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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read for RahXephon Lovers (review of all 5 Dr Masterbook novels), March 1, 2011
By 
Movie Nut (Forest Hill, MD USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: RahXephon Novel Volume 1 (RahXephon (Dr Masterbook)) (v. 1) (Paperback)
First things first - this review will cover the entire series of Dr. Masterbook novels, as it's difficult for me to distinguish between what happened when after finishing them all.

A little background on me, I'm 30 (as of this writing) and have enjoyed Anime since middle school when I religiously recorded and watched Robotech on the SciFi channel every day. I saw RahXephon first in 2003, when it was being released on DVD by ADV Films, and enjoyed every minute of it. As a huge fan of the Evangelion anime series, I first thought RahXephon to be a rather shameless rip-off, but I later came to find that it's fresh and original in every way that really counts (to me), and I ended up enjoying it much more than Evangelion in the end.

As yet another caveat, this review is from the perspective of someone very familiar with the RahXephon anime TV series (and movie, and manga). I will not even attempt a level of objectivity that would be necessary to give this series an accurate rating for someone who is not familiar with the anime, as I have to imagine that the vast majority of people buying these books will have previously watched the show. But enough about all that...now to the review.

Translation: Naturally, these were originally penned in Japanese, just like the show, so the reader must keep in mind the translation quality will affect the books. Thankfully, I can say that this is generally not to their detriment...with the notable exception of the first book. Unfortunately, the first book was clearly translated quite literally, so you end up with clipped sentence structure that apparently common among Japanese writing. There were some errors (typos), but I'm not usually bothered by that kind of thing, and it didn't bother me here. Luckily the rest of the series is clearly translated by a different person or people. Books two through five are very well translated, and read similarly to something written in English. Nothing here that would be out of place in a young adult section at your local library, so the reading is very easy going and light.

Continuity: The novels, I was glad to see, follow the same general continuity to that of the TV series, but a VERY different path to that of the Manga (which, IMO, is pretty much tripe). However, the novels do deviate from the TV series on certain points. This is both good and bad. Some areas weren't so much digression as they were exposition of events that were already related in the show, which is exactly what I was looking for. Where the deviations seem to be problematic to me is when the author feels compelled to regress back to the plot of the show every so often. It's almost as if he's afraid that if he deviates too much, he's going to make a mess of it. Unfortunately, some of the little changes don't make sense from a logical perspective when the characters progress with the story and later act as they did in the show. One minor (spoiler free) example of this would be where the actions of a certain character toward another in the novel deviate from the show in a way that I would have expected would change the latter character's subsequent actions to deviate from the story. Only this doesn't happen... later on, it's as if the deviation from the show never occurred, and all characters again act as they did in the show. Happily, this is very minor, and doesn't affect the overall story.

Content: What makes this series of novels worth reading is really the insight the reader gains into the character's motivations, frustrations, and emotions. The story is written primarily from the main character's (Ayato) perspective, but chapters written from the perspective of the other characters are plentiful as well. The creators of the show did an exceptional job building realistic characters and revealing their thoughts even through subtle facial expressions and mannerisms, but this can only be taken so far without the printed word. With the novels, you gain much more insight into their actions and past. The other great aspect of the content is the additional detail that's given by the novels - there's only so much you can fit into 26 twenty-two minute episodes. This is where the real meat is (to me). In addition, though one can really figure pretty much everything out that occurs in the show if you really think about it (unlike Evangelion...), the novels - particularly the last couple - do an exceptional job giving additional back story that really explains the key characters and why they originally did what they did, which is probably the weakest aspect of the show. With all of this said, I have to warn the reader that the first novel is definitely a cut below the rest. In addition to the poor translation I mentioned earlier, it reads like a script to the show. Hardly any additional detail is given, though again, we do see glimpses in the character's heads that aren't given revealed by the show.

Illustrations: To be blunt, the illustrations really add almost nothing to the experience. They are black and white, and, for the most part, appear like snapshots that might have been taken from the show, or pulled from the show and recomposed. To top it off, in any given novel there are maybe 4-5 at the most, so please don't suffer under the delusion that you're getting some kind of significant art with the novels.

Overall: Big fans of the original TV series will enjoy these novels, plain and simple. They're easy to read and, sadly, go almost too quick. The overall continuity of the show is maintained with minor changes, which, in my book, is a good thing. Lots of character detail and back story are what you're going to get with this series.

With all of that said, I would have to rate the first book with 3 stars by itself, since it really didn't add much to the experience of the show, to me.
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RahXephon Novel Volume 1 (RahXephon (Dr Masterbook)) (v. 1)
RahXephon Novel Volume 1 (RahXephon (Dr Masterbook)) (v. 1) by Hiroshi Ohnogi (Paperback - August 30, 2005)
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