Ahh, Ergo Proxy. You stole my heart like a thief in the night and promised such visions of grandeur that I could hardly wait to see what came next. Why, oh why, must you have disappointed me so?
There are so many things wrong with Ergo Proxy that it's hard to begin. First, the parallels between it and Ghost in the Shell: Innocence are eerily uncanny; both have an empty and vacuous excuse of a story, combined with stunning visuals to distract you from the blatant stench. The problem is that while GITS2 was terrible from the get-go, Ergo Proxy begins with a drool-inducing bang that ends up being nothing but incredibly false advertising. It's boring, it's slow, and like the chalked-up goth teenager who won't shut up about his pain and suffering, Ergo Proxy tries desperately to sound intelligent and mature but rather comes off as pretentious, obnoxious, and is the root of much eye rolling.
For clarification, consider the following: Ergo Proxy's first episode is gorgeous, badass, and promising beyond belief. Reminiscent of a hybrid between Hellsing, Ghost in the Shell and Witch Hunter Robin, one can't help but be drawn into its world, fiending for more. However, then the rest of the "story" kicks in, complete with both a lack of movement, and a lack of enough caffeine pills in existence to keep any sane person awake and functional. There are way WAY too many episodes dedicated to a single character performing an inner dialogue with himself over and over and over, discussing the fact that he doesn't know who he is. Imagine Evangelion episodes 25 and 26, but only a single person, and then repeat it throughout at least 6 episodes of the series. OK guys, we saw it once - why must we see it a billion more times?
Gee, what else? The creators tried so very hard to make the dialogue sound "intelligent" that it fails miserably. Also, any semblance of "plot", with the exception of the last few episodes of the series, is revealed only during one-off episodes which have nothing to do with the story (such as a random game show episode). But wait, don't get excited! The cluster fuck of an ending does nothing except raise even more questions, and ultimately does nothing for you.
So, in summary, the story is a complete let down on basically every level, period. Do yourself a favor: don't assume that just because you saw and liked episode 1, that you either know what the series is about or will like it for sure.
What Ergo Proxy is lacking in story, it makes up with the gorgeous visual imagery. Fans of cyberpunk will appreciate the detailed computer consoles, dark appearance and attention to detail. In the cyberpunk and gothic regard, Ergo Proxy is PERFECT. Everything is sleek, sexy, and stunning.
That being said, I have some major problems with the character designs. First of all, Re-l is too much of a Michael Jackson impersonator for my tastes - meaning, her facial design changes so much from episode to episode that it's mind boggling. In some episodes, she looks gorgeous. In other episodes, her facial features appear to have been scribbled on by a three-year-old child. It also doesn't help that the majority of the secondary male characters look exactly the same, as that makes the "story" all the more confusing. The Proxies' designs are great, though... as are the backgrounds. More detail definitely could have gone into the character designs and outside-the-city backgrounds and environments, however.
Industrial music is my roots; thus, Ergo Proxy's unusual industrial and dark electronica soundtrack suits my tastes perfectly. If you've listened to any older Delerium albums, that's the kind of music you can expect. I lowered the score by a point because of the travesty that is the OSTs: there are two and they are long and amazing; so why is it that only three to four songs total are repeated over and over throughout the entire series? Where are the rest of the songs? Not only does this not showcase the music director's genius, but it also makes the few songs you hear repetitive and semi-annoying after awhile.
MONORAL's "Kiri" as the opening is amazing and enthralling. Not since Stellvia of the Universe have I chosen to listen to an intro song each time an episode starts.
Like the story, Ergo Proxy tries really, really hard to be deep and meaningful with the character development, and fails. There are a few relationships being explored: Vincent and his relationship with his inner psyche and memories, Vincent and Re-l, and the education of the young and infected autoreiv known as Pino.
As previously mentioned, Vincent's incessant inner dialogues are tedious and tiring. Re-l and Vincent's relationship seems forced and awkward, and Pino, though the only form of comic relief to be found, still manages to be obnoxious with her endless third-person speak.
Ultimately, the trainwreck that is Ergo Proxy's "intelligent" plot managed to destroy any possibility of good or believable character development - especially with the rushed and forced ending.
Ergo Proxy is easily one of the greatest let-downs I've had, out of the 600 or so anime I've seen up to the point. Had the first episode been structured like the rest of the series, I wouldn't have given it the time of day. A poor story, weak character development and inconsistent animation make Ergo Proxy an almost worthless viewing in every way. The soundtrack is amazing and the cyberpunk elements are fantastic, but there just isn't enough to warrant a good recommendation. Though people either seem to love or hate Ergo Proxy, I'm convinced that people who can see through fluffy pseudo-intellectual babble would agree with the latter folks. Unless you are completely set on watching this anime, stay away.
