Ergo Proxy Review

   Ergo Proxy Review
"I think, therefore I am."
How do you know that you exist? What if one day you realise that all your beliefs were wrong. What if there is no earth, no sky, no mind and no body and someone is just deceiving you. How do you really prove that you exist?

An average person never really thinks about stuff like that because he's too busy with that thing called 'life'. And trying to come up with answers to these questions can be quite confusing and could really give you a headache. (That's why there is a version of the quote "I think, therefore I am... Confused and I have a headache") So, when an anime comes along that gives us its own perspective on these questions, we welcome it with open arms. Because it does most of the thinking part for us through its dialogues and visuals. Ergo Proxy tries to do this, but does it succeed? Honestly, it did really well at the beginning and I liked it. But during the end, I didn't really feel satisfied. It didn't bother me, because the best point about this anime is its story.

To tell you the truth, the synopsis isn't even 10% of the actual story. A friend told me that the show was very complicated and so when I started Ergo Proxy, I wrote questions about the plot in my diary as the show went by (Yes, I like solving mysteries before they reveal it in the show.) And by the end of the anime, I had 3 pages of questions in it (a record so far.) Now, that did help me figure out the ending beforehand, but I still had to look up the explanations on the internet. How do I put this, this show has way too much information to decipher or to put together in a single watch.

I have to say, the author has put a LOT of work in making the story. It is very complicated and it isn't spoon fed to you. The information is spread across the whole show and sometimes it only gives you a few bits and pieces for your own interpretation ( e.g, the cave scene with the toxic gas. Heck even that little message "fellow citizens, do your part and make waste" actually adds up to the explanation) The problem here is that while the story is very detailed and gives in-depth explanations for the important parts, it leaves a lot of holes here and there. For example, on one hand, they give a very detailed explanation on the whole Domes and Proxies and their raison d'etre, but on the other hand, they totally ignore the main trigger, i.e., the Cogito Virus. We don't know where it came from or who created it or what was the intention behind it. Its just there. (An AutoRev being infected by it starts the whole mess.) There are explanations for it on the internet but they murder the Occam's Razor (too many assumptions required. And the show itself never tells us all that info) I would mention more plot-holes but... spoilers. I could let some of those pass by giving a "Nothing's perfect" excuse, but there are some that really bothered me.

One last thing that I was disappointed with (personal preference) was how they have this Utopia inside the dome but they never explore or give you an outlook on what its like. We know that there is this supposedly perfect self sustaining system and every citizen has their own Android/Entrouage/Auto-Rev who does all their work for them, but the show never gives us a glimpse of what life for an ordinary citizen looks like. Now, this whole system has been there for thousands of years. So, I was expecting a changed mindset than what we have now in our time. Because living in a world where everything is 'perfect' for so long (definition of a Utopia), people would not posses the same mindset as they do now because they don't have to pursue or struggle for anything. So, when Re-l Mayar has such a 'normal rational' mindset, (like a person living in current time) it kind of bothered me. But that's just me. You might not find anything wrong with that.

Now, despite all that bitching, I was immersed into the story the whole time. It maintains this dark, mystery filled atmosphere throughout. Though, you should watch out for a sudden change of pace/perspective in episodes 15-19. You can generalise them as fillers but they actually give away the ending twist by giving you those seemingly random pieces of information (Watch out for that Panel Quiz - Who is this.) To me, those weren't really fillers but they could have made it look a little less out of place. By the end of the whole story, I was astonished at how well thought out the whole thing was. So, the story of this show is excellent, not perfect, but really well thought out and executed nicely. One last thing to mention, there is no action written under the genre, so don't expect much of it. 

[Extra : The show is heavily influenced by Western Philosophy and French literature with quotes from French poets and philosophers like Descartes and Joe Bousquet. The French phrase "raison d'etre" meaning "reason to be" is thrown around a lot. Also "Romdeau" could be seen as a misspelled "Rondeau" which is a form of medieval French poetry. It also mentions "Centzon Totchtin", with Centzon as the name of the ship, from the Aztec Mythology of the group of four hundred rabbit deities.

