Title: Ergo Proxy
Company: Manglobe Inc.
Format: 23 episodes
Date: 25 Feb 2006 – 12 Aug 2006
Synopsis: In the future, the world has been ravaged by a catastrophic nuclear apocalypse. Salvation in the form of a domed city named “Romdeau” exists, where humans and androids called Autoreivs reside. This so-called “utopian world” is soon shattered by a series of mysterious murders involving renegade Autoreivs. Inspector Real Mayer from the Citizen Information Bureau is assigned to investigate the cases but she is soon assaulted by an unknown creature, neither human nor android. In the quest for the ultimate truth, Mayer, together with the clueless immigrant Vincent Law, embarks on a journey to learn more about the unknown phenomenon called “Awakening” and how it affects the lives of both humans and the Autoreivs.
Music: Hauntingly beautiful and enigmatic; amazing opening and ending music.
Philosophy: The main constituent of the show; explored deeply with some weighty psychobabble along the way.
Animation: Erratic occasionally but engagingly sleek and gloomy in general.
Characters: Shallow at first, but gradually become multi-dimensional.
Overall impression: It’s not all cyberpunk.
Ergo Proxy is not what one would think it is, that I can assure firmly. At face value, it appears to be a cyberpunk action series with thrilling android showdowns and the dark atmosphere expected from director Shukou Murase, who last directed Witch Hunter Robin. Action is not as plentiful as one would originally expect because it is simply icing on a cake mainly made up of philosophical references and psychological implications. Yet, by not being an action series it doesn’t mean that it’s not as engrossing as it could be; each episode gets riveting as the plot thickens with unexpected twists of fate and mysterious events.
As mentioned earlier, this series is heavily laden with real-life philosophies from the works of famous people, René Descartes‘ “Cogito ergo sum” being the main motif of the show. Ergo Proxy distinguishes itself from other cyberpunk series by taking on this timeless philosophical statement and seeing it from different perspectives, and then exploring the dire consequences of its effects that renders the bleak world more dismal than it already appears to be. The fascinating world is carved by this concept, along with many others, and the contemplative rhetorical questions that flourish throughout the series. However, the reflective philosophical explanations and psychological riddles may displease viewers as it can make the series somewhat dry and convoluted. Verbose statements and mind-boggling implications come at the expense of fast-paced action on many occasions and viewers may find it generally tiresome to watch despite the sporadic bursts of action.
Ergo Proxy is also somewhat deceptive with its presentation in another aspect: the characters. At first, characters such as inspector Real Mayer and immigrant Vincent Law may appear to be superficial and hollow. One is the haughty and strong female protagonist who is cerebral with her executions, while the other is a clueless pawn in a pretentious society who has a lot of questions about the things around him, yet no one to ask. These first impressions of shallow characters gradually fade away with each episode, as different plot twists and unforeseen events develop their personalities into something credible and ironically human. Actually, this can also be said of the Autoreivs in the series; the ironic circumstances of whether it’s a gift or a curse for mechanical androids to attain the ability of self-awareness in an apathetic society that demands conformity make this series complex yet riveting.
If there’s one aspect about Ergo Proxy that doesn’t deceive at all, it’s the awesome music. Music composer Yoshihiro Ike complements the dismal and absorbingly nyctophobic atmosphere, with equally haunting Gregorian music. Plus, the music is cued appropriately with every scene to further amplify the sense of suspense and high-octane action sequences. Furthermore, the OP and ED, featuring the works of Monoral and major alternative rock band Radiohead respectively, are perhaps some of the best I’ve ever heard and I’ll offer plenty of credit for that.
The only major issue I have with Ergo Proxy is with its final episode, where loose ends are left untied, giving this series an unpleasant underwhelming aftertaste (although it doesn’t necessarily taint the enjoyment I experienced watching from start to finish per se). It is still an enjoyable series from start to finish with a blend of stylish action bursts and in-depth philosophical explorations. Some other series develop from a good start towards a terrible finish but fortunately, this one develops from a good start towards something better.
The Rating: 7
Reviewed by: AC