Ergo Proxy

Genre: Science Fiction
Format: 25 episodes
Allegiance: Manglobe
Director: Shukou Murase
Vintage: 2006
Intelligence Agency Report by: Tremolo
In a future where the world has been ravaged by a nuclear apocalypse, the fates of three individuals become entwined following the appearance of enigmatic monsters in the supposedly utopian city Romdeau. These three, Re-L Mayar, a female inspector from the Citizen Information Bureau; Vincent Law, a seemingly clumsy immigrant; and Pino, a robotic ‘companion’ type set off on a journey to find answers to the dark mysteries they have become involved in.

Field Agent Report by: Tremolo
Overall 7.50
(not an average)

Perhaps the first real problem with Ergo Proxy is that it’s not the series you’re expecting it to be. Advertised before its first transmission as a dark action series with a rather gothy, blue eye shadow-wearing female lead who shot the hell out of monsters, it soon became readily apparent that this was not what the show was actually about. Indeed, Re-L Mayar, the character so prominent in the promotion for the series isn’t even the lead! Nonetheless, it does keep such a pretence up early on, with the first few episodes being among the best of the series, serving up a good deal of tantalizing mystery alongside excellent music, animation and short but very sharp bursts of action. Following this, Ergo Proxy becomes a slow, somewhat arty, philosophical road trip, with monsters, robots, a lot of standalone episodes that anime fans love to class as disposable ‘filler’ and a bafflingly constant use of it was all a dream cliches.

So what is Ergo Proxy? A bit of a mish-mash, really. There’s nothing all that original about it, despite its intellectual pretensions, and yet I found it very difficult to stop watching. If a series can somehow wing it on pure atmosphere and visuals alone, this just about manages it. We’ve seen philosophy and psychobabble in countless other anime, and there’s nothing new about transforming monsters, robots and a post-apocalyptic future. What makes you stick with the series are the mysteries it poses, alongside a dark, deliciously claustrophobic atmosphere that you can’t help be sucked in by.

The animation is a little inconsistent, usually when it comes to the character designs, but the visuals in general are rather inventive and create the right look and feel for the proceedings. The music and sound design is extremely effective, inducing feelings of unease and tension in an expert fashion and making scenes that could be so very boring surprisingly compelling instead. It also helps that the characters are both highly likeable and immensely intriguing, in particular the child-like robot Pino whom I defy anyone to not love.

It would truly be the icing on the cake if the ending was a good one, but that sadly isn’t the case. As a result, the series feels underdeveloped; the final episode completely disregards the age-old -show, don-t tell-rule, with the series collapsing under its own weighty but somewhat shallow philosophical and intellectual designs. It doesn’t hang together and feels false and contrived, with poor, pretentious dialogue and lots of things just happening for no reason. It’s a real shame, but thankfully doesn’t taint what’s come before too much.

Nevertheless, the journey up to that point is mostly very, very good, full of fantastic visuals, numerous wonderful standalone episodes and great music. It’d be remiss of me not to mention MONORAL’s excellent opening theme “kiri”, one of the best songs I’ve heard open an anime for a while. It’s just unfortunate that the series doesn’t quite hold together at the very end. Still, if you’re a fan of darker anime that’ll give your brain a bit of a work-out, you could do a lot worse than Ergo Proxy.