Monday, December 10, 2007

ERGO PROXY, thoughts and musings

Ergo Proxy is one of the first anime series that I've finished in a long long while. The last one I finished was probably Last Exile or Paranoia Agent. Finishing a series is the first and ultimate sign of approval. I've had more than a few false starts where I get about 2-3 episodes into a series and just forget about it (Gilgamesh, Noir, Witch Hunter Robin, Texhnolyze, Haibane-Renmei, Rahxephon and so on and so forth.) This probably has more to do with my ADD than the actual quality of the shows, because now that I think about these shows they were all intriguing, to say the least. Thankfully, testing the water of an anime series has gotten a little more practical with the vast inventories of on-line movie rental services, and one of the sole reasons I subscribe to GreenCine. Ergo Proxy was one of the series that I slowly worked through over the past few months and although the ending was ultimately a let down, it was overall a pretty rewarding series.

Ergo Proxy is 23 episodes that ultimately feels short by the time you get to end. Ergo Proxy takes place sometime in the future in Romdo, a domed city that protects it's peaceful civilians from the ambiguous dangers of the lawless lands outside. Robots, called AutoReivs, facilitate the civilians as secretary, protectors, and companions. Re-l Mayer works as an inspector for the Civilian Intelligence Office. Although she seems totally competent at her job, Re-l is also treated very differently from everyone else due to the fact that she is the granddaughter of the leader of Romdo. Re-l is in charge of Vincent Law, a recent immigrant in Rondo who works on AutoReivs. Things have started to go a little haywire in the nirvana of Romdo: the Cognito virus is infecting AutoReivs giving them more human traits and self-awareness and a demon monster, called a Proxy, is on the lose in Romdo disrupting the citizens. Vincent Law seems tied to the mysteries of the Proxy and Re-l Mayer is tied to Vincent. As Vincent flees the city to the outer world, Re-l decides to follow him in attempt to uncover the secrets of the Proxy and Vincent and Romdo.

One of the things that drew me into the series was the narrative ambiguity. The above synopsis might help you through the first couple episodes, but after that you are on your own. Each episode simply opens new doors to new questions with few concrete answers. The set-up and main narrative thread of Ergo Proxy is common enough with familiar sci-fi components, but where the narrative arch is heading stays pretty foggy right up to the end. In many ways, this is Ergo Proxy's driving force: the enigma, wrapped in a riddle, shrouded in mystery. With the exception of one throw-away episode in the middle somewhere, every episode is rich and engaging, balancing the action with the dramatic yarn. The deliberate pacing was perfect, until the last two episodes which feel forced. This is probably where Ergo fails. The attempt to draw literal conclusions to the previous 22 episodes and to tie up loose ends all at once feels obligatory and, in the end, unnecessary.

I'm willing to give pretty high marks to many aspects of Ergo. Graphically, Ergo Proxy is nothing short of stunning. The dark blue-grey palette and realistic drawing is reminiscent of other anime but even darker. A lot of work obviously went into this production to make it visually captivating. I could never get tired of the images on the screen. The characters are far more interesting than your average anime. Re-l and Vincent are both caught in circumstances that seem to push their characters into adulthood. With Vincent, there is a graphic change in him from the first few episodes as a trivial self-conscious boy to his transformation as a more defined young man. Even man-child doctor Daedalus and authoritarian Rual turn out to be a more complex characters than expected. And how brilliant is Radiohead's Paranoid Android as an ending theme?

About 12 episodes into Ergo Proxy, I was convinced that I would give this a second viewing. Unfortunately that enthusiasm wained as I got into the last disc and the story got a little too heavy-handed for my taste. Although much could be gained from a second viewing, I'm going to have to put it on the back burner while I attempt to finish up the first season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and start 2nd GIG, and also watch Solid State Society...more on this later.

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