Ergo Proxy is a Japanese cyberpunk suspense anime television series, produced by Manglobe, directed by Shūkō Murase, and written by Dai Satō. The anime originally aired from February 25 to August 12, 2006, on the WOWOW satellite network, lasting 23 episodes. It is set in the future where humans and AutoReiv androids coexist peacefully until a virus gives the robots self-awareness, causing them to commit a series of murders. Inspector Re-l Mayer is assigned to investigate, discovering there is a more complicated plot behind it that involves a humanoid species known as “Proxy” who are the subject of secret government experiments.
Let me tell you beforehand, that I love this anime. There is nothing I dislike in this other than the fact that in the first few episodes the pacing is slow. Not on 2nd viewing though. The reason for the slow pacing is that there are a lot of things happening in each of the episodes and you just don’t know about what is going on, so on the second run you will start picking out new stuff which you might have missed earlier.
It is set in a post-apocalyptic universe where the earth is destroyed and humans are forced to live in special domes with androids known as AutoReiv. Our story starts when a proxy, who was kept in a dome called Rondeau, escapes captivity, and also the androids start getting affected by an unknown virus that gives them a conscious. Now, what are proxies, who created the dome and how the earth was destroyed etc., all these questions are…..well not answered traditionally?
See I was expecting some long expository dialogues, it seemed kind of inevitable but then came episode 15 and I was just simply blown away. They used a quiz show to tell what happened in the world, this doesn’t sound special but the way it is implemented in the show is quite awesome. It is true that in the first few episodes the show might bore some of you with its overly dark tone and setting but after a while, the show switches from its general seriousness. It kinda becomes surreal and goofy at some parts. For example-
The first pic is from ep 5 and the second one is from ep 19. The way the show balances the tone in the latter half doesn’t seem out of place. I mean in the 19th episode you will feel like you are watching a Satoshi Kon movie with that reality-bending imagery instead of a sci-fi mystery but it still stays true to its general idea. In the end, it just boils down to preferences and taste and some of you might not like this minor shift but it keeps things fresh from my perspective.
There is an episode where nothing happens, it is called “busy doing nothing” and it is my fav episode. Telling you why I liked this episode will spoil some of the stuff so I won’t but I insist that you don’t skip any episode (because my friend did). The reason is that show gives little information in each episode and in the last 2 episodes the last piece of the puzzle is given and skipping any episode will just confuse you. Pay attention and it will pay off in the end. The ending is immensely satisfying.
The story follows three characters mainly – Vincent, Re-l, and Pino. Again, it boils down to personal preferences but I like all these characters. The first episode does a great job of telling you everything you need to know about them, they act the way they feel and on 2nd viewing, it will become more obvious. Another thing I liked about them is that they feel realistic, I am not saying that every anime character should act exactly like a real person. It depends upon the story and general tone the show is going for and the characters in ergo proxy act accordingly. Their behavior feels believable plus to be honest Re-l is my fav female character.
The character development
Not to sound pretentious but this change in character design directly correlates with the change in Vincent’s character. His eyes become more open as he learns the truth about the world and himself. He becomes more expressive and more human. Also, Pino’s growth is the soul of the show. Her change is what the show is about, that is what it means to be a human.
The animation features a combination of 2D digital cel animation, 3D computer modeling, and digital special effects. I prefer cel over digital so there is already some bias and the art style of the show is just on point, even the change in the middle doesn’t feel jarring. Despite the bleak, dystopian setting I love it, the cyberpunk aesthetic and the visuals are the strongest I’ve seen. Just look at the opening song’s visuals. I couldn’t bring myself to skip it once throughout the show, the song they used is just amazing and I love it. Also whoever decided to use “Paranoid android” for the ending song is a genius. There is nothing much I can say about the soundtracks, other than the fact that they are fine. Some of them are certainly catchy but not something you would remember the show for.
I highly recommend that you watch Ergo Proxy if you are into sci-fi and suspense thrillers but even if you are not, just give it a try. It is one of those shows which will make you feel empty upon realizing that you will probably never experience something like this ever again. It will keep you thinking long after you have finished it mainly because of its philosophical aspects. It might come off as too artsy and pretentious for some of you but I insist that you give this show a chance. It’s available on Netflix and I guess Youtube as well (the quality is really bad though).