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Ergo Proxy

I have always loved being able to walk into a series and with my mind open, find something new and intriguing to think about, to perceive about a way a story could be told, and why. The best kind of show is the kind I can't help but perceive, the one I can't help but find myself feeling for or trying to understand. I would prefer that they be dark, but they don't have to be. I suppose the operative word I'm looking for is surreal.

You see, a good series for me is a series that makes me think, "I want to write like that. I want to do that smoke and those mirrors. I want to do those expressions as if you could write the way an eyebrow arches just as that sort of character walks by."

Ergo Proxy is just that sort of show. It is one of the richest and darkest series I've stumbled into for a while. There is a profound sense of longing in its narrative that just fascinates me -- every frame is like a picture of light and shadow. I just cannot get lost enough in its details. At once, it is a juxtaposition of artificial spirituality and excesses as realism, a critique of modernity and just another bit of android fiction, a suffocation of societal control and a mockery of herd mentality, a tale of self-discovery as it is a laugh at the importance of individuality -- even, or as much as it is, a conspiracy thriller. If you liked shows like Shinseiki Evangelion and Serial Experiments Lain, you will probably like this. If you liked Witch Hunter Robin, you will really like this. And hey, if I'm going to wax lyrical in atheistic theory and comparatively critical religion about it, you must figure, I dig this show lots.

The WHR upgrades: As I said, fans of Witch Hunter Robin will probably be particularly at home here. I spent the first episode of EP wondering why the style and the art seemed so much like WHR. Took me a search online to realize that the director and significant members of the production crew were lifted right from WHR. Though clearly not set in reasonably futuristic Tokyo anymore, Romdeau City is still very much futuristic urban rather than post-apocalyptic. I'm not sure if this was deliberate, There is the same dim lighting, which means even four-eyed animals like me have to squint to read any of the writing. And speaking of the writing, all episodes still feature the elusive blurring keywords over leading lady's narration of said keywords in the way of next week's preview. We've also moved from depressed girl hugging a TV set to windblown sulky people for an opening sequence. Unoriginal, you might think, but if it ain't broke, don't even think of fixing it. As a kind of bonus for being good (I hope) EP has a beautiful soundtrack, complete with chanting choirs. The opening theme is done by MONORAL. If I recall correctly, Anis of MONORAL was credited on Hyde's (L'Arc~en~Ciel) 666 album as helping with the English lyrics. I do remember looking them up back then and liking some of the samples I found on their site, but promptly forgot to follow up on that. So it's nice to see that MONORAL were picked up by Hyde's recording company, Haunted Records, and this. kiri, the OP theme, is charming and makes a nice listen in full, in a way that reminds me a lot of good standard 90s rock. The ending theme is where the real magic happens. I was listening to this thing, in the way one spaces out during the credits, and I thought, hey, this guy sounds familiar. This guys sounds like...it is...it IS...it's Radiohead! So I can get my existential anime and whiny angst music all rolled into one! *CHEERZ* :)

Character-wise, the leading lady, Inspector Real Mayer, could be Robin with a pinch of Amon. Barring the eye makeup and the fetching new togs, she still has the hair (kind of) and that adorable love of trenchcoats. Translation: She's a goth(er) Robin. Consider it an upgrade. Among the other main characters, we have an odd squinting fellow who magically transforms into a whoa, nice-looking guy when suitably tossed with dramatic breezes, and a creepily cute little android girl. Squinty fellow (Vincent Law) began as a simpering character trying to escape a murderous android who, as of Episode 3, has begun evolving into his promised better-looking form as seen from the opening sequence. He has also shown signs of growing into a good schizophrenic (to match our gritty Inspector Real). I anticipate. Cute little android girl, Pino, just made me fall madly in love with her by watching her adoptive (real human) mother and new (real human) baby brother fall down an escalator and die a terrible splat. Maybe it was the way her mother was so obviously scared of Pino in the first two episodes, or maybe it was the way Pino keeps reminding me of those kids who turn out to hold the kitchen knives at the end of certain video games, but I like my quiet scary little girls.

The main plot deals with a world given up to androids, where humans are passively expected to do nothing more than waste. All the characters, even the antagonists, deal with this at some level. It is particularly interesting to note that androids, as man-made creations, are encouraged to pray for their humans in times of distress. Thus, Pino realizes her mother's demise and prays rather than mourn, though she is clearly programmed to do so. Humans, on the other hand, seem very grounded in the material. There is a secondary human race here, either Immigrants into a kind of utopian city-state all striving to be Citizens or ex-residents of Romdeau City-- these humans appear to also possess faith, if not in a religion, then in dreams. Androids stand below humans in general. The story begins with an investigation into androids infected with self-awareness (the Cogito virus), who become dangerous and require putting down. Real works this case, meeting a new kind of android that follows her home and tries to kill her. Vincent is an Immigrant working towards Citizenship. He finds that this goal doesn't just get him chased by the same android that attacked Real, but also seems directly in conflict with his real personality (hint: Citizens are very much the same round-headed, oily-haired type wherever you look). Pino is an android Vincent is called on, as part of his probationary Citizenship, to fix. Her mother thinks something seemed dreadfully wrong with her since her parents decided to adopt a real human baby, but Vincent sees nothing amiss. When Vincent is hunted down by Real's stalker, Pino, her mother and the new baby are caught in the ensuing fight and the humans are summarily disposed of. Pino follows Vincent around after that, seemingly the only member of the cast remotely aware of who or where things must go. So far, so much like a normal SF series.

