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 watched Ergo Proxy online because of a review I saw on Amazon.com. I liked it because the pacing of the show was slow, and it required that you actually pay attention to what's going on. It takes its time to let the world unfold and I like the fact that it didn't lay everything out for you at the very beginning.The only really negative thing I had to say was that the DVD itself was a little too dark, as far as the picture is concerned. the darker colors just didn't seem to translate well on my TV, which could be just the excuse I need to by a better one.
Re-L Mayer is the kind of female protagonist I like to see. She has enough faults and doubt to make her believable, and she doesn't sit around waiting for people to rescue her. She's driven and intelligent but at the same time, you get to see hints of her vulnerability and emotion towards Vincent.
Vincent Law I thought at first was a little bit over the top with his ineptedness, until I gave it a little further thought. I imagine if you were trying to make yourself fit in without calling attention to yourself, you might make sure that you were a person that was utterly forgettable. When you see him in Rondo, even his hair is in such a way that makes you pass him over. It's very subtle how when he stops trying to fit in, and starts trying to find himself, he literally opens his eyes, and his hair changes, and you see a different person entirely.
Pino was my absolute favorite, to be honest. Through her, you see this subtle transformation from an android to a fully realized little girl. Again, if you're not paying attention you might miss it, but I didn't. She's by far the least annoying child sidekick ever and by the end of the series, she even gets her own turn to shine in a way that breaks the mold. The idea itself isn't original, but the way its done is.
I would have liked a little more explaination of the backstory, but all in all, I really enjoyed this one.
Ergo Proxy. Ahhhh...
The show everyone seems to love to hate. So here's your contrasting opinion. I really liked it, and if you dare please continue reading on and find out why!
Positives: So Ergo Proxy for all its faults oozes ambiance and style. When I first found out about it I was on a Ghost in the Shell/Cyberpunk kick and was eating anything of that sort up without much thought and with Ergo Proxy I got exactly what I was expecting. The art and overall style are just fun to watch. I really enjoyed the whole cold, dark, and dreary air to the show and in my opinion Real/Re-L (meh, watch and you'll understand why I still don't know what to call her) was well designed and just works within her role.
The story is a bit all over the place, but at its core there's a solid set of themes. This is one of the biggest complaints you'll find, and I'll get into it shortly in the Negatives section, but if you just don't dig into it too deeply there's actually a pretty decent story that gives you lots of room for thought and opens up enough of an avenue to enjoy watching the characters unfold both the plot and their personal development.
You'll also find that the production values of Ergo Proxy are stellar. There are few things in the show that don't look fantastic. Honestly, there aren't a lot of shows that I have enjoyed "watching" so much as this one. It's just oozes style.
Last point: at no time during Ergo Proxy did I ever feel like dropping the show even amidst all the little flaws. The two main characters and the overall feel were strong enough to push the story along and skirt any of my minor complaints.
Negatives: So there's a whole lot of these out there and at times I think people really get a kick out of being critical and hating things because it somehow gives them a feeling of empowerment. But in my opinion it's far too easy to get caught up in a lynching and lose sight of what was really important. Did you have fun. Anyhow...I have my own gripes as well...
So yes, Ergo Proxy does try to be a lot deeper than it really is in the end. There's a great host of references and concepts that you are faced with that can at first seem daunting until you realize that the writers really weren't as deep as they'd intended to be. I had to wonder at times if the translation was just so difficult that things which may have made more sense and worked better in the original just didn't quite make it across the translation barrier in the same shape as they'd been planned.
That's really the core concern you're going to see in the other reviews out there, and while it is in its own world legitimate I would suggest another line of thinking that might very well be familiar to a few of you.
Style over substance. =)
With Ergo Proxy you'll get lots of the first and not a whole lot of the second. Just ignore the junk and enjoy it for the good bits. There's enough of the good stuff to counter the rubbish that was left lingering around the edges so just sit back, stuff your mouth with some popcorn, and enjoy watching.