Volume two of RahXephon manages to pick up the dangling threads left from volume one and is moving then along nicely albeit without quite the mind bending world change that occured in episode three on the first volume. For starters we see Ayato, over this set of four episodes, become adjusted to his new role as the pilot of the RahXephon. After initially refusing to do more than work in a test capacity he soon begins using it in earnest as he discovers that this not only connects him with the others at TERRA but it also defines him and his purpose in life.
After all Ayato is a youngster who hasn't finished his schooling and worse yet is also twelve years out of date with the world. As is pointed out explicitly if he isn't piloting the RahXephon exactly what can he do? Sure he can draw and is continuing to draw pictures of Reika from time to time but that isn't anything that TERRA itself is interested in. It is nice to see that the cost of rescuing someone is addressed by the series as many people died, both inhabitants of Tokyo Jupiter and those who came in from the outside, to get Ayato. So we see Ayato becoming not only defined by his ability to pilot the RahXephon but also oddly shackled by it as he is constantly reminded that is all he is with TERRA for - procured at a considerable cost.
It does raise an interesting aside, Ayato is becoming quite dependant on the uniqueness his role grants him and it is defining him more than I suspect he knows. What happens if that becomes a not so unique trait? After all Itsuki is working hard, if goaded along a little by Isshki, to see if anyone else can pilot the RahXephon. There exists the very real possibility in future episodes of this series for Ayato to become superficialy redundant. Namely that the fighting ability of RahXephon may by matched by technology developed as part of the ongoing research efforts. We can see a hint that this is coming with the use of the Edilon fighters in the last episode of volume 1. While they were still outclassed by the Dolem attacking Nirai-Kanai we get reinforcement that weapons technology is aggressively improving with the arrival of Elvy's fellow fighter pilots and their slightly more advanced fighters.
That there is such a huge gap yet to surmount forces you to ask a bunch of questions. With clear military superiority on their side it is obvious the Mu could aggresively attack at will and humanity would be pretty helpless against it. So why haven't they? Why do they lurk inside the temporal barrier of Tokyo Jupiter? And why go to the trouble of keeping Tokyo itself functioning on top of secluding it? A great deal of effort has been put into keeping the populace happy and leading relatively normal lives. Is this to maintain the correct environment and let people develop till they are ready? Maya, Ayato's mother, tells us that she has been awaiting Ayato's awakening so this becomes a likely possibility. Given that we also can see that the other Dolem pilots are all fairly young then is Tokyo Jupiter a pilot grooming area?
It explains a lot but fails to account for the silliness of the time slowing that occurs inside the barrier. After all if your plan is to groom pilots for your, presumably hard to fabricate and use, Dolem superweapons why would you then place yourself in a slow time zone that hands extra advantage to your enemy by allowing them extra research time? The Mu must know that humanity is scrabbling to learn as much as possible about their technology and how to counter it. Also why exactly did the Mu stop? Humanity clearly has nothing in it's conventional arsenal to stop one Dolem, let alone the three or four the series has revealed thus far, as the series goes to great pains to show us that the primary Dolems are largely impervious to regular weaponry. Either this didn't suit their purpose, in which case outright military conquest isn't what they want, or there is some tactic humanity can use that we haven't seen yet which has forced a stalemate.
Clearly the series has more to tell us on exactly how this all developed. Signs are coming that more will be revealed with episode nine's interesting tidbit about the 'Spiriting Forth' of two young girls some thirty years ago at a small shrine. I doubt it is a coincidance that this is the same shrine that Quon and Ayato disappear into. Episode Six also drops in the conversation that there is an important shrine on Nirai from which some Mulian artifacts have been salvaged. Could the stalemate have been brought about due to the Mu requiring something that is present on the Island and TERRA has effectively threatened to destroyed it if attacked? There is nothing to directly support that idea but it is just a hunch.
Also we get to see the appearance of Lord Bahbem who is promoting and supporting TERRA for his own reasons. I have a less than savoury feeling about the character given the central stone tablet he is standing in front of and the veiled references that all three were present when this whole mess with the Mu started. The tablet is quite interesting in and of itself - it is a relief carving done reminiscint of Mayan style art showing what looks like a winged man emerging from an egg. Clearly a reference to RahXephon and hints that not only have the Mu been around for a long time (and thus it is no accident their architecture looks like stylised Greco-Roman-Mayan, they probably taught us how to build) but that the two leads of TERRA and Lord Bahbem know a lot more about what is going on.
Clearly Lord Bahbem's motivations are going to become important later on in the series as he wields considerable power. This could also explain how humanity managed a stalemate - the information gleaned from these various artifacts may have led them to some exploitable weakness. Talking of less than likeable characters my opinion of Isshki continues to decline, his manipulation of Itsuki into attempting something risky with the RahXephon like forcing entry to it and his then co-opting of Ms. Nanamori to his cause shows a calculating personality. Clearly he feels he is superior to everyone else, he tells us as much in conversation with Itsuki when going to RahXephon's berth. I can't help but feel sorry for Ms. Nanamori who has leapt from the frying pan into the fire by developing a closer relationship with Isshki. I think she thinks she can help Itsuki and thus prove her worth to him but she clearly is lining herself up for a bruising.