Ergo Proxy’s storyline is a disaster. A hopeless, irredeemable disaster.
No one will deny the incredible ambition of this series. The production values, for one, are on par with the best that modern anime studios have to offer. The storyline is epic, sweeping, and complex. Moreover, multitudes of challenging and varied themes are woven into the science-fiction narrative. At arm’s length, Ergo Proxy looks, feels and smells like it could be a defining classic of this decade.
Instead, Ergo Proxy is a tragic disappointment, an almost comically inept failure. The show will bore and confuse the watchers who are unwilling to turn their Saturday afternoon into an English Lit. assignment, and insult the few who are. For all its high and lofty intentions, watching Ergo Proxy is, in the series’ own pompous rhetoric, a zero-sum game.
The identity of self. The nature of reality. Society’s addiction to technology. Life as a zero-sum game. The afterlife. Artificial intelligence. The existence of a soul. The existence of God. The raison d'êtres of individuals and societies. The unreliability of the senses. The bestial nature of humanity. Society’s Fear of the Other. The callousness of evolution. The inhumanity of intellectualism. Human fallibility. Genetic engineering. Machiavellianism. Existential ANGST!
Most brainy sci-fi shows have the good sense to pick one or two of the above themes and then explore them in detail. Ergo Proxy, on the other hand, touches on every single one without ever seriously delving into any of them. The result is clumsy, unorganized and shallow. In the end, the show plays more like a greatest hits compilation of better sci-fi titles before it than a legitimately standalone work of art. Those trying to cast the show in a good light might call Ergo Proxy “eclectic” – personally, I prefer “bloated.”
Also, like Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Ergo Proxy feels the inexplicable need to bludgeon its viewers with countless literary references – references that are often largely irrelevant to the actual storyline and add little to the overarching narrative. The resulting allusion profusion makes the show seem more like a classroom assignment than a work of entertainment.
Perhaps because of the endless plethora of themes and allusions, Ergo Proxy’s pacing is turgid and inept. Only a handful of plot details are revealed in a given episode, and even those are slowly squeezed out, like turds through a tightly puckered sphincter. The rest of an episode’s time is taken up in leaden dialogue (or even worse, monologue) that goes absolutely nowhere.
The visuals are competent, if not spectacular. The series adheres to its dark, nearly monochromatic palette almost religiously, deviating only in rare and effective moments. This gothic style, more than anything else, is probably the animation’s biggest strength.
Unfortunately, other parts are decidedly lacking. The character designs definitely leave something to be desired; in particular, Real Mayer’s eye-shadowed face is ugly and unappealing. Also, the action scenes are often underwhelming and unimpressive, albeit never actively bad.
Frankly, Ergo Proxy has a much better soundtrack than it deserves. Both the OP and ED are fantastic rock tracks, and the background music is wonderfully moody ambient that works extremely well with the show.
Voice acting is fairly monotone due to the nature of the show, but is fine regardless.
Like other experimental science fiction shows, Ergo Proxy just has too much weighty storyline to really spend time on creating interesting, fully fleshed out characters. However, unlike other shows, the plot isn’t good enough to make up for the shallow, one-dimensional characterization. Rather, the weakness of the storyline only serves to bring out how terribly uninteresting each character actually is. Real Mayer is one of the most vapid, underdeveloped protagonists that I’ve seen in recent memory, and the rest are only marginally better.
Granted, several isolated episodes are creative and interesting, and there are few series out there as ambitious as this one. As a whole, however, one gets the impression that rather than the creators setting out to make an anime that meant something, they were content to make the series just look as intelligent as possible. When all is said and done, Ergo Proxy doesn't know what to say, so it ends up saying little at all.
ANIME EVOLUTION SERIES
Full list of the review series can be found on this page, 3rd post from bottom:
Ah, now that’s more like it. Who ever said that you can’t make something good out of something ordinary? It’s mostly the execution that does the trick, followed by presentation, good visuals, something worthy in it to chat about and build a mythos and then… well I guess it’s about how the fandom will perceive the whole thing. Ergo Proxy is a dark adventure, a journey of self-discovery, a look into what is real and what is an illusion, something to occasionally make you think outside the box. And I like it just for that; as bolder as anime may be next to cartoons, most of them still follow tired formulas without much innovation, experimentation, distinction, or in the grand scheme of things something worthy to remember about. Looks like Ergo Proxy (EP) covered all that to the most part.
