Hot Topic Meets Anime in Ergo Proxy

Remember when goth, and by extension Hot Topic, reigned supreme? Ergo Proxy is basically an anime peopled by fans of Hot Topic. The setting is gritty, and the main character wears black outfits, steal tipped boots and heavy mascara. The color palette skews towards grey and black, and even when the show uses other colors, they look muted. In the years since Ergo Proxy’s release, goth fans have moved toward the sparkly vampires in Twilight. That’s a shame because I found the ugly, dirty world of Ergo Proxy compelling. The show did not live up to the promise of its premise, but I much prefer the version of goth culture it embraces to the more recent version from Twilight.

Re-L is incapable of smiling

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The future of anime (is bleak?)

Will the people inspired to create the anime of tomorrow want to create another K-ON? Or another Cowboy Bebop?

If you haven’t already, I urge you to read this recent discussion with anime “storywriter” Dai Sato. He’s pissed off with the current state of anime and you should care because he created Eureka Seven and Ergo Proxy, as well as contributing to, amongst others, Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Wolf’s Rain and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.

Sato‘s complaints hone in on two separate areas, the first of which concerns how the production of anime is being increasingly out-sourced to cheap labour in neighbouring Asian countries, but more fascinating to me are his latter comments on the quality of story-telling in anime (or, indeed, the lack there-of.)

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Trapped in an ice cold back log hell: September

Such is my addiction to the routine of watching anime – I horde a ridiculous amount of fansubs, promising myself I will catch up with them sooner or later, yet knowing deep down that it may never happen. As I enviously cast my eyes across the blogsphere, I usually get the urge to write one of those lists where I can go through and rate what I’ve been watching, but instead I shamefully present to you a list of the anime I haven’t watched. In other words – revelling in my failure as an anime fan.

Encased in deep blue ice

Bokura Ga Ita — Episode 1 onwards — Back log started 24th July

I just can’t bring myself to watch Bokura Ga Ita. I know I’ll probably like it, but still I get the feeling it’ll be a waste of my time — like all slice of life anime; it seems devoted to observing the dull, mundane aspects of life. I like my escapism, dammit. Bokura Ga Ita needs time-travelling monks. Or Monkey D. Luffy.

Ergo Proxy — Episode 15 onwards — Back log started 17th August

I usually have to devote an entire evening to catching up with Ergo Proxy. It’s rare finding the right frame of mind to avoid being permanently lobotomized by the vicious onslaught of pretentious dialogue and absolutely directionless story. What’s Ergo Proxy actually about anyway? I couldn’t tell you, but it looks cool. That’s enough.

FLAG — Episode 1 onwards — Back log started 11th August

Again, this sounds like a mature and sophisticated series — but I’m not sure if I’m ready for such an odd concept. As far as I can tell, FLAG is about a photographer and the majority of the story is conveyed through a camera lens and still images. Like with Ergo Proxy, a certain (preferably coffee induced) state of mind is required to fathom such an unconventional "arty-farty" style without being unfairly harsh.

Starting to freeze

Honey & Clover — Episode 8 onwards — Back log started 22nd August

This is a worrying sign because I’m a massive fan of Honey & Clover — perhaps subconsciously I’m afraid of it ending? Also, I’m getting sick of its melodramatic whining — Yamada being the main culprit, the sight of her crying does nothing for me anymore (except yawn). I suppose it’s getting a little stale and the romantic merry go round does bore me, but irregardless it’s ending soon anyway.

Shopping around for fresh meat to freeze

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

I don’t like the nose-less, bug eyed character designs and obvious otaku pandering but such is the love surrounding The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya that I do intend to watch it (or as is my style, back log it) sooner rather than later!

Saiunkoku Monogatari

Bishounen are rubbish, especially when they just stand around talking and looking out of the corner of their eyes (the evil, or scheming bishounen are particular users of this "shifty eye" technique) but word is good that Saiunkoku Monogatari has more to offer than beautiful boredom. I’ve already been burnt once with the sleep inducing Meine Liebe, so Saiunkoku Monogatari is last chance saloon for the bishounen drama.

Ergo Proxy – 9 & 10 – Behemoth of confusion

Science fiction and confusion often go hand in hand, but Ergo Proxy is close to reaching the kinds of befuddling heights scaled only by behemoths like Mamoru Oshii. The dialogue, the action and even the damn visuals are so frustratingly cryptic and symbolic that only vaguely am I able to follow what is going on here – not that this is a bad thing, though certainly the viewer should be in the right (preferably coffee induced) frame of mind to get the most out of Ergo Proxy; just don’t expect answers, only more questions.

My real concern (no pun intended) is that this series severely lacks in compelling human qualities; the similarly bleak cyberpunk thriller Texhnolyze was hardly easy to follow, but at least it introduced us to a cast of interesting, dramatic human characters. Ergo Proxy has Real and that’s it- her predictable resurrection from murder is a godsend in that she is the only character in this show that I can empathise with, the rest are emotionless shells; proxies for Dai Sato’s high brow musings.

The truly great aspect of Ergo Proxy is its dark dystopian vision and pondering philosophy; I can see myself enjoying it much more once a few of the big questions have been answered and I’m able to just sit back and let the atmosphere wash over me. I love that this series has vastly decaying landscapes, a sophisticated and mature theme with proper adult characters and a really unique animation style that takes on bizarre, exciting feats of physical action when Proxies clash heads.