What sets EP apart isn't that it's out to break any genres (though it's early still), but the entire style in which it is done. Again, I find myself fascinated by the details. EP's existential questioning shares a lot with Evangelion's name-dropping. In the way one might go look up the Angels, here, one is watching with wikis of psychoanalytical theory and philosophy pulled up. Shadows shift and things move out of the corner of the screen when people talk. What was that? Why? The idea is not to worry about the big picture, but question the story at the same junctures the characters do, and watch events unfold. This was a style reminiscent of any of the three series I mentioned earlier. Yet again, it's no genre buster, but it makes for great watching. I do not think anything I say can really do it justice. So please, see it for yourselves.

End Note: I'm currently watching Shinsen-Subs's fansubs of Ergo Proxy. The subs are non-intrusive, very well done and true to the dialogue, with no karaoke sequences (there shouldn't be -- since the OP/ED themes are both in English). Shinsen-Subs includes detailed and interesting liner notes that are worth the read, including primers on all the philosophers, psychoanalysts and theories that get thrown around. That name throwing stuff is no joke. The EP experience seems to include the liner notes of whole philosophy textbooks. The downside is that Shinsen-Subs entered the subbing queue late in the game, so they are only up to episode four, whereas other groups have hit eight. Still, for that kind of quality, it's worth the wait, or even a repeat.

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Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
eekers
May. 8th, 2006 04:20 pm (UTC)
Kicks off downloading episode one :)
vampyrichamster
May. 8th, 2006 04:39 pm (UTC)
*yays*
Um. Is that a vampire in your icon there, luv?
eekers
May. 8th, 2006 07:14 pm (UTC)
Its Karin :) She rocks... its a bit more fluffy than dark though... as series go.. I love it :D
vampyrichamster
May. 8th, 2006 07:50 pm (UTC)
:)
And here I am wallowing in some of the angstier series from my collection...
eekers
May. 13th, 2006 08:05 pm (UTC)
Have you surrendered to Yakitate Japan yet? :D
vampyrichamster
May. 14th, 2006 05:18 am (UTC)
I have watched an ep, and thought it nice...but didn't quite continue...
eekers
May. 14th, 2006 04:17 pm (UTC)
It contains cooking information, interesting notes on japanese culture, recently F1 and the Monaco GP, putting a cat in a microwave (ish),....

is it too cute? :)

vampyrichamster
May. 14th, 2006 04:50 pm (UTC)
It is cute! But sadly, I have needs for angst! Darkness! Darkness toffees! (They line my watch list this season.)

And eyeliner. Oh, yes. Gobs of eyeliner!
eekers
May. 22nd, 2006 03:51 pm (UTC)
Hum... its hard to imagine Yakitate and angst together, its definately more fluffy than gloomy ;) He did make cannibis bread last episode tho, which I was rather surprised about... but surprising is not as good as eyeliner I know :)
I will wait till I have some angst to pimp next time:)
vampyrichamster
May. 22nd, 2006 04:02 pm (UTC)
Yakitate seemed fun when I saw the first ep a while ago, and possibly even educational in the long run, but tis true! My sadness quotient needs filling!

Cannabis bread is interesting, if only because of a comedy manga title called Yamada Taro, where the starving lead character mistakenly makes pancakes from a bag of mysterious "white powder" he finds on the street. Unlike the other characters around him, his extreme immunities due to terrible poverty somehow made him immune to feeling anything after eating the panckes. Mokie shows me strange things to read. ;)
eekers
May. 22nd, 2006 04:12 pm (UTC)
Yakitate did give us a short plotted history of Cannabis growing in Japan, and the notion of eating it seemed to be perfectly acceptable and it was due to the evil west that it has been corrupted. Yakitate is good for plotted history, especially with food items, hence why I think you might like it still... if you ever have room for some fluff between misery :)

*makes note of Yamada Taro* Strangeness attracts strangenes.... :)

vampyrichamster
May. 22nd, 2006 04:16 pm (UTC)
Oh, I still have a very long list of things Mokie asked me to read indeed. *nods sagely* She predicts I'll get to it 5 minutes before the world ends. ;)

Cannabis was a food product in ancient Japan? Oh my.
(Anonymous)
May. 10th, 2006 10:03 am (UTC)
If you're all praise
You're literally head-over-heels with Ergo here ... wow ... I'm like losing will to stay with it ... because, underneath that post you posted in, was my critique of Ergo Proxy ...

I value your opinion and I hope you share it with me there.

http://animeotaku.wordpress.com

-Michael
vampyrichamster
May. 10th, 2006 01:56 pm (UTC)
Re: If you're all praise
I am head over heels with it. I know, however, it isn't to everyone's taste. Particularly where people may not like the general predictability of the characters, but I truly don't think it's that bad. (And I have seen worse.) A story can be made of a mold, but how it evolves thereafter is what makes it different.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )