Well, where to begin. You have to respect a series that starts fairly normaly and quietly gets weirder in just the first episode, let alone the twist that comes at episode three.
In true anime form we get the young and as yet untested hero of Ayato Kamina who no doubt will grow during the series into...well... what? It is clear he is important as not only is his 'mother' not human but people are watching him closely from both sides. Haruka Shitow has risked a lot to rescue him which begs an interesting question - if the city has been closed off till recently how did Haruka know to concentrate on Ayato? The hint is there that 'Operation Overlord', a nice World War 2 reference to the invasion of Normandy by allied forces, had as it's target Ayato. Certainly Elvy seems to think so and does resent the cost in lives it took to rescue Ayato. Another hint is that Haruka recognises the RahXephon when she first sees it, clearly TERA has been in the city before.
So what is so special about Ayato?
Well several things it would seem. First he seems at least subconciously aware that the world is not quite as it seems, his painting seen in the first episode may be overlooked as only a portent of Reika Mishima but it also shows the Mu city as well. He also is somewhat listless and almost waiting for something to occur, the world weary way he says that all is well in the world is indicative here. It is certainly a very strange thing to say when as far as he knows the entire world bar the surrounds of Tokyo has been entirely eradicated. In what way is all well when the world's population has been around 99% destroyed? It could be just the self involvement of youth in that all is well enough for him, he has time to paint and friends at school to spend time with but given that it matches his somewhat detached attitude during the rest of the episode, at least till the train attack, then for the moment I'll consider this deliberate.
Is it this sensitivity that makes him a good choice to pilot the RahXephon? This is the second thing that is special about Ayato in that for reasons not clear he has been chosen by the RahXephon. These first episodes drop several hints that the Dolems, of which RahXephon seems to be an example, are semi-aware entities in their own right. The controller dialog references several time that the Dolems when inactive are asleep, not turned off and of course we have the nice climactic action of RahXephon in episode four to confirm that they can indeed take action independantly when they feel the need. So Ayato has been chosen to be the pilot of what seems to be an especially powerful Dolem by the almost contemptuous way it diposed of both Ritardo and the unnamed third Dolem that attacks the harbour.
Is the Mu's purpose here to find someone capable of piloting the RahXephon? And all we have seen the RahXephon do is beat the snot out of Dolems which is very handy for the earth forces but hardly would be an objective for the Mu. Clearly the RahXephon has another purpose we have no hints to yet. Also given that Ayato is human, despite having the Mu phase whatever that is, that would mean they need to spend the time to make Ayato sympathetic to their cause. This partially explains the need to shroud Tokyo away from the rest of the world, somehow the Mu have known that Ayato is the one they want so they engineered a space to let them prepare him. This neatly covers why Ayato's mother has blue blood, her comments about waiting for him to awaken and the presence of the men in black keeping such a watchful eye on Ayato. It perhaps could explain how Haruka knows to grab him as presumably the Mu took some time errecting the barrier they have put around Tokyo. A problem rears it's head in the whole business of the altered time flow, time in Tokyo is at around half speed to the rest of the world based on the quick view we get of Haruka's wristwatch. If you are preparing someone to do something for you why would you trap him in effectively slowtime where such preperation takes longer and gives the outside world more time to interfere? We have hints of Mu arrogance here in that their technological edge has perhaps made them complacent. Again hints of this are dropped in that the commander desparingly observes that their weaponry is outclassed as usual when the naval base is attacked.
Actually getting back to the time flow we see the items on the shelf have a best before date of 16/8/2015 and a production date of 16/8/2013. Ayato feels it is 2015 and Haruka tells him it is November 2027. We also see in the abandoned town papers on the signboard date to 2013. This points nicely to Tokyo being secluded around October 2013. Assuming the time differential is constant then that implies around a seven to one ratio. (Fourteen years of outside time to a mere two for Ayato.) Maybe the growth of the RahXephon requires this careful seclusion and attunement to Ayato, hopefully this issue will be addressed later in the series.
Just as an interesting detail Elvy's watch just before Overlord begins is 24/11/2027 with Tokyo at 4/7/2015 and Haruka's after they have spent a day plus transiting to Nirai-Kanai shows 26/11/2027 with Tokyo at 6/7/2015. This seems slightly broken. Assuming that Haruka has reset her watch after spending time inside Tokyo Jupiter then this implies that her total time inside Tokyo Jupiter had to be less than forty eight hours normal time or six hours & fifty minutes or so Tokyo time. Given the train attack happened around 9am Tokyo time and it is after 2am when RahXephon left then we have a clear problem. Also counting the seconds tick then it seems four seconds roughly go by to every one Tokyo second. Four to one time compression works but this would push the seclusion of the city back to 2012 or so. Given the detail work done on the watch then I suspect they have worked this out but it does seem broken right now.
