Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Apr 7th 2004
DVD 1: V1 + Artbox
The latest work from anime auteur Yoshitoshi Abe, Texhnolyze packs a visceral artistic punch that hits harder than anything Abe's done in the past. While not a complete reversal from the busy, labyrinthine stories he told in Serial Experiments Lain and last year's beloved angel tale Haibane Renmei, Texhnolyze is a strikingly mature, confusing and artistically valid venture that serious anime fans and art film lovers shouldn't miss.
The story of Texhnolyze takes place in an “experimental underground city”, which is fitting since the story itself is told in a wildly experimental fashion. Don't expect to be able to make a whole lot of sense out of these first four episodes; there aren't a lot of clues about the show's undoubtedly bigger picture. In fact, we don't even learn most of the characters' names on this disc. Events don't seem to be falling in chronological order (at least throughout the first episode; things smooth out a bit, but not much, later on) and the series demands that you pay close attention to the proceedings in order to make any sense out of anything. It's not that the show is totally confusing, but don't expect to be able to turn your brain off. In fact, prepare to be firing on all cylinders when you watch this thing.
That having been said, this series operates at a level higher than base entertainment, judging from this disc. Don't expect to love the characters or have a laugh or get an eyeful of someone's panties or thrill to some apocalyptic battle; you probably won't “love” this series like you'd “love” Rurouni Kenshin or even Abe's other shows. Texhnolyze, while it does grip you fiercely with its drama and violence, is more a show you admire than “love”. It isn't your average anime viewing experience, so check your pre-conceived notions about anime at the door. These first four episodes are a taste of what will quite obviously become a much, much larger picture.
The art direction, as with the rest of Abe's series, is top-notch. The character designs are pleasantly Asian; the series eschews the round-eyed, big-haired look found in virtually everything else on the shelf. The animation is also very high in quality and succeeds in bringing the show's surreal and violent proceedings to life; the production values were high enough to pull off the particularly disturbing visuals Abe aspired to. Special mention must be made of the soundtrack, which is a work of art in and of itself. The opening theme, performed by electronica favorite Juno Reactor, is a catchy and affecting industrial tune (complete with Sample From Old Movie ™, a required staple of industrial songs) that sets the show's tone perfectly. The incidental music in the episodes themselves are also highly appropriate and occasionally touching. Thankfully, Geneon Music will be releasing the soundtrack for this album domestically, so we can appreciate the show's unique musical score all on its own.
The dub, which could have easily ruined the dramatic tension the show survives on, manages to hold its own. Marred by a few weak performances in an otherwise strong cast, the English version is a more subdued counterpart to the considerably harsher Japanese track. There are a handful of missteps here and there; a few of the characters have trouble pulling off their lines and sound robotic or stilted. It doesn't seem to be related to the lip flaps, rather simply an acting choice on the part of the dub actor that doesn't seem like it worked. Luckily enough, these moments are few and far between, and the rest of the dub is a pleasantly natural and fluid affair that complements the show's visuals and succeeds in taking a little bit of the show's extreme edge off, which is appreciated for a series already unsettling in its uncommon foreignness. As a contrast to the few poor performances, there are some in this dub that are excellent. These performances are much better than ninety percent of other English dubs, and they alone make the dub worth hearing. It's up and down, but thankfully, at the end of the disc, the dub remains a solid one and is definitely worth your while.
It's a waste of time to recommend this series to “fans of (insert anime series here)” because there literally isn't anything else like it out there on the market right now. This is a radical departure even for Abe, who specializes in unorthodox anime storytelling. It almost belongs more in the foreign film section than with the rest of the anime on the shelf; it's that different. If you're looking for something new or are interested in expanding your horizons, this is a definite purchase for you. It's as close to art as anime gets while still being captivating.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : B+
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A
+ Excellent animation, artistically valid.
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