Reviewby Theron Martin, Jan 30th 2007
DVD 2: RE-L124C41+
Vincent Law begins his life in the Commune outside of the domed city of Romdo, along with the infected AutoReiv Pino, who quickly gains a new friend. Although Re-l shows up to retrieve him, an unfortunate encounter with Romdo security zones leaves her dangerously ill, forcing her to return without Vincent. Still pursued by the Proxy, Vincent flees overland by ship with Pino and others, seeking the city of Mosk, his birthplace. What he discovers along the way, and what Re-l discovers in the company and care of Daedalus may lead both to a greater understanding of what the Proxies actually are – if either survives harrowing encounters long enough to sort things out.
While the first volume primarily centered on Re-l, the second volume, which spans episodes 5-8, splits its time evenly between Vincent and Re-l. Their paths may go in dramatically different directions beginning late in episode 6, but both now give the feel of being main characters. Vincent, despite having a bland and subdued personality, is interesting to watch because he seems like such an ordinary guy trying to muddle through things, yet there are all sorts of implications that he's anything but that. Re-l is interesting to watch because she's sexy as hell without being brazen about it and has the kind of cold, serious, analytical determination normally only seen in adult male characters in anime. There are, of course, further implications that she's special beyond just being beautiful and a powerful person's granddaughter, too. Raul Creed, who seemed from the first few episodes was also going to have a major role, appears only briefly and sporadically. None of these characters especially distinguish themselves, which is the show's biggest flaw, but they are at least watchable.
The real scene-stealers, though, are the non-human entities. Pino, the cogito virus-infected child Autoreiv, is such a cute and lively character – especially in that bunny outfit – that every scene in which she is present is better for her presence. She remains the one incorruptible bright spot in an otherwise unrelentingly dreary environment. The quasi-mystical Proxies also invariably attract your full attention on the rare occasions in which they appear. The Romdo Proxy may look hideous, but the mystery surrounding what he is and why, though hinted at in this volume, is still a driving force behind the series, and both he and the other one who appears in episode 8 have most of the volume's most dynamic action scenes.
The mood and tone of these episodes maintains the dark, brooding, and oppressive feel pervasive throughout the first volume, even in the scenes of the brightly-lit medical section within Romdo in episode 7. It captures well the depressing sense so common in post-apocalyptic anime: that humanity, despite its technological achievements, is on its last gasp, in part because it has lost its soul. Its other theme, about machines gradually becoming self-aware, is less evident but still there if you look for it. Although the storytelling never quite descends to the level of tedium, it does advance at a slow but steady pace with a minimum of truly dramatic events. (The notable exception: episode 7 does end on something of a cliffhanger, one not addressed at all in episode 8.) Patience is definitely a virtue in watching this series.
Dominated by dark and drab color schemes almost completely devoid of brightness and joy, the artistry is nonetheless high-quality, definitely one of the series' strongest selling points. Backgrounds are well-drawn and atmospheric, excellent use is made of CG effects, and most characters have distinctive looks that are either suitably appealing or suitably repulsive without resorting to the exaggeration and caricature so common in anime. (And is it just me, or does Re-l look better in the scenes where she doesn't have her eye make-up on?) Some serious graphic violence is on display but it isn't heavily-emphasized, and fan service is limited to shots of Re-l in her hospital gown. Some rough edges on the artistry do become apparent in this volume, but it still looks good and is accompanied by generally smooth, short cut-free animation.
Use of the very appropriately-named “Paranoid Android” by Radiohead closes out each episode, but “kiri” by MONORAL is also a great and appropriate complement to the opener visuals and, arguably, the better song of the two. The electronica-heavy soundtrack in between does a good job of enhancing dramatic scenes, being quiet in others, and setting the mood but is a dull listen independently. It also features particularly effective use of sound effects if one listens carefully.
Performances and casting for the English dub are as close a match to the originals as can reasonably be expected, although Rachel Hirschfield as Pino sounds more convincingly childlike than her seiyuu counterpart and Yuri Lowenthal sounds a bit less feminine as Daedelus. Beyond scrambling the order in which some things are said, the English script also sticks reasonably close to the original. Some controversy has arisen over the way Re-l's named is spelled in the official English version given the way it's pronounced in Japanese, but episode 7 makes it clear that Re-l is the correct way, and for a very specific reason shown in the last scene of that episode. The English production does have some inconsistencies over whether or not the L in her name should be capitalized, however. (It's not in most places but is in the credits.)
Geneon's English production offers nothing for Extras beyond their standard set of three company previews, interior cover art, and an insert picture. It does, however, have a 5.1 Japanese audio track and English audio tracks in both 5.1 and DTS and has credits which roll at a funky tilt.
In tone, style, and look Ergo Proxy most resembles Texhnolyze, although its story goes in quite a different direction and it has different philosophical underpinnings. Its second volume gradually thickens and extends the plotlines set up in its first few episodes, continuing a dark, brooding, and good-looking sci-fi series which won't suit everyone's tastes but is nonetheless a solid production.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : B+
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Artistry, opening and closing themes.
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