Thinking of the RahXephon and it's ilk we can observe a few commonalities already. For starters everything Mu seems very baroquely constructed in Greco-Roman style with a bit of Mayan worked in there. There seems to be an emphasis on stone and a very ornate and decorative structure, this decoration could imply a stable technology level that has been mastered enough that aesthetics becomes the major concern over pure functionality. It is also interesting to note the 'hand' like symbol on Ayato's stomach appears on the Mu city which is unsurprising given his importance to the Mu, they literally have left their mark on him. Also we see with at least one of the Dolem dieing that blue blood is also shared by their Dolems as well as the Mu themselves. Are the Dolem engineered constructs of themselves - the Mu in grand form?
The other things that unifies all but one of the Dolem seen is their names and this continual reference to music. Fortissimo - in a very loud manner. Which fits it's strong sonic attack which shatters windows. Allegreto - In a moderately quick tempo, usually considered to be slightly slower than allegro but faster than andante. Mildly fitting given the quick fashion it disposes of fighters and the more rapid firing nature of it's primary weapon. Given that the volume as a whole is referred to as an orchestration and each episode being a movement then we have lots of linkage to music. What part does music play in all this? With music comes thoughts of harmony, order and mood. Given that a lot of anime has an ecological or anti-nuclear bent then is what the Mu is about is retoration of harmony to the world? There is nothing in the series thus far to indicate that but still...
A few other points, Quon is clearly Mu - has she been liberated from Tokyo Jupiter? The Ulysses captain remarks that they already have enough examples of residents of Tokyo so clearly the outside world has been in Tokyo several times before they staged the air raid. Quons presence could explain how they knew to grab Ayato neatly and hopefully we will get some expansion on her history soon. Also Quon's confusion over hemoglobin and the colour change inherent in it's use in blood implies that the Mu with their blue blood perhaps don't depend on oxygen like we do. Or if they do they definitely don't use hemoglobin to shift it from their lungs.
I did a little research and found a few interesting things about the
names used in the series. Thus :-
Rah - used as an exclamation of approval or encouragement.
Xephon - music of the world.
So Rah Xephon could mean literaly 'good world music'. Although the source for that definition of Xephon is a bit dubious and I haven't been able to cross reference it yet.
Mu - The word `mu' is actually from Chinese, meaning `nothing'; it is used in mainstream Japanese in that sense, but native speakers do not recognize the Discordian question-denying use. It almost certainly derives from overgeneralization of the answer in the following well-known Rinzei Zen koan: A monk asked Joshu, "Does a dog have the Buddha nature?" Joshu retorted, "Mu!"
I could draw paralells that with the Mu city appearing literaly out of thin air that calling them nothing would be vaguely appropriate. However that would be stretching it a bit.It also doesn't help this is from the Jargon file so may also be apocryphal.
Ollin - this is more interesting. It means 'movement' and the reference I saw was to the fifth sun - Ollin Tonatiuh. Ollin Tonatiuh, or Movement Sun, was the fifth incarnation of the sun and the universe to the Mexica. The four previous suns were destroyed.
Now Ayato is an ollin or a movement. This can be taken with movement being an explicit reference to change so Ayato becomes an agent of change. We also have a linkage back to musical terms again.
Ixtli - unisexual name meaning "face." from a Nahuatl names list.
Maya Kamina talks of this as the RahXephon leaves the Xephon shrine. Now we have several examples of face structures in Mu construction with every Dolem we see having a face on it and the floating city itself covered with faces. While I doubt that Maya is referring to an inanimate object but she could be referring to a person. Given that the pilots of Fortissimo and Allegrato both had to wear elabourate masks while operating the Dolems could Maya be referring to a missing important Dolem pilot? Like Quon perhaps who like Ayato has strange sigils marked on her abdomen...
The two predominantly Japanese references are worth knowing. ADV seem to have done a nice job with their reference to Urashimataro but then linking it to Rip van Winkle which is a similar legend well known to english speaking audiences. Nicely done guys. This site is worth a look for a quick precise of the original legend - http://www.aniworlds.com/features/urashimataro.html. The reference to Nirai-Kanai is exactly as explained, namely that the Okinawans felt there was a heaven just beyond sight over the horizon. It also fits nicely into the Japanese love for word play and puns as the english dub explicitly points out.
Finally I have to ask exactly what the deal with Reika is. Clearly she isn't a living person as we know them given her definite angelic visual symbology in the first episode, her ability to appear and disappear at will while also singing to the RahXephon and rousing it - encouraging it to sing it's own song. We also have the odd behavior of Ayato's two friends from the train who both wonder initially who Ayato is talking about before Reika appears and seems to soothe their confusion entirely. She is linked heavily to Ayato and while I would be tempted to argue she doesn't exist at all she has definite presence in the world. Ayato's friends interact with her and Maya sees her on RahXephon's shoulder before it breaks out of the shrine. We also have the odd little tidbit that Ayato paints her initially, before seeing her, looking from a bluff at what is the Mu city. Yet if you look at the end of the closing credits we see another painting of Reika in the same pose but this time looking out to sea with no sign of the Mu city. Is this a hint that by the end of the series the Mu will indeed be defeated and literaly become nothing? It is far far too early to tell.
Hopefully the next volume will beging to answer some of these questions.