I did it, I beat anime. According to the total snob’s list of Japanese cartoons that we can call anime, I’ve done it. So let’s talk about that last one I finished this week.
If you’ve heard about Ergo Proxy, you’ve heard at least one of two things. 1. It’s great. 2. It’s mediocre and incorrect people think it’s great. Well, like most things, everybody’s wrong.
And since no one is going to come and save me from doing this review, let’s complete my fate and run down how this show performs on a few categories.
Ergo Proxy takes place in the domed city of Romdeau. Note that if you rearrange the letters in Romdeau, you get “aRe dome”, a clear misspelling of the phrase “our dome”. Immediately, you get a sense of home, a sense of belonging. This city wants you there. Another thing you immediately see is that Romdeau looks awesome.
Over the course of the series though, Romdeau doesn’t always look so lively and textured. The city gets duller and duller, reflecting how as the plot progresses, the city becomes a worse and worse place to live. Sadly, this means we don’t get to learn too much about what life in Romdeau was like before the main events of the show.
Romdeau isn’t a fantasy land or some future version of Tokyo. Rather, its dome is one of the few habitable environments in an otherwise apocalyptic wasteland. And I found this setting to be quite refreshing, since few anime deal with the world ending and the ramifications thereof.
The plot of Ergo Proxy is very awesome and interesting, but talking about it would not be proper for this review, because I didn’t learn it from watching the show. It’s technically a part of the show, but the super interesting specifics are all spoilers.
The show, instead, is far more concerned with the misadventures of three misfits called Vincent, Re-l, and Pino as they explore the wasteland that used to be called Earth. They encounter a series of monsters, known as Proxies. Using their luck, wits, and in some cases superpowers, they beat every Proxy they can find. But throughout this journey, one opponent manages to avoid them: Walt Disney.
Ergo Proxy gained notoriety for being among the first anime to spend whole episodes with no visuals whatsoever.
Just that same blank screen, constantly staring at you. A lot of people may find this upsetting, but I find it enhances the experience. After all, how does a two-dimensional space communicate a three-dimensional experience?
And it seems to be working. Plenty of audiences and analyses have found meanings of their own in these non-images. For example, according to many diehard fans, the image above, this specific black screen out of 20 episodes of them, is a close-up on the character Vincent Law’s face!
When you can see things in the series, they typically look pretty great. Digital effects are used sparingly to create interesting movement, and there are two-dimensional animation standout moments as well. There’s some definite lapses though, especially in the show’s second half.
The OST and the voice acting are generally competent. One particular track from the last episode stands out to me.
Also of note are the OP and ED. The OP, kiri by Monoral, is amazing. Cool visuals, really powerful rock melody, and fluent English from a Japanese band. It’s the thing every single episode does right.
And lots of people love the show for its ED, Paranoid Android by Radiohead. I love OK Computer, and I love Paranoid Android, but I don’t see the big deal. It’s not a particularly interesting end sequence. It’s just text scrolling past a background. Granted, it’s a drawn dark purple background, and not cut to black type credits, but it’s just a great song playing to an okay painting. It fits in decently, but it doesn’t make the show.
But what do I know? I watched the YouTube version so I didn’t actually get to listen to Paranoid Android while watching the show.
Our first protagonist is Re-l. Her name is pronounced the same as the word “real”, which, unfortunately for you, she is not.