The first thing that impressed me in this show is its roots. It’s not a strictly Japanese production as its aesthetics cover notions from all over the world. The characters are not drawn too anime-like, the main themes have English lyrics, and the philosophy it usually deals with has its roots in Europe. Heck, watching a dub would be enough to fool most to consider this a western production. At the same time it is not a conventional western-type production with simplistic characters, superficial plot and characters full of ironic one-liners. It has depth to it in its themes, it follows an idea mostly encountered in high budget sci-fi movies rather than series. It literally seems to take the best parts of both edges of the spectrum to create something really neat.
Of course even the most awesome concept can fall apart without good execution and presentation and EP did a fine job in this department. First of all it has very good production values, something not expected at first from a hit-or-miss in quality studio such as Manglobe. Although I love what they did with Samurai Champloo, and I respect the artsy style of House of Five Leaves (but not its plot) all the rest of their works are nothing but high caliber fan catering BS (Michiko to Hatchin, The Sacred Blacksmith, Broken Blade, The World God Only Knows, Deadman Wonderland, Mashiroiro Symphony). So there is no way to know what to expect from these guys as their quality varies conciderably and thus I was highly suprised and pleased to see the good work they did here. It focuses a lot on making the world look scary and grim, makes sure to present the characters as dynamic, and to the most part does not confuse you with what is going on with the plot. I mean, sure, there is a lot of mystery going on and even in the finale some things are left open to interpretation but I could easily fill in the blanks with the hints they offered here and there. I could even tell what followed the conclusion of the show even if it was not shown or explained. I know many other anime which are being too cryptic to the point you have no clue what is going on and others who just throw everything at your face with long explanatory monologues. EP takes the middle road and it’s being explanatory without ever revealing everything at once. Meaning that the mystery is never kept in the dark or under a spotlight; it’s half-hidden from the setting sun behind it and it’s blinding you when you stare at it.
Another thing is how the style of narration changes throughout the show without ever losing the atmosphere that defines it. The first part feels like a mystery/detective story in a futuristic setting, then it swifts to a journey in the barren wilderness outside of the city, and in the end, as if making a full circle, it ends back in the city where everything becomes a psychedelic showdown of wills and philosophies. Many will probably dislike the middle part as it feels too episodic, without actual on-going plot and with a hint of monster (or better say Proxy) -of-the-week feeling to it. In reality, it helps to better understand the motives of the so-called Gods in the series. If it was just about the main two Proxies, the clash and struggle they perform would feel a lot less important. Yet by looking at the motives of several others of the same kind you get to understand a lot better their vain attempts at maintaining a dead worldview. Plus, it helps the show to not feel too bent on Dualism of good vs evil; an element which I don’t favor at all.
And in all this mess you really get to see the characters developing, as they slowly open up to one another and reveal parts of themselves that make them feel more like real people. No wonder the lead woman is named Real; it’s all part of the core theme! What makes it even greater is how the characters don’t mature in a shonen way. They are not spineless weak boys that need to grow stronger and yell out all their teenage frustration. They are not neurotic girls that express their feeling by hitting boys and yelling over peanuts. The lead duo is already adults and is quite beyond that crap. They are just too untrustworthy and hide things from one another; a thing completely understood under the circumstances of the show.
What I loved as well is how they never tried to oversexualize Real, the main female. She is clearly nice looking with a great body but you barely get to see anything naked throughout the series. That shows respect to the character and I give thumb ups to the animators for not going for sleazy entertainment where the characters are defined by the color of their underwear or the size of their breasts. And not only that; the lead duo is still easily identifiable and stands out in the crowd of anime casts. Real’s, make-up in the eyes and the clown-like looks of Ergo both make them easy to tell apart from other shows. Heck, it is just a few lines of paintjob and yet it does wonders. How many others managed to do that with such simple means?
Even the AI robots that accompany them end up having their own sub-plots, as they both have the need to feel important to their human masters and act as if their reason for existence is lost when they are neglected. And this is the core theme by the way. The “raison d’etre” as they prefer to call it in French; the reason each one of us has to keep living and the “ergo” we go through in order to achieve it. It is harder than it sounds; especially when you are living in an organized and fully automated society and suddenly you are thrown out, practically no longer of need by it. It makes sense that you will grow mad and kill yourself or look for answers and a different thing to live for. Hence the second part of the series; one of the very few times I actually got to enjoy for its episodic nature. Other series are completely episodic and a waste of time but here you just see the importance of it all. The finale is not something that could have happened in exactly the same way if you simply skipped all the middle episodes. It would feel hollow and forced. Here it is used as the end process of a long line of events that change you and make you a different person with different goals. Meaning, all that fuss is there for a reason, all part of the core theme. It leads to something in the finale; it is not completely pointless dribbling like in other shows.
