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Ergo Proxy 19 (Raw)

Every week, I walk into this series continuing to be amazed by what gets pulled out of the hat in terms of style. It's like all the unpredictable parts about watching Samurai Champloo applied to a consistent storyline, with the distinct existential angst of Evangelion, and one the most well-plotted stories I have yet seen run for 19 episodes straight. This series has pulled out some surreal narratives before -- pretty soft kinds of cliches like libraries of the mind and dreams of younger selves, and it has pulled some truly fiendish things, a quiz show-mind map for one, and this episode. Except unlike the quiz show, where you still had some clue as to where everything was, the mysterious dream theme park of Episode 19 will go down as one of the weirdest stunts the producers have managed to pull out of their proverbial hat.

The episode opens with Pino waking up in a garbage chute filled with theme park props. Two cartoon characters, Al and Pull, burst out of the underlying rubble and start a few introductory cartoon stunts. In a series that makes it a point for someone to die in virtually every other episode, if not a few more than that number, having a bubbly Yogi Bear and Doggie Daddy popping up complete with magic starlight shine is...kind of creepy. The two explain that they were attractions at the theme park whose chute this is, Smile Land, a place designed to take the woe out of the world and bring eternal smiles to everyone. As they do, cameras focus on them suspiciously. Pino is lost, wanting to know where Real and Vincent went, but her newfound friends haven't a clue. They're joined by Logi, a tiny cartoon bug (I suspect it's a cricket, for purely scenic reasons), who saves them from being flushed down the toilet chute by summoning a magic rope.

As Pino and gang navigate Smile Land's sewer systems, the cartoons explain how everything is run by their creator, Will B. Good, a character who looks lots like Walt Disney, bent over his drawings in full monochromatic grainy film. This is very reminiscent of those old Walt Disney sequences where he's shown drawing accompanied by an animated Mickey Mouse. Behind Will B. Good's desk is a poster for an upcoming movie called "Attack of the Ergo Proxy". Will B. Good is drawing a picture of Logi on his sketchpad, erasing out his eyes. (The cameras we see focusing on Pino in the garbage chute were actually in Logi's eyes.) Al and Pull ask what Vincent and Real are like, to which Pino replies that Vincent is kind and nice, and that she likes both Vince and Real very much. She's an adorable kid.

The group makes it back to the world above, which is a fully functional theme park, complete with what must be human visitors. Smile Land is a clear rip of the Magic Kingdom, complete with a Cinderella's Castle and mad teaparty ride. Pino lines up for the latter, where she sees the "Attack of the Ergo Proxy" poster for the first time and asks the others what this is about. Al and Pull tell her it's an upcoming feature that Will B. Good fears, as it signals the armageddon. Dog-headed police officers spot Al and Pull and detain them for escaping the garbage chute. Pino manages to escape them and jump onto the mad tea party ride. A cute chase ensues, with Pino leaping from teacup to teacup. The human visitors are impressed, thinking this is some kind of show. One of the dog-headed policemen speeds up Pino's teacup so it spins enough to make her dizzy, and they finally catch her. The police officers take a bow to loud applause.

Pino and gang are shown from the head up in a dark room. The conversation goes into the people Pino misses, Vincent and Real, and Papa. Al and Pull call Pino on missing Vincent and Real before her Papa, because shouldn't her Papa be more important? Doesn't she want to go back to him first? Pino seems happy about giving her Papa a miss because Vincent and Real are her two most important people. This is the stuff that makes Raul cry. Bad Pino! All the cartoon characters, in comparison, want to return to their creator.

The lights are turned on, showing the gang bound up cartoon-style in a police line-up. The dog-headed police officer from earlier takes off his head, only to reveal a smaller dog-head underneath. He's joined by a cat-headed policewoman. They interrogate the three renegade cartoon autorievs, and discover Pino. When the dog officer asks her for her full name, Pino says she's just Pino with a smile. This causes everyone else in the room to freeze: here they are, characters made only to smile in movies, and here is a person who genuinely smiles from her heart.

