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Ergo Proxy 13 (Raw)

This was the greatest episode in Ergo Proxy, by far. Two minutes after it is over, I am still trying to figure out what sort of emotion would be best to start with in how to describe what I just saw.

Maybe I should start with saying, I thought there was something creepy about the way Iggy said, "Kawaii koibito," in the last episode, as it was used to describe Real.

I know that perhaps EP is not best known for its originality of plot. I stand by my opinion from the outset, the series excels not because it has taken upon itself something completely new, but because it has taken staples of its genre and worked with the material with style. In that way it has given us a world anyone familiar enough with some of the most basic staples of SF could immediately grasp, so the real power of its storytelling, the great emphasis on characterization and movement through the emotional development of the characters, could be the focus.

What I'm trying to say it's not the first time an android has dreamed of electric sheep.

Iggy was one of those characters from this show I immediately fell in love with. He was snarky, whatever his original programming. He kept Real in check, and he was easy to identify with as the only real friend Real has ever really had. When it became clear he was infected in the last episode, it was heartbreaking to see the depths of his loyalty - he couldn't, and he wouldn't, go against Real simply because he loved her that much. He never had any bones about wanting to die rather than be without her.

And that, I think, was his real problem. Faced with abandonment, faced with losing his "raison d'etre", Iggy would also have to face the same terrible anger at himself that drove all the other infected autorievs insane. Perhaps that is why he asks why Pino, in the same situation, isn't afraid. Two episodes ago, I mentioned how I was impressed by the way Ergo Proxy trusted dialogue and solid voice acting to achieve amazingly driven scenes with only the good work of the animators to bring out nuances in facial expressions, rather than high-action gimmickry, when presenting the debate between Daedalus and Raul. Mizuchi Kiyomitsu gets all the praise in this episode for taking Iggy's character from droll friendliness, to wonder, to repressed frustration, to blind rage, to levels of underlying terror for and at his own existence so powerful, we watch a friend lose himself as much as Real does.

In a relatively small space of time, we have been given a study of three androids who've lost everything they knew by gaining cogniscence. Pino is a pet who has lost her family. She has a "Papa" she seems to genuinely remember as being someone who cared for her, whom she is unable to see for reasons beyond her control. There is a question here about whether her Papa would be so glad to see her as she might be to see him -- the mystery of Raul and Pino is still one of those things in this series that fascinates me to no end. I have always pitied Raul that way. Like his "daughter", he watched his family die and was unable to do anything. Unlike his daughter, he's used his kept feelings, and the frustration that stems from it, to focus solely on his work, to destroy the Ergo Proxy. Pino, in the way that mature people cannot do mature things when the need arises, has grown away from her loneliness, and is now very much the sort of gentle, loving child that may have been the hope made with irony when she was named Pino(cchio). What is stranger, she has been able to see the difference between Vincent the friend and Ergo the person who killed her family, even allying with him and comforting him. She has been surrounded only by death, but she has learnt to play. She has become a human child.

When Pino did the sensible thing and ignored Real, who treated her as little more than another servile machine, I smiled. When she offered ugly mushrooms instead of helping collect firewood with Vincent, I laughed. I want to ask if perhaps she has yet to realize just how much Vincent has taken away from her, and whether she is only waiting to be another Iggy when she does, but I suspect, the innocent, wonderful child that she is now is how she really is.

We then have the Forest Proxy's autorave, another child. A strange creature, mute, completely dependent on the Forest Proxy for a purpose, as Iggy is with Real. She is the autoriev by which Iggy first gains the thought to return to Real, rather than allow himself to be left behind. Her purpose gone, she wishes only to join her lost cause in death. And in the process, gains the feeling of vengeance.

This is juxtaposed with Iggy, who wants only to protect Real, as much has he hates her for giving him no other purpose. He captures her, he locks her up and inexplicably realizes as she has that he can't go home because neither of them have one left. But what can he do then? And why isn't he the person whom she cares about, after all he's done for her, why isn't he the one she obsesses over instead of a human she's only just met? Iggy is creepy when he stalks Real. He's genuinely frightening when he knows Real won't be able to understand him, not even if he were dead.

And so the emotions this episode raises go on.

