Posts tagged 'thriller'
Via AWESOME ENGINE, a 35-second teaser for the live action 20th Century Boys has appeared online. It’s so short, but still, I can hardly contain my excitement for this. Why? Despite that it’s set to become the most expensive Japanese film project of all time; I’m captivated because it’s an adaptation of Naoki Urasawa‘s manga (of same name).
I’ll put my neck on the line and say that Urasawa‘s Monster is probably the best anime not yet released on DVD in the US and/or Europe (it was close run thing with Honey & Clover). Unlike the vast majority of this ‘stuff’ we love, someone could place Monster alongside The Wire or 24 in TV schedules and it wouldn’t look out of place; given a fair chance, I really believe that his style of writing would destroy this seemingly pervasive notion that all animation is intended for kids and geeks alone; just a pipe dream of mine, really.
The above video is from episode 37 of Monster and watching it now, I’m reminded just how much I loved it. Around this time of year, I suppose many of us are guilty of watching a lot of mediocre and predictable anime because it’s new and shiny, but for me, that’s a waste of time; Monster might have premiered back in the spring of 2004, but it will always be great. If you haven’t seen it, pause everything else and have a look-see.
I’m surprised by just how fast Light is losing grip on reality. In only this second episode he coldly considers killing his family if they were ever to piece together his part in the (now world famous) mass-murdering case, while later he shows no signs of regret upon murdering (using the Death Note, obviously) a then “police detective” who is threatening him via a TV broadcast. At this moment Light loses any perceived sense of neutral justice and edges closer to outright abuse of power, killing not for the good of the human race, but merely for himself and his own twisted ideals.
Despite Light gradually growing insane, the convoluted brilliance of Death Note is in not knowing whether to cheer for or to boo at our new age dictator; he may be an idealistic bastard, but the hard truth of the matter is that he is arguably doing mankind a great favour by killing off line after line of unrepentant murderers, raining down an ultimate judgement on those criminals protected behind years of lawful bureaucracy. The issue is complex, but ultimately comes down to whether or not you feel everyone, no matter what they have done, deserves a second chance, or if murder deserves murder in return. Both ideals are paved with contradictions. There is no right answer, merely point of view. Light can make mistakes; he will kill innocent people, but does the end ultimately justify the means? Is a better world worth a few innocent lives?
As if to comment on the herd like mentality of human nature, Light pokes fun at the cult websites springing up around his mysterious murdering sprees, and even goes so far as to dub his online followers cowards; suggesting these are people unable to support his methods in public, so they turn to the safe annoniminity of the internet. Knowingly though, Light is himself hiding behind a notebook, only capable of doing the “right thing” behind a locked door.
Death Note is a Shounen Jump anime, but forget the generic conventions those two words invoke. Just like Bleach, this is a story that depicts the soul reaping world of “Shinigami” but where Bleach’s version of the afterlife is jammed with pouting pretty boys and nothing else, Death Note’s vision is dark, cold and lifeless. The characters that inhabit this world are surreal, twisted nightmares – imagine a slightly toned down version of Hellraiser’s cenobites.
The shinigami of note is Ryuuku; a permanently smiling, razor toothed man beast. He is growing bored of his job; it seems that these days Shinigami are no longer needed since humans are happy enough killing each other anyway (see: war, murder, terrorism, execution). To spice up his eternal boredom, Ryuuku intentionally drops his Death Note (a book with the power to instantly kill anyone who’s name is scribed inside, including through instructions on usage) into the human world and it’s typically picked up by that worst kind of person, a disaffected and arrogant teenage male (name: Light Yagami) with ideas of grandeur and a clear definition of what’s right and what’s wrong.
Bursting with an obvious social commentary from the very first couple of scenes, Death Note is an involving, elegant and clever supernatural thriller with some stunning gothic artistry. By the end of the episode, Light’s lofty ambitions are bound to crash back to reality. His ideas of creating a better world are admirable but naive and ultimately pointless; to think that he can rid the world of criminals is a denial of (even his) nature, after all he is becoming the very murderous monster he strives to wipe out of society. Star of the show will undoubtedly be Ryuuku – a “wicked”, manipulative and morally deranged personality that represents our (the viewers) presence in the show. Just like Ryuuku, we’re smiling with delight in the knowledge that Death Note is going to get very interesting very quickly.
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.
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.
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.
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.