There is something I would like to address at this point regarding the characters’ appeal. I know many people who didn’t like the show because they found the characters to be too apathetic and blunt. That has mostly to do with the fact this is a serious setting and not some shitty shounen aimed at young teenagers. They also didn’t like how they were mostly talking or traveling around the world without doing much. That is because all the change was happening inside their minds and we weren’t presented everything with a stupid explanatory monologue. So don’t pay too much attention to all the accusations, unless you prefer your anime characters to be screaming and showing bae skin all the time.
If there is one thing not even I didn’t like, that would the action part. There are several battles in this show and they all feel one-sided from the beginning, as Ergo Proxy seems impossible to be killed. That kind of takes away the feeling of anxiety in case they fail or something. Another minor glitch is how besides the main crew everybody else in the show seems to be left at a minor support role. Both are minor issues before all the rest; the message still gets across just fine. It’s just that you shouldn’t watch this for the action.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 9/10
General Artwork 2/2 (great production values)
Character Figures 2/2 (their make up is making them stand out)
Backgrounds 2/2 (detailed and spooky)
Animation 1/2 (sporadically the characters lose facial consistency and the battle choreography seems pointless since Ergo is unbeatable)
Visual Effects 2/2 (great use of shadows and darkness)
SOUND SECTION: 9/10
Voice Acting 3/3 (serious and philosophical dialogues without becoming too tiresome during monologues)
Music Themes 4/4 (great soundtrack and BGM)
Sound Effects 2/3 (great but not awesome)
STORY SECTION: 8/10
Premise 2/2 (really deep stuff)
Pacing 1/2 (drops a lot in the middle and speeds up a lot in the end)
Complexity 1/2 (too much focus on the main characters only)
Plausibility 2/2 (no obvious plot holes and the philosophy of the show is explained just fine)
Conclusion 2/2 (rather vague but its solid)
CHARACTER SECTION: 10/10
Presence 2/2 (imposing)
Personality 2/2 (detailed)
Backdrop 2/2 (excused)
Development 2/2 (high)
Catharsis 2/2 (definitely)
VALUE SECTION: 9/10
Historical Value 3/3 (modern classic from the get go for all I care)
Rewatchability 2/3 (high if you dig the premise, with some parts skipped for their low importance)
Memorability 4/4 (stands out in the crowd)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 9/10
It made me think, it looked great, it had good songs, it had memorable characters, it didn’t end openly, and I could fill in the blanks easily. Some parts in the middle felt a bit dull but it was a great ride.
Anime: Casshern Sins, DT Eightron
Western movies: Logan's Run, THX 1138, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Blade Runner, Stalker
I thought I'd write an honset review as a counter to many unwarranted negative reviews I've seen about this series.
Also, no spoilers.
Ok... First things first... This isn't a series for everyone. The story does VERY little hand-holding. It may be confusing till the end, and even then you might be confused. But the truth is there is a method to the madness and all the information required to understanding the story is available to you throughout the series. The story has many twists and things that are not explained until later. That said, if you really do attempt to pay attention to the end, you will be most rewarded, as there is very little you would have missed or not understood by that point. There are a few "easter eggs" and hidden foreshadowing and things that you most likely will not pick up on unless you watch a second time, which I think is cool.
The source of many people hating Ergo Proxy simply comes down to the fact that could not comprehend it. Even the stuff that seems out of place and ridiculous (like the game show episode that other reviewers have commented about) fits perfectly within the story and makes 100% perfect sense (albeit a little confusing at first) IF you pay attention.
The characters... There are 2 protagonists from the start -- Vincent and Re-L. I really enjoyed seeing how their personalities clash (or compliment) each other as the story progresses, as well as their developments into understanding who they are. The inner dialogues are great, and this is something I wish more animes (or movies in general) would do. Others criticize them as being too "angsty" but I did not feel this way. Their actions and thoughts aligned perfectly with the problems they had to deal with through the story. Aside from the 2 main characters, the rest of the cast is wonderfully portrayed. I especially liked the role the "Entourages" (androids), and specifically Pino, played and their dynamic with the other characters.
Some people criticize the action as slow. Well, here's the kicker -- it's not an action anime! It was never meant to be. The first episode had a bit of action, which I suppose threw some people off. But it's really not. There is a bit of action in almost every episode, but not to the extent that you could call it an action anime.
