Before I kick off this review, I'd like to say that I really haven't had much enjoyment watching most anime titles that go beyond a 4-5 hour running length because so many of them have bad plotting and repetition, but Ergo Proxy is one of the really few full-length anime series that I've seen that doesn't fall into most of the traps that so many longer anime series fall into.
In the domed city of Romdo, a creature known as a “Proxy” escapes at the same time an immigrant named Vincent Law becomes a citizen of the city. In the wake of the Proxy's escape, Re-l Mayer, a detective and granddaughter of Romdo's leader, is sent to investigate the matter. In the wake of the Proxy's escape unleashes a journey for Re-l, Vincent, and a child cyborg named Pino around the mystery of the Proxy and of the outside world that Romdo has told its citizens is totally inhabitable.
The characters in Ergo Proxy are for the most part, really well-done. Each has their own distinct personality and they don't feel contrived, and it's a really nice feature that characters don't really fit in cookie-cutter molds of good or evil. I'll be glad to say that with the character Pino, she acts like a little kid without being too far on the sides of being either annoying or sweet (too many anime titles with little kids characterize them far into one of these sides), and she's cute without being saccharine. Re-l is my favorite of the bunch, since she's cynical without being too cynical, and has a good deal of emotional depth to her that isn't at all forced, though I must ask why she looks like she's been hanging around the goth kids too much. Vincent is perfect as a conflicted character, since he finds out that there's another side to him that he doesn't want, and his “inner-monster” dilemma is handled much better than Clair’s in the terribly-overrated series Claymore. There's other characters like Re-l's cyborg entourage, Iggy, that have well-rounded personalities that really add a lot to the show.
While there's a review on the back of the DVD case describing Ergo Proxy as an anime version of “Blade Runner meets the X-Files,” that's only really applicable to the first few episodes, since this series goes beyond mysteries and a cyberpunk setting. Ergo Proxy instead takes an alternate route by using its 23 episode running-length to explore the characters and themes attached to the story. This actually works out in favor of the series since it explores the characters and themes without giving a badly rushed ending. In fact, without spoiling it to you, I'll say the ending for this is rather strong, so for those of you who hate a full-length anime series for having such incomplete endings, you won't be disappointed with how Ergo Proxy handles the plotting.
Ergo Proxy offers its viewers a smorgasbord of thought-provoking themes that fit in well within the series. There's a good sense of inner-conflict with Vincent's character, and it handles the theme of “inner-monsters” really well. Aside from that, it explores themes of non-living entities (in this case, cyborgs called “Auto-reivs”) becoming sentient, what it really means to be free, the role of humans on earth, and what it's like to be a god. There's probably some more, but I really need to watch this series again to get a full scope of it (and unlike most longer anime, I actually want to re-watch this).
The animation and artwork for Ergo Proxy is really smooth. Ergo Proxy goes beyond the typical cyberpunk visual mold by integrating visual elements of steampunk and even some Victorian (I believe it's Victorian, correct me if I'm wrong) dress-styles and architecture. These visual elements don't clash since the steampunk and Victorian visual elements complement the cyberpunk visual base rather than overtaking it. Also, there's other domed cities beyond Romdo with their own distinct visual flare, since they were created by different groups of people. There's even one empty domed city with modern architecture, but the robots have a bit of an Art-Deco visual flare to them. Not to mention that the empty feeling in this city feels reminiscent to Stanley Kubrick's version of The Shining.
The instrumental background music really complements the tones and scenes of the series. The opening and closing songs are nice as well, even though I'm not a huge listener of Radiohead (I think the closing song is the Radiohead track “Paranoid Android.”).
The reason why Ergo Proxy isn't 5-star material is because for all that it does well, there's two episodes of filler. The first one being episode 15, which is supposed to be a trip in Vincent's mind that's like a gameshow with dark humor, and the other being episode 19, that's a trip in Pino's mind where she finds herself in an amusement park with lots of humor in it. Honestly, these episodes can be skipped and you can still follow along the rest of the series. Thankfully, out of the 23 episodes here, two filler episodes isn't terribly bad. I can't say the same for titles like Bleach, Naruto, and Gantz, where fights are either drawn out way too long or there's numerous episodes that don't contribute anything to the series.
The tone of the series is largely consistent on the serious side, and the only “funny” parts are largely restricted to the filler episodes. So you can skip the filler episodes and get an anime that doesn't pull any significant nonsense, which is something I really cherish since there's nothing that irritates me more than an anime that's tonally inconsistent.
Sadly, it seems like the DVDs are out-of-print, but Amazon offers the whole series with their Video-on-Demand service, so you can watch it through there. If you're craving a full-length anime series that really bends the mind and stimulates your brain, then Ergo Proxy will be a really good treat.
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The story begins in a futuristic domed city called Rondo, built to protect its citizens after a global ecological disaster. In this utopia, humans and AutoReivs (androids) coexist peacefully under a total management system. A series of murders committed by robots and AutoReivs infected with the Cogito virus (which causes them to become self-aware) begins to threaten the delicate balance of Rondo's social order. Behind the scenes, the government has been conducting secret experiments on a mysterious humanoid lifeform called a "Proxy". The Proxy beings (described as God-like and Immortal) are believed to hold the key to the survival of mankind.
Re-L (pronounced "Rielle") Mayer is assigned to investigate some of the murders with her AutoReiv partner Iggy. She encounters a Cogito virus-infected AutoReiv and a fast and flexible monster. She later learns that the monster was a Proxy. The other central character, an immigrant named Vincent Law, is revealed as being the eponymous proxy, but the memories of his past in his native dome of Mosque are suppressed. After being hunted down, Vincent and Re-L leave Rondo, only to discover the truth behind the Proxies and the domes.
In the domed city of Rondo (and possibly in other domed cities) various sections of the 'government' are referred to as Bureaus - the Intelligence Bureau, the Health & Welfare Bureau and the Security Bureau, among others. The AutoReivs are referred to as either 'companions' or 'entourages', ...