I am in awe of the way the animators have tackled facial expressions in this episode. I can't say this enough. Autorievs and humans move between the complexities of letting their feelings show on their face. It is detailed work.

I don't think I have ever seen Vincent so angry before. Both vocally and visually, he is truly quite menacing when it comes to protecting Real - in fact, more frightening than he is as Ergo Proxy. Vincent also consciously uses his Proxy abilities for the first time in the series while in human form. If nothing else, he proves he can be a dangerous adversary when he wants to. He genuinely smiles a lot too, without the squinting, and that's nice to see. Vincent answers the question Real posed in the last episode, how can he love someone who intends to kill him, with the full force of his character. It was never an issue at all, because the choice to kill him was not his to make, but he could trust Real's judgement when the time came as the appropriate reaction for its time. He smiles when he sees her put on the facade of strength at Iggy's grave. He puts the gun back in her hand, and kind of forgets what he was after. It's funny to see him bluster, and have Real's turn to be confused.

In many ways, this is an episode about all the characters showing us more of their emotions than they normally would. Real's complete detachment from a life without someone beneath her, without a machine at her beck and call, gives us another facet of her character - the one of the pampered princess from Romdeau. It's a nice backdrop upon which to set the true value of her loss, when she notices that it isn't just a servant she's putting down, but her own best friend. An interesting parallels here with Vincent and Pino. Vincent is not dependent on Pino, he gained her company as a friend. I don't know if Real gained Vincent as a horrible crushy creature or not, but for all that she is, I'm tempted to say she deserves him. Right, one total moment of fangirl glee here: at the point where Vincent goes on about accepting Real as his possible end, he is at his darndestly sexiest. He looks better when he frowns.

The sound of metal hitting glass, as used in this episode, is effectively scary.

Additional Notes

1. Looks like the answer to the missing society of the Forest Proxy does get partially answered here. The Forest Proxy's cave turns out to be an articial breeding chamber similar to the one in Romdeau. So all the Domes have one of these? It's quite interesting the Forest Proxy lives in the "womb". But at least we know the Forest Proxy's society did return to nature, though perhaps we'll never know if they were as bestial as their Proxy became.

2. The Council knew that Iggy was infected, and may have helped fan the flames of discontent before he left Romdeau. So they probably also knew Real was leaving Romdeau. Because they've indicated before that Real is a kind of experiment to them (what is she supposed to be sensitive to?), and Daedalus is altogether too strange about Monad hugging and Real stalking, I wonder if the Council wanted Iggy to self-destruct, so as to leave Real alone (to whatever they wanted to raise in her?)

3. Pino's reading Alice in Wonderland again. Heck, I've never managed to sit through that one. I wonder what she sees in it. Unless I'm mistaken, that illustration on the page she stopped at when Real reached for her comb looks like the Queen of Hearts ordering Alice's head to be cut off. It's funny. And Pino is back in her fuzzy catsuit pajamas. Do autorievs also get cold, or is she responding to the people around her? Plus, Pino massaging Vincent's arm is cute. She's even slightly ticked off when Vincent gives Real her way. Vincent's onii-chan responses to her are pretty keen.

4. Interesting thing happens when Iggy argues with Real about how his angered personality is the same as his original Iggy personality. Vincent had the same problem up until the last episode or so. Perhaps understanding Iggy as a singular person helps Real understand Vincent's not-quite-duality, that is, how two personalities can live in one person?

5. Iggy vs. Vincent is just great stuff, like how Daedalus vs. Raul was, but with more guts. Iggy can't stand the fact Real would rather be with a guy who will be "her destruction, rather than her protector." And in that, Iggy is just very unsettling."I am the most important person to Real." In the end, they find they both want her safe as much as each other. When Iggy carried off the self-destructing autorave, and Vincent simultaneously covers Real from the explosion in that sort of silent, instinctive understanding, I think the animators did great work.

6. Combat action in this ep, minimalist yet profound. They need to keep doing this, rather than what happened in Eps 9 and 12. I'm starting to notice though, action always seems to get compromised around Proxy vs. Proxy.

7. "Pino understands this sadness." - Real now faces Pino, who feels happiness and sadness like a person, a thought she couldn't really entertain till Iggy's downfall. Maybe Pino can heal her too, even if she can't do medical checks.


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