Well well well, who didn't get a happy twinge when Isshiki gets manipulated by both Ixtli and the command staff of TERRA into making a mistake? Not just any mistake either but the kind that removes him from any further positions of power. The question is at what cost? With the Mu seemingly now able to manifest themselves throughout the world instead of being contained with Tokyo Jupiter clearly the ante has been upped. That is even before the destruction of Nirai-Kanai in episode 23 which pushes the series into a much more urgent and desperate place.
Adding to that is the death of both Commander Jin Kunugi and Donny - one of the Vermillion pilots in Alpha Squadron. I have to say his death is perhaps one of the least moving character notes the series as a whole has had. Who wasn't expecting the largely background extra who suddenly comes to prominance and makes optimistic plans for the future to not get it in the neck shortly thereafter? It is a cheap narrative device that while not too bad here, at least Donny has been around in the background for a number of episodes and isn't like the poor benighted Red Shirts of Star Trek Original Series fame, it still just didn't work terribly well for me.
But Commander Kunugi's sacrifice was powerful stuff. Just as he finally learns the lesson Elvy had to a volume or two back he is placed into a conflict he simply can't win. With no RahXephon to aid their forces and the Vermillion squad clearly heavily outmatched TERRA does the only sensible thing - runs for it while leaving a booby trap. That this trap allows Kunugi to get revenge upon his old commanding officer is something that in hindsight should have been obvious was coming but it still nicely surprised me. I was expecting the early series references to that commander to keep him as a part of the back history because we were given no great hint that he had sided with the Mu. So when that connection was revealed and Kunugi gets a little payback for what following that man's orders cost him I was cheering happily. Round it off with the touches of seeing his ex-wife know, without knowing why, that he was dead elevated it nicely to satisfying drama.
Of course what is TERRA going to do without the experience Kunugi brought to the organisation? Souichi is a nice guy and all but he is a little too keen for the gung ho solution as his insistance on fighting to the last shows. I fear he is likely to do something stupid in the next few episodes to get some form of revenge upon the Mu for killing his commander. Which is stupid given that it looks like Kim is pregnant and needs him alive more than ever.
Other character notes of interest was the interaction between Watari and Rikudo who both have known for some time what was coming. Watari looks especially haunted when during episode 22 RahXephon comes close to begining to tune. What was Watari? An archeologist? How did he come across the shrine at Neriya and why does he feel so guilty for handing over Maya and the Black Egg to the Bahbem Foundation?
Thinking of the Foundation it is interesting that Quon refers, when talking with Ernst Bahbem, to meeting 'her' again. My suspicion based on the reference to Itsuki is that she is talking about Maya. Maya is an Ollin but one who has passed beyond the age of 17 which seems to be the critical age for merging with RahXephon. This points to collusion between Maya and Bahbem going back some time, presumbaly Ernst was responsible for creating the means by which she and her mysterious female companion could be spirited forth in the first place.
It brings me back to the question of who put up the Absolute Barrier around Tokyo. Given that we see in episode 23 a barrier being formed by TERRA then it becomes increasingly likely that the Bahbem Foundation created the Absolute Barrier and maneuvered Maya, Ayato and others to be in the right place for their respective roles to play out. Evidently the Bahbem plan has been to lock Maya and Ayato beyond the reach of humanity's agents while she grooms him to tune the world.
The problem with this is why Quon wasn't trapped in there too. I still have a sneaking suspicion that there has to be duality between the two instrumentalists for the tuning to work. Quon has is after all a full blue blooded Mu who knows the real world well. While Ayato is still a red blooded human who is extremely inexperienced in how the world works. We also have the curiousity about the Black Egg for Xephon that was found within the Neriya Shrine by Shirou Watari while Ayato's egg in the Xephon Shrine was white. The hints are all there that the tuning will require consensual agreement between Quon and Ayato to be completed.
Thinking of Ayato's naievete we have Itsuki reminding him of that as he makes him aware of what Haruka has been doing all this time. Ayato, being still a little on the dense side, takes a while to fully assimilate what Itsuki has made clear to him. Even Elvy has to prod him - the kid sure doesn't take hints does he?
Returning to the two who were spirited forth we also have another nice touch of duality. With one trapped within Tokyo Jupiter, ala Maya, and the more mysterious one who must be with the Bahbem foundation. Given Helena's pensive nature I have to wonder if that mysterious woman was her mother. It would explain how Itsuki and Helena can both be regarded as top notch instrumentalists while Isshiki is of a lesser grade. Were both Itsuki and Helena biological children of Bahbem and this woman I wonder?
Also what are we to make of Ernst now seemingly swapping bodies with Helena and himself. If Helena is an instrumentalist, although one past the point of attaining Yolteotl, then this could explain the need to swap bodies. He wishes to sing with Quon to control the tunning to his satisfaction. As the apparitions appearing and Mamoru also confirm the tuning is close now. This still leaves a heck of a lot for the final three episodes to cover. We need full disclosure of the Mu/Bahbem motivations as well as whatever final conclusion the series is coming to. They are shaping up to be extremely busy episodes.
An interesting note for the detail junkies of RahXephon is a tie in to the Mayan Calendar. The Mayan date and time measurement system was uniquely complicated with two to three seperate systems for noting time. The Haab was their civil calendar and used for day to day stuff as it had a good correlation to a year's length. However they also had a divine calendar the Tzolkin and more interestingly had the Long Count. The Long Count spans considerable periods of time and has a dating range of around five thousand years or so.
Why is this significant? Well the Mayan calendar finishs the current era sometime late in 2012, exactly when is argued a little between scholars but one possible date is December 12, 2012.
When did the Mu appear over Sendai? December 28th 2012, with the Mu appearing over Tokyo on January 4th the next year and the absolute barrier around Tokyo Jupiter begining to come up in February. Clearly the Mayan Calendar has been counting up to the time when the Mu might return.
Finally we have the new Nahuatl word introduced this volume :-
Yolteotl - the heart of all. This seems to have been a word to express by Nahuatl the concept of something having been made in a heartfelt way. Something that stems from your inner most needs and desires. Here RahXephon talks of attaining Yolteotl or achieving such an enlightened state that you understand what you truely want.
This reinforces that the fighting hasn't been about straight military conquest at all. Rather it has been over the heart and mind of the Ollin who performs the tuning. Or rather, as I suspect, the hearts and minds of the two Ollin who perform the tuning. This goes some way to explaining why the Mu simply haven't steamrollered over humanity with their significantly better weapons technology.
Frankly I can't wait for the final volume to wrap all this up. Given it is staring at me from the shelf I am off to see how all this ends...