Reviews

DVD of the Month - November 2006

Ergo Proxy

Volume 1

PHOTO

It’s tough to pre-judge an anime show based on the names and companies listed in the credits. The larger anime outfits, after all, are kind of like Hollywood studios—they can be working on half a dozen shows at once, so just because they put out one series you like doesn’t automatically mean you’ll think their entire opus of work is brilliant. Still, when the first info on Ergo Proxy came out late last year, you couldn’t help but be at least a little excited. A new show co-produced by manglobe, the team behind Samurai Champloo? A scriptwriting team headed by Dai Sato, one of the big names behind Eureka Seven and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex? How can you go wrong with this lineup? The answer, after watching the first four episodes: You totally, totally can’t.

Coming at you in 5.1 surround stereo, Ergo Proxy is, to be brief, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World if it were anime instead of a 1930s dystopian novel. Volume 1 is set in Romdeau, a domed city-state where the government (led by regent Donov Mayer) controls all aspects of life in an effort to build a utopia for its citizens. Leaving Romdeau would be a bad idea because the outside’s become totally inhospitable, but it’s doubtful most of the population would ever entertain the idea—the word “discontent” isn’t in their dictionary, and androids called autoreivs handle their every need, from washing the dishes to even being the child or lover that’d be otherwise impossible to obtain.

Something’s a bit rotten in Romdeau, however. Something called the Cogito virus is infecting an expanding group of autoreivs, giving them the true sentience and independence that’s seemingly lacking among most humans in the city. This has further led to a string of unsolved murders, accompanied by the appearance of Proxy, a mysterious being whose existence the government seems intent on covering up. Inspector Re-l Mayer (Donov’s granddaughter) is doing her best to investigate Proxy, but her chances of finding anything seem pretty slim—her only leads are Vincent Law, an autoreiv repairman who’s being targeted by Proxy, and Pino, a Cogito-infected child android who doggedly follows him everywhere.

This sets the stage for a show that’s both dark and requires some serious thought to enjoy. There’s some of that classic GitS-style sci-fi gunplay action here and there, but more of the animation budget’s been spent on the quieter moments, the ones that set up Romdeau’s brooding atmosphere and the characters’ inner emotions. It’s easy to use adjectives like “dark” and “edgy” to describe Ergo, but those words seem too trite, somehow—the intrigue and suspense created by the animation’s look and feel are unlike anything else in the field. In short, Ergo is exactly what we expected from the majestic staff list we first saw—a show that rewards viewers with a deep, believable, and above all thoughtful sci-fi story instead of simply bashing robots together.

—Kevin Gifford

Anime Goes Mainstream, Part 9151

A lot of people were surprised when they saw that Ergo Proxy’s closing song is a pretty well-known rock tune—“Paranoid Android” from Radiohead’s OK Computer. It’s a smart choice for such a somber, dystopian series, though if we worked for manglobe, we’d be rooting for Tina Turner’s scream-happy rendition of David Bowie’s “1984” to round out every episode. This is, perhaps, why we’re writing about anime instead of making it.

COVER

  • Running Time: 100 min.
  • Available: November 2006
  • Publisher: Geneon Entertainment
  • Rating: 16+
© manglobe / GENEON / GENEON (USA) / WOWOW