I liked the part where the cereals spell "awakening" in the first episode suggesting that incident at the start was the first domino to fall. And again when Vincent is in his mind thinking to himself how death follows him wherever he goes, the cereals spell "misfortune". Clever eh?]

         Ergo Proxy Gif 1

About the animation...
I looked up to the sky and thanked the Gods when I realised that there were no big sparkling round eyed moe character designs in this anime. I am fine with all the moe in slice of life high school anime, but when it comes to shows such as this which have a serious tone, I just can't tolerate moe. So, if you are like me, rejoice!
The animation is very nicely done. They do a good job in depicting the futuristic tech setting. The lighting is dull and dim most of the time. This agrees with the story as after the explosion in the Methane Hydrate layer, the whole world has been covered in dark clouds for a long time without any sunlight reaching the surface. So, how does a world like that look? Dark, dim and dull. No problems there. Also, I think the way they animated that file Re-l carries was amazing. Made me wanna have something like that. There are a few problems with the characters getting a bit distorted when zoomed out, but I didn't really find it bothersome.
For the sound, everything was fine. The OST was there when needed. The opening and ending sequences are really good. Voice acting suits the personality of the characters. What more do you need?

The characters are well within the realism established by the anime. Meaning, they don't act out of their established character traits. Take Vincent Law for example. His character is really well done. How? You see, whenever we are in a situation where we have to make a decision quickly, our brain draws on our past experiences of similar situations to reach a conclusion. Now Vincent has lost all his memories of the time before he came to Romdeau. So, whenever he is in a situation which demands quick action, he freezes up. He starts questioning, "What do I do? What is going on?" He doesn't suddenly become all heroic. His established character doesn't allow him to be that way. So, he is indecisive. I really liked that part. Later on, he develops into a very likeable character. [On a side note, I think I should mention the whole thing at the beginning when he has his eyes closed most of the time when he is in Romdeau and later he opens them when he leaves. It kind of bothered me. I think it is symbolic of how he was blinded by thinking that being a citizen of Romdeau and following the rules of the system would somehow make everything better for him. He was blind to the truth so his eyes were closed and later when he realises it, they open.]

Like Vincent Law, the android/auto-rev Pino, stays within her own act of an innocent machine kid who just became aware of her own identity. Like a newborn kid, she is just questioning everything around her, everything that is unknown to her, especially, emotions. In order to understand this alien concept of emotions, she does what any other kid would do, copy people around her. Monkey see, monkey do. She replicates people's actions to see if she would "feel" the same way they are doing. I think the way her character is designed is really good. It really shows when someone dies (no spoilers) and she has no idea what it means.

Now for our female lead, Re-l Mayar. Besides the whole mindset thing I mentioned earlier, I didn't have any problems with her character. She plays the role of a realist spoiled cunning detective, who goes on to have some massive character development later on. Her whole motivation is her curiosity, she just wants to know the truth. There is no sad, dark cliche background to her and she doesn't posses any superhuman sherlock deduction skills. She is just a normal human being, who is a bit spoiled and wears makeup, but normal. Excellent, just what I wanted.

Remember the whole utopia mindset thing I was talking about, I think it really shows in the case of Daedalus and Raul. The actions that they take in those desperate situations, really made me think that. Though I can't explain that in detail because.... spoilers.

             Ergo Proxy Gif 2

Overall, this anime has a very engaging, well thought out, brilliant storyline. And trust me, you can not get the whole story in one watch. It is like a huge jigsaw puzzle which is like 60% complete, but you need to pick up the rest of the pieces spread across the whole story and piece them together to see the whole picture. On the first watch, that 60% makes perfect sense on its own if you were paying close attention, but some people might not see it that way and say that the ending was terrible. I don't think that. Maybe it is because I had a whole diary with me in which I was writing down my questions and it helped me predict the ending.

To conclude this review, I would say that this anime is very good and I would definitely recommend you to watch it. It is definitely not for everyone as there isn't much action, the pacing might be a bit slow for some and... philosophy. But hey, give it a try. Who knows, you might end up loving it.

                                Ergo Proxy Rating

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October 2, 2021 at 4:08 PM delete

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