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Ergo Proxy 11 (Raw)

Episode in summary, with no spoilers: *grin* *grin* *grin* *happy grinness!*

And now I just have to shuffle through my terrible Japanese and make sense of it.

Compared with the last episode, this episode lacks either tension or action. In fact, it's probably one of the quietest episodes in the whole series thus far. We start off with Vincent wandering through the foggy wastes in search of Pino (who, being a kid, has this ridiculous knack for running amok). He stumbles upon an abandoned bookshop, which many people would take as the first sign of being dangerously hallucinatory. Vincent decides to go in, for curiosity's sake. He meets the old man running the place, who promptly offers him tea, and Vincent's eyes immediately go back to squinty gerbil mode -- Vincent's way of saying he's in denial. The old man, who constantly refers to Vincent as "the traveler", runs the library of Vincent's life. In a series of scenes that remind me too much of Dream's library of books yet to be written (Sandman), we are interrogated through Vincent's memories of himself and his fight to maintain his identity as Vincent Law. There are a number of clearly repeated frames from Episodes 1 to 3, superimposed with new pieces of scenery as Vincent becomes the person looking in. Two key scenes are the chase through the mall from Episode 1, where he meets Mrs. Creed (Raul's wife) and baby son, both deceased after Monad Proxy shoves them down an escalator, and Real's first meeting with Ergo Proxy when he appears in her bathroom. We are further shown Vicent's memories as an immigrant from Mosque/Moscow Dome. It seems as though the squinting habit begins here, as the last time he appears to open his eyes is when he turns back to look at his ravaged home. It's not that I'm trying to stick to this point, but the squinting, which was annoying for the first few episodes of this series, is turning to be quite an indication of Vince's entire mood (and thus his control of the Proxy).

The real thrust of his trip down memory lane though, is his acceptance of his alter ego. After 20 minutes of books going empty and mysteriously getting rewritten before his eyes, much pained grabbing of the head and accusations of dreaming, Vince caves and agrees that Ergo Proxy and himself are one and the same. I wouldn't at all be surprised if Ergo Proxy's character design wasn't based on the Red Death. Indeed, at one point, he goes so far as to peer and whisper eerily over Vincent's shoulder, while Vince hallucinates his way into thinking every person he meets is an aspect of Ergo Proxy (in truth, an aspect of his lost memory). What is more interesting is that Real is the only part of his memory who manages to break through the illusory mask and call to him as Vincent Law.Real is fast becoming Vincent's bond to humanity. We learn that his attraction to her dates as far back as his first arrival in Romdeau City, when he spots her passing by at the Immigration Department. He can't stop blushing when he sees her either, and that's cute, in a...cute way.

The old man of the bookshop appears between clips of Vincent's most strenuous memories, which has a peculiar and immediately calming effect on him. He further explains the Proxy's role in the universe, including something about the cycle of life -- this is another of those long dialogues that I wished my Japanese was better able to interpret, because I'm sure he mentions specifically what Ergo Proxy's aspect represents. The old man's pacifying role is further called upon when he argues with Ergo Proxy in Vince's head, which he loses. Ergo Proxy then fully merges with Vincent. I've taken this to mean the old man is a genuine part of Vincent's human memory, probably even related to his life in Mosque Dome, , and we will likely see more of him in the future.

Back in the waking world, Pino returns to the Usagi, finding it empty except for scattered books in the hull, one of which has the name "Vincent Law" printed on the cover above the image of a butterfly. As she leaves the ship to find him, another ship flies low overhead.

We pan across the foggy wastes to see Vince lying on the ground, staring at the sky and weeping at the terrible meaning of his life, or lack thereof. As he cries, Real comes into view. He calls her a dream, she tells him she's not, and he backs away quickly, as one is wont to do after dreaming of staring down someone else's shirt and finding that person looming overhead.

I must say that I rather like Vince as an anti-hero. He's quite the coward as well as being oversensitive and often manically depressed. He's polite, gentle and though he is known for his moments of gun-toting coolness, he is much more like a pet rabbit you want to pat over the head. He cries a lot too, and we're finally given the reason for his simpering during his first encouter with Real (as Ergo) -- turns out the poor guy couldn't take her seeing him that way at all. Compare him with the looming presence of Ergo Proxy, who is your typical Lord of Darkness-type hero in general, and he is just a nice young man. Plus, with his eyes open and his face all serious and frowny, he can't stop looking attractive to the opposite sex. So I do kind of look forward to future episodes, where I expect Real will turn him into the well-behaved lapdog he probably wishes to be. <-- I'm an old lech.

Real is just great. There's some controversy as to her role of the heroine in this series (apparently, Vincent hogs airtime), but when you think about it, she really is among the more "heroic" characters in this show. I can be shallow about this: I like the shotgun, and I like the few action sequences we have of her using it, and yes, I like her in that tight bodysuit. I like the fact she doesn't have the bust of a porn star. I like the fact she's pale as a corpse. I like the fact she has black hair and looks like she'd suck the warmth out of someone's veins. Most of all, she's a great complement to Vincent's emo-waffling. She's clearly going to be the character responsible for knocking sense into everyone else, so she might as well look good, eh? <-- Still an old lech. But at least, no one can accuse me of being picky.

Twice in this episode, we are given perfectly fanserviceable shots of Real's cleavage (later Real's panties and up to her cleavage) from Ergo Proxy's lecherous point of view. Ergo Proxy would of course really be a teary-eyed Vincent (in his own memory), weeping over the destructive force he holds in his person, who just happened to wind up in the home of his first major crush, right before she intended to bathe, staring down her bra. I'm not complaining, really. It's about time we got some skin out here!

Animation throughout this episode is good, though not particularly good for showing off its potential. Voice acting was also good, but unlike Episode 10, for a heavy dialogue episode, I couldn't find enough contrast or tension as I did there. That is, Episode 10 was great for dialogue. All the emotion of the script was brought to life and yet so cleverly held back just enough. The element of subtle menace in either Raul or Daedalus would've been appreciated in Ergo Proxy's voice here. I am left wondering after the man who bumped into Vincent as he viewed the chase through the mall through the floor of the bookshop. We aren't given a view of his face, though his profile matches Vincent. The man was carrying what appeared to be a large box or shelf. No as yet fathomable reason why he'd be there, and the way EP's been working out, these things can't stop mattering. Also, perhaps as a nod to Real's reunification with Vincent, the preview for Episode 12 was overlaid with atop an oily blue sky rather than the usual pitch-dark fog. It's a small, sweet snark. Till next week.

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