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.
In a futuristic world almost barren of life, mankind is confined to mechanized domed cities where A.I.’s control all aspects of life. In this world, humans are no longer born, they are manufactured in a production line; and alongside them live androids known as autoreivs. Within one of these domed sanctuaries named Romdeau lives Re-l Mayer, one of a few citizens who aren’t entirely prevented from thinking. Her grandfather's prominent position and the affection of the scientist Daedalus have left her more free will than is normally allowed, but Re-l has started to question the sanctity of the city and the citizens' perfect way of life. With mysterious beings known as proxies causing havoc and a man named Vincent causing great influence on her life, Re-l must travel outside of the city to find the answers she seeks and discover the mystery behind "the awakening".