly "character based" episodes. The show has a great reputation, and I'm sure things improve down the line, but for right now, it's just treading water, and that's a problem when the next disc is months away.


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