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'll try to make this review short and to the point. Something that Ergo Proxy it's self doesn't undertake.
Ergo Proxy, the title alone should give you somewhat of a hint of the anime you will be watching. This anime should by no means be a first series for newcomers.
Now lets just get one thing out of the way. If you are looking for a action-packed, fun, fan-service, random, slice of life series... Don't read any further.
If you want to watch a experimental, mind-bending, thought provoking, complex anime. Ergo Proxy is for you.
Ergo Proxy is not a anime for everyone! It's perhaps one of the bravest endeavors
to make a series I've ever seen. No gimmicks, no looking to sell something.
It stands with only a very few shows that try to make you think, and make you solve a puzzle that has deeper meaning than most will see.
I also believe that this is a anime that should be seen with little knowledge or spoilers given. Reason for that being, it would undoubtly ruin the overall experience of the show. So here is what I think of the series.
It's perhaps one of the best animes I've ever seen. Every character is perfect in the sense that they serve the story and are changing and evolving as the show progresses.
I believe that the hate Ergo Proxy gets is for the fact that it doesn't spell anything out for you. It makes you work to understand it.
It does have is pacing issues. Most will find it far too slow.
It throws far to much for a single watch or seat through. Which I happen to love I end up finding something new about the show every time I watch it.
So most will love or hate, not too many will far in the middle. I suggest that if you are a fan of Serial Expierments of Lain, BladeRunner. Take a stap at this gem.
"I think, therefore I am." Sounds like nonsense to you? Ergo Proxy is (in my opinion) a cyperpunk, post-apocalyptic seinen anime that reminded me a lot of the movie Aeon Flux. To put things simply, it is about the journey of self-discovery for the main characters involved and can be very confusing. It isn't explained perfectly well and some things are purposefully left out or made to be vague. The implementation is flawed, yet I enjoyed it immensely. My head hurts now that I've seen it. And I almost fell asleep whilst watching the last few episodes, similarly to my experience with Neon Genesis Evangelion. However, this anime somehow is able to be more complex and contrived than that classic. It may take a while to explain what this anime is, but in short its a psychological experience with a plot about uncovering the truth in a post apocalyptic setting. It's been months since my last review, but this anime is so interesting, I just had to write about it.
The animation of Ergo Proxy is astonishing for the time it was made in. Both quality and style stand out. And what a unique style. It made me reminisce about western animations and old 80s/90s cyperpunk movies. It even had a section to parody Disney and Disneyland. The designs of the characters suit the grim, aged future setting. Nothing too crazy or obviously anime, besides a handful of things. The dark colours and visual themes may put some people off, which is understandable. Among the few things I didn't like was the initial character design of Vincent, which I'll get on to later. Otherwise well done for the large production values that went into making this a good looking anime.
The soundtrack to this anime was great. They had great bands like Monoral and Radiohead providing great western-style music for the intro and outro. Granted, it wasn't so amazing that it made me want to download the soundtrack, but that's just my personal taste. The background music played at appropriate times and really added to the scenes. I could ramble on about the high quality music, but I must talk about the other reason for high production values, the voice acting. This anime is available in multiple languages. As well as the original Japanese, I also found there to be English, French and Spanish audio. They went all out on this, as is evident by the high quality of the dub. And that included the voice actors. Pino's english VA Rachel Hirschfield also did the voice of Anita King, a child character from Read Or Die, which is another great anime. The main character Vincent's VA, Liam O'Brien also did Archer and Matou from the Fate series and Ray from GunXSword. So many other big names in the dub business including Yuri Lorenthal as Daedalus, Doug Stone as several characters, Troy Baker, Patrick Seitz as Raul Creed, Michael McConnohie as several ads too.
The main character of this story is Vincent Law, an immigrant amnesiac man from the Masque dome who seems to be followed by the mysterious beings known as proxies. At the start he is an autorave mechanic. My only complaint about this character is the inconsistent look, especially at the start. I understand the neat combed hair was to fit in as a honourary citizen, but he has the closed anime eyes (like Brock from Pokemon) for a good few initial episodes. It gets better, but perhaps the change in appearance is supposed to say something about this character. How he is restricted within the confines of the dome and he gains freedom outside of it. Psychologically, this character goes through the most, being the main protagonist and all. He yearns to try and recover his memories and to learn who he is. Learn from this guy. There's an episode towards the middle where one can see he is truly at peace with himself, despite any issues. Of course, there is a lot more to this character that can only be revealed by watching this anime.