Logi's magical rope pops out of the ceiling, which he pulls, causing the wall to which Al, Pull and Pino are tied to flip around. They now find themselves face to face with Will B. Good. Will B. Good is just as fascinated with this genuinely smiling little girl as any of his creations, but not for very smiley reasons. Pino finds herself in an empty theatre, in the middle of the middle row, face to face with Will B. Good on the screen. Will. B. Good asks after Ergo Proxy, in the way you'd expect a molester to ask if a kid's mother is home. It's a creepy effect - Will B. Good is quite tragic and has this bizarre habit of referring to himself as "Me" -- "Me does this," and "Me does that," -- he still looks too much like Walt Disney. He wants Pino to be in his movie. He wants to know all of Ergo Proxy's secrets, like what is the guy's weakness, what does Pino know, aren't they friiiiiiiiiends? Pino has a flashback to Vincent's discovery of the second pendant in the last episode and checks her pockets, finding both pendants in each side of her pinafore. She refuses to answer Will, who then reaches out of the screen with Mr. Fantastic arms and just as Pino is about to get manhandled, Will's creations show up to berate their master. Pino doesn't belong in their "movie", since she comes from some other "movie".

Will B. Good goes truly dramatic and all creator-angst about how he's the main character, gets to determine who goes where, these other guys are all inconsequential, etc. So his creations do pretty much what good cartoons do: they apply a cartoon vacuum cleaner to suck him out of the screen and beat him to eggs on his forehead.

It turns out Will B. Good isn't a bad guy after all. He just wants his Smile Land, where people will be made to smile. He just wants to be left in peace to keep the smiles going. But if Ergo Proxy reaches his turf, they're all dead. Only Pino can stop Ergo Proxy, by telling him to stay away from Smile Land, so won't she pretty please do that for them all? Pino wants to help, but she'd have to go back to Vincent and Real to do that, and as things stands, she doesn't even know where she is. So Will B. Good (whose name is exactly what he is) tells her she just has to wake up from her dream.

Pino: "What's a dream?"

This is real. And yet this is a dream. No, this is a movie. This is a dream.

The movie ends. Pino is back on the Usagi. She checks her pockets for the pendants, which aren't there. Vincent is at the helm, as always. The terrified little girl makes a run for him, and when Vincent bends down to comfort her, she sees he's wearing his pendant, as she should. Real comes out to tell them they're approaching a Dome. Pino immediately turns to look, and sees that it's a large snowglobe-shaped Dome with Smile Land on top. She starts to beg Vincent to turn the ship around. In the second time in the series, Pino cries raindrops from the heavens. Vincent smiles. The Usagi veers a hard right, away from Smile Land. And Will B. Good shows another movie, a movie to thank Pino, the girl with a smile.

The art in this episode has been every kind of superb. There's a ton of detailing going on for the backgrounds. In fact, right from the opening seconds after the old-fashioned movie countdown, where Pino looks around the garbage chute, there's a beautiful reflection of her surroundings in her eyes before the camera pans to show us the dismal, but still very colourful broken toys in semi-darkness. Shots of Smile Land are similarly executed, garish, fake, Disney-like, yet you could stare for ages at the patterns on the merry-go-round, the characters on the floats and Cinderella's Castle. The CG use for the Usagi shots at the end, though brief, are lovely. Will B. Good, popped out of his black and white movie in Roger Rabbit fashion, against the coloured characters, is very nicely rendered. The cartoons wibble, wobble and shake in ways that make you clearly feel Pino's dreamworld effect - the difference between them and the more realistic Ergo Proxy cast was deliberate and expected, but it's so easy to overdo the cartoon effect, and these guys are over the top but just right. The feel is very much like a Roger Rabbit-style environment here, or a classic Looney Tunes. The creators almost seem to be paying tribute in that regard, as if they were painting a world out of childhood memories, and that way, sharing their memories with us through the background.

