Plot: Humankind is on the brink of extinction. The earth is a desolate wasteland with a toxic atmosphere, and trying to live on it has proved to be near impossible. To retain humanity, cities were created under protective domes. One such city called Romdeau was created, only allowing those deserving of becoming ‘fellow citizens’ to live within its walls while the immigrants from other cities try their hardest to earn citizenship. An immigrant from the city of Mosk named Vincent Law seems to have trouble following him everywhere and he gains the attention of one the Intelligence Bureau’s top investigators, Re-L Mayer. While investigating both him and the strange cogito virus that is plaguing the city’s AutoReivs, she uncovers the existence of a strange creature called a proxy. What is its connection to Vincent, the cogito virus and the fabric of humanity itself?
Breakdown: While it was a fairly bumpy one, this was a really interesting and intense ride of an anime. I have no clue why I dropped this a few years ago, but I’m glad I picked it back up.
Ergo Proxy is touted as being a psychological and philosophical dark thriller. That means a hell of a lot of talking, introspection, thinking in inner monologue and more talking. However, there is plenty to keep your attention in terms of action, mystery, conspiracy and intrigue, and just because an anime is dialogue heavy doesn’t mean it’s boring.
This show tricks you the tiniest bit in not outwardly focusing on Vincent from the start. It focuses more on Re-L in the beginning along with her AutoReiv entourage, Iggy. AutoReivs are assigned to pretty much everyone in one way or another. They come in various types such as companions, entertainment, caretaking, medical practice, work assistants and more. While some of them are very clearly mechanical beings, some of them, such as companion AutoReivs, are designed specifically to mimic humans in both physical appearance and actions. However, they do lack a soul so even with the technology being amazing in how they can mimic humans, they still can’t really pass for human.
The aforementioned cogito virus is said to give AutoReivs a soul, but the reason that it’s such a problem is because it’s causing many of those infected to start becoming violent if not homicidal for whatever reason. But that’s really only one piece of the puzzle.
In investigating this, Re-L discovers Vincent as well as his odd tendency to attract trouble. Soon after, she has a run-in with the proxy, which is basically a masked monster. She soon becomes completely consumed with finding out what the proxy is and what Vincent has to do with it, and she later becomes rogue because it’s obvious that the government in Romdeau want to keep the secret of the proxies under wraps.
I wouldn’t be spoiling entirely too much to tell you that Vincent is the proxy, but the mystery about who he is, what he is and his past remains until the end of the series for the most part. He doesn’t even realize what he is or what proxies are until later. I can quell fears that this is another ‘oh god I’m a monster and must become a lone wolf because of it’ story, so that’s something.
This show has a really good pace up until the halfway point where you can almost hear the screeching of the brakes. While there is still new information being found about the proxy and Vincent, actual plot-related revelations slow down a hell of a lot in lieu of cryptic clues, character development and introspection. This is by no means bad. Taking time out for character development and deeper thought is fine, but you lose speed on the story. This is more than made up with in the end, but it’s still a bit of a trial to get through.
The tone is really the issue in that department. It has ‘dark’ in its description for a reason. This show’s tone is so serious and downright dreary that the slow moments start to drain you. If it didn’t have an interesting premise, likable and dimensional characters and Pino, whom I’ll get to in a minute, it would probably require you to take a break from it after a few episodes.
This is why episodes such as the game show and Smile Town become so jarring. I honestly couldn’t believe it when they had an entire episode parodying a game show, but it ended up including dark humor and somehow squeaked in information about the proxies. Hell, it still ended up actually having a purpose in the series as a whole. It’s like they knew that the audience needed a break for a second and while it was jarring and weird, those episodes were a welcome breath of fresh air from the constant bleakness.
In that regard, we have our one comic relief character in the little girl companion AutoReiv named Pino. I can’t believe they actually pulled her off to be likable, cute and funny, but they managed to do it. Making her the comic relief character was a great choice. She’s not in your face with jokes, she’s just funny because of her mannerisms and childish nature. She is also infected with the cogito virus, but despite this she never becomes violent for some reason. If anything, she’s the happiest being in this show, and I really liked her.
Vincent has two sides to him. On one hand, he can be pretty fun-loving, especially when playing with Pino. On the other hand he’s played by Liam O’Brien, one of the most emo-typecast VA’s in existence alongside Sasuke himself, Yuri Lowenthal, who also has a role here as the creepy Daedalus (and yes, the symbolism with him is exactly what you’d expect). He laments, monologues, philosophizes and makes speeches like there’s no tomorrow. And hell, there might not be—oh oops, spoilers.
Re-L, and yeah that’s her name, pronounced Ree-El, is a bit harder to like for most of the series. On one hand she’s an awesome, kickass, strong, smart and resilient female lead who will find the answers to these mysteries no matter what. On the other hand, she kinda falls victim to the trope of ‘strong female lead? Better make her a complete spoiled bitch!’ Thankfully she starts getting better in this regard, but she did grate on my nerves a little.
The actual answers as to what the proxies are and what its connections to, well, pretty much everything was actually a lot more inventive and surprising than I ever anticipated. I never saw it coming anyway. I first thought they were failed attempts at genetically engineered humans or something and Creed was trying to rule the world or end it, but it’s a lot bigger and more complicated than that.
As a final note, the ending delivers pretty damn well. It’s a bit much to take in all at once, especially since the regent basically dumps a huge load of exposition near the end, but it actually creates a satisfying ending, which is far more than I can say for many anime.
Art and Animation: This part has me torn. A part of me wants to make sweet love down by the fire with the art and animation done so wonderfully in both 2D traditional and CGI by Manglobe, producer of such series as Samurai Champloo and Deadman Wonderland. However, another part of me wants to punch whoever was in charge of quality control in regards to the characters faces because there are way too many moments where the faces look so off and awkward that a couple of them are nearly laughable. I believe the good outweighs the bad by far, but it’s still so distracting when you have such a stylish and appealing art design coupled with amazing animation only to have derpy faces on occasion…
Music: I love the OP. In fact, I’d say it’s now one of my favorite OP’s ever. The BG music is very nice and the ED is also decent, but I ended up skipping it most of the time.
Voice Acting: English Dub – I believe everyone was very well-cast for this show. The acting was very good, the voices fit and besides a few touchy moments with Re-L’s voice actress, Megan Hollingstead, it was a great dub.
Bottomline: The constant dark tone, slower pacing in the middle as well as some jarring shifts in tone and even time and place can be a little trying to deal with, but it’s still an incredibly interesting story with great characters. I can’t bring myself to say it’s a masterpiece, but I’d gladly watch it again both for enjoyment value and to learn more about the psychological and philosophical aspects.
Additional Information and Notes: Ergo Proxy was directed by Shuko Mirase, who also directed Witch Hunter Robin and Gangsta. It was written by Dai Sato, who has written scripts for Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Wolf’s Rain and Samurai Champloo. It was produced by Manglobe and is currently licensed in North America by Funimation.
Recommended Audience: No nudity or sex, some swearing, quite a bit of blood and some amounts of gore. The biggest moment of gore being near the end, but coming in close second was a shot of a baby dying from its carriage falling down an escalator. No real gore there either, but there is a big puddle of blood, so thought I’d warn you there either way. The heavy tone and subject matter is already enough to refute a recommendation to kids anyway. 14+