Ergo Proxy – 8 – Larger than life

I read a few weeks ago that somewhere along the line, Ergo Proxy gets a bit like X-Men; mutants against mutants and all that. I guess episode 8 is where it started.

This episode was just weird. The people Vincent meets, the way the monstrous finale plays out- it was just utterly inexplicable in places. What immediately struck me was how much it was like watching a full episode set in the post-apocalyptic hell of The Terminator. Cyborgs roaming the barren land, people dying all around you, skies dark and depressing, and everyone having long lost hope.

It was the most action packed Ergo Proxy has been for while, though any true excitement was offset by my utter bemusement at what was happening, combined with a darkly shrowed presentation; it’s hard to make out what is going on when all you can gather is odd flashes of light and the muffled cries of dying soldiers.

I’m looking at this like the beginning of the second arc of Ergo Proxy. Very head-scratching and frustratingly mysterious, it ends with a larger than life battle between Proxy and an unknown ‘mutant’ adversary. Visually this was a fine episode, though ultimately my enjoyment was tempered by the sheer random style of it all.

Ergo Proxy – 7 – All is full of love

Finally friends, this is the episode where we get some answers. Real’s life is saved by Daedalus. Once recovered they chat about everything, and to my absolute glee, light is shed on the mysteries of Romdeau, Proxy and even the outside world.

About a quarter of this episode is also devoted to Vincent’s flight to Moscow. His other passengers, namely the group of old men left over from the commune, die on the way there.

***

So this was the best episode of Ergo Proxy yet; despite some off-kilter character designs, the narrative is kicked up a notch and we finally get some solid information to chew over.

What is Proxy
He (or should I say, it) is described by Daedalus as a kind of god, a key to human survivial. Specifically Proxy’s genes (which were used to save Real’s life) act as a cure for the “Cogito” virus that has decimated Earth’s population outside of the Romdeau dome.

There is still the issue of why some autolaves drop to their knees and pray to Proxy; can he be the saviour for both man and machine? Why are machines praying in the first place?

What’s going on at Romdeau, Moscow and elsewhere
The government of Romdeau are biologically manufacturing their citizens inside womb-like machines. The whys are still unknown, though I’m expecting a reason along the lines of “humanity needs to be controlled”.
This leads me onto my next point- the world outside and specifcally, another dome at Moscow. I haven’t a clue where Romdeau is located, but my guess is that it’s either America or Europe. There must have been a world war at some point, in which mankind has not only almost destoryed itself, but also severly damaged the planet. The sky is constantly dark and the land is desolate, hinting at a terrible world war, one that has no doubt involved biological and nuclear weapons.

What lies in Moscow I’m not sure, though Proxy was taken from the Russian capital, so I ‘m expecting something big, or atleast spiritual, about the city.

Is Real dead?
Of course she won’t be dead, but what a cliff hanger anyway; we know that she now carries genes from Proxy- and given Vincent has shown a good ability to dodge the reaper, I’m expecting her to be resurrected or rather, regenerated in some way or another.

A three way tug of war at Romdeau
There are three important agendas being pushed at Romdeau- while Raul’s militant group are rebelling, he strikes me as a man desperate to control everything. At this point, he comes across as a clumsy idiot, blinded by his own arrogance. The shrowded government in place at Romdeau is weak, or is at least hiding it’s truth strength; they are more interested in preserving their own idea of paradise (Romdeau itself). And lastly we have the enigma of Daedalus, who is more than willing to help and share information with Real about Proxy, but to what end and why?

***

I’m convinced now that Ergo Proxy is the best series I’m watching. It’s mysterious, challenging, dark and full of brilliant science fiction. The story is moving at speed and the next few episodes are bound to be even more telling, I can’t wait to see what happens.

Ergo Proxy – 6 – Learning about death

I’ll warn you now this entry contains (literally) life-and-death spoilers, so if you haven’t seen episode 6 of Ergo Proxy yet you may want to look away.

Hude and Queen get it in the neck this time, though it didn’t leave me with much of an emotional impact. Perhaps it’s because I expect everyone in Ergo Proxy (with the exception of Real/Lil) to die sooner or later.

It was nice to see Lil when she was younger and happier, pre-blue eye paint. We’re used to seeing Ergo Proxy depicting worlds either bleached in artificial white or decaying in dark urban rubble so it was good to see a brighter, more natural scene for once.

The story is again at an important turning point. Given Raul’s furious orders, we can safely assume the outside commune has been destroyed. Lil is back in the dome, seperated from Vincent and he is still on the run from the Romdeau ‘sentinals’. What the next move will be is anyone’s guess, though Raul dropped an interesting hint about the virus that has infested the outside world- seems it may cause mutations in its victims, enhance their strength in some way?
Everyone has their own agendas too- if anyone stole the show this time around, it was the androgynous Daedalus- she/he seems to be more and more manipulative than first thought and her connection to Lil’s past undoubtedly suggests she will be an important character- whether good or bad is still undecided because like Raul she seems more out for herself than for anyone else.

I can’t totally put my heart into Ergo Proxy because something still feels quite aimless about it; since it’s is so mysterious, it’s hard to get excited about anything. Naturally, it still looks as tastefully dystopian as ever, but I hope that over the next few episodes, the larger picture starts to get clearer and I’m not consistently left with such a vacant feeling. It’s like I’m waiting for some fireworks to go off; the spectacle is bound to be great.