Monday, December 20, 2010

Anime Review: Ergo Proxy

Even going in knowing it was a "mind fuck" anime and looking for all the little details and trying to remember them all I still missed a good amount of stuff watching the story. Sure I didn't feel that confused when I finished watching it (well okay, that last line REALLY threw me off but everything until then had made at least some sense) and then I checked tvtropes (and later wiki, although mind you even those entries seem to contradict each other) and realized I'd missed even more stuff. So I've spent the past week looking up all the reviews/forum discussion of the series that I could find but sadly some of the more in-depth blog reviews seem to have been deleted and I tried to separate the, for lack of a better term, fanon interpretation versus the canon interpretation*. And I still not 100% sure I understand some things but I think I've gotten it all worked out or explained by now.

Ergo Proxy And before anyone asks that literally means "A (legally defined) substitute," I have no idea where the Japanese got "An agent of death" from.
Summary: On the ruined Earth withing the domed city of Romdeau, Re-l Mayar is a police officer who is currently investigating the killing spree committed by AutoReivs (robots) who have gained self-awareness from the Cogito virus. But they aren't the only things on the loose in this dystopian future, mysterious god-like figures called Proxies are running around and shrouded in mystery. Soon Re-l and others are venturing out into the wilderness attempting to figure out these secrets which run even deeper than they could've guessed.

The Good: The series had a very cool post-cyberpunk/film noir/dystopia feeling to it that I wish I found more in anime. I do know of a few series with it but with everyone trying to be "darker and edgier" you'd think there would be at least a few more. This setting perfectly complemented the plot (and is at least semi-responsible for the plot, that pesky hidden back story seems to suggest so) and there were several times where I wanted to punch the air and go "YEAH, INCEPTION, THIS IS HOW YOU DO A MINDF*CK DREAM SEQUENCE!" The story as did a good job of balancing Re-l's story vs Vincent's and later on balancing the action aboard the Rabbit vs what was going on back in Romdeau. So it was certainly an engrossing series and not because you had to pay attention but because I wanted to pay attention.

The Bad: There is a fine line between "obscure but it's all there" and "it's confusing for the sake of being confusing" and EP really toes the line here. Sure it's boring if everything is explained in the story and having alternative interpretations is cool and all, but when you really can't figure out what was meant then you have a problem.
I think there were too many "oh it's all a nightmare" episodes in the series (especially considering it's only 23 episodes, although I will admit that all the nightmares managed to be fairly different and some weren't actually nightmares) and the pacing really lags in the middle and towards the end the sense of time gets really screwy. I think a bit more planning would've solved this problem or at least an extra episode in the end.

The Art: The art was a mixed bag here, the closeups of people talking all looked pretty good (even if no one knows why Re-l looks like Evanescence) but the shots of people walking down corridors often looked a bit crappy. This could be from watching a 480 stream instead of HD but I'm not sure if HD masters exist for this series. The OP looks pretty cool with the mixed media images and it's got the back story hidden in there so that's worth a look or two. Still not a fan of the episode where everything was drawn in a Walt Disney-esque style however, it was done well but reminded me of just how much I hate that style.

The Music: Okay, I've listen to the ED a dozen times and to "Paranoid Android" a few times but I really don't see how they're the same song. Seriously, I heard no Latin chanting in "Paranoid Android" so I'm wondering if the stream I had had a different song. EDIT: I'm sure by now I had a different song but it was still kinda strange. /EDIT. So puzzled, I liked the OP fairly well (good Engrish with interesting visuals as I said above). Since I was watching this over on ANN I only had the dub to watch and I was impressed because the voices for Re-l and Vincent sounded pretty darn natural (probably helps that they're physically mature characters, American's just don't do the high pitch voice convincingly although Pino was great too) and if I re-watch this I'd rather re-watch the dub than try the sub.

I think I liked this series but I'm really not quite sure. I want to re-watch it but I'm not sure if I want to own it. I feel like I didn't quite get to know it so I'm just unsure about what to do. Knowing me I'll probably want to get it some day and then loan it out to friends to see what theories they come up with that I missed. I will admit however, it's kinda hard to take a series seriously when half the posts you find about it are "omg this series is teh aweomezsomeness! and so deep!" or, erm, worse than that actually but I think I made my point.
And this series actually reminded me of two pretty different anime for totally different reasons while I watched it. There were a few mentions that proxies were godlike beings** I was reminded of The Book of Bantorra when the viewer becomes aware of the bigger picture that encompasses the entire world, not just the group of characters we've been following. Very differently thematically but that grand scale of higher powers certainly familiar. And then the very last line of Ergo Proxy made me say (out loud no less!) "What the fuck, is this Casshern Sins all over again?" And thinking about it later I noticed they were a bit more similar, the amnesiac protagonist who seems oddly linked to the current (very bleak) state of the world and scares the crap out of people on occasion with a little bit of a split personality, that could certainly fit both series.

*I suddenly have this image of me telling one of my previous English teachers that they were teaching fanon not canon, although this is certainly the case where more years of experience at deciphering stuff would come in handy.
**I remember scrolling through episode titles and seeing that the last episode was titled "Deus ex Machina" and couldn't think of a better fit for that phrase, even it ended up pretty differently.