Release Date: August 28th, 2012
Price: $39.98 – Available Here
“Cogito ergo sum”, is a phrase from Descartes that I’ve been lucky enough to know since I was very young, which translates from Latin as “I think, therefore I am.” While not overly useful in everyday life, knowing the phrase and its translation actually proved useful while watching Ergo Proxy as part of the phrase appears in the title, as well as the translation appearing throughout the series by some major players. Though lacking the “sum”, both “cogito” and “ergo” are major components of the series as a whole, that would be missed by those unfamiliar with the phrase. But, just using a well-known philosophical phrase doesn’t really equate to quality, so does Ergo Proxy supply enough thought provoking and deep thinking to warrant such a prominent link?
Ergo Proxy‘s story begins with the dytopian domed city of Romdo. Here everyone gets their own robot, called an AutoReiv, that exist to aid in serving each person and reminding them what it means to be a fellow citizen, should they happen to toe the line. What makes Romdo so dystopian is that everyone must ignore their emotions, as they can be a very dangerous thing. Ads encourage the people to mindless consume and produce waste to aid their economy as they go about two by two, with their AutoReiv alongside them.
Not overly a problem, more and more of Romdo’s dystopian existence bubble to the surface as the show goes on. Filled with citizens and immigrants from a similar domed city, the immigrants only hope is to be able to become fellow citizens of Romdo, filling out the lower class and more dangerous jobs. One of the more dangerous jobs is disposal of AutoReivs infected with the Cogito Virus, which should be recognized from above. The Cogito Virus isn’t overly dangerous, but it allows AutoReivs to think for themselves eventually growing what could be called a soul, which can be very bad for a society built around everyone going along with no emotions. Needless to say, Romdo isn’t the kind of place the vast majority of people today would enjoy living in, but is still fascinating to watch.
The heart of the story boils down to a monster called the Proxy. After escaping in the very beginning, the Proxy is seen around the city killing indiscriminately, which leads to an investigation by the main character Re-l Mayer, a privileged young woman in the Investigation Bureau who also happens to be the granddaughter of the Regent, the leader of Romdo. The investigation puts her on the trail of the one person who always seems to be around when the Proxy is, the other main character Vincent Law, an immigrant from Mousk whose only hope is to become a fellow citizen. Between the two the show is able to explore a great deal in terms of humanity. Re-l is the settled citizen that can do as she pleases, but doesn’t really know how things are in the city, while Vincent is a newcomer that everything seems to fall part on.
The great thing about the story of Ergo Proxy is that is just the beginning. Romdo is just the first act and there is much more of the world and other cities to see. It isn’t just left behind though, Romdo is the main stage even if the main players aren’t there themselves. The strength of the show is that it shows a great deal of different things, not limiting itself just to the city of Romdo, which could have been easy to do. On the flip side, the show does seem to lose its way about 3/4’s of the way through. With what is a very interesting and deep story, a few of the episodes feel like filler that drag on for a bit too long, but once the show gets past those it does pick right up with the quality that it was originally at.
This is a show with a lot of effort put into the details, as every scene has layers upon layers of quality animation. For the most part dark and gritty, the animation does fit exactly the tone and themes of the show. Though sometimes specific episodes will do their own thing, part of the slower part of the show that hits 3/4’s of the way through. Instead going with lots of bright and more ridiculous colors or even black and white when necessary, while not exactly the tone of the show as a whole it does a good job within those episodes as showing not only that it is one of the more filler episodes, but what the other cities are like as compared to Romdo.
A great aspect of the visuals is how well the 2D and 3D animation work together, so well in fact that it didn’t even occur to me until after the series watching the special features. With all of the detail and layering, the 2D and 3D animation blend together perfectly creating a seamless visual experience that doesn’t jar the viewer out of immersion from a stark contrast between the two. Ergo Proxy is a great looking show that doesn’t seem to have any problem aging as an Anime Classic.
The music of the series, especially the opening and ending themes are another great aspect of the show. Often with anime either the opening or closing will fit better or be more enjoyable, while the other is alright, but nothing special. Both the opening and the ending themes are great songs and interestingly enough both feature English lyrics. The opening theme “Kiri” by Monoral is a strong rock song new for the series release that really fits into the themes of not only the most obvious idea of fate, but how much each of the characters wants to be saved in all different kinds of ways. The ending theme however utilizes the, at the time, 9 year old hit “Paranoid Android” by Radiohead that fits more of the themes that the AutoReivs bring to the show, as well as their contrast by the human characters.
The voice work on the show is also pretty well done by both the Japanese and English voice cast. With this Anime Classic, the English is not the usual fair in terms of actors as the original release and English voice work were not FUNimation, so it is interesting to get a fresh selection of voices in terms of that. One of the most interesting voices throughout the show however is for Iggy, the Entourage AutoReiv for Re-l, as he not only comments on how his vocal patterns were specifically modified by Re-l, but that what she chose was for him to sound like an effeminate best friend despite his large and tower appearance. The voice cast all around do a great job fitting the characters, as well as the characters’ journeys, as by the end every character has had some personal growth which is reflected in voice as well.
In terms of extras the vast majority in terms of quantity is trailers both in terms of those for the show and those for other series’. Interestingly as well there are not the usual textless opening and ending themes as many series have, so that viewers can enjoy the artwork and music without the credits, though the first two opening sequences, in the two episodes without the opening theme are available as textless without the credits. This is kind of a disappointment, but the ending theme is fairly devoid of artwork to enjoy and the opening theme is actually pretty sparse with credits that it works out alright.
The main entry for extras in terms of quality are the 3 featurettes, 2 being from the Japanese studio made before the series released to drum up more interest and the other being from the American studio that get more into their process. The first featurette is actually just a rundown of what is important to the show as well as what to keep an ear out for as the show is going on, going into terms like Proxy, so that viewers could have a better grasp of what is coming. An interesting piece to watch, but as an extra after watching the series more of a footnote. The second actually goes into the animation process, showing off the office and a few workstations at Manglobe, as they talk about the process, from storyboarding, to 3D animation, to what the director was modeling the look of the show after. Finally, the featurette from the American studio does give a good idea of how they go about not only how they deal with how much information to give voice actors, but what research they put into a series and what they get from the Japanese studio. These featurettes are the best extras on the series for those interested in the entire process an anime goes though and give a really cool insight.
Ergo Proxy is a great series that holds a lot of intellectual depth and exploration into both characters, as well as what it means to be human. With music and voice acting that push the series and story forward, the only real stumbling block for the series as a whole is the few episodes that as good as they are about adding depth and exploring the world, slow down the pacing and story when the viewer is really dying to know what is going to happen next. Besides these few episodes the series is phenomenal and should be enjoyed by almost everyone, so I give Ergo Proxy