Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Oct 6th 2007
DVD 6 - Deus Ex Machina
Re-l, Vince and Pino finally arrive back at Romdo only to find that it is no longer the city they remember it as. The cogito virus has gone out of control, leaving the once sterile environment of Romdo a ravaged wasteland of violence and destruction. The three are separated, each trying in their own way to come to terms with what they've seen and learned. Re-l confronts Daedalus about his role in the chaos and her own creation, Pino simply goes home, and Vince—now fully fused with Ergo Proxy and in possession of all his memories—must reconcile his own past with who he has become during his life as Vincent Law. And to do so, he must confront yet another part of himself that he never knew existed. All three discover the truth of the world, and must somehow live knowing that perhaps they have no future.
Most anime fans are adept at peering underneath clichés and fan service (of all kinds) to find the real qualities of a series. Ergo Proxy is something of a novel experience in that it requires the same process, only with obtuse storytelling and metaphysical mumbo-jumbo. There's nothing wrong with having intellectual ambitions or with the particular intellectual ambitions that the series has, it's just that its creators have a heavy touch with it and often seem to mistake obfuscation for intellectualism.
The various ideas and concepts explored in this volume are quite interesting, make no mistake. The true nature of Ergo Proxy's world—the purpose of the Proxies and the origin of the characters—is laid bare this volume. Everything lies in the identity of the Creator, and like many good ideas it is quite simple once stripped of all the metaphysical noodling, and the effect on the lives of the protagonists is profound. The continued focus on identity is admirably ambitious (if overused), and the various revelations—particularly the revelation of another part of Vince/Ergo Proxy—help explain a few of the earlier episodes that made no sense at the time. The final arc handles the chore of bringing most of the series' mysteries together fairly well, dispelling the fear that the series would end without ever properly explicating itself.
The series also has its hands on some strong potential appeal in the form of its trio of protagonists, more so when speaking of stunningly designed Re-l and the formidable cuteness of Pino than Vince. There's more impact in Pino's attempts to reconcile with her "father," Re-l's determination to do right by Vince, or even Vince's realization of what is truly important to him than in all of the earth-shattering revelations and existential musings combined. The big revelations for their part make some of the supporting cast's seemingly contradictory behavior sensible—specifically the complicated attitudes of Daedalus and Re-l's Grandfather towards Re-l and Raul Creed's desperation.
The problem is that the series intentionally obscures its sympathetic core cast and reasonably interesting ideas with a veil of unnecessarily complicated existentialism and narrative trickery. The series' peculiar take on post-apocalyptic futures almost has to be excavated from underneath all of the philosophizing, and even its more personal moments are rife with cryptic dialogue. Each episode is structured to maximize disorientation, leaping without warning through time and space. So much time is spent trying to puzzle out what is happening and what it means that precious little time remains to appreciate the emotional content or even the intelligence of the series. It doesn't help that the emotional heart of the series—the dynamic between Re-l, Vince and Pino—is given little attention during this volume or that the series' overall style acts to dampen any enjoyment derived from it.
The admittedly fluid animation, beautiful backdrops of desolate grey, spare and unsettling score, and even the gorgeous yet inexpressive character designs all skillfully promote an atmosphere of dreary doom. Now that the sharply executed action that enlivened the opening episodes has largely fallen by the wayside, the aura of dank depression that the series exudes is as often a liability as it is an advantage. Especially when it drags down the more personal focus that is finally attempted at the very end of this volume.
New Generation Pictures is at the top of their dubbing game. Other than that, there isn't much that can be said about their work on this volume that hasn't already been covered before (and probably better) in volumes past. There's very little here, emotionally or intellectually speaking, that hasn't been done in those volumes and the cast and writers get it all as spot on as ever.
Purposeful confusion in a series is often a good thing. There are series that thrive on it, and there's no denying that Ergo Proxy has been providing fans with something of a nice departure from the anime norm for almost a year now, including this volume. However it lacks the eye for entertainment and sense of purpose that marks its plot-obfuscating superiors. It hasn't the grace to give audiences the satisfaction of solving its mysteries on their own the way RahXephon did, nor the timeliness and pop paranoia of Lain. In the end, for all its undeniable quality, one can't help feeling a little disappointed with the end result after all of the energy spent to get to it.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B+
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : A-
+ Provides a definite conclusion complete with interesting revelations and character drama.
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