The secondmost important character is Riel (apparently spelt Re-L, but I cba) Mayer. A woman who is employed by the intelligence bureau in Rondo (again, apparently spelt Romdeau). Whilst investigating the outbreak of the Cogito virus, Riel is seemingly attacked in her home by the mysterious proxies. She becomes curious and joins Vincent in an attempt to find out what these proxies are. Another unique character, curious and somewhat impulsive in her actions, yet also keeping her distance from the other characters. As alone as she seems, she isn't completely unsociable and is very much human in her behaviour and personality. Having grown up as the granddaughter of the Regent, she is amonst the most priviledged, with her own personal autorave catering to her every whim. This does have it's effects later on of course. Speaking of which...
Iggy is Riel's autorave companion. The autoraves are humanoid AIs built to assist humans in their daily life. Iggy's one purpose is to protect Riel, often argueing against his master for her own good, resulting in Riel disabling his ability to converse and therefore preventing further complaints. Iggy is probably the closest thing to family Riel has.
A more important autorave than Iggy however, is Pino. Pino is a very humanlike child autorave, designed to be a substitute for a child, which citizens of Rondo would require permission to have. Her parents are Raul Creed and his wife, who, when they are allowed a human child, essentially discard Pino and she becomes unwanted. Early on, she gets infected with the Cogito virus which gives her a soul. As such, she behaves a lot like child, though occasionally the autorave shows as she copies other people and she has certain enhanced abilities like scouting distance. A very innocent and pleasant character, she is often seen playing with musical instruments and producing drawings, much like a real human child, proving the presence of the soul she shouldn't have. Along with Vincent, she is seen enjoying a carefree life, learning about things in the world and what it is to be a real child. No doubt the name Pino is a nod to the story of Pinocchio, a parallel story.
The other two interesting characters are Raul Creed, who wishes to also find out about the Proxies and Daedalus Yumeno, who has an obsession with Riel and also knows a lot about proxies. Coincidence?
The story is complicated and difficult to explain well (at least I struggle with it), but it does have enough coherence to be worthwhile. Without spoiling too much, the main characters go on a journey of discovery to the Masque dome to find out the shrouded history of Vincent, the proxies and even the truth behind the human race. The post apocalyptic setting has a unique and restricted society, where humans are grown artificially and must fulfill their role as a good citizen of the dome. To abandon the dome means death. As such, the main characters essentially become outcasts. The autoraves who gain souls as a result of the Cogito virus are purged for their unwanted feelings and many aspects come togetherin the conclusion of the story. The plot is rather complex and slowly reveals its confusing mysteries in this anime. It isnt completely coherent since certain sections are left out, therefore those events must be assumed in the mind of the viewer. There are some psychological sequences too, much like the ones in NGE, where characters try and figure out what's happening whilst the viewer becomes ever more confused. There are too many dream sequences and these aren't done too well, since the viewer is unaware that they are dreams right from the start. Some of these could be seen as filler. Overall, I enjoyed trying to piece together the story, despite the flaws and issues that it has. Which I can't really mention without spoiling it. Somethings don't seem to be explained or make any sense at all. Yet it remains coherent enough for one to get a general idea for the storyline. The conclusion was satisfactory, but the very end posed a handful of questions, possibly indicating a sequel that never came.
Ergo Proxy is an anime unlike most other anime and is definitely for everyone, especially those who do not enjoy complex seinen stories like NGE or FLCL. I'd say it's aimed at the older more understanding audience, younger people may have viewed this anime and not enjoyed it. It does have it's flaws with the story, but overall it was more enjoyable than other anime like FLCL which is more confusing than this IMO. Try it out and see if you like it.
Family-friendliness Rating: 4/5 Not because of explicit content, otherwise the score would be 2, but this anime would literally melt children's brains (lower is better)
Overall Rating: 7.5/10 (higher is better)