Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ergo Proxy

The domed city of Romdeau is supposed to be a paradise. There humans live in peace with robots known as AutoReivs under the watchful eye of Regent Donov Mayer. Re-L Mayer is the granddaughter of the Regent and she lives a somewhat pampered lifestyle in a world where humans are designed and born in a mechanical womb. They aren't too different from the AutoReivs that serve them. They are designed with one purpose and nothing more. 

Re-L was designed as a member of the Security Bureau and she gets to carry guns that complements her blue eye shadow rather well. With certain AutoReivs succumbing to a virus known as the Cogito Virus and attaining self-awareness, Re-L's job has been keeping her busy lately. A self-aware robot often turns violent and that isn't a good thing unless you're like me and want to see Re-L shoot her guns off. 

That isn't Re-L's only major problem, though. After being attacked by a creature called a Proxy and then being rescued by another Proxy it seems that not only has her life completely changed, but she's also about to learn the terrifying secrets of Romdeau. 

The world outside of Romdeau is desolate, but if Re-L wants to know the truth she will have to journey outside with the mysterious Vincent Law... a man that just might be the Proxy that rescued her. 

Did you get all that? There is undoubtedly a lot going on with the storyline, but you'd be surprised how quickly it goes by. In fact, it goes by so quickly that much of the middle episodes are nothing more than fluff and the finale is an absolute mess. It goes by too quickly for 23 episodes. The beginning episodes are incredibly interesting and dark, but after the first ten episodes or so things start falling apart. 

After watching an episode where much of the background information was dumped on us in a game show-style format and then watching the episode where the Walt Disney-type creator of an amusement park named SmileLand happens to also be a Proxy himself, I couldn't help but wonder how the hell this series could be so universally acclaimed. 

As odd as many of these episodes were they were at least watchable and somewhat interesting, but the finale was a bit different. The true introduction of the villain of the series isn't done until episode 22 and by then I had forgotten what the hell I had been watching. The story was something I kind of figured out based on their elaborate yet still cryptic as fuck explanations, but this series went so far out there at the end that it made the ending to Neon Genesis Evangelion seem mundane. I love Neon Genesis Evangelion. I'll fight over it. Ghost in the Shell, too. I don't mind complexity and depth and a few intelligent plot curveballs. I do mind pointless rambling, though. That comprises much of the later episodes. 

The gritty cyberpunk themes from the beginning were dropped like a hot rock and everything became so fantastical that I no longer knew what anime I was supposed to be watching. And even if the ending had been on point I don't think I can forgive the excessive filler in an anime that wasn't even based off a manga to begin with. Are we seriously tying in information from the game show episodes into the conclusion? The game show episode was kind of cool while it was happening since it was just for kicks but to include it in the actual plot and to make it mandatory watching? I dunno. Sounds like they were just trying to take a pile of shit and tie a ribbon on it. 

In a lot of way this anime recalls The Big O, actually. Both series have to deal with domed cities with mysterious backgrounds where long ago "something" happened that caused the world to be the way it is. In The Big O the issue was that an entire city had no memory of anything from 40 years ago and then there was the existence of giant robots, but in Ergo Proxy the entire issue is about the existence of Proxies and the Cogito Virus. 

However, The Big O is quite superior to this anime if only because it did not have the pacing and filler issues. The animation in Ergo Proxy is fantastic at times and the music is great, but the anime as a whole feels a bit too underdeveloped for me. There are moments of absolute brilliance and they aren't even few nor far between, either. They are definitely there. There are a lot of moments of brilliance. Even in the final episodes where nothing makes sense there are some legit moments. Even during the game show episode there was some cool stuff. SmileLand was really cool own its own right. There was some real sharp dialog and deep conversing going on. This is an anime that makes you think and keeps you on your toes.

Yet all of it was just thrown together too quickly and the excellent atmosphere established by the earlier episodes was tossed aside in favor of some needless experimentation. When you aren't on your toes you will be bored to tears and that is the major downside of this anime. 

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed this anime despite all of its oddities. There's a ton to like. But... this was a frustrating series for me because it had sooo much more potential to tap. I just don't understand the 8.1 rating on IMDB or and 8.7 on A better paced delivery would have been able to warrant those ratings, but as it is that isn't the case. Watching this made me feel like I ordered a 22 oz Porterhouse medium well and only received a 12 oz Sirloin well done. Sure, it's still good and I still can consume it, but it isn't what I ordered. 

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