Not that Itsuki is much better. He knew the crystal was likely to be a menace and I suspect he deliberately gave it to Nanamori just to see what it would do. He not only continued to play on her hopes for an intimate relationship by presenting it to her as a gift and got to continue his research into the bargain. The calculating arrogance of the act is not at all that far removed from Isshki which does explain why Nanamori would find Isshki interesting. After Itsuki's behavior over Quon's disappearance I don't know why she doesn't get the hint that Itsuki's affection lies elsewhere. But who am I to talk, after all I waited several years for someone - making myself miserable in the process - all while it was obvious her attention was elsewhere. This sort of unrequited love is a strong theme in the series as not only Nanamori but Megumi and Haruka pine for people. Megumi has designs on the TERRA Executive officer who evidently is being polite to Megumi as a favour to Haruka but who is himself more interested in Kim. And of course we finally get confirmation that Haruka knew Ayato from before Tokyo was secluded and has fought hard to get him back.
It is a credit to the voice actress Monica Rial that her portrayal of Haruka conveys this conflicted familiarity in episode four where it was quite obvious that Haruka knew Ayato from sometime in the past with her behavior over the cat. For reasons we don't yet know Ayato doesn't remember much, seemingly having had a fabricated set of memories implanted that occasionally snatches of old experiences slip past. Like the music Haruka is so delighted to hear Ayato finally recognise. But unrequited love is clearly a major underpinning of the series.
We also still don't know where Quon has come from. Could she be one of two girls spirited forth? She seems too young so at the moment I am discounting her as having that origin. But I do wonder if Maya was one of them. The timeline is about right for a twenty or so year old Maya to have been spirited forth from the shrine and to then give birth to Ayato. Remember Maya has been inside Tokyo Jupiter with it's time dilation effect. So thirty years behind the 'present' would give an age of around 50 for Maya but subtract twelve years and you get an age of 38. Something that is about right for the Maya we see in the series. Again there is nothing to support that idea other than conjecture but the timeline. Also if Maya is one of the two, where is the other one? Following conjecture further what if Isshki and Itsuki are the children of one of these two women? Again the age fits with both Isshki and Itsuki being around thirty years old and they share a very similar outlook on life. Could the mystery second woman have had twins? After all it again is probably no accident that explicit mention is made that Ayato, Haruka and Itsuki all share roughly the same age.
Other things of note - it was nice to see the reference to the name Ollin be confirmed by episode eight so solidly. Two references that RahXephon behaves like a sun as it fights to defeat the ice based Dolem. Ollin Tonatiuh indeed!
The riddle of who Ixtli is has been largely answered too. Episode nine tells us that Reika Mishma is Ixtli and I think quite clearly shows us that Reika herelf is a projection of the consciousness of RahXephon itself. This explains the imagery in the opening title sequence that shows Ayato resting inside an egg like that from which RahXephon emerges. His pose is identical to the default resting pose of RahXephon and as the camera pans down we see the reflection of the egg in the water but with Reika's silouhette. Given that episode two is titled 'God and Man Awaken' then you can see that Ixtli becomes 'the face of god' or the interface between RahXephon and the world.
It covers a range of Reika's behavior with her appearing just enough to entice Ayato into meeting RahXephon in it's shrine. Handily it also covers why she appears last minute to help extract Ayato out of whatever mess he happens to be in. Self preservation kicks in and RahXephon guides it's pilot, the ollin, to safety. Perhaps most bemusing is that the conversation Reika and Quon have seems to indicate that Quon is an ollin too. Does this mean she can pilot the RahXephon? How will Ayato react to that I wonder?
Exactly who Reika is though still isn't clear. RahXephon has plucked an image from Ayato's memory but who that person was we don't know. Ayato says it is someone from school who died which would explain why his friends looked at him oddly in episode one but not why Ayato would react so passively to Reika when first he saw her. Reika also appears in a visual motif near the end of the title sequence of crossed over faces overlaying the egg of Xephon. Overlaid faces usually means rivals or fate crossed love. Is this an indication that Reika and Haruka both once vied for Ayato's affection?
The biggest revealation was that surrounding the true power of RahXephon. That of an instrument that can tune the world. I did speculate that with a series so stepped in musical convention that harmony was likely to be an end goal. This seems likely with the concept of tuning something - bringing an instrument back to harmonic order. Tunning the world could mean just about anything but I'd be almost willing to bet that for the Mu it means less humans. A lot less humans. I wonder what we did to aggrivate them so much?
Still volume three calls to me from the shelf. Time to watch that and see what unfolds next...