Pino, with the raindrop on her cheek, is quite beyond words.

Six episodes since Real first asked after an android's dreams, we are finally shown an android having her first dream. I still can't help but feel the literal, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?," element at work here, but it is very cool, and I'm not entirely complaining. While it's a slight cheat, in that this dream was very likely put into her head by Will B. Good, any step Pino takes to being a real girl makes me gleeful. Speaking of Will B. Good, he's the most original and by far the most interesting Proxy introduced thus far, apart from the Proxy of the lake in Ep 13. He's an intriguing Proxy on a number of levels. Like the Lake Proxy, Will B. Good thrives on a direct manipulation of reality. He cares about the humans and autoreivs under his wing, which is a bit strange for a Proxy. The only other Proxy seen doing anything with humans was the Lake Proxy, and he put all the humans in his Dome in suspension. Will B. Good, on the other hand, wants to see his humans smile, and lives for that ideal. He has a slightly childish personality in that sense, or maybe more like an inner child. His autorievs seem to be all infected with the Cogito Virus as well -- it doesn't seem in character for a normal autoriev to beat up his own master, however cartoonish the programming involved. More than that, Will B. Good isn't after a fight with Ergo Proxy, being a bit of a coward, but also apparently a bit of a peacenik. And this raises another question: Why are all the Proxies aiming to fight each other in the first place?

Are they preset to fight each other in some at-creation event we have yet to know about? What are they trying to win? Is it some kind of evolutionary thing, like survival of the strongest Proxy? So far, all the Proxy fights we've seen have been fairly purposeless, and I do think this is one of the weakest parts of this series -- without any actual reason for these random fights, it's a bit like going through a video game and having random encounters, except it's not clear anyone's leveling up.

Pino's refusal to see Raul is telling as well. She has been pretty reluctant to go back to him, though it's clear her Papa misses her enough to go berserk and lob a missile in her general direction. Hrm. Okay, right. Papa's a psychopath. She's sticking with Vincent and Real. But I do want to know what Raul sees in her otherwise. He clearly loves the kid like a daughter, and the kid clearly loves him. She had to be terrified of whatever she saw in him to go trekking across the world with another psychopath, albeit one who plays make up with her and seems just like a perfectly kind elder brother figure when he's not busy sticking his arm through some other guy's chest. And I still want to see what happens when Raul meets Pino again.

It could be much worse. What kind of kid wants to follow Daedalus around?



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 18th, 2006 09:31 pm (UTC)
*cackles* ahh, great points. Yes, I think Raul's a psychopath. And Vincent's a cool ni-san. XD And yeah, the clone kid...that's creepy. But you described it well, comparing it to a combination of Samurai Champloo's quirkyness and Evangelion's angst. XD

Dude, this whole episode is trippy! But Pino has never looked cuter. XD And Will B. Good scares me.

I've been wondering about the proxy fights too. There seems to be some kind of Highlander theme going on with them. Which makes me wonder about what Kazkis was planning to do with Vincent before he went crazy on him. I HOPE we get some answer in the end. ~~; I'm still rather disappointed about the arrival in mosco dome. Seriously! I wanted answers, but got more questions and no answers.

Jul. 19th, 2006 03:00 pm (UTC)
Seconding that Highlander thing, but again, Highlander clearly stated upfront that people were getting attacked for certain reasons. Kazukis looked just about ready to claim Vincent as his next true love, and that episode will always be a bit funny for me in that sense. Of all things they could make a plot out of, sheesh. ;)

Mosque Dome was very disappointing. No great revelations of any sort -- First Proxy was a huge thing, sure, but Mosque Dome was like a giant memorial slab after a very long journey. It just didn't pack much of a punch. And worse, the episode directly before it was so much better at creating tension it just outshone Episode 18.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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