Reviewby Theron Martin,
DVD 5 - Terra Incognita
While Vincent, Re-l, and Pino complete their journey to Mosk, Raul temporarily finds himself on the lam in Romdo when his defiance of the Regent gets his citizenship stripped. At the same time Deadelus has his own schemes cooking beyond his examination of the Proxy, ones that involve a possible replacement for Re-l.
Meanwhile, Vincent, Re-l, and Pino find nothing more than a wrecked husk of a city at Mosk and tantalizing clues about Vincent's past and possible counterpart Proxy. Everything points to the answers they seek being back in Romdo, but on the return trip both Pino and Vincent find themselves wrapped up in strange dreams, one involving the amusement city Smile Land, the other perhaps a prophecy of what might come to pass when they all arrive back at Romdo.
At what point does overuse of a gimmick inherently breed pretentiousness?
That is a question that the penultimate volume of Ergo Proxy does not even attempt to confront, but should. More than once before in the series characters have been put into a weird dream state to convey some message or abstract bit of character development, but here the series does it for two full episodes in a row. Taken individually, both dreams tell worthy stories; Pino's excursion through the blatant Walt Disney/Disneyland rip-off in episode 19 may look fluffy on the surface, but it spins a good and hard tale about AutoReivs and a Proxy designed to make people happy who desperately attempt to maintain their purpose despite encroaching obsolescence, the impending end of humanity, and the artificiality of their efforts. Vincent's dream in episode 20, which finds his perspective trapped in Re-l's body after her return to Romdo but may (or may not) actually be a split personality case, follows the EP tradition of mucking with the viewer's mind and perceptions. Having two dream episodes back-to-back is a little too much, however. Did writer Dai Sato start to run out of ideas, or did he just become so enamored of his own vision that he lost sight of how his story structure might actually play out?
Otherwise the plot continues to lumber towards its conclusion with all the urgency of a turtle out for a stroll. It so delights in being obtuse that, even with only a handful of episodes left, it still continues to throw out more questions than it answers. Some may still find the plot about the Proxies and Vincent's lost memory worth watching, and the whole business with the possible second Re-l should raise a few eyebrows, but at this point the main reason to stick with the series is to see what cute thing Pino will do next, and to a lesser extent to watch sexy Gothish chick Re-l. With five volumes now socked way, the verdict on Vincent is final: he's just dull, and all the build-up about his search for identity and powerful alter ego can't change that.
The one place where these episodes strike new and different artistic ground is in the Smile Land content in episode 19, where Manglobe does a fair adaptation of classic footage of Walt Disney speaking and drawing the characters he made famous. The AutoReivs of Smile Land get designs and an animation style more in line with classic old-school American animation than any anime influences, which certainly distinguishes them against the dreariness of the rest of the series' look. Otherwise this volume maintains the visual strengths and weaknesses of previous volumes: excellent background art, sometimes inconsistent quality on character art. What little action these four episodes offer looks good.
The soundtrack uses the more playful tunes and sound effects one might expect of classic American animation during episode 19, but otherwise relies heavily on the moody numbers it has used throughout the series. The opener and closer remain unchanged. In all episodes except 19 the quality of the English dub also remains unchanged: nothing to complain about in the casting decisions or performances, with Pino still generally sounding a little better in English, and the script staying relatively tight. In episode 19, though, veteran ADR director Jonathan Klein apparently decided not to bother with imitating the style of the Japanese performances and instead dubbed the Smile Land characters the way they would have sounded had the production originally been made in English. This results in a much greater differential in performances styles between the dubs and slightly greater variance in the scripting, but the English dub does fit the visuals quite well.
Geneon's release of this volume does not offer any Extras beyond company previews and a couple of pieces of insert art.
While not bad, neither does the content of this volume, when viewed as a whole, excite or shine. Pretentious use of gimmicky fillers, a dull male lead, and blasé storytelling holds back episodes whose parts do not add up to a better whole.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Episodes 19 and 20, taken individually, work well.
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