The music is good. Downtempo electronica, which I happen to really like. The intro and outro songs are also really good. THe sound design in general is really well done.
My only real complaint is that while the animations and backgrounds are nicely done, the character facial animations threw me off a bit too much, especially later in the show. Depending on the angle the character was faced in a scene, the drawing could look completely different than their drawing in scene preceeding it (specifically around the face). Oddly enough, this is one thing I haven't heard anyone complain about, and although I LOVE this series, it's the only thing that bothered me a little. Other than that the cyber punk otherworldly atmosphere is expressed exceedingly well.
Overall, I highly recommed this show for viewers who want a complex futuristic sci-fi suspense drama. :-) Just be prepared to pay attention if you want it to make sense!
Ergo Proxy is one of those rare gems we get once every 5 years or so years. It starts of as a grim antiutopia that very much reminded me of Brave New World. We are introduced to a city where people spend most of their time shopping and living without much thought, where children are produced. We are meet one of the main characters,
Re-l who is investigating the Cogito visus, that somehow makes androids gain souls. While investigating she sees a monster and due to boredom and passion for investigation she decides to get to the bottom of the case. While this seems like a perfect setup for a cyberpunk police mistery alongside the lines of Ghost in the Shell it takes a different turn. It stays a mistery, but not it a conventional way. The investigation leads her to Vincent, a naive young man who for some reason has an affection for her. She gets attacked by that moster I mentioned earlier and her determination and lust for answers grow. Vincent didn't seem related to the case so he is let go. Soon after he is attacked by one of the monsters and in the process wife and child of the chief of police get killed. This leads to the chief framing Vincent and he escapes the dome-city.
The setup is here and a the real story starts. It's for a large part an episodic jurney where we pick up pieces of the larger picture and see the exploration of different themes. We will see a lot of episodes revolving around the meaning of life, reason d'etre as they call it here, questions about how would the world look without God, how do we know we are real and we are not a fake, what do we do if we have no exit, where do we find meaning and what do we do when it is lost. I would go deeper into the analysis, but that would require episode by episode and I'm sure you have better time to do than that.
The main plot itself is thick, presented in an excellent way that requires effort to deduce, it's foreshadowed and well paced. I won't say anything more since that would spoil the fun of finding the answers for you.
The characters are very well developed. I will in short notes elaborate why.
Vincent starts as whiny and scared, his only goal becoming a "model citizen", a person who perfectly fits all the social norms. He is unimportant and easily replaced. But as the time progresses he finds courage, life throws him into many hard situations, observing how it is for people who face death and conflict, sometimes for no reason. He, as time progresses tries to find meaning, a place for himself in the world. We get a lot of introspection for his character, he will question if he is indeed a monster, if he only brings death to people around him, if he deserves to die. He is the character that deals with existential issues the most as his world is the most insecure, he never had real hard ground to base it on.
Re-l is as the show begins a smart investigator, but she is so to say not the nicest person in the world. She uses the affection others show to her to further her own goals, lies and deceives, she doesn't look around herself and hardly notices the people around her. Her main motive is boredom and lust for knowledge and excitement. But as every great character she is shaped and molded by different events, forced to see how she has been shallow and depended on society and its merits.
Pino is a cute android that doesn't develop much aside her relations with Re-l, she stays simple, keeps the mood even happy at times and binds the characters together. She is the example of simpleminded philosophy that somehow works without huge amount of thought and effort, she stays happy and positive, she has her meaning.
This covers the main characters but one notable is Raul Creed. He is not the focus of the show, but is one of the most developed characters in anime in general. He starts off as a happy and honest man, but goes through a tragedy. He replaces his sorrow with his work, but work cannot keep you happy. He that tries to destroy and fight because it's the only thing he can do, even if it will have no effect and he knows it. But anger also leaves him empty. The only thing he wishes to see in the end is a certain person, he realizes all except the people you love is nothingness.
And now for the least important parts, the music and the animation. The music and the voice acting were amazing, the opening was a song by a band called Monoral, whose music is not particularly interesting outside this song. The ending was Paranoid Android by Radiohead, one of the best and most creative bands today. The background music was mostly classical or drum and bass techno, I can't express how well they fit the show.
The animation was great, detailed, dark and unusual due to the choice of colors used
(most were shades of gray). But there was a problem with Rel's face, it looked awful at some points.
All in all Ergo Proxy is an instant classic. It may not be for everyone,
but for those who don't mind a challenge it will be hours of enjoyment.
For a more detailed review see this